Doug Kimball gives Capitalism a bad name.
He did so Thursday on Ricochet in a piece entitled "Capitalists Give Capitalism a Bad Name" and I hope to discredit much of what he wrote. If it is inappropriate to cite him in the manner I have, then I am happy to adjust the format (somehow). Chunks from Mr. Kimball's piece are in bold with my responses below.
Time Magazine has named Pope Francis Man of the Year for 2013. It’s fitting, I think, as the Pope's less than flattering statements about capitalists have left statists, communists, socialists and the editors of Time all atwitter.
The ignorant Pope said some ignorant things which pleased Progressives and Mr. Kimball goes on to agree.
William F. Buckley once said, “The trouble with socialism is socialism; the trouble with capitalism is capitalists.” Jonah Goldberg reminded us of this in a recent column. Before we go all Libertarian MMA on all this capitalism bashing, it must be said: capitalism, like democracy, can be a very destructive thing when unfettered and without conscience.
Here, the casual use of the word 'destructive' to describe capitalism is troublesome. With no other context, the word 'destructive' has a negative connotation. It sounds like immoral damage. My challenge to Kimball is to submit an instance of this negative destruction for debate.
Capitalism is the absence of coercion. If I send a wrecking ball through your home without your permission I am being destructive. That of course is not Capitalism. But if I have your permission then I am simply remodeling. That is Capitalism. Is it technically destructive that I take down a wall to remodel? Yes. But wasn't it done for constructive purposes (and with your permission)? So, is it accurate to say my work was destructive? If you want to impugn me.
Capitalism, in its purest state, strives for cost avoidance, market dominance, and monopoly. Competition is key to an efficient market, but the true capitalist seeks to eliminate competition at every level by every means possible. This is difficult, but not impossible. Thus, for capitalism to work, capitalists must be restrained from unfair practices that constrain competition.
I'm glad he brought up Capitalism in its purest form but it's troublesome that he would assign it only the mission to conquer. Some Capitalists may strive for microscopic efficiency and market dominance, but that is not a prerequisite. Chopping just enough wood for your neighbors that you can feed yourself is as pure an act of Capitalism as being the largest tech company. The true Capitalist, Mr. Kimball, is entitled to the fruits of their own labor and functions without being coerced or coercing others. Capitalists do not need to be restrained because Capitalism does not encompass the restrainable. Actions such as property sabotage and theft are immoral and should be punished because they are not Capitalistic.
Determining what is unfair can be difficult. There is a point where large corporations, with their access to capital and influence, become political creatures of a sort; they lobby for political advantage, seek protection for technological advantages, look for tax benefits, seek out government contracts and generally seek any advantage that will allow their profits to defy economic trends. Large corporations even lobby for increased regulation when it can deliver a disadvantage to smaller competitors. This explains the cozy relationship some large corporations have with political players who are hardly friends of capitalism.
Everyone except Capitalists seek special advantages from the government. If we seek economic sanctions on competitors we are Fascists (Corporatists). Having your buddies in government cripple smaller competitors by doubling the minimum wage is Fascism. Buying government contracts is Fascism. Seeking any political bludgeon against competition is Fascistic. Even with the slightest regulations, an otherwise faithful Capitalist would only succeed by jumping through hoops and playing The Game. But they are no longer a functioning Capitalist; they've been extorted out of Capitalism into Fascism. Mr. Kimball seems to recognize this political entanglement is not friendly to Capitalism, yet implies we remain Capitalists while acting Fascistically. This is troublesome.
The problem with capitalism has always been the capitalists — that is, the men who bypass the need to build the most efficient business in favor of using cronyism to penalize and thwart competition, to fix the system to their advantage. “It’s just business” is not an ethical justification for cronyism, any more than it is for treating employees with contempt, ignoring regulations, or condoning unsafe or illegal practices.
The problem is sentences like these. As we learned above: Fascists use cronyism, not Capitalists. The most troublesome phrase for Capitalism is 'crony Capitalism'. It is deeply enshrined in our manner of speaking about government corruption and it must change. Even 'crony' itself is poison because the slur's only popular context precedes 'Capitalism'. Fascism is the appropriate nasty word so I recommend that. Or Corporatism, but it unnecessarily dings corporations.
Perhaps WFB and Pope Francis should have modified their criticisms. The problem with capitalism is that it is run by men — a species remarkably prone to self-aggrandizement and delusion to justify unethical, unfair and unsafe business practices. They're the ones who give capitalism a bad name.
I hope that Mr. Kimball modifies his criticisms. The problem is not Capitalism, it's giving Fascism its name.
***Edited: Wording in second to last paragraph. Removed 'needs to disappear' and replaced with 'is poison' for tone. 4-17-14***