Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism – Reason.com

Intellectuals have always disdained commerce,” says Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey. They “have always sided with the aristocrats to maintain a society where the businesspeople were kept down.” Having helped create the global grocery chain intellectuals arguably like best, Mackey has evolved into one of capitalism’s most persuasive champions, making the moral, practical, and even spiritual case that free exchange ennobles all who participate.

More than any other retailer, Whole Foods has reconfigured what and how America eats. Since opening its first store in Austin, Texas, in 1980, the company has helped its customers develop a taste for high-quality meats, produce, cheeses, and wines, as well as for information about where all the stuff gets sourced. Mackey, 62, continues to set the pace for what’s expected in organic and sustainably harvested food.

Because of Whole Foods’ educated customer base and because Mackey is himself a vegan and a champion of collaboration between management and workers, it’s easy to mistake him for a progressive left-winger. Indeed, an early version of Jonah Goldberg’s bestselling 2008 book Liberal Fascism even bore the subtitle “The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods.”

Yet that misses the radical vision of capitalism at the heart of Mackey’s thought. A high-profile critic of the minimum wage, Obamacare, and the regulatory state, Mackey believes that free markets are the best way not only to raise living standards but to create meaning for individuals, communities, and society. At the same time, he challenges a number of libertarian dogmas, including the notion that publicly traded companies should always seek to exclusively maximize shareholder value. Conscious Capitalism, the 2013 book he co-authored with Rajendra Sisodia, lays out a detailed vision for a post-industrial capitalism that addresses spiritual desire as much as physical need.

Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie talked with Mackey earlier this summer at FreedomFest in Las Vegas. To see the full video, go to reason.com. (Disclosure: Whole Foods Market is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this magazine.)

reason: You believe capitalism is not only the greatest wealth creator but helps poor people get rich. But you see it as constantly being misrepresented, even by its champions. Why is capitalism under attack?

John Mackey: Intellectuals have always disdained commerce. That is something that tradesmen did—people that were in a lower class. Minorities oftentimes did it, like you had the Jews in the West. And when they became wealthy and successful and rose, then they were envied, they were persecuted and their wealth confiscated, and many times they were run out of country after country. Same thing happened with the Chinese in the East. They were great businesspeople as well.

So the intellectuals have always sided with the aristocrats to maintain a society where the businesspeople were kept down. You might say that capitalism was the first time that businesspeople caught a break. Because of Adam Smith and the philosophy that came along with that, the industrial revolution began this huge upward surge of prosperity.

reason: Is it a misunderstanding of what business does? Is it envy? Is it a lack of capacity to understand that what entrepreneurs do, or what innovators do, is take a bunch of things that might not be worth much separately and then they transform them? What is the root of the antagonism toward commerce?

Mackey: It’s sort of where people stand in the social hierarchy. If you live in a more business-oriented society, like the United States has been, then you have these businesspeople, who [the intellectuals] don’t judge to be very intelligent or well-educated, having lots of money—and they begin to buy political power with it, and they rise in the social hierarchy. Whereas the really intelligent people, the intellectuals, are less important. And I don’t think they like that.

(Interview trancript continues below.)

That’s one of the main reasons the intellectuals have usually disdained commerce. They haven’t seen it [as a] dynamic, creative force, because they measure themselves against these people, and they think they’re superior, and yet in the social hierarchy they’re not seen as more important. I think that drives them crazy.

reason: A lot of the times the businesspeople are plucky upstarts—they’re innovators, they’re disruptive, and they’re fighting against the power. But once they get to a certain point of influence or power, they often start to try and rig the market or freeze the market in their favor. Why is that?

Mackey: I don’t know if it’s a psychological switch so much as that they weren’t necessarily grounded in the philosophy of capitalism. They weren’t necessarily advocates of the free market. They were just advocates of their own advancement, their own personal enrichment. And so I think oftentimes, they don’t make a distinction between when they’re entrepreneurs on the way up versus when they’ve arrived. They’re attempting to not fall, so they try to rig the game, and we have crony capitalism.

reason: We live in an age where there are an unbelievable amount of government mandates that restrict the ability of business owners and employees to really negotiate about stuff. Some are things as obvious as the minimum wage, where it says, “Under no circumstances can a business offer somebody less than this amount.” How do these affect your ability to run a business in an extremely competitive market?

Mackey: The impetus behind so many of these types of regulations in the workplace is, in a sense, to shackle business again—to get it back under the control of the intellectuals. Just like commerce: If you study the history of business, you will see that most of the time in our history, commerce was controlled by the aristocrats. The merchants were kept under their thumb. And now they’ve escaped and we have this free-market ideology that says the market should determine all these things. They’re systematically undermining that marketplace to get business back, get the genie back in the bottle.

