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.

Why Have Our Public Schools Stopped Teaching English Grammar ?

Today, schools in the United States are relatively light in their approach to grammar. Students often learn grammatical concepts on an as-needed basis, mainly by having their writing corrected.

The History of Grammar in the U.S.
The marginal role grammar now plays in U.S. English language classes wasn’t always the norm, though. Through the 1960s, in-depth grammar instruction was par for the course in both public and private schools.

During this period, many educators not only didn’t foresee the imminent demise of grammar as a core academic subject but in fact thought they were on the cusp of bright future with revolutionary new methods for teaching grammar. This was a time when linguists were doing groundbreaking research on how language is put together, and educators thought some of these advances would trickle down into fresh approaches to teaching grammar.

At the same time, though, people working on another branch of education research were asking a question that didn’t bode well for the future of grammar instruction at all: “what’s the point of teaching grammar?”

It’s the question every teacher hates to hear: “why are we learning this?” But at a time when students were spending hours diagramming sentences and drilling parts of speech, it’s one that was begging to be answered.

Unfortunately, this answer was not forthcoming. The more researchers conducted studies looking for good reasons teach grammar, the more they started to wonder whether any such reasons actually existed.

This growing current of skepticism culminated in 1963 with a report titled Research in Written Comprehension. Looking at studies that had been done up to that point, the report concluded that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing.”

In other words, the report passed a harsh verdict: teaching grammar is at best a waste of time and at worst something that actually hurts students.

The Downfall of Grammar
This conclusion set off a gradual dismantling of grammar instruction in the U.S. In the decades that followed, educators gleefully took hatchets to grammar curricula. It turned out a lot of people were fed up with grammar!

By 1985, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) had adopted a resolution explicitly discouraging “the use of isolated grammar and usage exercises not supported by theory and research,” instead urging that “class time at all levels must be devoted to opportunities for meaningful listening, speaking, reading and writing.” The resolution also called on teachers to stop giving tests focused on grammar rather than the more general “language arts.”

This resolution is still on the NCTE website. And it more or less summarizes the view of grammar instruction that continues to dominate the U.S. education system.

But that doesn’t mean everyone considers the question of whether to teach grammar closed. Many English teachers hold one of two sharply contrasting views:

  • Teaching grammar doesn’t help students. It distracts from more important material, uses time that could be spend actually reading and writing, and gives students an artificial, overly technical view of the writing process.
  • Teaching grammar is necessary. It prepares students to write well, express themselves clearly, and think logically.

The 1963 report that started the trend toward paring back grammar instruction in U.S. schools falls solidly inline with the first perspective. Although critics (like Martha Kolln) have since questioned whether the studies used in the report were methodologically sound, there has been more recent research supporting the idea that teaching grammar doesn’t help students become better writers.

For example, a meta-analysis published in 2007 looked at research into 11 different methods of teaching writing. The conclusion was that all but one of the methods seemed to be effective. The one that wasn’t? Well, you probably guessed it – grammar instruction!

If there’s no hard evidence that learning grammar separately helps students write, there is reason to believe that the tedium of grammar instruction actually turns students off from English classes. A 1979 study tracked students enrolled in three different English programs – two of which included formal grammar instruction, one of which didn’t. While there weren’t any differences between the three groups as far as writing skills, the group that didn’t learn grammar had a more positive attitude than the two groups that did, suggesting that time used for grammar instruction can be spent on things more engaging for students.

Besides the lack of evidence that teaching grammar serves any real purpose, there are a few other reasons grammar remains such a low priority in U.S. schools.

First, at around the same time as educators were starting to raise serious questions about why students were doing so many grammar drills, there was also a growing movement to make schools more inclusive and less culturally biased. In English, part of this was a shift away from a single, correct, “standard” dialect of English toward the understanding that different dialects of English are spoken with different grammars.

Second, formal grammar instruction has now been out of style so long that many teachers today couldn’t teach grammar in isolation even if they wanted to. The last time students received thorough grammar instruction in U.S. public schools was the 1960s, so many teachers who themselves went to school in the 1970s or later have the attitude of “I didn’t learn it, so why should my students?”

Where Does Grammar Stand Today?
However, with all that said, there are still many people who see the lack of rigorous grammar instruction in U.S. schools as a disservice to students that puts the U.S. at an international disadvantage.

These critics counter the studies showing a lack of correlation between grammar instruction and writing skills by saying that the problem isn’t grammar instruction itself, but the kind of grammar of instruction – that the solution isn’t to stop teaching grammar altogether, but to teach it better. Some add that even if it doesn’t improve students’ writing, learning about grammar still has value in its own right.

