Don’t Sell Capitalism Short

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The Dow lost over 500 points today. I don’t know how big a deal it is that the market dropped 4.42%. (4.42% isn’t a newsworthy soundbite, is it?) Don’t get me wrong: today produced historic news which could signal a dark time ahead.

Time will tell how much damage the speculative project of mortgage-backed securitization does to the domestic and international markets. At the heart of our current economic dangers lies Consumerism.

Democracy depends on freedom of capital flow as much as it does on freedom of ideas. Capitalism remains the most reliable system of economic justice. The problem is: most of us are selling capitalism short.


Let’s not confuse capitalism with consumerism. We live in an age of consumerism. We want instant gratification. We have tall orders and short attention spans.

What happened today on Wall Street and on other trading floors is simply a consequence of the greed of a consumerist culture. If our system was truly capitalistic we wouldn’t be crying about today’s metrics. A system is only as good as its people.

Capitalists understand the value of discipline, focus, and long-term perspective. Capitalists understand the value of values, the payoff of hard work, the necessity of risk-taking, the soil made by failed crops.

Consumerists understand nothing.

Many of our CEOs and fund managers are consumers. There are very few capitalists anymore. We have been selling capitalism out for a long time now.

Perhaps it started when auditors became their clients’ consultants. Perhaps it started when investors rewarded executives who boosted quarterly earnings and share prices merely by downsizing. It probably doesn’t matter now. The damage is done.

The last century was infected by the scapegoating dellusions of untested Marxist hypotheses. I understand where Karl Marx was coming from: he lived in a time of catastophic socioeconomic change. We live in a time of socioeconomic change. And so his shadow, no matter how re-worded, may continue to cast well into this century.


Let’s not make the mistake of selling capitalism short.

Let’s appreciate the value of intelligent, disciplined, creative and focused wealth-building. Let’s instill in our youth the value of the time-value of money; the value of understanding opportunity cost; the value of values.

We are part of a culture war. It’s no longer a war between Capitalism and Communism.

We are now enmeshed a war between Capitalism and Consumerism. Consumerism is winning.

We’re losing our capitalists, everyday, to a consumer culture that is hell-bent on instant gratification at the expense of distant satisfaction.

Here’s what to do, now that you’ve had a rough day:

  • Work hard. Work smart.
  • Jettison despair.
  • Embrace discipline.
  • Be valuable to others.

In short: Do meaningful things and the money will follow you.

Civilization abhors a lack of focus and adores an abundance of grit.

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  1. It is important that people keep their heads up. What's sunk is sunk. Some of our most important businesses came out of economic depressions.

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Just stumbled by. Found this to be brilliant. I have nothing much more brilliant to add, so I'll just say I appreciated it and I hope more people will read this.

    I keep saying it's the people who keep their heads in this chaotic market who are going to walk away doing quite well. Your observations on the difference between consumerists and capitalists just reassures me.

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