Robert Bennett: Abandoning capitalism a bad choice

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  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 13, 2013 9:57 a.m.

    @Nate – “I'm arguing against the wrong kinds of laws”

    Fair point and no doubt government creates all sorts of distortions in the marketplace through bad laws.

    Regarding Obamacare (which I largely agree is an unwieldy mess… I thought the relatively simple Wyden-Bennett bill was far superior) it may prove on balance to be a step in the right direction for the main reason that healthcare suffers from two inherent market failures that the free market seems unable to correct. Namely, (in econ jargon) a vertical demand curve when you’re sick, and an asymmetrical information problem between providers and patients.

    I think there’s a good reason why no developed country in the world has a purely free market healthcare system.

    RE: Financial crisis – yes, the government created distortions through Fannie and Freddie, but I think a far larger contributor was the securitization actions of Wall Street (fanned by their perverse compensation structures) seeking to spread risk. Their actions are really what caused this thing to be a global toxic mess, all the while getting fabulously wealthy in the process.

    So yes, we definitely need good laws where applicable…

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 12, 2013 11:47 p.m.

    @Tyler D

    No, we don't always agree, but I like that you're thoughtful and willing to talk about ideas.

    "without strong laws..."

    You seem to think I'm arguing against laws. I'm not. I'm arguing against the wrong kinds of laws. Good laws have general application and protect all parties equally. Bad laws are arbitrary, and protect the wealthy and powerful from their competitors. Obamacare, for example, with its dozens of "the secretary shall determine" and its thousands of waivers, allows the law to be whatever the administration wants it to be, applied to whomever it chooses. And it's designed to become the only game in town. It's horrible law.

    "access to political power"

    You are pleading my point here. Crony capitalism is not capitalism at all. When government intervenes in business to reward its supporters, the market is no longer free. It's interesting that you chose the financial crisis as a bad example, because this has government fingerprints all over it. Bad public policy created the financial crisis.

    Free enterprise means no subsidies, no bailouts, no price supports, no corporate welfare of any kind.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 12, 2013 12:57 p.m.

    Capitalism is the main reason most people immigrate from their homeland to the USA.

    Hey... maybe if we did away with Capitalism we would do away with our illegal immigration problem at the same time!

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 12, 2013 8:57 a.m.

    @Nate – “Leave capitalism to itself, and the bloated corporations don't stand a chance.”

    Always enjoy reading your comments. We disagree quite a bit but your points are always well argued and for the most part intellectually honest – something I find in short supply with many on the Right (who have spent too long going to school on Rush Limbaugh tactics… lots of half-truths, straw men and logical fallacies).

    Overall I think your view of capitalism (for all its many merits) is a bit naive – without strong laws with real teeth corporations will always have tremendous advantages in the market and will always have more access to political power. Also, without FULL transparency in the marketplace consumers are further disadvantaged and can be easily run over in all sorts of ways involving externalities, market failures, and even simple transactions (e.g., the many cases that came to light after the financial crisis).

    Hard to really flesh things out in a 200 word post, but it would be fun to dive into some of the details on the limits of capitalism and the proper role of government to correct some of these problems.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 11, 2013 10:16 p.m.

    @Mike in Cedar City

    Your definition of socialism is overly broad. Socialism is state or collective control of the means of production. The only items on your list that come anywhere close to this are infrastructure improvements such as roads and highways. However, they fall well within the constitutional category of "general welfare."

    I do make use of public accommodations, and there is no inconsistency in my doing so. I don't define every public good as socialism.

    I'll dispute your previous point that "capitalism left completely to itself inevitably leads to a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few." It requires collusion between business and government to achieve this. Leave capitalism to itself, and the bloated corporations don't stand a chance.

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    June 11, 2013 7:54 p.m.

    Nate, I don't think you have a good understanding of Socialism.

    Let me make it simple. Socialism is your police force, fire department, public roads and highways, your public buildings, your courts, your public library, your national forests and monuments, oh, and yes your Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. The truth that right wingers never seem to grasp, is that socialism in nothing more than those services that we democratically decide that the government should perform or provide.. So, if you are an anti socialist purist, you must be willing to argue that all these should be privatized and make a powerful case for that. And, until you do, perhaps you should not be hypocritical and use any public accommodations. If you have a car, put it away because private roads are pretty much a thing of the long dead past.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 11, 2013 3:49 p.m.

    @Open Minded Mormon "the church DID own the means of production and distribution of goods."

