Straw-man con man

David Simon, television producer of The Wire and a noted economic philosopher (but I repeat myself), has something to say about the evils of capitalism, which is the sole source of all the evils of society today.

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

In a recent rambling presentation, he tells us his solution to the “horrors” of society is a mixture of capitalism and socialism/Marxism, which makes about as much sense as you might expect. Here’s a snippet:

Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.

As if, in a capitalist society, people only care about the bottom line to the exclusion of all else. A straw-man argument if there ever was one.

I discovered Simon’s diatribe on the Facebook page of an old friend, a Rhodes Scholar, proving once again that one would have to be highly educated in order to believe something so stupidly incoherent.

I’d say read the whole thing, but I am not a cruel man.

Instead, the antidote comes from this must-read post by Roger Kimball:

As F. A. Hayek points out in Capitalism and the Historians, an extraordinary collection of essays he edited and published in 1954, “The widespread emotional aversion to ‘capitalism’ is closely connected with this belief that the undeniable growth of wealth which the competitive order had produced was purchased at the price of depressing the standard of life the weakest elements of society.” This picture of economic depredation, notes Hayek, is “one supreme myth which more than any other has served to discredit the economic system [capitalism] to which we owe our present-day civilization”…

Not a day goes by without lamentations about the evils or limitations of capitalism emitted by some of capitalism’s most conspicuous beneficiaries. Barack Obama, for example, speaking in Kansas a couple of weeks ago, chided the “certain crowd in Washington” that believed “the market will take care of everything.” Of course, that is rhetorical overstatement; we all know what he means. Do we want big government, high taxes, and intricate regulation, or do we want lean government, low taxes, and the minimum regulation consistent with public safety? Or consider Does Capitalism Have A Future? a collection of essays by “a global quintet of distinguished scholars,” published by Oxford University Press, arguing that the capitalist system is teetering on the brink of collapse and it’s a good thing, too, because the socialist system that may ensue will be far better. It’s an hysterical (not in the sense of “funny”) volume, full of tired Marxoid clichés about the “internal contradictions” of capitalism and impending ecological crisis, but it is also a thoroughly typical product of the comfy intellectual caste that has enjoyed all the benefits of capitalism without bothering to understand what has made those benefits possible.

Despite this anti-capitalist narrative, however–a narrative we hear repeated by “progressive” politicians and iterated in more barbaric, polysyllabic strains by academics everywhere–the capitalist system has made possible over the last century, and especially in the last several decades, the greatest accumulation of wealth in the history of the world. England was the crucible of this modern prosperity in part because of the freedom of economic activity that it, unlike the states of continental Europe, enjoyed. And that freedom, in turn, and again unlike the continent, was underwritten by the limited government England also enjoyed. “The rapid growth of wealth” in England in the early nineteenth century, Hayek observes, “is probably in the first instance an almost accidental byproduct of the limitations which the revolution of the seventeenth century placed on the powers of government.” We’ve been working diligently in this country to remove those limitations. How far will we have to sink before the people once again rise up and repudiate the elites who wish to fetter them in manacles forged by statist overreach?

Kimball quotes T.S. Ashton on the Rev. Philip Gaskell, saying he is someone “whose earnestness and honesty are not in doubt, but whose mind have not been confused by any study of history.”

Which we could easily apply to Simon.

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