David Brooks wrote a column in which he made several references to a student he praised.
The column was headlined, “Today’s kids don’t like the system, but see few alternatives.” The student he selected for quotes said that “the capitalist system with its promise of positive sum gains for all had proven brutal and unpredictable.”
Where does this sort of thinking come from? What are they teaching kids nowadays?
The capitalist system has always been “brutal and unpredictable.” There are winners and there are losers. That’s where the phrase, it’s a jungle out there, originates.
The student, a female, laments that the system does not promise positive gains for all. Once again, capitalism promises that.
Admittedly, we have been through the worst period of economic activity in 60 years. That has influenced her thinking, let’s hope. And in truth, today’s kids have been a bit spoiled. Perhaps she is not fully to blame.
We had a full 25-year period of relative bliss in our economy prior to the Great Recession. The economy grew, for the most part, from the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan until the recession hit us in 2008.
Almost all of us thought we were immune to the sort of recession that occurred. Some were saying that we were so smart now that we had “repealed the business cycle” – that cycle being the ordinary ups and downs that occur in a free market economy like ours.
Of course, we had done no such thing. We were merely delaying the inevitable. Way back in the 1980s, an economist of some distinction wrote a book titled “The Great Depression of 1990.” The author laid out the case for another depression in, you guessed it, 1990. It never came to be.
That did not mean that pressures were not building in the economy, however. Those pressures continued to build until the financial system nearly collasped in 2008. But before we became so smart, it was not unususal for the economy to experience minor “booms” and “busts.”
Recessions used to occur with far greater frequency. Is it good to have a recession? Of course not. It is never good to fall into a period of economic decline.
Yet a capitalist system, if it is a capitalist system, never truly runs smooth. Such a system never promises “positive sum gains for all,” as the student Brooks interviewed lamented.
Let me pose this quesiton to the young student. Would you rather live in a system that is unpredictable and yes even brutal, or would you rather have the promise of an expected outcome?
Such systems exist. In Cuba, under communist rule, you know exactly what you are going to receive each week, each month and each year. Is that the sort of system you prefer?
We saw what happened to the old Soviet system. It promised the same sort of expected outcomes.
One hopes that this student will develop a better appreciation for the American system of free enterprise. Will she grow to like the system? That’s the idea.