Of course, that will stifle innovation. It’ll stifle the dynamic creative destruction of capitalism. But I don’t think they’re thinking about it that way. They’re very concerned about the motives of business, and they see it as this selfish, greedy, exploitative thing. Businesspeople can’t be trusted, markets aren’t just, they’re not fair, so we need to intervene, we need to control this situation.

Good Globalism vs. Bad Globalism

Globalism” and “globalization,” are terms that suffer from a lack of any precise definition. The terms are used freely by a wide variety of commentators to mean both good and bad things — many of which are opposites of each other. Sometimes globalism means lowering trade barriers. Other times it means aggressive foreign policy through international organizations like NATO. Other times it means supporting a global bureaucracy like the United Nations.

This lack of precision was recently featured in The New York Times with Bret Stephens’s column “In Praise of Globalists.” Stephens however, also fails to make any serious attempt at defining globalism. He feigns an attempt to define globalism, but in the end, it turns out the column is just a means of making fun of Trump voters and rubes who don’t subscribe to Stephens’s allegedly cosmopolitan views.

Stephens tells us that globalists want to “make the world a better place,” thus implying that non-globalists don’t.  We’re informed that globalists value military alliances and free trade. But given that Stephen’s isn’t willing to define these terms or tell us how these institutions are used to make the world “a better place,” we’re still left wondering if globalism is a good thing. When international alliances are used to justify the dropping of bombs on civilians or turning Iraq into a basket-case and safe haven for al Qaeda, is that making the world a better place? When the EU uses “free trade” agreements as a means to crush entrepreneurs under the weight of a thousand taxes and regulations, is that making the world a better place?

Globalism: Conflating both Pro-Market and Anti-Market Forces

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Globalism has long been a heavily abused term that includes everything from lowering taxes to waging elective wars. For critics on the right, globalism must be suspect because so many center-left politicians are regarded as “globalists.”  Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama are all regarded as dyed-in-the-wool globalists who also advocate for greater government control of markets.

Simultaneously, “globalists” have also long been attacked by anti-capitalists. They see globalism as working hand-in-hand with “neoliberals” who are impoverishing the world by pushing for the spread of market forces, free trade, and support for less government intervention in daily life.

These critics of so-called neoliberalism therefore attack organizations widely perceived to be “globalist” like the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately, though, the critics attack these organizations for the wrong reasons. These globalist organizations deserve to be criticized, but not because they push some aspects of economic liberalization that are actually good. They should be criticized because they primarily act as political organizations that enhance the ability of some powerful states to intimidate and politically manipulate other, less powerful states.

This merging of free trade, military interventionism, and bureaucratic politicking under one umbrella of “globalism” ends up confusing the issue of globalism almost beyond repair.

But there is still hope for the term.

Historically, Globalism Is the Ideology of Peace and Freedom

Historically, it is important to remember that globalism is intimately connected to liberalism, the ideology of freedom and free trade.

It is not a coincidence that one of the nineteenth century’s most effective proponents of liberalism was Richard Cobden, who fought tirelessly against both trade barriers and against aggressive foreign policy. Cobden can be credited with waging an effective ideological war against the mercantilism of his day which was characterized by nationalist ideas in which both economic success and military security were zero sum games that required highly interventionist government institutions.

Cobden’s program, instead, was one of peace and free trade, which was then rightly regarded as a program of internationalism. Thomas Woords notes:

Although Cobden’s program would doubtless be stigmatized in our day as “isolationism,” free economic intercourse and cultural exchange with the world can hardly be described as isolation. In his day, in fact, Cobden was appropriately dubbed the “International Man.” And that, indeed, is what he was. Peace, free trade, and nonintervention — these ideas, Cobden believed, were not simply the ideological commitments of one particular party, but rather the necessary ingredients for the progress and flourishing of civilization.

We might say Richard Cobden was one of the first true European globalists. Cobden was further supported by the great French free-trader and anti-socialist Frédéric Bastiat who relentlessly called for the free flow of of goods while denouncing efforts by government institutions to “mold mankind” or impose regimentation on the population.

Thus, the liberals of the nineteenth century who supported greater freedom of movement in both workers and goods, and non-interventionist foreign policy, might be perplexed were they to see what passes for “globalism” today.

