Column on Disgusting Rich Bashing

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.

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