'Ethic of Greed'

Barack Obama blames lobbyists, greedy businessmen and complacent Washington politicians for creating an "ethic of greed," which he says has caused the foreclosure crisis.

He left out one big group. The rest of the American people.

Greed drives the economy. Greed creates jobs. Greed makes America the No. 1 consuming nation in the world. American greed not only helps the American economy. It helps the world economy.

The rest of the world sells products to us. So not only does greed create American jobs. It creates jobs in Europe, in China, in Mexico, in Indonesia, in India and any other place you can think.

Greed raises living standards. Americans want a better widget than their neighbors, so they go and buy one from the widget store. This is good for the owner of the widget store, the manufacturer of widgets and all the folks who work in the widget store.

American greed means people buy bigger homes, in better neighborhoods, with better schools. Greed makes people buy new cars when they have a perfectly fine car in their driveway. That makes automobile manufacturers and autoworkers very happy.

Obama’s attack on greed reveals his bias against capitalism. It is a bias widely shared by the intellectuals who dominate the Democratic Party. Rich liberals who feel guilty about their vast wealth decry the conspicuous consumerism of the average American family. They love Obama because he will lead them to a better place, where greed is banished. They might want to move to Cuba or North Korea to see how that philosophy really works.

Excess materialism is a condition that ought to concern philosophers and theologians. But when Obama blames lobbyists, greedy businessman and Washington politicians for creating an ethic of greed, he sounds more like Che Guevara than he does Abraham Lincoln.

In his book Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan describes the essential tensions with the capitalist system. “Capitalism creates a tug-of-war within each of us. We are alternately the aggressive entrepreneur and the couch potato, who subliminally prefers the lessened competitive stress of an economy where all participants have equal incomes. ... Creative destruction — the scrapping of old technologies and old ways of doing things for the new — is the only way to increase productivity and therefore the only way to raise average living standards on a sustained basis.”

Barack Obama, the community activist turned politician, doesn’t trust the process of creative destruction. He condemns greed, and improbably blames lobbyists for a speculative real estate bubble that any American who bought a house had a hand in.

Capitalism is not supposed to be a smooth ride. It has its bumps and causes its fair share of bruises. But as Winston Churchill said, “Capitalism’s greatest vice is its unequal sharing of blessings. Socialism’s greatest virtue is its equal sharing of misery.” I fear Obama’s greatest legacy, should he become president, will be an equal share of misery for all of us.