Preaching the benefits of capitalism

In todays WSJ, Peggy Noonan had a great piece on a “non idiot” billionaire: Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot.

“An occasional preoccupation in this space is that young people have no particular loyalty to or affection for free-market capitalism, the economic system that made America a great thing in history and a magnet for the world. There are two reasons. One is that in their short lives they’ve witnessed and experienced only capitalism’s scandals—the 2008 crash, inequality. The other is that they’ve never heard capitalism defended—not in K through college, not in our entertainment culture. When you don’t especially admire something you feel no inclination to protect it, which will have serious political implications down the road.

We should all make the case for capitalism, especially our idiot billionaires and especially those in Silicon Valley. Some, by which I mean Mark Zuckerberg in particular, act as if America is special mostly because it provided a stage for their fabulousness, otherwise not much. During a hearing last month Sen. Dan Sullivan referred to Mr. Zuckerberg’s dorm-room invention and said: “Only in America, would you agree with that?” Mr. Zuckerberg seemed taken aback and mumbled around. “You’re supposed to answer ‘yes’ to this question,” Mr. Sullivan explained.

But let’s get to a non-idiot billionaire. Ken Langone, 82, investor, philanthropist and founder of Home Depot , has written an autobiography that actually conveys the excitement of business—of starting an enterprise that creates a job that creates a family, of the joy of the deal and the place of imagination in the making of a career. Its hokey and ebullient name is “I Love Capitalism” which I think makes his stand clear.”


Her article goes on to quote Langone in how many thousands of jobs he has created, all above minumum wage. “We have 400,000 people who work here, and we’ve never once paid anyone minumum wage”. 

In my perfect world, we out to require politicians – legislators and the executive – to have at least a little business experience and military experience. Have some experience in the things you wish to legally regulate.

On second though try to picture Maxine Waters in the Marines.

A quote I always remember was from George McGovern when after his Senate term acquired a New England Inn:

“…In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender…”

I grew up in a California that was the envy of the world – and over the years have watched the businesses that made us famous leave – from Lockheed to Buck knives. All because of the regulatory climate. I’d venture to say easily 100,000 businesses – large and small – have left California in the last 30 years. I am sure that is way on the low side of an estimate.

All from politicians who have no understanding of how business works. When you have to meet a payroll. Make a profit, so you can stay in business. And in California, meet all of these regulatory burdens. I can remember when I was in business talking with one of our customers – 20 years ago – a Chevron dealer with  service bays (this was awhile ago!) . He said that in his city he had to get 150 permits annually from parts washers to fuel pumps. This is all before making the first dollar in profit.

Small wonder businesses are leaving California in droves. All driven by politicians and bureaucrats without a clue.

And with a younger generation who haven’t a clue because nobody’s teaching it.

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