# 536  

February 2006



 The Anti-Capitalism Virus


by Thomas J. Borelli, Ph.D.

 

While the world watches and worries about the possibility of a pandemic bird flu influenza, another virus has been spreading in epidemic proportions in the nation's capital.

        The dangerous virus is known as ACV - the anti-capitalism virus - and its continued spread almost certainly will undermine the robust good health of the nation's economy.

        ACV even has infected Republican ranks, transforming what once was considered to be the business-friendly political party into into whiny Karl Marx impersonators.

        A good case in point are the recent hearings in which a bevy of GOP senators joined their Democratic counterparts in blaming oil executives for their company's "politically-incorrect" record third-quarter 2005 earnings.

        Such grillings make great theater for television news programs and reap tons of publicity for political panderers, so we can expect a sequel later this month when Big Oil and Big Pharma release their earnings reports for last year's fourth quarter.  Big Auto, once a member of the media's unholy trio, obviously won't be summoned to Capitol Hill this time - or, sadly, anytime soon.

        The anti-capitalism virus mostly affects those Republicans who have compromised and weakened "value systems" and metamorphed into politicians who care more about photo-ops, show trial-like congressional hearings and cheap re-election ploys than defending and advancing free enterprise.

        Republicans who know little about fundamental economics are considered to be at high-risk from the virus.  Other risk factors include sensitivity to newspaper headlines, representing a "blue state," and the inability to refrain from demagoguery and populist politics.  Tragically, many Republicans in leadership positions seem most vulnerable to this infection.

        Fortunately, detecting and diagnosing this disease is easy - simply taking the Domenici-Schumer litmus test.

        If one observes a politician behaving like Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), who raked oil company executives over the coals about their  profits, or acting like Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who demanded that pharmaceutical companies surrender their intellectual property rights, then that politician likely is infected. The tendency to solve public policy problems with wealth transfer schemes also is a dead giveaway of ACV infection.

        Unfortunately, ACV also is spreading among corporate ranks.  Signs of infection are companies apologizing for the useful products they make.  To atone for the sin of turning a good profit, they often spend millions on slick advertising and public relations campaigns claiming to be socially and environmentally responsible.

        Under the theory of corporate social responsibility, companies are urged by their PR agencies to dramatically broaden their responsibility.   Instead of merely being concerned abut their customers, employees and shareholders, they now must placate avid environmentalists and social activists - most of whom, if the truth be told, care more about dismantling capitalism than reforming it.

        The CSR movement dramatically complicates the role of business in society.  It says, in effect, that private companies now must fill a smoldering void that only recently spelled doom for countless well-meaning, but short-sighted governmental and NGO projects.

        A long list of companies already has succumbed to ACV, including BP, which now stands for "Beyond Petroleum" rather than British Petroleum, and advertises its gasoline "as a "necessary evil" while calling for restrictions on its use to help curb global warming.

        Citigroup, the mammoth financial conglomerate, boasts of its environmental partners despite the fact that the green groups want to impose harsh restrictions on the banks' lending policies in the developing world.

        Fidelity Investments touts its support for activist policy organizations that oppose social security reform, which - ironically - would have enriched its huge coterie of mutual fund investors.  Whatever happened to the term "fiduciary responsibility?"

        Obviously, it's not just wayward Republican lawmakers who need a remedial course in Economics 101.

        Our entire government - and many business leaders as well - need a heavy dose of re-education in the ways of free enterprise and free markets if Americans are to maintain the highest standard of living the world has ever known.


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Thomas J. Borelli, Ph.D. is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and the executive director of CSRwatch.com

 

 



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