The Anti-Capitalist Offensive

by | Aug 9, 2002 | POLITICS

At the same time that John Walker Lindh is allowed to cop a plea, getting who knows how few years in prison, the media and a segment of the public are demanding to get the heads on a platter (the phrase actually used) of a number of CEOs of business firms who have yet to […]

At the same time that John Walker Lindh is allowed to cop a plea, getting who knows how few years in prison, the media and a segment of the public are demanding to get the heads on a platter (the phrase actually used) of a number of CEOs of business firms who have yet to be proved to have engaged in fraud.

As a friend put it: the World Trade Center is destroyed, killing 3,000 people, and the government’s response is to mount a campaign against businessmen.

Here’s a small ray of hope. In my post last Monday [July 9, 2002] on the anti-capitalist offensive that is being launched on the pretext of the corporate scandals, I wrote: “Who will have the courage to oppose it? No one.” Well, in a concrete way columnist Robert Novak wrote to oppose it.

Novak’s column on Monday was aptly entitled: “Witch Hunt: Congress’ corporate feeding frenzy.” Of course, it wasn’t the full, principled, pro-capitalist case, but it made some very good points (and just the headline says a lot). Here are some excerpts:

“While the federal government is frustrating when it treats economic problems with nonchalance, it is terrifying when it gets involved. The horrible example came in the 1920s, when the executive and legislative branched collaborated to help turn the stock market crash into the Great Depression.

Now there’s a point you don’t see being made often.

“On Tuesday, senators who usually can’t agree on the time of day were acting like a totalitarian state’s parliament: 97 to 0 to punish securities fraud with 10 years imprisonment; 96 to 0 for longer prison sentences; 97 to 0 for tougher treatment of document shredding. It raises the specter of businessmen fearing a term in prison if their accountant makes a mistake.”

“Nobody can keep up with the flood of legislation pouring out of both sides of the Capitol–some of it threatening Article I of the Constitution prohibiting ex post facto legislation [retroactive law–HB]. ‘What companies now face is potential criminal liability for accounting errors that will only be discoverable when new final rules are adopted,’ said one private memorandum by a financial analyst.”

Business can’t function in a climate of fear–fear of criminal prosecution. The best minds will refuse to attempt to do business that way. The substitution of motivation by fear of a slip-up for motivation by love of achievement would be a fundamental change in the operation of business. The most generous way one can describe the results is making all moderate to big businesses the equivalent of the post office.

Those on the moral code of altruism have to view all businessmen as guilty, guilty by nature, since their life’s work is to seek selfish gain. The current legislative frenzy is just the latest manifestation of the altruist premise: the attempt to cage “the beast” that is selfish greed.

— The above was an email from Harry Binswanger’s List, and is reprinted here by permission. The Harry Binswanger List (HBL) is an email list for Objectivists, moderated by Dr. Binswanger, for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. The HBL is $10 per month or $100 per year; a free one-month trial is available at: http://www.hblist.com/

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is an professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation and is the creator of The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Dr. Binswanger blogs at HBLetter.com (HBL)--an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free trial is available at: HBLetter.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Related articles

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest