Grassroot Perspective: the Morality of Capitalism, McOffense, and More

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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

By Malia Hill


“”It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”—Adam Smith

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

The Morality of Self-Interest

At a time when it is the fashion to apply 99% rhetoric to even the most inapplicable situations, it may be a difficult thing to sell people on the moral dimension of capitalism, but that doesn’t make the central point any less valid.  It is, to misuse Churchill’s quote on democracy, the worse system except for all the others.  And yet, as James Otteson argues in this paper from the Manhattan Institute, it is possible to make a moral case for capitalism.  In essence, the self-interest that at the heart of the capitalist system remains the best (and only) proven way to lift people out of poverty and improve the human condition.  While it’s true that this happens at the cost (no pun intended) of economic inequality, Otteson makes the powerful point that if one had to choose between eliminating poverty and eliminating economic inequality, almost no one would choose the latter.  Nor has any other system proven capable of accomplishing both (with the failure of socialism being a notable example).  The thought-provoking defense of capitalism is not making the case that capitalism is a system above criticism or improvement—just that we ought to be careful not to dismiss the fact that self-interest can lead to moral results.


Senator Inouye and former Governor Cayetano have finally had it out . . . over French fries.  Apparently, Cayetano (as part of an ongoing disagreement with the Senator on the Rail project, with Inouye supports and Cayetano—along with most Hawaii citizens—opposes) expressed the opinion that Inouye was getting a little out of touch with his constituents and suggested that the Senator visit a McDonalds for breakfast and meet some of the regular folks there to hear their opinions on things.  As the Washington Times reports, Senator Inouye was very offended by Cayetano’s “personal attack.”  It’s a bit perplexing, how the suggestion to get a cup of coffee at your local McD’s suddenly became a deeply offensive personal attack—is Inouye more of a Burger King guy?  Does he just want to avoid talking about Rail, no matter what the restaurant in question may be?  Personally, I think he doesn’t know what he’s missing—the Senator would be a lot less touchy if he started his morning with the Portuguese sausage and eggs meal.

The High Cost of Living . . . with High Taxes

Just because it’s no longer April doesn’t mean that we can’t still be annoyed with our tax rates.  Sometimes it seems as though taxpayers are the proverbial frog in the pot of hot water—the temperature (or rate) keeps getting turned up without our realizing it, until finally we’re boiling in a confiscatory taxation scheme.  Ok, so it’s not a perfect metaphor.  But when you take a look at these graphs from the Tax Foundation on total taxes compared to spending on food, clothing, and housing, you’ll understand.  And probably get a little mad.

Why Indiana Matters (in Hawaii)

It seems that rumors of the death of the Tea Party were somewhat exaggerated.  Granted, those same rumors came from the punditocracy, most of whom have been wishing that the Tea Party had died at birth.  Inconvenient to the GOP establishment, annoying in the extreme for liberals, reading the leaves of the Tea Party has become a political party game of sorts, and the meme that the movement was dead had become widely accepted over the last several months.  Unfortunately, no one remembered to tell the actual Tea Party voters this.  As the Washington Examiner writes, the defeat of a GOP incumbent Senator Dick Lugar from primary challenger (and Tea Party fave) Richard Mourdock demonstrates that the establishment dismisses the power of the Tea Party at its own risk.

The Socialist vs. the “Socialist”

There is a certain kind of person who gets very annoyed when you say that President Obama is a “socialist” or that he pursues socialist policies.  So that person is probably going to be apoplectic at this recent Forbes column, where author Merrill Matthews  does a point-by-point comparison between Obama’s policies and the policies of an acknowledged socialist, namely President-Elect of France, François Hollande.  How do they measure up?  Let’s just say that these two would get along swimmingly.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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