Sunday, April 24, 2005

What Do Capitalists Want?

Critic Andrew Sarris reviews Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, a documentary, this week. (For those of you who have forgotten about Enron, it was a major corporation that committed all sorts of financial shenanigans during the Clinton Administration and was caught and prosecuted by the Bush Administration.) In his piece, I ran across this intriguing sentiment:
"...this very entertaining piece of muckraking...should be required viewing for anyone who voted for George W. Bush, or who thinks private accounts are a great idea for Social Security, or who still believes in the eternal beneficence of capitalism and the free market in general and the stock market in particular."
Leaving aside the hyperbole, I have to say if Andrew Sarris wants to be a leftist he doesn't seem to understand what he's supposed to believe.

Those who support capitalism are no fans of fraud. In fact, they're the leaders in making it illegal. Capitalists hate cheaters. The way you make money in a free market is by providing buyers with value for their money, not by fooling them. Capitalism works best when everyone can routinely count on the soundness of a contract (plus a solid system to resolve disputes). Dishonesty is anti-capitalism; truth is, the one thing that could bring the system down would be too much corruption.

No, Andrew, the real leftist critique of capitalism is not that you have cheaters, but that its very nature is ruthless and exploitative. Looking at a pathological case and saying private accounts are a bad idea is like saying don't put your money in a bank since there have been robberies, or don't fly in a plane since there have been crashes. Or to put it in a way you'll understand, never see a movie since there have been some real dogs.

Andrew Sarris may not realize this, but a world without corporations is not one he wants to live in. Maybe it's time someone made a documentary to explain that. I'd love to read his review.

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