Prepare to debate capitalism itself

Thanks to Mitt Romney and such well-known socialist intellectuals as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, the United States is about to have the big debate on the nature of modern capitalism that should have started back in 2008. The focus will be on whether some kinds of capitalism are bad for the system as a whole.

As a political matter, the discussion will be a classic test of an old Karl Rove theory that the best way to undercut an opponent is to attack him in his area of perceived strength. Romney’s central claim is that his business experience prepares him to be the nation’s great job creator. That message runs into some difficulty if he is seen instead as a job ­destroyer.

What if a certain class of capitalist makes scads of money not by building up companies but by tearing them down? What if there is a distinction between the capitalist we typically honor who comes up with a good product and hires people to make and market it; and another kind who takes over a company, pulls out all the cash he can, and then abandons it to die?