Rush Limbaugh, the titular head of the Republican Party in the wake of John McCain's defeat and Bush's infamous exit, is claiming in recent statements that President Obama is aiming to kill of capitalism and free markets.
Funny, I thought that he was saving capitalism.
Limbaugh seems to work on the mistaken and fact-shunning belief that corporate capitalism is doing just fine and that the government should just keep its fingers out of the economy altogether.
The problem with this concept is that the existence of corporations springs from the government. Corporations are 'artificial persons' chartered by the states and regulated by the states and the Federal government. They are vehicles for serving the people.
By definition corporations are creations of the law. As such, corporations are neither good nor evil. They are just vehicles by which citizens may create value in the economy for themselves and others that ultimately serves the public good.
Perhaps addressing the trillions of dollars of value taken out of the U.S. economy for the public good by badly mismanaged and corrupt corporations is not important to Mr. Limbaugh. But my guess is that it's important to average Americans. Capitalism is not under threat by the U.S. government. Capitalism is threatened most at this point by greedy and badly misguided business leaders who want to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of everyone else - the laws and common morality be damned. These people, as exemplified by their patron saint, George W. Bush, believe that no government is good government, that the lawless frontier of the Old West combined with the abject slavery of people who work for them found in the Old South is the ideal state of human affairs.
Many Americans would beg to disagree with that outlook.
I am myself a capitalist and I have no bones to pick with capitalism as a whole. I do, however, take exception to corporatism, the mindless pursuit of short-term gain and ego gratification at whatever cost it may take on the long term good of citizens who pay the taxes and do the heavy lifting in the American economy. These people have traded away an enormous amount of good jobs to slave labor operations in foreign countries that are more glad to accept the oppression of their people in exchange for a quick buck. They have squandered both our economic strength and our natural resources in pursuit of an extra jet or two to brag about at their next parlay in Davos.
In other words, these are bullies who are just plain bad for business. Good business conditions require a well-regulated economy, where pirating people's lifetime savings into Ponzi schemes is dealt with swiftly and aggressively. It is corporations that must serve the people, not people who must serve the corporations. Enterprise of free markets should be rewarded, but free markets are ultimately markets where everyone is free to play by the rules, not free to break the rules.
We have seen the ruin that these greedy bullies will wreak more than once. Now that unrestrained corporatism has lead to yet another economic fiasco, are the American people now ready to accept that rich and greedy corporatists need to be dealt with harshly and that there needs to be a new consideration as to how corporations serve the public good?
The future strength of America's capitalist engine relies strongly on us rooting out the evils that have overtaken American business. Huge crimes have been committed, and the powerful, who can afford the legal teams to fight the weak, think of the law as simply a vehicle that obstructs their self-perceived "divine right of kings" to whatever wealth they would like to have. If you would like to see the ultimate outcome of this type of tyranny, look no further than modern Russia, which has an economy designed by Harvard Business School elites. Russia is now little more than a band of marauding thieves and oligarchs, with conditions so bad that the average Russian now believes that they would be better off back under Communist rule. I would disagree with that view, but there is no doubt that lawless corporatism has destroyed most legitimate hopes for Russia becoming a healthy democracy.
Let us save capitalism from the corporatists so that we may have an economic legacy to hand to our children and grandchildren of which we can be proud - one which is productive and that takes risks that lead to greater benefits to our society. But let us not mistake the power of corporations for a substitute for our own willingness to use our own power through a democratically elected government to balance the power of strong enterprises with the strength of the American people. Our freedoms and our future depend on it.