Jonah Goldberg

What did you do when capitalism died, Daddy?

I won't be surprised to hear that question from my daughter by the time she gets out of college, or should I say the State Mandatory Voluntarism Training Facility.

When liberals hear conservatives decry the death of capitalism, they titter and roll their eyes. "Oh, you paranoid right-wingers! You see Bolsheviks around every corner."

But such exasperation is the exhalation of concentrated ignorance. The absence of free markets isn't necessarily Bolshevism, or even socialism. Capitalism's death can come in many forms, by many different hands.

After all, not all of Julius Caesar's murderers thought alike. They were united in their belief Caesar had to go, not necessarily on what would replace him. Caesar fought off his attackers until he saw that among their number was Brutus, his friend. "Et tu, Brute?" he exclaimed; "You, too, Brutus?" It was not the enemy blows but his friend's betrayal that sapped his will to fight and brought his downfall.

Some historians claim Caesar actually said, "Tu quoque, fili mi?" or, "You too, my child?"

Whether that's more accurate, it certainly seems a more fitting declaration as the coup de grace of capitalism's murder is at the hands of its most successful child: big business.

Everywhere we look we see the great and once-great beneficiaries of free markets running to the state for protection from the cruel bullying of competition. On health care, insurance companies and others repeat the mantra that they want to be "at the table rather than on the menu," all the better to be positioned as a tax collector of the welfare state. General Motors and Chrysler have gone from being pimped-out prostitutes of the state to outright chattel more akin to the leather-bound gimp in "Pulp Fiction," eager to do the bidding of the president and the UAW.

Once-proud companies like GE have become seduced by global warming schemes, because they recognize that there's more money to be made selling white elephants to Uncle Sam than there is selling competitive products consumers want. Indeed, cap-and-trade taxes promise to deliver precisely the protectionist industrial policies the left has dreamed of for decades, only under a "progressive" label.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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