'Blue Dogs' or Corporate Shills?
Capitalism is said to be in terrible trouble these days, with the profit motive suffering rampant badmouthing. Entrepreneurs are facing criticism, damnable criticism. And this criticism must stop.
If we don't watch what we say, some warn, the supermen who shoulder the world will soon grow tired of our taunting, will shrug off their burden and walk righteously away, leaving us lesser mortals to stew in our resentment and envy.
So far have things gone that the editors of the Washington Post, ever vigilant against deteriorating public morals, apparently decided last week that Americans required a strong dose of instruction in the basic principles of their old-time economic religion. Stephen L. Carter, the famous law professor from Yale University, took the pulpit. And from the heights of the Post's op-ed page, he instructed us to cheer whenever we discovered that someone was making money.
"High profits are excellent news," he intoned. "The only way a firm can make money is to sell people what they want at a price they are willing to pay."
Since that's the one and only way a firm can make a profit -- fraud isn't a problem, I guess, nor are subsidies or cherry-picking or price-fixing or conflicts of interest -- profit is a foolproof sign of civic uprightness.
Professor Carter's essay was supposed to be a word of caution in a dark, anti-capitalist time. But if you read your newspaper closely, it's not hard to spot glimmers of profit-taking here and there. For example, while some see the city of Washington as a stage for anti-corporate posturing, in fact it is ingeniously entrepreneurial.
Consider the "Blue Dog" Democrats, whose money-making ways were the subject of a page-one story in the Washington Post on the very day after Mr. Carter's sermon. The Blue Dogs, as the world knows, are the caucus of conservative House Democrats who have been much in the news of late for their role in weakening the Obama administration's plans for a public health insurance option.
Much of the writing about the Blue Dogs revolves around the question of why they do what they do. What makes the Dogs run? Where did they get their peculiar name? And why do they chase this car but not that one?