Andy Puzder: Our booming economy can still overcome progressive misinformation, propaganda and myth

A recent Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans believe socialism would be a good thing for our country.  The good news is that 51 percent said it would be a bad thing.

Still, that’s a thin margin in a nation whose people have so obviously benefitted from capitalism and its progeny, the American Dream. But, it may not be as bad as it looks. When it comes to socialism and capitalism, perception and reality are often quite different. When Americans are presented with the underlying concepts, sans the much-distorted labels, the results are far more encouraging.

Gallup found that nearly one in four Americans associate socialism with “social equality” while only 17 percent associate it government control of the economy. This misperception is largely the result of an education system controlled by teachers’ unions – read that as progressive/socialists – and a media complex that feeds us leftist ideology as either entertainment or news. At its core, this notion of “social equality” is part of the often disproven myth that socialism is a “benevolent” economic system necessary to protect the oppressed masses from capitalist “greed."  Myth, in this context, being a polite word for a lie. In reality, it is capitalism that encourages concern for the needs of others while socialism inevitably encourages greed.

In fact, in a capitalist economy, the only way you can improve your life is by satisfying the needs of others. That is by providing the products or services that other people want at a price they can afford. To be a successful capitalist, you have to shift your focus outward, to the needs and wants of others – your consumers. The only way to succeed is by knowing what your customers want and offering it to them at an affordable price. 

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Capitalism empowers consumers as businesses compete for their support – their vote. In a form of economic democracy, consumers vote with every dollar they spend, determining which businesses succeed and which fail.  Henry Ford built cars for commoners, not the nobility. Steve Jobs created iPhones for all of us, not government elites. This is because the success of each business is determined by how well that business meets the needs of the masses – consumers.  

Think about the thousands of products in your local grocery store, shopping mall, or on Amazon, all vying for your attention. Each of these products represents an entrepreneur striving to meet your needs as the way to achieve their success. That may not be purely altruistic conduct – since capitalism depends on the natural desire of people to better their lives – but it channels that natural desire into focusing on the needs of others. With everyone focused on meeting the needs of others, the result is inevitably prosperity and abundance. That’s the benevolence of capitalism. 

In a socialist economy, rather than focusing on the needs of others, you improve your life by focusing on your own needs. You succeed by getting more for yourself than others get from the limited supply of goods, services, or benefits government elites make available.

People in socialist nations standing in the inevitable bread line or in line for gas or government rationed health care, aren’t thinking about the needs or preferences of others. They’re trying to figure how to get as much as they can for themselves from a limited supply of goods or services, for example, bread. No one standing in a bread line is thinking about how to satisfy the needs of those in front of or behind them. They are thinking solely of their own needs.  Sounds like greed or maybe just a survival instinct. 

How do you improve your life in a socialist economy? Whether you get more for yourself depends on how well you please the political elites rather than the masses. The focus is no longer on the consumers who control capitalist economies. In socialist economies, consumers desires are at best secondary and often irrelevant to the decisions of the political elites who control the economy. As a result, you improve your life not by meeting the needs of the masses but rather by meeting the needs of or becoming one of the government elites. 

People who make themselves useful to the powerful get special privileges, and since socialist systems produce so little wealth, the number of people with those special privileges is quite small. Everyone else waits in the inevitable bread – or gas or health care, etc. – line. 

Not surprisingly, under socialism, where economic power and the path for improving your life lies with government, the result is a well-fed government elite and masses who suffer from poverty and want. That’s the benevolence of socialism.

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The good news is that, when the polling questions substitute the phrase “free markets” for capitalism and “government” for socialism, the advantage created by leftist propaganda and misinformation dissipates and most Americans get it. According to the Gallup poll, Americans prefer free markets – capitalism – over government – socialism – when it comes to the distribution of wealth (68 percent), the economy overall (62 percent), wages (62 percent) higher education (56 percent) and even health care (53 percent). With respect to technological innovation, 75 percent of Americans favor free markets over government. 

Given the overwhelming influence of the left on education, entertainment and news coverage, these results are encouraging – and a little surprising. Apparently, economic reality can overcome leftist misinformation, propaganda and myth. 

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