People Whose Political Opinions Should Not Be Heeded, Part One
I am speaking here not of the small business owner, craftsman, or entrepreneur who builds a good idea into a means of making a good living. The healthy society needs such individuals, and indeed, in the healthiest community such people would perhaps represent the largest contingent of the mature adult population.
I am speaking, rather, of the men for whom wealth-getting is not an inherently limited or secondary aim, but instead an effectively limitless lust for money and influence. The political faction we call “the right” today tends to mythologize these men and their achievements, at least in the abstract, euphemizing them as “job-creators” and “public benefactors.” And while there is no doubt that the better among them — better with regard to the comparative substantiality and genuine human value of their economic endeavors (as U.S. Steel represents human value compared to the essential disvalue of, say, Facebook) — may be appreciated for their role in advancing general prosperity through the workings of the free market’s invisible hand, it absolutely does not follow from this that such men deserve to be heeded as seers or sages, let alone granted the social status of political overseers and policy influencers.
The invisible hand was a perfectly conceived metaphor, as it clearly denied to the great “job-creators” any special public-spiritedness or principled understanding of the human good. Their role in the development of economic prosperity is a product of causal factors operating independently of any considerations of their wisdom, moral character, or goodwill, requiring only that they be highly motivated to gain wealth through trade. Hence, it is precisely the biggest players in the invisible hand’s natural manipulations, the men most relentlessly focused on increasing their wealth and influence over the market, who are furthest removed, in theory, from the realm of sober reflection and detached deliberation about the genuine human good, i.e., the natural hierarchy of human ends and the political conditions best suited to encouraging men to seek their highest potential within that hierarchy. On the contrary, the very quasi-virtues that make the most ambitious and extraordinary businessmen successful in their specific realm of action — acquiring wealth and material influence for themselves — ought to disqualify them outright from being taken seriously in any context related to judgments of the human good or public policy. They may or may not hold some views consistent with the good, and of course they should be free to express their own opinions as they wish, but as inherently immoderate and materially obsessed men, they ought never to be trusted by others as leaders, public advocates, or dispensers of “worldly wisdom” in the political arena. On the contrary, it ought to be granted as a truism that a man who has structured his life on premises of immoderate gain is just about the last person who ought to be given any sort of credence in political discussion, let alone any special role in determining the course of social development.
Business tycoons have devoted their lives to acquisitiveness, typically relying on the marketing of lies, half-lies, or exaggerations, for the sake of the material advantage gained by cajoling millions of people into mistaking inessential things for essential ones. The tycoons’ priorities in life are inherently skewed, earth-bound, and specialized far outside the realm of serious thought, and these men rarely meet a political palm they will not grease or a special regulatory protection they will not lobby for and eagerly accept. They cannot, therefore, be trusted to think or speak in the interests of general liberty or the well-being of society as a whole, because their souls have become dominated by calculations of personal advantage, which advantage they tend to identify, in principle, with the pragmatic reduction of all mankind to consumers for their products, and workers for their companies.
It is for such reasons — reasons intrinsic to the lower nature of a life lived primarily in pursuit of unlimited wealth and material influence — that as a matter of historical fact the formerly free world has business tycoons, in large measure, to thank for the prevailing intellectual tyranny of universal public schooling, the bureaucratic tyranny of income and property taxes, the economic tyranny of regulatory restraints on smaller competitors and special protected status for the corporate giants (“too big to fail”), and the moral tyranny of mass-produced and hard-sold (aka propagandized) turpitude, slavishness, and progressive egalitarianism — equality for thee but not for them. From Rockefeller and Ford to Gates, Zuckerberg, Soros and Musk — very different “personalities” all cut from the same cloth in one essential respect. “If only everyone worked for me, used my products, and lived in accordance with my corporate strategy, all would be well with the world.”
No; all would be hell with the world, as we are proving all too well today.