We are often told, even by pro-market globalists, that we need international organizations like the WTO to “ensure” that free trade prevails. This has always been a less-than-convincing claim. As Carmen Dorobăț has shown, there is not any actual evidence that the WTO really lowers trade barriers. Freedom in trade has grown more outside the WTO framework than within it.  All that is necessary to reap the benefits of free trade is to unilaterally remove barriers to trade. 

The European Commission meanwhile might facilitate trade within its trade bloc, but it acts as an enormous impediment to truly free and global trade.

Even worse is the foreign policy of the new globalists who support an endless number of wars and military interventions on “humanitarian” grounds. Enormous military bureaucracies like NATO, amazingly, are considered to be “globalist” organizations as well.

Political Globalism vs. Economic Globalism 

If we wish to end this confusion, though, we need to separate political globalism from economic globalism.

When we do this, we find that economic globalism is a force for enormous good in the world, but political globalism is primarily a tool for increasing the power of states.

As to economic globalism, we can see that again and again that the free flow of goods and services, unimpeded by states, improves international relations and increases standards of living.  Where governments have increasingly joined the “globalized” economy, extreme poverty declines while health and well being increases.  Latin American states that have embraced trade and freer economies, for example, have experienced growth. Those states that stick to the regimented economies of old continue to stagnate.  These benefits, however, can be — and have been — achieved by decentralized, unilateral moves toward free trade and deregulated economies. No international bureaucracy is necessary.

This is economic globalization: opening up the benefits of global trade, entrepreneurship, and investment to a larger and larger share of humanity.

Meanwhile, political globalization is an impediment to these benefits: Political globalists at the World Health Organization, for example, spend their days releasing reports on how people shouldn’t eat meat and how we might regulate such behavior in the future. Political globalists hatch new schemes to drive up the cost of living for poor people in the name of preventing climate change. Meanwhile, the World Bank issues edicts on how to “modernize”economies by increasing tax revenues — and thus state power — while imposing new regulations.

It’s essential to make these distinctions. Economic globalism brings wealth. Political globalism brings poverty.

Economic globalism is about getting government out the way. It’s about laissez-faire, being hands, off, and promoting the freedom to innovate, trade, and associate freely with others.

Political globalism, on the other hand, is about control, rules, central planning, and coercion.

Some careless observers may lump all this together and declare “globalism” to be a wonderful thing. But when we pay a little more attention to the details, things aren’t quite so clear. —by Ryan McMaken, Ludwig von Mises Institute

Capitalism Gets No Respect and No Thanks (von Mises)

It’s so true. In today’s world a pedophile gets more respect than a capitalist. Everything we have, including the money to support government at every level, is made possible by capitalism. Government cannot create wealth; it can only redistribute it or destroy it. Every dime the government has has been generated by the private ( i.e. capitalist) sector. So if you’re getting food stamps, or welfare in any other form, you have capitalism to thank for it.

Capitalism, it turns out, is the ultimate form of social justice.   But, you’ll never hear this from the lame-stream media, or even the most ardent conservative/libertarian politicians. Nor will you hear it in any of the hallowed halls of academia. Should anyone dare challenge the prevailing campus ideology, they risk ostracism, threats to persons and property, loss of employment, administrative disciplinary action, or even bodily harm.

In any corner of the world, you’ll find few, if any, open supporters of capitalism or free enterprise.  It’s just too risky to your life and livelihood.

We all owe a debt of the gratitude to the late economist/philosopher, Ludwig von Mises (29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973).  Von Mises, along with Carl Menger and Friedrich Hayek, is one of the founding fathers of the Austrian School of Economics. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action.

His masterpiece,  Human Action, is considered the very best economics text by lovers of liberty everywhere.  His crowning achievement was his induction into the Artful Dilettante Hall of Fame in 2016.  He was among the original inductees.

Capitalism Gets No Respect and No Thanks (von Mises)

Feminist Business School Seeks to Eradicate Individualism, Merit and Competition

The concept has been tried several times throughout recorded history. Each and every time, it has been an abysmal failure. I’m talking, of course, about socialism. It has been marketed and packaged under different names. But the objective remains the same—trash and condemn liberty and individualism as a tool of “white privilege and racial oppression. Trash and comdemn free-market capitalism as an socioeconomic system designed to exploit minorities in order to maintain the status quo.

Warning:  Evergreen State is among the most radical marxist colleges and universities in the United States.  The school is truly an offspring of the Frankfurt School of Critical Thought.  They are fully dedicated to the eradication of Western Civilization, free-market capitalism, natural rights, and individualism.

https://drhurd.com/2018/02/14/feminist-business-school-seeks-eradicate-individualism-merit-competition/

What Leftists Don’t Understand About Economics–a Reflection

My comments are in response to an article which appeared yesterday entitled, What Leftists Don’t Understand about Economics, by Daniel Carter, of Investment Watch.

