With business-bashing all the rage in the presidential campaign, even by some Republicans, a wise man offers a seasoned view: “Capitalism without failure is like Christianity without hell.”

Some say those brilliant words were first uttered by Frank Borman, the former astronaut who became head of Eastern Airlines, before it went . . . bankrupt.

No matter who said it, the idea that there must be consequences for failure is the right one. Otherwise, there is no incentive to succeed, which means no incentive to innovate, change and grow.

Put another way, if failure and success in business are indistinguishable, what do we get? We then have an entire culture that moves at the speed and efficiency of government, where unaccountable bureaucracies lumber on, immune to the results of their behavior.

Fail or succeed, those workers basically get the same pay and the same job guarantee. That’s why government so often seems brain-dead and detached from the real world — it is.

That’s the essence of what the 2012 election is about.

Stripped of misleading charges that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney was a “vulture capitalist” who destroyed jobs that he should have saved, voters have a clear choice to make. Will they decide they want the nation to become more like the bloated government, where jobs are for life and results don’t matter? Or do they want it to be more faithful to the founders’ ideas of liberty, which include a regulated free-enterprise system that is dynamic and competitive?

It’s a layered issue because the desperate attacks against Romney by Republicans Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry echo those made by President Obama and the Occupy Wall Street hooligans. As such, they reflect a bipartisan resentment against wealth, or, as Romney calls it, the “politics of envy.”

With so many Americans still in financial pain more than two years after the recession officially ended, piling on against those who have succeeded apparently is irresistible among those who haven’t, including among failing politicians.

Obama, Gingrich and Perry sing the same song for the same reason: They see it as an easy way to get ahead.

Instead of believing that a rising tide lifts all boats, they act as if they want to drain the lake so all boats are equally grounded. As The Washington Post observed about the political fight over income inequality, the nation that has closed the income gap the most in recent years is — are you ready? — Greece.

A common phrase from the envy crowd holds that those who have done well “should give back.” What they mean is that those who have done well “should give it up.”

They are not calling for more philanthropy, which is already far more advanced in America than anywhere on Earth. They are demanding robbery, carried out by the government under the pretense of morality. They believe neither in “free” nor in “enterprise.”

They confuse compassion with coercion. By their reckoning, any success is proof that more regulations — and more government bureaucrats — are needed.

In truth, they don’t want to clamp down only on winners. They also want to end the “freedom to fail.” And not just in business.
Look at the way homeowners who bought houses they couldn’t afford demand that their neighbors bail them out. Look at the widespread cancer of social promotion in our schools.

Students are passed along to the next grade even when they haven’t learned anything. Teachers are rewarded with raises and job guarantees when their students don’t learn. The failure to set and enforce standards is a chief cause of the decline of American education.

Society can progress when a few people behave that way. But a society that tries to eliminate the consequences for failure — and failure itself — on a wholesale basis stops moving forward and begins to decline. That is what’s happening in America today.

The choice before us is whether to continue on that downward path or to restore the values of liberty and free enterprise and to lift America up.

And you thought it was just an election.

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topics, including Beyonce and her new baby, click here.
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Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.