By David Bozeman
What a sad commentary on our world when “capitalist” is hurled as an epithet, by no less than those who fancy themselves capitalism’s staunchest defenders. Bain Capital is but one example. When all else fails, bashing the eee-vil rich offers a quick release, buys time and is as easy — and about as courageous — as swatting a fly. It’s so beyond cliché it’s reflex.
The dominant currency in political discourse is broad, universally shared caricatures, from Mr. Potter, the heartless rich banker in It’s a Wonderful Life to Scrooge McDuck. Yes, syndicated columnist Dana Milbank recently cited a relatively ancient cartoon character in a lighthearted jab at the GOP frontrunner entitled “Romney’s Money Talks.”
Rule of thumb: when a candidate is labeled “rich” or “capitalist” from the outset, little of substance will follow in terms of unearthing scandal or criminal activity. The aura of a fat, sloppy capitalist, the chattering classes assume, alone will repel the regular folks. Who needs a summary of a contender’s character, nuance, worldview or job performance? If they don’t think we’re that stupid, they hope we are.
Forget “Sexual McCarthyism” (from the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal) or Sarah Palin’s bulls-eyes over targeted congressional districts, having your fat wallet identified is now intended as the kiss of death in American politics. One can easily spot such matter-of-fact derisions of Romney as “multiple mansion owner.”
Remember the chortles when candidate John McCain couldn’t recall the number of homes he owned (one can bet he easily knew the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, unlike you know who)? Why the gut-level assumption that the wealthy and the business owners are out-of-touch with everyday Americans, yet government bureaucrats and the inside-the-beltway media are their voice and conscience?
But at the same time, no one really has the guts to label themselves anti-capitalist. They usually wrap their charges in the protective coloration of attacking “vulture” or “crony” capitalism. Even the Wall Street occupiers claim that they are only protesting the excesses of capitalism. Nice try. But the verbal bomb throwers know that class warfare can take them only so far in this country. Whatever the angst toward capitalist millionaires, most Americans don’t identify themselves in terms of class or class resentment. The left knows that they can never destroy capitalism openly and in one major sweep, but they can do it incrementally by slowly stigmatizing initiative and desire.
Those who nip at the realities of capitalism blur its true meaning, now and even for future generations. True, not all capitalists are worthy of praise, and the free market does not always yield Horatio Alger-esque tales of perseverance and triumph. But if Mitt Romney is not perfect, it is not because he is a capitalist. Simply, he is a human being, flawed and multi-faceted. And neither is he a vulture. Those who delight in reigning in the excesses of capitalism also pose the danger of reigning in the desire and potential of our best and brightest young minds. Consider Michelle Obama encouraging graduates to forgo the frills of corporate life for more modest careers in public service.
Surely Mrs. Obama knows that all the modern technology, all the goods and services we take for granted everyday would not exist but for talented, ambitious individuals eager to make money. And lots of it. And thank heaven for them! The benevolence of social workers has a place, but it is the hunger of young minds for accomplishment and reward that will continue to transform the world. Those who love mankind will ignite those dreams and not douse them with the toxic waters of envy, division and political expediency.
David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.