Sen. Barack Obama won for a simple reason: historical amnesia.
I once asked a room full of college students who the father of capitalism was.
Crickets began chirping as blank stares shot my way.
“Oh, come on,” I prompted. "Does anyone want to take a guess?”
Finally, one bold student blurted out, “Isn’t it Karl Marx?”
(That creaking sound you’re hearing is Adam Smith rolling over in his grave.)
Sadly, this is a true story. And sadly, this kind of economic and historical amnesia goes a long way toward explaining how the most far-Left candidate in American presidential history wound up in the White House.
The reason Sen. McCain’s “socialism” charges didn’t stick is precisely because “socialism” means little to voters who don’t know what the term even means. Public schools teach multicultural curriculum but seldom if ever the basics of free market economic principles.
But don’t take my word for it. Today, go out and ask five members of Sen. Obama’s target demographic—the 18 to 25-year old voter—to explain how capitalism works.
Then sit and wait for the crickets to begin chirping again.
Joe the Plumber understands free markets because he’s operated a business. But without proper economic education or real world experience, young people are left in economic darnkness.
And what about the 46 million Americans who don’t even pay taxes?
Do they understand that President-Elect Obama's economic designs only rattle an already rickety economic infrastructure? Of course not.
Republicans must bear much of the responsibility for not communicating these lessons clearly. Unlike Ronald Reagan (who majored in economics at Eureka College), Sen. McCain missed critical opportunities to play the role of “Educator in Chief.”
Take, for example, Sen. Obama’s “soak the rich” tax proposals. Sen. McCain missed huge opportunities to teach the American voter a lesson that Ronald Reagan pounded home often: businesses don’t pay taxes! Oh sure, on paper they pay taxes, but in reality they merely pass taxes along to consumers or cut jobs to make up the difference.
Here’s how Ronald Reagan taught this principle during an interview with Reason magazine:
Wynton Hall is a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and author of "The Right Words: Great Republican Speeches That Shaped History".