By Izzo Zwiren
The New York Times does not understand capitalism. I know - this is a shocking bit of information to take in. Why would we ever think that a publication that often promotes the virtues of socialism wouldn’t understand what capitalism is? But it’s true. Several different New York Times contributors have recently made assertions that prove that they either have ulterior motives to demonize capitalism, or they actually don’t have a clue as to what capitalism is all about. While I’d like to think that the Times just doesn’t understand capitalism (in fact, that was the first sentence of this article), I think we all know that they understand exactly what they are doing: They are trying to demonize capitalism in any way possible.
The latest example of this comes from the Times’ 1619 Project, where a number of contributors have written essays, poems, and fiction that date back 400 years to the start of American slavery in 1619. The 1619 Project deserves its own deep dive, but for now I want to focus on the piece by Matthew Desmond entitled “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.”
Desmond starts off by making the argument that workers’ rights in other capitalist nations are better because more workers in other nations belong to unions. I honestly can’t think of a better argument that shows the dishonesty than this one. The country chosen to represent the best of what unions have to offer is Iceland, where a staggering 90% of employees belong to unions. There’s a very simple reason for this. According to the Islandic government’s website, “Employees need not be a member of a union if they so choose. They are, however, still required to work in accordance with statutory collective wage agreements.” This means that workers can opt not to enter a trade union, but can’t negotiate salary or working hours. Wait, so if I work in Iceland, I can choose to ditch a union because I think I deserve better, and in exchange I can receive zero negotiating power? Where do I sign up? Iceland is basically a nation that forces workers to be in a union without making it law because they take away all other options. Nothing is more anti-capitalist than that. Capitalism isn’t against unions. Capitalism is against forced unions.
Desmond then goes on to explain that low wages today date back to slave labor in the 17th-19th centuries. And all that somehow is the fault of capitalism. And to answer your question, no, he never states how this is capitalism’s fault. One of the main tenets of capitalism is that negotiations between two parties can be made without the use of force, either by a government or by physical force. Slavery, by definition, is therefore anti-capitalist. Forcing someone to work without concern for compensation is against one of the main principles of capitalism. And those who use capitalism as an excuse for slavery or those who use slavery as a club against capitalism are grossly mischaracterizing their argument.
Now, I do hear you in the back over there complaining, “But Izzo, when socialists say that countries like Venezuela are doing socialism wrong, you mock them! Why is it okay to say that slave owners were doing capitalism wrong?” Fair point. The answer is because once slavery was removed from the American economy, and really every capitalist economy, it kept on working. Look around. Know any slaves? Know any slave owners? How has the American economy done without slaves? Oh, best in the world, you say? Weird how the abolishment of slavery didn’t have a negative long-term effect on the economy. You know what has had a negative long-term effect on the economy? Every instance of socialism ever!
Okay, time to calm down a bit. Let’s go on to what I consider the way more egregious falsity about capitalism. On August 14th, the Times’ “The Daily” podcast reported on the growing tensions in the Hong Kong airport. Without going into too much detail about the protest because it involves a long historical backstory about the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, just understand how the Chinese government chose to deal with the situation. The Chinese government forced iconic Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific into disallowing employees who participated in the protest from doing any work in mainland China. This caused the company’s stock prices to plummet, an issue that was addressed quickly by the airline, who complied with the Beijing rule. The message was sent from the Chinese government to the Hong Kong business community: Either get in line or you won’t be able to do any business with the mainland.
Upon hearing this information, host Michael Barbaro made the assertion that this move by the Chinese government is “fascinating because in some ways, that’s a very capitalist approach to this crisis.” That is patently insane. In no way is a government-issued mandate remotely connected to capitalism. What is perhaps more insane is the response of the episode’s guest, correspondent Javier Hernandez, who just seconds earlier had said that the Chinese government believes that “economic prosperity comes above all else.” Upon hearing Barbaro’s asinine comment, he responded, “In many ways, China is using the tools of capitalism now in hoping that people will think about the market and not ideals, and represents a shift that now...China cares more about money now than it does about its own original ideals.”
This is satire, right? Not only is Barbaro flat out wrong about capitalism, his guest thinks that communism is not about money. He had literally just claimed that economic prosperity has always been king in China, and since they are allowing the “evils” of capitalism in, now, NOW, they care about money. This isn’t your father’s Chinese Communist Party. No, that party only cared about people’s well-being, so much so that they used the might of the military to crack down on those who dared disagree. This new government, they only use the might of the military to crack down on those who dare disagree. Nothing has changed. This isn’t capitalism; it’s still communism.
The New York Times would like you to think that communism and socialism are the humane forms of running governments, while capitalism is an evil thought process that leads to greed and slavery. American economist Milton Friedman said, “Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy; it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy.” The communists leading China are doing exactly what you would expect: using their might to quash dissention.
You know where I heard that Milton Friedman quote? The New York Times Daily podcast exactly one week after the original one. It is a joke to assume at this point that the New York Times can be trusted to tell me anything in an unbiased manner. I used to think it was just their reporting on Israel. Then I thought, oh well, many people don’t like Donald Trump. This completely inaccurate assessment of capitalism, socialism, and communism shows me that they cannot be trusted for just about anything. They would have you believe at this point that there is in fact no I in socialism. So I guess, thank you, New York Times, for opening my eyes to your accurate slogan “All the Lies That’s Fit to Print.”
Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.