FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The curse of self-interest
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was interrupted in the middle of his latest deranged rant against the Koch Brothers – law-abiding private citizens whose destruction is apparently the sole reason for the Democrat Party’s existence – and asked why he doesn’t direct similar calumny at Sheldon Adelson, another rich Republican donor, who is indisputably more influential in Republican circles than the Kochs are.
The most widely-mocked element of Reid’s answer was his claim that Adelson’s okay because Reid knows him personally. Given the intensity of Reid’s crackpot jihad against the Koch Brothers – he called them one of the “main causes” of climate change the other day, while once again wasting America’s time to turn the Senate floor into a left-wing blog – his assumption of the power to grant absolution for the sin of being rich and Republican, based on his personal affection for individual billionaires, is one of the clearest statements of aristocratic arrogance to emanate from an American public official. The United States of America has absolutely no need or use for a dilettante Ruling Class that will tell us which wealthy people to hate, and which are okay to admire.
Almost everything else Reid says in this clip is untrue – for example, the Koch Brothers are not social conservatives in the way he implies – but that’s part for the course. If you’re looking for honesty or intellectual coherence, you don’t interview Harry Reid. What’s really interesting is his insistence that Sheldon Adelson, unlike the hellish Kochs, is “not in this for the money.” In other words, he gives Adelson credit for sincerity, while the Koch Brothers don’t really believe in any of the causes they advocate – they’re just looking to buy political muscle to satisfy their crass self-interest.
It’s dimly amusing to hear a Democrat posture as the judge of sincerity, after watching a long parade of left-wing billionaires ruthlessly loot the American taxpayer through the Obama years. Those Solyndra executives were true believers in solar energy with the best of intentions for all mankind, right? All those electric-car executives who have been ripping us off with Democrat help are wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Never mind the massive edifice of crony corruption towering over us after five years of pay-to-play Democrat governance – none of those people are really “in it for the money.”
This is a long-running game the Left plays, with ample support from their friends in the media. How many reporters are digging into the financial interests of Tom Steyer, the environmentalist billionaire on whose orders the Keystone XL pipeline has been halted? Even the grotesque Al Gore is still palmed off on us as a sincere and committed advocate for the environment, despite squeezing an immense fortune out of his carbon rackets. The motives of the global-warming… er, make that climate change… no, sorry, now it’s “climate disruption” movement are never questioned, from the scientists who pull in big money with apocalyptic predictions, to the politicians who use climate hysteria as leverage to increase their power.
No one on the Left is ever suspected of carrying the curse of self-interest. They claim unlimited credit for sincerity, while behaving as if none of their adversaries could possibly believe a word they say. (Or, in the case at hand, we’ve got Harry Reid giving Sheldon Adelson such credit as part of another backhanded slam at the Koch Brothers, as an effort to make himself look less unreasonable, and perhaps as a bid to stay on Adelson’s good side in Nevada.)
This sort of thinking is also part of the ongoing effort to demonize self-interest, and make the American people believe that only white-knight politicians with certified pure motives can save them from the menacing predators of the private sector. We’re told to place our faith in a credentialed, media-celebrated few, rather than believing in each other. Self-interest is evil and greedy… so you should do what the State, sanctified through democracy as the avatar of our general will, tells you to do. Never mind if the official agenda is unsustainable, because only greedy self-interested types ask if a particular endeavor can generate enough income to sustain itself over the long term, at a profit.
It really is a bummer to have selfish people purchase the coercive power of government and deploy it unfairly to advance and protect their interests. The one and only way to keep that from happening is to reduce the size and power of government. As long as that power is available for sale, destructively selfish people will line up to buy it. In the absence of compulsive force, and with laws properly enforced to protect consumers and investors from fraud, those self-centered interests must use persuasive and productive means to accumulate their fortunes – creating, in the main, products people want to buy, and business plans they want to invest in. It’s not necessary to certify the metaphysical purity of anyone’s beliefs in an environment of persuasion and voluntary commerce. The man who sells you high-quality mouthwash doesn’t have to convince you he’s a saint who really cares about your healthy pink gums.
But in the shadow of Big Government, we have to put up with endless moral posturing and theatrics from politicians who need you to believe they, and their big-money supporters, are noble and selfless guardians of the public interest, while their adversaries are just looking to put a few more zeroes on their bank accounts. Why on Earth would any sane citizen take the word of people who sell political influence about which of their customers have good intentions? One of the great things about the private sector is that it’s driven by legally-enforceable obligations, not childlike faith.