Memo to Capitalists: Be Very Afraid

May 7, 2009

Lately, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has been on a childish tear, taunting Republicans to admit their belief in the biblical account of the Creation. Someone ought to ask this paragon of smug self-satisfaction why, if he’s so brilliant, he unquestioningly echoes the demagogic hyperbole of global warming fanatics hellbent on destroying the economic system responsible for producing unprecedented prosperity in the advanced industrialized world.

Oh, yes, it’s fashionable to denounce capitalism these days, but the historical record is clear. As Richard C. Bayer documents in his 1999 book, “Capitalism and Christianity,” the gross domestic products remained flat in the 1,000-year period from 500-1500 for all now-advanced industrial countries but rose geometrically with the advent of merchant capitalism (1700-1820) and modern capitalism (1820-present).

More specifically, “Real per capita U.S. GDP in 1989 ($18,317) was seventeen times what it was in 1820 ($1,048),” using 1985 real dollars. The growth rates of the other advanced industrial nations showed exponential jumps in that period, as well. But this track record didn’t keep class warfare exponents in the 1930s from blaming our economic hardship on capitalistic exploitation, and it isn’t keeping them from doing it today.

As long as people have different worldviews, there will be vigorous debates about the effectiveness, fairness and morality of capitalism compared with other economic systems. But common sense supports history’s empirical evidence in validating the generalized notion that robust economic production will accompany political and economic liberty rather than command and control systems.

People will produce more when they are allowed to retain more of the fruits of their labor. You simply cannot expand the economic pie by separating rewards from efforts. To do so is a failsafe prescription for economic stagnation — if not immediately, then in the long run. Yet the current administration and its wholly owned congressional partners have embarked on a course to destroy capitalism from every imaginable front.

Sadly, far too many Americans are apparently oblivious to the magnitude and peril of this systemic assault. They are also obviously unaware that the constriction of economic freedom will necessarily result in a constriction of political freedom. When the government, instead of the free market, picks winners and losers, it exercises coercive power in employing its value judgments. If it has a prejudice against capital and favors labor, its decisions will reflect those biases, at the expense of the rule of law.

We’ve already seen this with the White House’s strong-arming of GM creditors, using threats and intimidation to force a major shift in ownership and control from disfavored (business) groups to favored (labor) ones. Thomas Lauria, attorney for creditor Perella Weinberg Partners, blew the whistle on the White House’s totalitarian threat to destroy his client’s reputation unless it accepted the administration’s Chrysler-restructuring plan to give the United Auto Workers 55 percent of the company. Other creditor representatives have told similar stories. One described the administration as the most shocking “end-justifies-the-means” group he has ever encountered. Another said, Obama is “the most dangerous smooth talker on the planet — and I knew Kissinger.”

The White House, of course, denies the charges — as if it’s remotely conceivable it would admit them if they are true — but we all saw Obama directly single out and publicly demonize the firms, such as Perella Weinberg, that wouldn’t roll over to his demands.

Folks, this is just a small taste, a foreshadowing of what we can come to expect from an administration that has already decided who should be the winners and losers and has undertaken a comprehensive agenda to “right the wrongs” — and even the score — by using the capricious power of government to radically redistribute income and wealth in this nation.

Obama promised to lower taxes on all but the top 5 percent of income earners, but his policies make that impossible. He is dramatically increasing our national debt, which will require massive tax increases on all producers in the long run. Likewise, the very allocation of his “stimulus” spending is, in itself, an exercise in income and wealth shifting.

But it’s not just through preferred spending, income tax increases, his mortgage default bailout bill, his union-favoring restructurings, and venture capitalist purges that he’ll redistribute income and wealth, guaranteeing long-term economic despair for all. He also seeks to implement Social Security means testing and nationalize health care. He’ll pass his cap and trade bill, which is a complete farce in terms of reducing carbon emissions but a cinch lock to extort wealth from corporations. He’ll increase capital gains tax rates, place caps on executive salaries, and punish energy players he detests and favor those he prefers.

Call me an alarmist, but we are witnessing the beginning of the most frightening period of government tyranny in our nation’s history.