    Yes, the Church as a corporation had private ownership of these things. They were not owned collectively by members of the Order, and they weren't owned by the state. People who joined the Order were deeded property of their own, as QuickRick has described.

    "Can any one really deny that 'FAMILES' [sic] fit the definition of socialism?"

    Yes, I will deny it. My property is owned and controlled by me. It is not collectively owned, nor is it owned by the state.

    You don't seem to have a firm grasp on what socialism is. Perhaps if you did, you wouldn't be such an advocate.

  • anti-liar Salt Lake City, UT
    June 11, 2013 12:46 p.m.

    "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." - John Adams

    I would suggest that the same is true of "free market capitalism." Morality and ethics have been set aside and the monster of Greed rages in the hearts of many American businessmen today, especially in Utah. It explains the finding that three of the larger suburban centers in Utah are among the fastest-growing poverty centers in all the nation; the advent of the HB116 guest worker program and its Utah origins; and the rabid push for summary passage of the Gang of Eight bill which would drive wages down even further by flooding the nation with new, foreign labor which would provide American businessmen a way around having to pay their fellow Americans a fair wage.

    The gross disease of Greed -- of Capitalism without a Conscience -- may well destroy this nation.

    "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    June 11, 2013 12:09 p.m.

    The problem isn't capitalism per se, it's unregulated capitalism. We long ago learned, but have forgotten in the last 30 years, that capitalism left completely to itself inevitably leads to a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and to financial practices that cause the economy as a whole to periodically become unstable, as it did again in 2008. Many of the economic controls that could have prevented or lessened the 2008 recession were removed. Laws like Glass Steagall, a federal law that prevented commercial banks from involving themselves in investment banking, were unceremoniously dumped as a part of the misguided policy of "deregulation".

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    June 11, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    Brigham City, UT

    according to Merriam Webster, Socialism is defined as:
    : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
    b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.


    Can any one really deny that "FAMILES" fit the definition of socialism?.

    FYI --
    You are wrong about the United Order,
    the church DID own the means of production and distribution of goods.

    The mills, the newspapers, the stores, the railroads, the mines, all owned and operated by the Church.

  • the old switcharoo mesa, AZ
    June 11, 2013 10:43 a.m.

    I think republican believe in something other than Christianity. First they believe in every man for themselves, and among the survivors a nice nod while at church - as long as you don't actually need anything.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    June 11, 2013 7:26 a.m.

    Limbitis Randiantitis – caused by prolonged exposure to Rush Limbaugh or Ayn Rand novels (or by second-hand exposure – i.e., to Tea Partiers) whereby otherwise intelligence people experience a steady decline of neural activity in the pre-frontal cortex culminating in chronic binary thinking and a pathological affinity for straw men.

    Disease is the only rational explanation for this article being authored by the same Bob Bennett who co-sponsored the most intelligent healthcare proposal of the decade – a bill far superior to Obamacare.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 10, 2013 9:00 p.m.

    To Mountanman: Yes, let us compare East Germany (communist) to West Germany (social democracy). Many posters on this board refer to social democracies as socialist, some uninformed posters even call them communist.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    June 10, 2013 8:20 p.m.

    Good reasonable comments and questions and then comes.."Compare N. Korea (communist) with S. Korea (capitalist) or the former E. Germany versus W. Germany. Yep, lets give communism a chance! After all 100 million dead people ordered by Stalin, Mao ste Tung, Pol Pot and other fine communists isn't so bad is it?"

  • chilly Salt Lake City, UT
    June 10, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    Poverty has been declining for decades and capitalism is the reason. When people gnash their teeth about "the gap between the rich and poor" , "the 1%" and "fairness", it's simply lib-speak for "I want what that rich guy has, but I don't want to work for it". It's a great thing that there are more rich people than ever. The gap between the incomes of the top and the bottom is meaningless. We are not sharing a pie. We are creating wealth and growing the pie. That's how poverty is defeated!

    The problem with "Progressives" is that they hate "the rich" more than they hate poverty.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    June 10, 2013 5:52 p.m.

    Well said 10CC...

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    June 10, 2013 3:35 p.m.

    Compare N. Korea (communist) with S. Korea (capitalist) or the former E. Germany versus W. Germany. Yep, lets give communism a chance! After all 100 million dead people ordered by Stalin, Mao ste Tung, Pol Pot and other fine communists isn't so bad is it?

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    June 10, 2013 12:42 p.m.

    The short term threats to capitalism come within the system itself.

