Capitalism Made Me Do It

#45, Donald Trump the Elder is again weeping onto his gold cufflinks. This wee melodrama concerns his (and his daughter Ivanka’s) foreign sourcing. In the midst of his ironically misnamed Made In America Week, the House of Trump source their booze, clothes and tchotchkes typically via Chinese or Pakistani sweatshops.

He, honestly truly, pulled out the basest of disingenuities — he and his daughter are forced, forced they tell us, to use the suppliers who offer the lowest prices. That’s the evil corollary of one of the big lies of fantasy capitalism. That is, the only duty of managers is to maximize profit. Anything else is an abrogation of duty of shareholders, a failure.

Well, kiddies. That’s hooey.

First, if capitalism was its perfect version, if supply-and-demand worked as promised, there would be some justification for such amorality. Alas, we live in a nation of oligopoly and monopoly and government protection of and intervention for corporations.

Businesses in general do not respond to the ideal market forces in timely fashion. They really can’t claim they must do this or that when they have real reasons and choices. Nothing demands they be brutal and vicious to make a profit, much less that maximum short-term profit is the only goal.

Pic Note: Public domain image of a 1913 Ford assembly plant.

Let’s think about a serious capitalist, a certain Henry Ford. He loved his money and made a lot of it. Yet he was much, much smarter than #45.

For example, Unlike textile magnates, railroad builders and mine owners, he took a broad view as well as a narrow one (yes, Ford was savvy enough to look short and long simultaneously).

He pioneered the assembly line, but was not a vampire or monster about it. He paid more than other manufacturing owners…and for good reason. As he put it, he wanted his workers to earn enough to buy the cars they made. And they did, which made him even richer than if he had underpaid and overworked them.

Today, this Trump character claims that because he got a transfer undergraduate degree from a good business school and that he didn’t totally blow his multi-million dollar inheritance, he is the epitome of a capitalist. He also claims that he’ll make America great again while hiring American and buying American.

The latter set is total jive. His companies source overseas from the cheapest, from steel to finished goods to contractors. He seems to get the maximum-profit sliver of capitalism. He misses the broad view that Ford understood well.

So, consider whether any of the Trumps or any business owner at all made a slightly smaller profit margin, while helping their workers, industry, state and nation grow and prosper. The mindless subset of self-proclaimed capitalist may scream that the shareholders would never allow that and would force them out.

Of course in Donald and Ivanka’s cases, that won’t happen. They don’t lead public corporations. Even if they did though, the optics and PR of (pause to allow the Ann Coulter types of retch) the gentle altruism of helping the nation and workers would surely hold the day. The greediest of shareholders might switch their investment to a more parasitic company. Meanwhile, we see that socially responsible companies do quite well, thank you very much, and have no problem attracting cash.

Capitalism has its uses, but hiding behind it simply to exploit does not serve anyone in the supply chain or in this case the nation. I fear #45 does not have the brain power to see the issues, much less to lead the nation in solving them.

 

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