John Harwood conducted an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this week which may not have produced much of substance, but definitely provided some interesting moments of comic relief. Warren is still seen as a likely entrant in the Democrats’ 2020 presidential primary and has buttered her bread with the fights she’s started with Wall Street and the investment banking industry. Harwood asked her about that, specifically wondering if she didn’t harbor some “malice” for capitalists. Warren’s response is a bit much to swallow but it’s worth a quick look at the video. (Free Beacon)
“It sounds as if you think there’s a good bit of malice,” Harwood said to Warren about those who have enriched themselves in the financial industry.
“You don’t think capitalists are bad people?” Harwood asked.
“I am a capitalist. Come on!” she said. “I believe in markets. What I don’t believe in is theft. What I don’t believe in is cheating. That’s where the difference is. I love what markets can do, I love what functioning economies can do. They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity, but only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it’s about the powerful get all of it. And that’s what’s gone wrong in America.”
Warren’s professed “belief” in free markets and capitalism comes off sounding rather dubious considering how she prefaced that answer. Originally, Harwood asked her if she was a “polarizing figure,” particularly when it comes to Wall Street. Her initial response was essentially an indictment of capitalism, at least as it applies to those who are most successful and seek to leverage their influence with Congress in terms of regulations. She speaks at length about powerful, rich people who are able to, “tweak their little pinkie and the United States government does just what they want.”
The fact is that an open, capitalist system produces winners and losers. (Or at least big winners and more modest winners on a good day.) What Warren has traditionally advocated is a system where everyone comes out a winner, and the only way to ensure that is to stop anyone at the top from winning too much. That’s a key part of her vision for government regulation of the markets. It’s a search for a system which guarantees equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.
Sadly, that’s pretty much antithetical to the idea of democratic capitalism. This is an important distinction in a season where so-called democratic socialism is on the rise. But as we’ve discussed here in the past, socialism is diametrically opposed to capitalism. The two can’t exist in the same mixing bowl for long. On the other hand, democracy is dependent on capitalism to provide the equality of opportunity which motivates individuals to excel. The fact that some always excel more than others in no way detracts from the democratic nature of the process.
Still, if Warren wants to portray herself as a capitalist crusader going into the 2020 elections, let her have at it. Those claims will provide a target rich arena for her opponents on the debate stage.