    Periodically, capitalism has had to be "tempered" to avoid the revolutions once predicted and feared. Teddy Roosevelt pushed through the "square deal", the notion that the wealthy are smartest to cultivate a middle class, child labor was outlawed, the 40 hour workweek implemented, etc.

    The threats of today are widening economic inequality, more & more of a "winner take all" competition in technology, the corrosive effect on middle class jobs that technology and globalism represent, etc.

    Capitalism has been a great engine for achievement, and works best when the rising tide lifts all (or at least most) boats. To the extent our current challenges lead younger generations to question the entire system, we need to roll up our shirt sleeves and address the present problems.

    Odds are that some bright minds will concoct modifications that will take the edges off the Darwinism that capitalism can quickly and easily devolve into, and we'll move forward.

  • QuickRick Brigham City, UT
    June 10, 2013 11:59 a.m.

    Re: Tekakaromatagi, Cont.

    In the United Order, neither the government nor the church owned the means of production and distribution of goods. Members who chose to live it donated their property to the church. The church (represented by the Bishop) then met with the person and between the two of them came to an agreement as to what the person needed to support his family. That was deeded to the person to use as he chose. If he worked hard and produced more than he and his family needed, he was encouraged (but not required) to donate the excess back to the church. The church did not own that property or control what he did with it.

    Can any one really deny that China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, etc., fit the definition of socialism? In fact, the leaders of those nations proudly proclaim their socialism.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    June 10, 2013 11:57 a.m.

    This is an extremely simplistic editorial from someone who should have a far better understanding of economics. Bennett is engaging in the typical two-dimensional thinking that dominates politics. The underlying assumptions are that communism and capitalism are the only two possibilities and that they are opposites. Both assumptions are false. In fact, communism in its many manifestations and global corporate capitalism, which we practice in most countries today, are more similar than they are different. Both are authoritarian systems in which the wealth accumulates in the hands of a few.

    Bennett is also wrong about capitalism improving the lives of the majority. Only up to a certain point. Our system of capitalism has passed a threshold and for 30-odd years has been allowing more and more to slip through the cracks as American capital shifts to Third World countries, leaving American workers out of the profit equation, except as consumers.

    If we really wanted to reform capitalism to make it more consistent with Adam Smith's original vision, we would encourage worker ownership of businesses. Fat chance.

  • QuickRick Brigham City, UT
    June 10, 2013 11:55 a.m.

    re: Tekakaromatagi
    What definition of socialism are you referring to when you equate the "Mormon United Order" with socialism and say that "Cuba, Venezuela, China, the Soviet Union, France, etc are not socialism." according to Merriam Webster, Socialism is defined as:
    : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
    b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

  • Wastintime Los Angeles, CA
    June 10, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    Once again Sen Bennett has set up a strawman argument (nobody has raised or suggested) to knock down. Who exactly has suggested that the USA abandon capitalism?

    I'll be looking forward to his next article which I assume will cover why we should not abandon sitting on chairs or celebrating birthdays.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    June 10, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    I think socialism is a great idea when everyone is poor. Capitalism is fine when people get out of poverty. Having said that the only socialistic societies that I know of are the Mormon United Order, the Quakers and a lot of native American and Pacific islander cultures. (And for all the political dogmatists reading this: they all had a strong religious element). Cuba, Venezuela, China, the Soviet Union, France, etc are not socialism. Maybe they are crony capitalism, maybe they are feudal, but not socialistic.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 10, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    Capitalism ceases to be capitalism when you add "crony" to it. More unintentional irony from the honorable Robert Bennett.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 10, 2013 8:56 a.m.

    The type of economic system does not make the character of the men running it. It is the character of the men running the system that makes it good or bad. An economic system is good or bad depending on how well it satisfies the needs of the society who owns it.

    Capitalism, communism, socialism or any other system could be called good if only good men were chosen to run the system. The only thing is, there are few if any good men in this world. Bad men running a capitalistic system is every bit as bad as bad men running a communistic system.

    We cannot change the nature and character of men but we can change the rules by which they live. In order to have a good capitalistic system, we have to have proper and good rules.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    June 10, 2013 8:34 a.m.

    Who's abandoning Capitalism?

    What is Capitalism anyway?

    Is it the form which was practiced in the 17th century with nearly half of the entire workforce in bondage?

    Is it the form which was practiced in the mid 19th century which heavily subsidized the railroads?

    Is it the form which was practiced at the beginning of the 20th century which allowed Wall Street and Big Banks rule everything? Which, in the 20s, led to them running our country and economy, into the ground?