WHAT LEFTISTS DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT ECONOMICS

Where do you want me to start?  Liberals and their philosophical/political brethren understand little if anything about economics, and even less about the principles of Natural Law and Natural Rights which underscore free-market capitalism.  Volumes have been written about Natural Rights beginning with Thales of Miletus in the 6th century B.C.  He and the Seven Sages of Miletus (a rather raucous group I’m told), rather than the later Greeks Plato and Aristotle, are credited with giving philosophical birth to the Western Tradition.  There is a straight philosophical line from Thales and his Sages, to Aristotle, to Cicero, Polybius, significantly to Aquinas who bridged Christian thought with Aristotelianism, to the Enlightenment philosophes and Founding Fathers, and finally the Objectivism of Ayn Rand.  Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, has been rightly called Aristotle’s Eudaemonics (or flourishing) in novel form.  Having read both several times, I can confirm this comparison.  That’s pretty much what it is.

Reduced to its essence, Natural Rights includes freedom of life, liberty, and property.  In the Declaration, the pursuit of happiness was substituted for property.  The pursuit of happiness, or flourishing, is the subject of Aristotle’s Eudaemonics.  The closest English word for “eudaemonia” is “flourishing.” All agree that flourishing is pre-supposed by ordered liberty.  Man cannot rise to the occasion, or find meaning in his life, shoot for the stars, or soar on the wings of eagles without liberty, not anarchy, but ordered liberty.  The state exists for one purpose–to protect one’s life and property—not your right to hold a claim check to someone else’s money.

Also, the Ten Commandments have much to say about the primacy of Natural Rights and its place in our Judeo-Christian ethic.  Natural Rights were codified by the Ten Commandments.  Mosaic Law and Natural Law have much in common.  The Fifth Commandment (“Thou Shalt not Kill”) couldn’t make the right to life any clearer.  Likewise, The Seventh Commandment (“Thou Shalt not Steal”) could not have come down more firmly on behalf of private property rights.

Unfortunately, Natural Rights philosophy is no longer taught, or only in the darkened corner of the candlelit sanctuary of a hermit.  It is ignored or considered hate speech.  It was long ago thrown under the bus by the Progressive Movement of Marx and Woodrow Wilson and the Frankfurt School of Irrational Thought.

If you aren’t schooled or steeped in liberty or the principles of Natural Law, you can neither appreciate nor understand nor defend the offspring of Natural Rights—the free market.

http://investmentwatchblog.com/what-leftists-dont-understand-about-economics/

Red Robin will offset minimum wage hikes by canning busboys | New York Post

The Red Robin article is a lesson in fundamental economics which the average politician nearly always fails to comprehend. If the cost of labor goes up due to a government-mandated increase in the minimum wage, one or two outcomes are certainties. One, employees will be laid off or fewer will be hired, as in the case of Red Robin. Hours are cut back on kitchen and counter staff and the manager removes the “Now Hiring” sign from the entrance door. Two, companies may have to raise prices for goods and services, or in the case of Red Robin raise prices and/or cut back on their portions. The once classic half-pound burger is reduced to seven ounces, maybe six . The once-mighty side of fries, enough to slake the appetite of a high-school linebacker, is discernably smaller. Or Red Robin decides to start buying a lower grade of ground beef. Or all of the above.

The average consumer, or citizen, or voter, thinks increases in the minimum wage are good, especially for low-income, low-skilled workers.  Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

The signing ceremony makes the headlines and the evening news. The politicians who sponsored the increase are hailed by the media and talking heads as champions of the disadvantaged, having triumphed over the tight-fisted, mean-spirited opposition financed by evil Big Business. Unfortunately, the consequences mentioned above never make the headlines. If Red Robin raises its prices, lays off employees, imposes a hiring freeze, or cuts back on their portion sizes in response to the minimum-wage increases, will the media hop right on it? Not bloody likely. Will the company hold a news conference explaining that the lay-offs, price increases, and smaller portions are directly attributable to the state-mandated increase in the minimum wage? Again, not bloody likely.

The political establishment and their dutiful, fawning media just want you to hear the fun stuff.  Then they box it up, put a bow on it, and attach a cutesy jingle to it like “America’s Getting a Raise !!”  Then it’s repeated ad nauseum till the woefully ignorant electorate unconsciously swallows it hook, line, and sinker.   

