Television journalist Dylan Rattigan recently released a book titled "Greedy Buggers". (Name modified to respect this paper's family values.) His book contains important insights concerning what's wrong with our nation.
So what's a Greedy Bugger? Rattigan explains there are two types of capitalism. There is "creative capitalism," where money is invested in new products or services that create large profits, but also adds to the wealth of our country, without hidden costs to society. Everyone wins: the capitalist, the inventor, the delighted customer, the workers with new jobs, and society as a whole.
Creative capitalism during the latter half of the 20th century made the United States the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. He calls the other type "extraction capitalism." This type of capitalism does not create anything of value, but is designed to extract existing wealth from society, transferring it to the pockets of the capitalist. Extraction capitalism almost always includes excessive influence in government gained by purchasing politicians. Rattigan coined the term "Greedy Buggers" for this second type of capitalist. "Corporate communists" is another title. He also uses a more common term: thief.
The book makes a compelling case that the majority of capitalist activity the last decade has been of the "Greedy Bugger" variety. This is the reason we had near zero job creation and the crash of the financial markets that almost caused another Great Depression. Like a vampire, the Greedy Buggers sucked the life's blood from the nation's economy to enrich themselves, leaving the rest of us to suffer the consequences.
I had an epiphany reading this book. I have another description of extraction capitalism. Many of you will recognize the motto of Book of Mormon bad guy Korihor: Let every man prosper according to his own genius, let every man conquer according to his own strength, and whatsoever a man does is no crime. Not to mention "letting the guilty go unpunished because of their money."
Is it possible that many of our politicians are modern-day disciples of Korihor? Even latter-day Gadianton robbers? Just sayin'. You've heard their rhetoric: Let the "job creators" (Greedy Buggers create nothing, least of all jobs) keep all their money and eliminate all regulation. You be the judge, but this sure sounds like the very thing Rattigan is warning us about, especially given that these politicians are getting their millions in campaign contributions to buy their re-election.
Rattigan makes a compelling case against the logic of the Greedy Buggers' bought politicians. Just like laws against theft by burglary or armed robbery strengthens rather than weakens our economy, so laws (otherwise known as regulation) against theft by Greedy Buggers prevent them from draining the life blood from our economy. Certainly a main lesson of our Great Recession is that Greedy Buggers cause much more damage to society than a humble shoplifter. Not only that, depriving Greedy Buggers of their ability to get rich by stealing forces them to use their wealth for productive, creative capitalism, resulting in a win-win outcome for everyone.
What can we do to root out the scourge of extraction capitalism from our economy? It starts with the realization that the behavior of Greedy Buggers is currently protected by our government, which they have purchased with their money. Congress today is owned by modern-day Gadianton robbers. Things will not change until that changes. Thoughtful Americans of every stripe are calling for a constitutional convention to change the way political campaigns are financed. Until then, here's maybe the most important question we need to ask as voters: Is this candidate owned by the Greedy Buggers? That can be determined by examining who donates to their campaign. If the answer is "yes," they need to go.
Rattigan stresses the following principles for judging whether we have creative or extraction capitalism: visibility, integrity, choice (elimination of monopolies), and aligned interests. That last is especially important. If there is one thing that differentiates good capitalists from Greedy Buggers, it's economic activity where everybody wins.
Despite the serious nature of this problem, Dylan Rattigan is quite upbeat in his book. "I'm optimistic even when I see the massive waste and the ongoing theft perpetrated every day, because when I see that so many of our resources go to bad deals, I realize how much we still have to work with - if we can redirect the resources of this great country."
America still has it - we just need to take our country back from the Greedy Buggers.
Olsen, chairman of Weber County Democrats, lives in West Haven.