Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Greed is good" because we are all greedy, and thus must serve another before we gain for ourselves.

Myths About Capitalism by John Stossel
I was glad to see the publication of "The 5 Big Lies About American Business" by Michael Medved
"You can only make a profit in this country by giving people a product or a service that they want," Medved recently told me. "It's the golden rule in action." . . .

"What's interesting," Medved commented, "is that in the old days, Hollywood would have businesspeople who were very positive: George Bailey, the Jimmy Stewart character, is a banker in 'It's a Wonderful Life.'" No longer. Today's movie capitalists are criminals or playboys. Apparently, Hollywood writers think it's plausible that CEOs have lots of time to sip cocktails and chase women.

"In school, we all studied a book called "The Theory of the Leisure Class," which ... indicted the leisure class and these people who were out there exploiting other people and really had nothing to do except sit on their yachts and go to their swimming pools and their vacations." In real life, that's nonsense. "The higher up on the income scale you go, the less leisure time you have. You make money in this country by working hard."

Medved's second myth is that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. This is the old zero-sum fallacy, which ignores that when two people engage in free exchange, both gain -- or they wouldn't have traded. It's what I call the double thank-you phenomenon. I understand why politicians and lawyers believe it: It's true in their world. But it's not true in business. "If you believe that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, then you believe that creating wealth causes poverty, and you're an idiot," said Medved.

Myth No. 3: Government is more fair and reliable than business. "Remember the last time you went into Starbucks, and then remember the last time you went into the DMV to get your license," Medved said. "Where did you get better treated? And it's not because the barista is some kind of idealist or humanitarian. She wants a tip. She wants you to come back to the Starbucks ... ."

Myth No. 4: The current downturn means the death of capitalism. "Capitalism is alive and well," Medved said. I'm also bugged when people argue that today's problems prove that capitalism "failed." What failed? We had a correction. A bubble popped. But from 1982 to now, the Dow rose from 800 to 11,000. Had it happened without the bubble, we'd say this is one of the great boom periods.

Medved added: "This is one of the biggest lies -- the idea that because of capitalism, we're all suffering. ... Poor people in America today, people who are officially in poverty, have a higher standard of living in terms of medical standards, in terms of the chances of going to college, in terms of the way people live, than middle-class people did 30 years ago. It's an extraordinary achievement of technology and of the profit sector."

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