OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: Don’t do econ


There are many reasons why I oppose leftism, but three come most immediately to mind.

First is the tendency of the left to sacrifice the most important classical liberal value, individual freedom ("liberty"), in its pursuit of equality of condition/outcome, initially in the form of Marx's classless society, more recently in the form of racial proportional representation through "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion."

In that sense, among the wisest observations of the relationship between such equality and freedom came from Milton Friedman, when he noted that "A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both."

The second is the tendency, in that futile pursuit of absolute equality in all things, for the left to sponsor the creation of a gargantuan state that can't help but become overly intrusive and oppressive (and which therefore violates other crucial liberal principles, including the necessity of constraints upon governmental power).

The third, which flows from the first two, and with which this column is primarily concerned, is that the left's infatuation with the activist state, with the political and public at the expense of the apolitical and private, prioritizes political logic over economic logic, in the process inducing economic illiteracy in leftist thinking.

This last point--that leftists don't understand economic logic, more precisely the logic of market-based (capitalist) economies--has the additional result of provoking hostility toward them.

A recent, but distressingly familiar, example of this illiteracy comes in the form of leftist criticism of businesses for leaving crime-ridden neighborhoods populated by "marginalized" minority groups (usually Black Americans).

More specifically, some of the usual lefty suspects, defined in this case as Democratic members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation, have weighed in and condemned Walgreens for closing some of its stores in Roxbury, Hyde Park and other Boston areas.

Rep. Ayanna Presley claimed that the closures were "life-threatening acts of racial and economic discrimination" while Sen. Ed Markey demanded that Walgreens "provide resources to limit the harm they've created" by prioritizing "profits over the health of Black, Brown, and immigrant communities."

The problems here should be rather self-evident, at least for those with any familiarity with Adam Smith's ideas regarding the motives of the "the butcher, the brewer, or the baker."

Businesses don't exist to pursue political objectives or engage in social work; they exist to make a profit by providing people with goods and services.

This isn't a matter of choice since if they were to do otherwise they would operate at a loss, go out of business, and cease to be able to provide those goods and services (as well as jobs for their employees and tax revenue for the government).

Businesses are also, at least in a free society with a market economy, and contrary to Pressley and Markey's apparent preferences, private property that cannot be conscripted by ideologue politicians to serve their agendas; the capital that Walgreens constitutes doesn't "belong" to the state or its representatives to do with as they wish (in Walgreens' case, provide resources to people, upon Markey's command).

By such peculiar leftist logic, corporations are evil ("profits over people") but also must continue to provide their goods and services, even at a loss, because people can't function and have lives made worse off without them.

Companies are obligated to continue to operate in places where they are losing money and their employees are endangered because of crime because liberal Democrats think it is racist to not do so.

Alongside the economic illiteracy also inevitably exists the scapegoating, in the sense that blame for companies pulling out of crime-ridden neighborhoods is placed on the companies rather than the criminals who commit the crimes (and regarding which the likes of Pressley and Markey, consistent with leftist thought in general, tend to depict as blameless victims of the same profit-driven capitalism).

In all of this, Pressley and Markey undoubtedly hope that no one notices that the party to which they belong has for decades been (justifiably) perceived as "soft on crime" and long governed the urban areas where crime has spun out of control and from which many more companies than just Walgreens are fleeing.

This is a failure of government at the most fundamental level, given the primary governmental purpose of providing security.

While it is true that not all Democrats embraced "defund the police," it is probably also true that everyone who embraced "defund the police" was a Democrat, or someone even further leftward.

An intriguing inverse relationship seems to thus be found between how much leftists want government to do (just about everything) and their governing capacity to do the few basic things that matter most, like keeping the streets safe so that businesses can operate and residents can shop in them for things they need.

Democrats think combating crime (law and order) is racist. They think that businesses which leave crime-ridden neighborhoods are racist too.

But what if the real problem in all of this isn't the profit motive, racism or even the criminals? What if the real problem, the root cause, is people who think like Pressley and Markey?


Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.