The laws of economics are universal, transcendent, and immutable.  They always have the last word.  Unfortunately, they are seldom heard.  

 

https://nypost.com/2018/01/08/red-robin-will-offset-minimum-wage-hikes-by-canning-busboys/

Assessing President Trump’s First Year in Office

As 2017 draws to a close, I am moved to summarize and comment on President Trump’s first year in office.

His election was nothing short of an historic phenomenon and he has exceeded my wildest expectations. There are articles out there that list his top 81 accomplishments, but they include things like learning to play the accordion and walking on water. I’ll stick to my short list.

1- my favorite. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords. Climate change is a corrupt, money-making hoax. Not that the climate doesn’t change; it’s been changing since the Big Bang, sometimes radically. For ninety-nine percent of the time since the earth was formed, it has been uninhabitable to all but simple amoeba, and only to mammals since the dinosaurs exited because of a giant meteorite. (Now that’s climate change !) Nothing George Soros or Barack Obama in their infinite wisdom could have done a G/D thing about. Humans and their genetic predecessors have only been around for just a couple million years and change. Yet, they survived the Ice Age and the Biblical Flood without the help of a single bureaucrat or elite coastal liberal.

It is estimated that dropping out of the Paris Accords will save the American taxpayer $23 trillion dollars, money that would enrich only a bunch of crooked bankers and high-level bureaucrats.

President Trump has rightfully thrown them under a bus. If President Trump wants to help the environment, he should turn off all the electricity, heat, and hot water in every government building.

2 – the historic tax-cut and jobs bill. Like then-VP Joe Biden said of Obamacare, “This is a big effing deal.” Indeed. Liberals howl that it’s a tax cut for the rich. Who does all the hiring in this country? When’s the last time a poor person hired anyone? Corporate tax cuts benefit all of us. Corporations don’t pay taxes, they only collect them. Their tax bills are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices and lower payrolls.

Conversely, lower corporate taxes will result in lower prices across-the-board for goods and services, higher pay for existing employees, and the leeway for employers to take on new hires. Instead of blindly attacking the legislation, peel away the layers of the onion and learn some basic economics. As Dr. Michael Hurd says, “There’s no such thing as a bad tax cut.”

3 – and last but not least, President Trump has, at long last, declared war on political correctness. While I don’t agree with every Twitter or off-hand remark or even his policy statements, unlike your typical Trump haters, I rationally take it one day, one Tweet, one act at a time. For example, I think the Wall is a dumb idea, but getting us out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was genius.

In general, he has exposed liberal/marxist hypocrisy like no other. Much as they profess to, they don’t support the working class, and they don’t support the First Amendment, specifically Freedom of Speech. The First Amendment was specifically designed to protect controversial speech, including hate speech. Michelle O is welcomed with open arms on every campus, but if Melania Trump were to be invited, she’d be greeted with howls of protest, and probably violence.

Campus Snowflakes demand so-called “safe spaces.” Fact is, the First Amendment makes the whole country a safe space—safe to say whatever you like, whenever you like. If you don’t like a movie, you walk out; if you don’t agree with the opinions of a scheduled speaker, you don’t attend. Do you smash your radio because you don’t like Rush Limbaugh? No, you change the channel. Do you smash your television set because you hate FoxNews? No, you don’t tune in. There’s a civil, unintrusive way of expressing our preferences.

President Trump is calling upon us to re-examine some of our long-held cherished values and assumptions. Is that so bad? Isn’t it time we reassess the prevailing values of those who went to Woodstock and never came home ? Take free money, become a community organizer, suffer no consequences. What could possibly go wrong? A community organizer is just nice term for someone who doesn’t have a real job.

Is it safe or wise to have open borders? Hardly. The crime rate among illegals far exceeds the national average. The families of the victims are stark testimony to this. Should illegals have an unlimited claim check on our national treasury? Our hard-earned tax dollars? No. For that matter, should every person in the country be entitled to open-ended welfare? Some, but it’s time we started differentiating between those who CANNOT work and those who WILL not work.

President Trump is changing our national dialogue, and challenges us to join in this discourse, without violence, without hatred, and with bipartisan civility. Labeling every caucasian a racist isn’t true, and it doesn’t reduce unemployment or the federal deficit. The purpose of our popular sovereignty is the peaceful transfer of power, the freedom to express ourselves without any threats to our persons, and the right to wear a MAGA hat in a restaurant without being hassled.

Best Wishes to all for a Blessed and Joyous Christmas Season…The Artful Dilettante