Why Do Americans Embrace Capitalism in Practice, But Never in Theory?

When it comes to the ideal job atmosphere, Google’s got it.

Free gourmet food, generous time off and shuttle bus rides to work will buy you a huge amount of employee goodwill. Those are just some of the benefits that vaulted Google (GOOG) to the top of Glassdoor’s list of the best places to work in 2015.

This is Google’s first time in the No. 1 spot, even though the company has offered its legendary perks for years. One reason the company may be the favorite now is because it has been extremely responsive to employee needs, particularly as its workforce ages, said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor’s chief executive and co-founder.

“They’re a mature company,” Hohman told CBS MoneyWatch. “They’ve been at this 15 years. Their workforce, which was probably largely twentysomethings at one point, is largely thirtysomethings or fortysomethings who now have families.” The company offers generous maternity and paternity leave and childcare options and even helps pick up the expenses for diapers and formula for new parents. [Source: CBSNews.com 12/10/14]

If you believed the people who rule us from Washington DC, you’d expect these kinds of benefits from the public or government sector, not the private sector. You’d expect these benefits to be the product of government mandates and laws requiring benefits. Yet none of the laws provide anything approaching what Google provides. And the prevalence of all these laws has done nothing to restore economic growth to the levels we saw in America’s earlier chapters.

Google is a for-profit, private enterprise. It’s not totally private enterprise, because nothing in our hampered market economy (drifting towards socialism) actually is. However, Google is not a government agency. It’s not funded by Congress, and the primary decisions of the company are not made by elected officials. It sinks or swims based on the decisions of its executives and the intelligence and work ethic of its managers and employees.

The basic difference between a for-profit enterprise like Google and a government agency (like a public school, or FEMA, or the Health Care Financing Administration or the Social Security Administration) is that Google can potentially go out of business, or at least suffer losses; a government agency will never close down. When a private company fails or flounders, it loses profits and suffers until it makes corrections. When a government entity fails or flounders (like FEMA, Medicare or public schools) we send them billions more, thereby rewarding their failures and assuring still more failure down the road.

It may seem like I’m pointing out the obvious, but it’s obviously not so obvious to a majority of people. The individuals who work for Google and the other companies named as the “best places to work” like what these private sector enterprises are providing for them. Undoubtedly, theirs represents a majority point-of-view regarding the ideal job. In concrete, day-to-day reality, they enjoy and appreciate the fact that they work for these top-rated private companies which include not only Google, but also Nestle Purina, Chevron, In-N-Out Burger, Procter & Gamble and Bain & Company.

Yet this same majority would never embrace a social system of hands-off market capitalism. They applaud and continue to vote for a bipartisan government who regulates, taxes, manages and largely takes credit for all the good things that only for-profit companies can ever provide. They love the benefits of capitalism. But capitalism is the last thing they’d ever support, in theory or in practice, when it comes time to determine what course our society should take with respect to government. It makes no sense at all.

Hohman also said that this year’s top 50 list includes by far the most diverse lineup of companies by industry in the survey’s history. It’s a reflection of a broad recovery in the U.S. economy, he added. “As the economy has recovered, competition for talent has gotten tough,” he said. “Companies are having to get more aggressive in the perks and benefits they provide employees.”

When it comes to job satisfaction, the private sector rules. Yet when it comes to abstract formulations about where we want our elected leaders to take us, it’s almost always on the side of more government. Don’t like something about your life? Well, there ought to be a law, then, to make it better.

I could understand being a socialist if you really detested the private sector, wanted no benefit whatsoever from it and only approved of or endorsed working in government-run contexts. I couldn’t disagree with this attitude more, but in a strange way I could respect it if you practiced what you believed.

But this isn’t most Americans. Most Americans love the material plenty and comforts that only for-profit companies can deliver. Yet they continue to at least marginally agree with socialist or socialist-leaning politicians (both parties) who keep telling us that government is the first, last and perhaps only solution to any problem that ails us.

If we came up with a survey asking Americans which social system best served their own personal interests as well as the interests of human advancement, I’m quite confident the majority answer would not be capitalism.

Never has a social system that has served the interests of so many been so underappreciated, if not outright despised. Yet the majority keeps applauding and embracing the wonderful things that the remnants of that system continue to deliver us.


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