Column on Prejudice at The Times

Unabashed Prejudice at The Times
Tibor R. Machan
These matters tend to show up without much fanfare but that’s exactly what
makes them interesting and significant. When Eleanor Randolph of The New
York Times wrote these lines [Sunday, 2/24/08], I am sure she was being
quite unselfconscious. It was simple common sense to her to say, as she
wrote about the program “Law & Order”–which she and I both seem to have
watched from its inception–that these shows “elevate Sam Waterston to his
ethical pedestal, even though he appears elsewhere pitching investments.”
Notice that as a fictional make-believe Assistant District Attorney–and
now the DA himself–Waterston’s ethics are deemed impeccable. But as an
actually pitchman for investment services provided by TD Waterhouse he is
besmirched. “Even though” this is what he does both for part of his living
and in service to millions who are seeking to place their money with a
trusted outfit that will help them put it away for a rainy day! Why? What
is morally, ethically not to applaud about Sam Waterston because he is
making these pitches? What on earth is morally objectionable about
advertising the services of TD Waterhouse or of any other legitimate
Perhaps Ms. Randolph is upset with investment firms because they try to
make people well off here in this world and she wants, like so many
philosophers and theologians throughout human history, direct our
attention to our spiritual selves and to the possibility of everlasting
salvation earned through various measures of earthly asceticism. Nah, I
don’t think so. Or perhaps she is just expressing a prevalent, unexamined
prejudice in our culture in which, despite the concern about economic
downturns, about poverty, about unemployment, the intelligentsia is
scornful toward people in business. Kind of like the aristocracy had been
about the nouveau riche because they dirtied their hands with productive
It is interesting that someone so closely linked to the liberal
establishment in America would have no self awareness about her rank,
irrational disdain for those who work in the financial community. This
blindness, manifest here only as a casual throwaway line, has a serious
impact on the health of the nation’s economy. For example, it fosters an
atmosphere of disdain toward millions of young people who are considering
entering the business professions. They are bombarded with the prejudice
against their choice of career in TV programs, newspaper columns, movies,
pulp fiction, popular music, and elsewhere and no righteous indignation is
expressed by the mainstream moralizers in the country when it happens.
Apart from a few voices way outside the mainstream, politicians and others
have no compunction about bashing business, denigrating people’s efforts
to prosper, to make a profit in the market place, no. Attempting to thrive
economically, while considered imperative for the country as a whole, is
treated as a sin or some kind of lowly drive when exhibited by individuals.
Nevertheless, of course, most people, when they act on the basis of their
personal common sense, show that prudence about their money is a decent,
praiseworthy thing. They know well and good that seeking out good
financial advice and acting on it are a wise course for them to take. They
often stress such prudence as they raise their children. They frown upon
recklessness in the market place by friends and neighbors.
Yet, somehow, they do not protest when pundits like Ms. Randolph and many,
many others deride commerce and business. When a politician aligns himself
or herself with those in the business world, if only to free up avenues
for trade, he or she is derided for siding with “big business.” Never mind
that it is such trade, carried out by those in the world of business that
creates the jobs that keeps people off the unemployment lines, that makes
it possible for them to provide for their needs and wants and dreams!
Isn’t it time that this kind of schizophrenia is abandoned, that the
prejudice, the unjust discrimination against commerce and business is cast
aside as nearly as insidious as racism and sexism?

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One Response to Column on Prejudice at The Times

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