The American Public and Capitalism

The American Public and Capitalism

American business may be in more trouble than it presently thinks.

I'm not talking about the economic collapse, which has manufacturers and other businesses on edge, wondering when we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm not talking about the emergence of an activist Congress, whose leaders are talking about such bogeys as higher corporate tax rates, elimination of secret union ballots, and a cap and trade system that may add substantially to the cost of to doing business.

No, I'm talking about the American public's loss of faith in capitalism — as evidenced in a recent survey on Rasmussen Reports.  According to the survey of 1000 adults, barely over half (53%) of Americans think capitalism is better than socialism.  Twenty percent think socialism is better and 27% simply aren't sure.  The age group that is most split is the under-30 generation — 37% favor capitalism, 33% favor socialism, and 30% don't know.

In other words, this survey suggests that a substantial portion of the voting public doesn't believe in our economic system anymore. Americans are understandably frustrated by marketplace corrections that ruin their retirement savings and their jobs.  But in trying to fix some breaks in the system, we shouldn't kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  After all, our remarkably high standard of living — from food, sanitation, and medicine to transportation, higher education, and national defense — stems from our ability to create wealth. And the government doesn't create wealth — only our free enterprise system can do that. To believe otherwise could, of course, lead to public policies that damage American business's abililty to create jobs and invest in research.

But all is not lost.  In another survey late last year, a Rasmussen Report showed that, by switching the words "capitalism" to "free market" and "socialism" to "government managed economy," the pollsters found overwhelming support for … capitalism.  Maybe we do get it after all.

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