Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against school prayer in 1962, a “Peanuts” cartoon featured Sally and Charlie Brown crawling behind a sofa where Sally spilled her secret: “We prayed in school today!” Today’s cartoonist could poke fun at a practice that’s fallen from grace by drawing a university student whispering to her confidant: “We celebrated capitalism in class today!”
While there is no ban on discussing capitalism in our universities, professors who tout the merits of a free market system might run afoul of colleagues who follow the Huffington Post’s rule to “Make Capitalism a Dirty Word.” In 1962, the Supreme Court aimed only to enforce the founders’ call for separation of church and state. In 2019, a syndicate of “democratic socialists” aims to separate you from your money.
So it’s fun to imagine how a rogue professor might deprogram students who’ve been bewitched by a new wave of body snatchers — by Bernie Sanders’ promises of free stuff, by Elizabeth Warren’s drumbeat about “systemic” greed, and by AOC’s claim that capitalism is “irredeemable.”
The rogue I envision would begin by endorsing our free market system — and by reminding students that the device they sneak looks at during class was not the brainchild of a bureaucrat. Nor were the other inventions that lend comfort and pleasure to their lives.
Lesson one would also cover the paradox Alan Greenspan pinpoints in his history “Capitalism in America”: “By producing prosperity, capitalism creates its own gravediggers in the form of a comfortable class of intellectuals and politicians” — who would bury capitalism under layers of entitlements. Put another way, intellectuals and politicians who are secure in their own income and the prospect of a lifelong pension would impose sanctions on the private sector, especially the top one percent of earners. In short, the comfortable class is free to draw their income — then sneer at those who guarantee it.
But in an amusing twist, some of their staunchest allies in the war on wealth are fat cats themselves, whose untouchable wealth insulates them from the problems their policies would cause for you and me. They’re the type Galsworthy had in mind when he said “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” Think Spielberg, Streisand and Steyer, and in light of the Obamas’ $65 million book deal, Michelle’s remark that they chose to “move out of the money-making industry” becomes a bit of a stretch.
Lesson two would include hard facts about the left’s claim that a 70% top marginal tax rate would fund college tuition and health care for all — and would eliminate fossil fuels before our time’s up in 12 years. What they don’t say is that the Tax Foundation has found that a 70% top rate would raise less than half of the $700 billion our would-be martinets need to generate a new class of dependents. Nor will they admit that there aren’t enough Bezoses and Buffetts to fund “democratic” socialism. Only by raiding the middle class can they make Marxism a profitable enterprise — temporarily.
Lesson three would deliver the truth about Sweden, which is a model welfare state only for those who don’t know what became of Sweden under socialist rule in the ’70s and ’80s. At the same time taxes and regulations went up, employment and wages fell — until 1991, when a newly elected government deregulated industry, reduced entitlements and the corporate tax rate, and privatized parts of their health care system. Today, Sweden is thriving because they learned the hard way that “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”
But it will take more than a Churchill zinger to break the spell our Marxists have cast on Gen Z, so my rogue professor would end class with a Milton Friedman graphic: “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” Put an entrepreneur on the case and that sand would reappear in two.
With this information in hand, sensible students will head back to the dorm, discard their $OAK THE RICH protest posters, and whisper to their friends, “We celebrated capitalism in class today!”