    Is it the form, in the 30s and early 40s, which relied on heavy regulation of Wall Street and Big Banks and used government spending to save capitalism from eating itself?

    Is it the form practiced in the 50s-70s where the CEOs didn't make much more than the common worker?

    Is it the form practiced from the 80s to today which relies on deregulation, massive stock market crashes (and bailouts), and heavy subsidies from the government to big AG, Oil, and military defense?

    Shouldn't there be more regulation these days? Or have we learned nothing from history? What is keeping the banks and Wall Street from running our economy into the ground again?

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 10, 2013 8:33 a.m.

    Beyond the smoke and mirrors of the business people are some truths that we should consider.


    is and has been the mode of business ever since business was invented.

    is a process that allows and promotes the notion that one can profit from the labor of another.

    is the manner in which nations interfaces and compete with each other.

    Is the root cause of all wars. War is the ultimate of economic competition.

    Is good, when operated by fair rules that provide it’s benefits to all the people it touches.

    It is not necessary to do away with private capitalism to bring back the balance of benefits of earlier times. We only have to change the rules to accommodate the technology of today.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    June 10, 2013 8:31 a.m.

    Who has abandoned capitalism? Have you checked the stock market lately? How about the billionaire's bottom line? The wealthy just keep getting wealthier and the poor keep getting poorer.
    It's literally a capitalist's dream come true!

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 10, 2013 7:59 a.m.

    President Eisenhower once gave a speech in which he said that the genius of American capitalism was that an average working man could buy a nice house, a nice car, and put his children through college on his income alone. He also stated that the countries that were ripe for communist takeover were the capitalist countries in which a few people controlled most of the wealth, while working people did not share in the prosperity.

    In this same speech he said reason for this was that America's business elite understood that it was in their own long term interest to see that prosperity was shared among all workers. Our current business elite has forgotten that lesson.They now wants it all for themselves, and they see cutting worker pay and benefits as the way to their prosperity.

    We can't have a stable society in which half the population is unable to prosper, even though communist takeover is no longer on the horizon.

  • Res Novae Ashburn, VA
    June 10, 2013 7:48 a.m.

    I agree with the Senator's general premise that capitalism has the capacity to raise people out of poverty. But let's not overlook the issues in early 21st century American capitalism, either.

    In the name of economic prosperity we have created a consumer culture that has racked up $38T in private debt, 250% of our GDP.

    We have largely outsourced the manufacturing of goods in favor of a nebulous "services" economy. Now many of those jobs are also being outsourced.

    Middle class wages have been stagnant for over 30 years while an increasing percentage of total economic growth has been concentrated at the top 1%.

    The economy is increasingly dependent for growth on the financial sector, with its rapacious need for capital and increasingly exotic debt instruments, ultimately resulting in the 2007-2008 bubble-bursting.

    The dollar is tied to global petroleum, encouraging higher budget deficits and giving other countries the ability to chip away at the dollar by encouraging oil denomination in other currencies. This is a recipe for catastrophe.

    Interest groups dominate politics with money in exchange for economic favoritism.

    This is not Adam Smith's vision of capitalism and we cannot ignore it.

  • SEY Sandy, UT
    June 10, 2013 7:31 a.m.

    This is going to be like a debate with the "7 Blind Men and the Elephant." Until you can agree on a single definition of capitalism, comments will be all over the board. What usually passes for capitalism in so many discussions these days is better known as "crony capitalism" where government picks winners and losers. A prime example is that a few big banks get bailed out while the rest are left twisting in the wind. Genuine capitalism works only without government intervention but with government enforcing laws equally, regardless of business size. "Too big to fail" undermines capitalism.

    An essential feature of capitalism is that money production is not a monopoly. Under capitalism, money is created by the free market, not by government. Capitalism will not exist as long as government grants a monopoly to one money-creating body and proscribes anyone else from competing.

  • Mainly Me Werribee, 00
    June 10, 2013 3:00 a.m.

    Not unless you're the Communist-in-Chief. Then it's a good idea.

    Let's see, the Dear Leader has surrounded himself with obvious "progressives" who's entire agenda agrees completely with what the Communist Part, USA touts, the most influential mentor of his life, Frank Marshal Davis, was a hard core Soviet style communist and he is doing exactly what was recommended by the socialists, Cloward and Piven to create a financial crisis. He believes in a single payer health care system and the redistribution of money taken from those who succeed and given to those who either won't or aren't interested in helping themselves. Doesn't all this sound like a communist?

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duct, acts like a duck and looks like a duck, what do you think it is? A horse?