We’ll say it again: If the Occupy Wall Street protesters are upset about taxpayers seeing little to no benefit from massive corporate bailouts – and about fat executive compensation in the era of layoffs and high unemployment – we’re with them.
We’re not sure the Occupy crowd is as lucid as all that, but just go with us for a minute.
We’re still waiting for a few overfed CEOs to see the light, slash their pay and use the savings to hire everyone they can find work for.
How can they see the frustration and anger and protests going on in cities all over the world and not understand that the very system they rely upon for their success – capitalism – is under siege? It’s being tested, being cross-examined – certainly by younger generations who simply aren’t schooled in or shaped by the titanic struggles of the Cold War, and thus don’t know the dangers they’re inviting. But if history teaches us that communism and socialism are both immoral and ineffective, history also is replete with young generations demanding more than pat answers to deep and urgent questions.
The fact remains that capitalism has some very good answers to the questions being posed to it – but at this point of the proceedings, those answers aren’t being put forth in any coherent way by the capitalists. If capitalism’s defenders are muddled and muted, it’s a little incongruous to complain that the Occupy Wall Street folks are worse (though, truth be told, they are).
What are the capitalists waiting for? Do they think the roiling fury they’re watching is just a momentary fad? Do they think they can take capitalism and freedom and peace and security for granted?
Where is capitalism’s defense? Is it muffled because its excesses are so indefensible? Is it because they know they’ll come off as feudal lords? Perhaps it’s just difficult for someone earning $30 million or more to speak out at a time such as this.
Well, someone has to do it. This isn’t the America the captains of commerce grew up in. Income disparities have ballooned over the years, and have been put in much sharper focus by the crash of 2008 and the sustained slowdown that has followed. The bailouts only picked at the sores. And with the shadow of the Soviet Union gone, the specter of socialism and communism just doesn’t haunt our kids like it did their parents.
We can laugh off those in the Occupy crowds who loudly applaud the communists in their midst – and yes, that’s happened – but our young, especially, need to be shown how those folks are wrong. They need to learn, as their elders seemed to know intrinsically, that capitalism, under which they have the freedom to become what they can – and keep what they earn – is the only real fair and moral covenant among men, and that socialism and communism, under which the fruits of your labor aren’t considered yours, are inherently inequitable. They are ghastly wrecks littering the path of man.
What youths may know about all this – other than the comfortable lifestyles they enjoy and the fancy devices capitalism provides their palms – is what liberal comedians like Jon Stewart or ultra-liberal propagandists like filmmaker Michael Moore tell them. Moore, who grew plenty fat and happy on capitalism himself, made a movie cynically and sarcastically called Capitalism: A Love Story. One hint: It’s not a romantic comedy, though his hypocrisy is hilarious.
In short, the other side is making its case more openly and unashamedly than ever in our lifetimes. We can no longer assume that our young understand the beauty of individual liberty, the process of wealth creation, or the importance of private property rights to freedom and security. It appears our schools aren’t teaching it.
Who, then, will tell them?
And when will the capitalists stop giving capitalism a bad name?