THE TORNADO EXPRESS

We’re at a crossroads—or, rather a switch track. Capitalism, the powerful engine of our economy, is losing steam.

First, we’re choking the fuel line. The engine runs off a fuel known as competition. The marketplace is the oxygen that allows the fuel to burn. Anti-monopoly laws were put in place to protect this, but have progressively eroded due to corruption of the public sector by the private sector. The former, motivated by votes (the currency of power), has formed an unholy alliance with the latter, motivated by greed. So where the ruling class should be legislating more, it is doing less.

Second, we’re trying to get the engine to climb a four percent grade. Unlike a real train, capitalism, like a tornado, forges its own path, sparing some and taking down others. However, the critical difference is that the process isn’t random—it rewards success and smites failure. It can be a brutal taskmaster. So the government tries to apply the brakes, its munificent side trying to soften the highs in an effort to mitigate the devastating lows, while its corrupt side, to buy votes, chooses winners and losers. Unfortunately, crony capitalism is inherently more foolish than the real thing, and repeatedly falls victim to the unforgiving Law of Unintended Consequences.

On paper, socialism sounds better. Equality of outcomes, utopia, as extolled in John Lennon’s classic song, “Imagine.” The problem is it only works as advertised when we have a community with a pervasive, powerful work ethic and universal good will. Socialism pointedly ignores the reality of human nature, which is as noble as it is vile. Hence, it always fails.

Capitalism has had a longer, much more wildly successful run than socialism. It’s been so effective that it’s even found an awkward home in China, thriving well enough to turn this anti-American dictatorship into our creditor. The capitalist economy can be cruel and unforgiving, magnanimous and gentle, much like the human spirit. It is also failing, because of the slow erosion of the principles that have guided it to the pinnacle of its success. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution we legislated to inject a little justice into a system we could see favored some unfairly as the expense of others. It seemed to work, so we piled more and more of the same on top, until the engine was pulling much more than it could handle. So where the ruling class should now be legislating less, it is doing more. At the same time, social justice ideologues have tried to stand in the engine’s way in an attempt to derail it.

The next election, I think, will define our net values as a nation. Will we be switching the Tornado Express onto a track leading into miles of uncharted territory, or over a cliff?

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