Writing about Wal-Mart in Wednesday’s post we addressed, almost as an afterthought, the impact of negative views of business in popular history. It wasn’t the first time we’d written about Wal-Mart, but it was the first time we’d made the connection between antagonistic business history and its impact on the national agenda.
High school students and college students take few, if any, American history courses. The ones they do take are necessarily limited to surveying huge amounts of history. Compounding this is the beaten-to-death issue of students’ general disinterest in history. If they are awake, they usually only capture the bold headlines–of which robber barons is one of the boldest and most oft-repeated. Students can’t help but believe that if their history teachers says it so often, it must be true.
We recommend, therefore, Forrest McDonald’s Recovering the Past. This superb memoir cum historiographical critique challenges accepted notions of history that have been put forth by a mostly liberal history professoriate.
The one advantage historians have on a liberal press that peddles the same anti-business slant, is that they are somewhat more self-conscious. The onset of post-modern theory has brought a certain awareness to the presence of bias–conscious and subconscious–in everything. Most historians, even the liberal ones, make some attempt at impartiality while realizing that true objectivity is impossible. Mainstream media is almost completely unaware of even the possibility of a bias. They live in an insular world where 70% of their ranks voted for John Kerry in the last Presidential election. To them, that’s not bias, that’s just the way the world is.
It isn’t the conscious bias that harms the telling of “just the facts please, ma’am” news, but the unconscious bias. This unconscious bias is fed in this case by the anti-business entente of leftist- marxist-influenced historians who set the stage, Democrats angling for union support in upcoming elections (especially Presidential), and a press eager to follow in the footsteps of their forbears the muckrakers. Only with Wal-Mart, there isn’t any muck to rake.
Isolationists and protectionists, ignorant of even the most basic economic principles (they slept through econ as well as American history) love to hate businesses that aren’t mom and pop. They ignore abundant economic data showing the positive effects of capitalism, free trade and Wal-Mart’s low prices. They see Tom’s Hardware shut down on mainstreet with his three employees and overlook the hundreds employed by Wal-Mart with hundreds more clamoring for those jobs (see recent Wal-Mart in Chicago). But wait a minute, did Tom’s go out of business because employee healthcare costs made it so they couldn’t compete with Wal-Mart? Oh that’s right, they pay their employees minimum wage too. Truth is, the average Wal-Mart employee makes $10 per hour.
As for healthcare, Wal-Mart has no responsibility to provide it. We understand where universal health care advocates are coming from–and it’s not Great Britain. Over here there is constant debate and discussion regarding how in the world to reduce queues (Brit-speak for lines) for health services from ridiculous numbers like 40,000 down to more manageable numbers in the next 10 years. Just because they’re called entitlements doesn’t mean one ought to be entitled to them. Socialized medicine is inefficient and ineffective. In America we have Medicare for seniors, Medicaid for the poor, and Health Savings Accounts for everyone else. As we wrote in this article a few months ago, company managed health care contributes to, not helps, the problem of rising health care costs.
Apologies. This ended up being much longer than we intended.
Summary: anti-business history has tainted Americans’ view of business and capitalism as a whole. Democrats pander to unions whose very existence is threatened by innovative, competitive businesses like Wal-Mart. A mostly liberal press parrots the company line. And otherwise intelligent Americans ignore the relevant economic data and irrationally lash out at Wal-Mart.