Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2006 / 26 Tishrei, 5767

Why the free market is king

By Jonathan V. Last


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | On the morning of Dec. 21, 1970, Elvis Aaron Presley appeared at the northwest gate of the White House. He delivered a letter — handwritten, on American Airlines stationery — to Richard Nixon, requesting an interview. Elvis was interested in becoming a "federal agent — at large," and besides, he really wanted to meet the president.


The White House staff went into something of a tizzy. Memos were quickly typed and exchanged while the King was kept waiting. After a couple of hours, Elvis was brought inside, given a tour, and taken finally to the Oval Office, where he met President Nixon.


Ever the gentleman, Elvis did not come empty-handed. Upon meeting Nixon, he presented the president with gifts: a Second World War-era Colt .45 and a collection of Presley family photographs. For wholesale weirdness, it doesn't get much better. But it's also incredibly charming and, in its own way, symbolic.


There is an only-in-America quality about Elvis that accounts for much of his enduring appeal. Leave aside his artistic merits (and camp value) and, for a moment, consider seriously what Elvis represents: As much as anything else, the King of Rock and Roll is the embodiment of America's embrace of free-market capitalism. He is the word of free-market philosopher Friedrich Hayek made flesh.


With the fall of communism, there is no longer any challenge to the capitalist thesis. To be sure, there is some niggling around the edges: Some countries commingle state support and protectionism; others try to hold to some last vestiges of command economics. But capitalism is the only game in town. For better or for worse.


Mostly, it's for better. Capitalism works more efficiently and provides more freedoms than any other system humanity has yet devised.


But believers in the net good of markets need not be blind to their shortcomings. Capitalism produces what economists call "market failures" all the time. Consider professional athletes, paid many times the annual salaries of police officers. Free-market enthusiasts will insist that there is a scarcity of talent at work here: A policewoman might add more value to society than a utility outfielder, but there are many fewer people with the talent to play professional baseball. Of course, the scarcity argument goes only so far. Swallowed-sword weightlifting is, for example, a very scarce talent indeed. Australia's Matthew Henshaw holds the world record in it, having lifted 44 pounds in this strange manner. No one is paying him Alex Rodriguez money.


If the lament on the status of athletes is too cliché, take casino dealers, who often make more money than teachers. Here the "scarcity-of-talent" argument runs in the opposite direction and arrives at opposite results. Or consider the enormous compensation packages afforded to many corporate executives. Perhaps an executive presiding over a successful company deserves hundreds of millions — but failed CEOs get the big money, too. In 1999, for instance, the late Ken Lay of Enron was paid $42.4 million. If that's the market rate for a company-destroying executive, then surely the market has failed. I don't know what your educational background is, but I bet Enron would have been better off hiring you for half the price. They could hardly have done worse.


The point is that free-market capitalism fails all the time. It fails in little ways and in big ways. And these failures often hurt people. So why is it that we love capitalism so dearly? Because of Elvis.


Despite its problems, the free market does something no other system has ever done: It allows for the creation of economic space. If you have a talent and you're passionate about it, the market will make a way for you. Elvis Presley is the modern embodiment of this principle: He had nothing in the world other than a unique gift, and even though no one else at the time was doing what he did — bring white and black popular music together — the market found a way to accommodate him. It's the quintessential American story.


Not everyone makes as much money as Elvis, but our country is littered with strange and wonderful talents that find ways to be rewarded: Jake Shimabukuro, for instance, is considered to be the Paganini of the ukulele; he has made an unlikely career out of performing. Cesar Millan's gift is the ability to train any dog; he runs a successful dog school in California. Ricky Jay is considered by some magicians to be the greatest sleight-of-hand man to ever live; he has done quite nicely with this arcane skill.


If the market can find room for prestidigitation, dog tricks and the ukulele — if it can make way for a skinny kid with shaky hips and a yen to visit the White House — then it can accommodate just about anything.


For all its failures and imperfections, we've made our peace with the system because it gave us Elvis. And because it gives each of us the opportunity to be the next King.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jonathan V. Last is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

08/07/06 Democracy, of itself, not solution to all problems
08/01/06 We get the movies we deserve
07/27/06 How long will U.S. empire last?


© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles