In the Matrix reality put before us by the corporatist alliance of big government and big business, and its corporate media mouthpieces, there are several recurring themes. The economy we have now is the result of “free choice,” and all its specific features are the result of the free choices of individuals. Those who complain of aspects of the existing economy want to use government to restrict freedom of choice. Big business and big government are mortal enemies, and the main motive force behind government policy is a desire to restrict the freedom of big business and punish the rich.
Thomas Sowell manages so effectively to work all these talking points into a recent slimy little turd of a column, you’d think he was playing Neocon Talking Points Bingo.
Sowell laments the “resentment” toward excessive profits and wealth, and insinuates that it’s all part of some master plan–an “agenda”–by the “czars,” “our betters in Washington,” and politicians who seek “dangerous power.” The goal is simply to take away “our freedom to live our lives as we see fit.” Free to live as we please, we choose to create a corporate economy like the one we have now, and the only way to change the current corporate setup is by restricting our freedom.
In Sowell’s morality play, the struggle between big government and big business is a struggle between power and freedom.
Sowell has it exactly backwards. The struggle between big government and big business is about as authentic as the struggle between a “good cop” and “bad cop” in a police interrogation room.
Sowell also objects to the terms “‘obscene’ wealth” and “‘unconscionable’ profits,” asking just what’s wrong with wealth and profits. For Sowell, all wealth is by defnition good–it’s poverty that’s bad.
But he makes the unwarranted assumption that all wealth is obtained in a positive sum gain. What if our economy, as it’s actually set up, is a negative sum game in which most large concentrations of wealth are obtained at the expense of someone’s poverty?
It’s stupid to say, without qualification, that all wealth is good–just as it’s foolish to say that all property is good. Sowell should know better than most people that there have been unjust forms of property. And likewise, there is unjust wealth.
The fact is, big business and the rich are on the same side as those power-seeking politicians. The dominant corporations and large fortunes of our time result from the use of the state to restrict our freedom of exchange. Their wealth comes from the ability to restrict–with the help of the state–the terms on which we can buy and sell, and compel us to buy and sell only on terms favorable to them (if you don’t believe it, just compare the $10 you pay for a CD of Linux or Open Office to the hundreds of dollars charged for Windows or MS office). Their profits–most definitely unconscionable–come from state-enforced privilege, state-enforced artificial scarcity, and state subsidies.
Government redistributes income, all right: but it redistributes it to the rich, not from them. And our economic freedom is restricted–but to the benefit of big business and the rich, rather than to their detriment.
We have a corporate ruling class that has enriched itself at our expense, by using government to restrict our economic freedom and force us to do business with them on their terms. And people like Sowell are their shills. We don’t need any of them.