An op-ed appeared in the Thanksgiving edition Wednesday titled, “The Pilgrims’ Famous Lesson.” The author posited that Thanksgiving is actually a celebration of capitalism. In addition, the last line subtly insinuates that the very God of the universe has established and ordained capitalism.
I certainly agree with the author that capitalism is the best economic system, but whenever I read of capitalism in such laudatory terms, I am reminded of beer commercials.
We have all seen beer commercials that present us with good-looking people having a great time with a can of beer in their hands. How can a person possibly not desire that?
Conspicuously absent is the negative side of that can of beer. There are no images of horrific accidents caused by drunk drivers; no images of the skid rows in major American cities, many people who are on the street due to alcoholism; no images of people in assisted living memory centers that cannot live on their own due to alcohol-induced dementia; no images of families ripped apart by alcoholism.
Such is a sterile view of capitalism, which like the beer commercials, leaves elements conspicuously absent.
Marxism was able to gain a foothold in 19th century Europe by tapping into the discontent of the working class, as they were manipulated by factory owners who cared only about profits. The welfare state was created in part from the philosophy that if everyone had the basic necessities of life, the working class would have less reason to take to the streets in revolt.
The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession that we just came through were man-made economic catastrophes, caused by unscrupulous individuals manipulating various aspects of our capitalist economic system. So much of the magnificent landscape of our beautiful country would be permanently scarred, or non-existent if capitalism had not been held in check.
H.W. Brands, in his excellent book, The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, offers this comment on Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and Democratic President Woodrow Wilson: “[They] were far less enamored of the capitalist status quo. Each believed that capitalism was running away with democracy, that the invisible hand [that moves a free market economy] was strangling economic opportunity and holding millions of Americans in thrall to corporate greed.”
Capitalism is the best economic system. But history has shown us time and again, it is a system by its very nature that requires an abundance of oversight and regulation. Rather than giving thanks for an economic system this past Thanksgiving, I chose to give thanks for those things that protect us from the abuses of that system.
As such, I was thankful for entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Security and Exchange Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Social Security Administration. I am thankful for the protection they afford us.