Opinion columns like the Sept. 6 piece by Dr. Hanson of the Hoover Institution give scholarship a bad name. He highlights real economic challenges facing the nation, but then inexplicably leaps a vast gulf of logic, sense and fact to attack socialism.

The current problems he points to are genuine: vast wealth inequality and onerous debt burdens, especially on the young.

But which economic system created them? Since the 1990s and even before, our trade policies have been exclusively dictated by corporate interests. Our tax policies are similarly skewed to the rich. Add to that the financialization of everything, including all forms of post-high school education, and here we are today, economically unequal and hugely in debt. Unbridled capitalism, not socialism, created these problems.

Nor is our present state attributable to poor education in economics and history, as Hanson claims.

He credits the capitalist/colonialist economic systems that evolved in the United States and Europe over the last three centuries with the explosive economic growth they achieved, but he fails to mention the manner in which those systems exploited the riches of other continents, North America and Africa among them. Without the vast wealth those places and their vulnerable inhabitants provided, capitalism would never have had so much to reach out and grab.

In 1776, the patron saint of Hanson’s capitalism, Adam Smith, said “enlightened self-interest” was the magic wand that would distribute resources most fairly and efficiently. Today’s capitalists conveniently skip over the “enlightened” part of Smith’s famous phrase, leaving only the untempered greed that has created the economic conditions Hanson properly laments.

It is communitarian, socialist policies and programs like progressive income and estate taxes, Social Security and Medicare that counter that socially destructive greed, making society livable for the majority.

Hanson knows that, and so do we.

Ken Winkes


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