August 15, 2016
By Fred Smith
As a longtime advocate for capitalism, I’ve been considering the prospects for free market ideas in a White House presided over by either of the two major party candidates for president. It’s not an easy challenge. Both candidates, in their own way, misunderstand the need for, and the benefits of, a free economy. And it’s difficult to say which brand of wrongheadedness is more damaging – attacking the best aspects of our current economic system or defending the worst.
Hillary Clinton hasn’t gone after capitalism with the angry hostility of her former opponent Bernie Sanders, but she doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for it either. During a primary debate, the former senator and secretary of state said that “every so often” the American people need to “save capitalism from itself.” But as any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s a far more pressing task to protect the productive sector of the economy from overly burdensome government policies. Clinton doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for business owners either. At a 2014 rally for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, she warned supporters, “don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” Who actually creates jobs was left unexplained.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is famous for building a business empire. In many ways, though, he has been more of a political operative than a capitalist throughout his career. As a native of Louisiana— where, as the locals say, “We don’t tolerate corruption; we insist on it”—I’m familiar with the phenomenon of “business” empires built on the backs of one’s fellow taxpayers. Capitalism, on the other hand, is about voluntary arrangements between parties, not about government influenced or “approved” deals.