Amazon recently announced that it is withdrawing its offer to develop a second headquarters in New York City. Prior to this announcement, Amazon had been “negotiating” with state and city politicians about the economic conditions of locating its new center. While Amazon thought it had arrived at an agreement it could accept, the progressive left continued to attack the company for its “corporate greed”, threatened politically-assisted unionization (NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio himself threatened to bring unionization pressure), and raised the specter of a veto on any and all agreed negotiating points by nominating Democratic State Senator Mike Gianaris to the State’s Public Authority Control Board.
Any negotiation between private enterprise and government over the economic conditions that the government sets as a condition of a firm’s operation is doomed to failure. Government is the enemy of private enterprise. Private enterprise creates, produces, enhances lives and brings economic betterment. Government confiscates, regulates, taxes, restricts and strangles business. Even if it were to agree to temporarily reduce the pressure of the strangulating action, it would be unwise for any enterprise to trust in the promise. In fact, the New York progressives did the opposite: they negotiated an agreement and then, once it was signed, immediately repudiated it.
Amazon’s wisdom in cancelling its deal is a blessed reinforcement for capitalism and private enterprise. The current direction of left-wing sentiment in the US towards a greater acceptance of socialism and a repudiation of capitalism and entrepreneurship can not be airily dismissed as merely a passing fad; it is potentially an existential threat to civilization.
As Professor of Economics Dom Armentano writes:
The current wave of extreme progressivism has a far more nefarious goal than simply higher taxes on the super-rich or carbon taxes to scrub down the environment. Indeed, the long-run objective of the new socialists and the gang of social justice warriors (SJW) is to gradually delegitimize the very foundations of modern capitalism by obliterating conventional notions of property rights, fairness and justice.
The capitalism that has raised the living standards of every American citizen to the great heights enjoyed today is based on a legal system of individual property rights.
Take, for example, the most obvious and essential capitalist institution: the private stock corporation. It is solidly rooted in the notion that individuals have rights; that these rights include the right to incorporate; the right to instruct managers of corporations to maximize profits; and the right of owners to sell their shares.
These individual rights are the moral foundation for the existence and operation of all modern business organizations. It is morally appropriate for individuals to own property; to exclusively determine its use; and to enjoy the benefits earned from production or exchange.
Modern progressives and socialists reject individual property rights. They reject the legal system that upholds these rights. They reject the moral status of property rights. They want government to have the power to alter property arrangements of which they disapprove, and to redistribute income and privileges to anyone they nominate, in the name of “fairness” and “social justice”.
Ludwig von Mises wrote that it is the characteristic of capitalism that the efforts of a small minority of savers, technologists and entrepreneurs compound for the benefit of the majority, who enjoy the high standard of living and material comfort that result. Yet the majority, while enjoying the outcome of capitalism, do not understand its mechanisms. They believe economic progress is some kind of inevitable trend, which benefits them by right. Because they don’t comprehend, they allow envy – the failure to enjoy what you have because another person has something you don’t – to fog their vision and twist their mind. That’s how the words capitalism and capitalists become derogatory insults, rather than celebrations of achievement. Or, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it: “…New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.” They also, of course, relinquished the jobs, income, revenue, health care benefits, neighborhood redevelopment and corporate earnings reinvestment that would have accompanied Amazon’s HQ2.
The anti-capitalist mentality certainly seems to be in the ascendancy at the moment. But this perception may be inaccurate, a fiction of the left-wing media and a phenomenon of the social media manipulation skills of the progressive left, who seem to be more adept with this technology than the capitalists who invented it for them. A recent Fox News poll indicates that, in their words, “Capitalism Buries Socialism”. Specifically, 55% of poll respondents favor the libertarian position about government, “Leave Me Alone”, compared to 34% who take the socialist position, “Lend Me A Hand”. According to Fox News,
Fifty-seven percent of voters have a positive opinion of capitalism. That’s more than twice the number who feel the same about socialism (25 percent).
We may take some relief from these overall numbers, but underneath them is a clear “us versus them” divide:
By a 25-point margin, more Republicans (72 percent) than Democrats (47 percent) have a positive view of capitalism. Moreover, Republicans (54 percent) are three times as likely as Democrats (17 percent) to have a “strongly” favorable view. More than twice as many Republicans (68 percent) as Democrats (30 percent) think the way capitalism is working is fair. Six-in-ten Democrats (60 percent) say capitalism does not give them a fair shot.
In The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, Ludwig von Mises wrote:
The most amazing thing concerning the unprecedented change in earthly conditions brought about by capitalism is the fact that it was accomplished by a small number of authors and a hardly greater number of statesmen who had assimilated their teachings.
In other words, the thought-leadership for capitalism is in just a few minds. The benefits of capitalism are more likely to be embraced by the majority than the structure of thought behind those benefits. The problem faces us that the politicians, professors, schoolteachers, journalists, authors, filmmakers, and media producers who dominate communications – especially communications to young people – are capable of shaping the anti-capitalist thought patterns through which the benefits of capitalism are processed. This is what allows American citizens to enjoy the material comfort of the entrepreneurial economy that works ceaselessly to improve their living conditions, while at the same time condemning the entrepreneurs as exploitative if they happen to be successful.
Amazon did the pro-capitalists a great favor by exiting their NYC deal when the progressives threatened more economic extraction. The company demonstrated belief in their own purpose of economic betterment, and adherence to the principles of contract based on property rights. Let’s cheer them on.