Disgusting Rich Bashing
Tibor R. Machan
There are many welcome developments in America in our time, mainly in the media. Certainly Judge Andrew Napolitano’s and John Stossel’s Fox Business Network TV programs are quite unprecedented in their principled libertarian commentaries. The way Reason Magazine’s staff is all over the place on line, in print, and on television is gratifying (especially to someone like me who was one of those who were instrumental in making the magazine a regular monthly publication in 1970). There are numerous wonderful blogs where the Left and Right have met their serious critics, such as GMU’s economists’ Cafe Hayek.
Nonetheless the vehemence with which the likes of Nancy Pelosi and a bunch of her fellow Democrats in Congress voice the nastiest line of class warfare rhetoric--so much so that even President Obama can at times sound like a moderate man of the Center--is also quite unprecedented, at least in my memory. (Of course, there have been periods in American political history when these kinds of populist and near-communist sentiments flourished but I wasn’t around then to be upset by them. And in some eras we can find critics of statism, such as H. L. Mencken, every bit as emphatic and entertaining as, say, P. J. O’Rourke is today.)
Still, for my taste the current crowd takes the cake. The unabashed demagoguery forthcoming from the likes of Pelosi, Bernie Sanders and their cheerleaders of envy in the media and academy is for me very difficult to stomach. As is the way many in the media cover their blather as if it was just a tad different in content from, say, that of Bill Clinton’s when in fact it is out and out advocacy of tyrannical socialism.
Why is this so upsetting now? Because these people carry on as if there had never been a Soviet Union and the catastrophic meltdown of its type of statist economics, one that embraced to the fullest the sort of government interventionism that our current enthusiastic rich-bashers advocate. Before this, some modicum of excuse may have been possible for buying into the zero-sum type thinking that generates hatred for the rich (although even there anyone familiar with the works of von Mises, et al., could tell that what the Soviets were attempting hadn’t a ghost of a chance succeeding). Prior to the world-wide spectacle of socialism’s fatal failure in the Soviet bloc most people might be forgiven for confusing the wealth-creation under a substantially capitalist, free market economic arena with how wealth had been obtained for centuries on end, namely via military conquest, pillaging, murder, and other forms of brutal human-on-human violence.
But that was when the memory of how riches had been garnered for too many people who had them was all tainted with the primitivism of mercantilist economics and worse. That was mostly after the likes of Adam Smith pointed out that trade was a superior approach to wealth creation to what had been routine in the ancient and even later times, namely, coercive force. This lesson may understandably have taken a bit of time to sink in but once the Soviet debacle occurred, there could be no excuse for thinking that when people are wealthy--yes, indeed, very, very wealthy--this came about because they robbed others. No sane person could think now that the likes of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg make their riches by depriving millions of others of theirs. (This despite the fact that neither of these beneficiaries of capitalism speaks up about the matter often enough!)
So there is no excuse for rich-bashing, none. And I don’t even believe, as some good friends of mine do, that this is all about envy since the nastiest rich-bashing comes from people who are by no stretch of the imagination poor. The best explanation to my way of thinking is that these people are demagogues, trying to cash in on the gullibility of many Americans who are hurting and in desperation and ignorance--they are busy with their ordinary lives--engage in scapegoating instead of seeking clear understanding about economics and, in particular, the current financial fiasco.
Why would they resort to this? Because they have indeed run out of sound arguments for acting like the petty tyrants they are and now can only depend for gaining and keeping power on playing to the worst tendencies of human social thinking, the tendency of too many of us to blame someone, anyone, for what the very people have perpetrated whom they have sent to Washington to do good! Under such circumstances it will probably take many more sensible and articulate media folks like Napolitano and Stossel to counter this hysteria about the rich, giving way to a civilized attitude of live and let live among people occupying the great variety of economic positions one can reasonably expect in a free society.