These advocates of grammar instruction also point out that there is a lot of work to be done on literacy in the U.S. – the way English is currently taught doesn’t seem to be doing the job. For example, recent reports by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) both suggest that relative to other developed countries, the U.S. scores relatively low on reading tests.

Although these arguments in favor of teaching more grammar have yet to catch hold in the U.S., they have started to gain traction across the pond in the United Kingdom. Like the U.S., the U.K. deemphasized grammar instruction over the final decades of the twentieth century.

Unlike the U.S., the U.K. has recently started to reverse direction, putting grammar back on top of the agenda. Recently, the country put into place a new national grammar test for 11-year-olds. To implement the updated, grammar-intensive curriculum, many teachers had to sign up for a special grammar crash course since they were not familiar with the material they were expected to present to their young students.

It’s too early to tell whether the U.K.’s renewed commitment to teaching grammar will lead to real gains in literacy. There’s no enough data yet – plus, the Department for Education had to cancel this year’s version of the test after accidentally posting it online.

In the meantime, U.S. students and parents find it odd that although grammar is a relatively low priority in the classroom, it still has a sizable portion on high-stakes tests like the SAT & ACT.  Many international students report to score higher on grammar questions due to the fact that they are require to take classes that drill U.S. grammar rules.

Because it’s hard to provide definitive proof one way or another, it’s hard to see this debate ending soon. Advocates for grammar instruction will point to the country’s uninspiring performance on international literacy tests; critics will bring up the studies showing that grammar exercises don’t help students learn to write.

What do you think? Is in-depth grammar work a necessity or a waste of time? Share your thoughts in the comments!

By Niels V.

Trump Making Bureaucrats Drink More

This is hilarious. Bureaucrats are finally being treated with the disdain they’ve always deserved. And are behaving in much the way as campus snowflakes. You see, government employment shields the employees from the vagaries of the market. Unlike private-sector employees, bureaucrats don’t have to concern themselves from termination, lay-offs, pay and benefit cuts, and the like. The have a guaranteed lifelong job, with over-the-top benefits, Cadillac health-insurance plans, annual cost-of-living increases, and about eight weeks of paid time-off. Getting fired from a government job is rarer than an apparation of the Blessed Mother or an Elvis sighting. And so, government employment is very attractive to Millennials and snowflakes in general. A guaranteed, generous paycheck for life with outrageous retirement benefits for you and your surviving spouse. Without ever having to concern one’s self with the uncertainties that private-sector employees must face daily.

And they are sometimes rewarded with end-of-year bonuses.  Excuse me !  In the private sector, bonuses are generally rewarded after an exceptionally profitable year, or to an employee who has greatly exceeded sales and production expectations.  Government employees, however, are given end-of-year bonuses just for having a pulse.  

You can’t make this stuff up.  The next time some bureaucrat starts whining to you about his employment situation, tell him to trade places with Bob Cratchett, Dickens’ fictional hero to private-sector workers everywhere whose job is on the line every single day.–A/D


The Trump administration is causing many government bureaucrats to drink more, according to a Friday report.

Various government workers workers told Politico that the stress of working for President Donald Trump’s administration has ruined their dating lives and often caused them to turn to liquor for comfort. Dozens of these employees reported to Politico that the advent of Trump had forever changed their lives.

“My own personal coping mechanism is a lot of denial,” said one Energy Department employee. “That has caused marital stress, since [my spouse] does not appreciate or respect my state of denial. That has caused an issue, although we would not be the only couple in the United States that has struggled with the Trump effect. I’m the frog in the pot that’s boiling along.”

A State Department official also said he was concerned about how the administration was affecting him and whether he would be forever associated with the “worst” of the worst administration.

“There are days I want to leave and work for someone who respects me and appreciates my skills and expertise. I’m worried people years from now will somehow associate me with the very worst of this administration” one State Department official told Politico.

Not all government officials felt the same anxiety as their colleagues, as some Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents expressed that they felt supported for the first time in a while.

The Trump administration has seen some instability, with many people leaving or being fired.

The various departments did not return request for comment in time for publication.

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

Please Help the Artful Dilettante

Some scholar, whose name I cannot recall, did a seriously in-depth study to identify all of the government “success stories” throughout recorded history. He could not find a single, solitary example. Every action the government has taken throughout history has either resulted in a zero-sum outcome or an abject failure. An example of zero-sum outcomes would include income-redistribution schemes where you rob Peter to pay Paul. Abject failures would include Obamacare, the Iraq War, and public education.

If anyone can identify the author or has additional information which could assist me in this matter, please post it to this website.