If you believe in the capitalist system then you have to erase from your whole worldview ‘What does somebody need?’ … it’s not about need. — Rush Limbaugh, Jay Leno Show, Sept 25, 2009.

This quote reiterates a thought that I’ve alluded to here before – I’ve written about idealism but this thought from Rush really helped me put some things in perspective.

Let me start by saying this: I am not a Rush fan in any sense of the word. I’ve tried listening to his radio show not because I lean so heavily right (I definitely do not) but because, in an effort to fully understand the context of different issues that are important to me I know it’s important to entertain opposing viewpoints from all along the scale. Under normal circumstances I can’t stay tuned in very long because Rush often resorts to cynicism, name-calling, and fun-making among other forms of hyperbole.

However, while still Rush, he was somewhat disarmed or out of his element while on The Jay Leno Show. During a discussion about capitalism during which Jay had said that he believes in the capitalist system and that success is not indicated entirely by profit, Rush responded with the quote above.

What was clear to me then, was that Rush’s position is that quintessential capitalism and conservatism ought to be the goals for this nation: a system that, arguably, includes aspects such as the smallest possible government, complete un-regulation of the market. Further, it it seems to be that any deviation from that pursuit is counter productive. There are two points here. I’ll deal with one now and once in a separate post.

  1. Quintessential anything is at best counterproductive, and at worst impossible (now)
  2. Our system of opposing ideologies results in the highest possible degree of polarization (later)

Let’s get back to Rush…

He is pursuing quintessential capitalism. Such a system is marked in his words by opportunity and rewards and complete freedom. In this system the winners win and losers lose. The rich become richer and to poor become poorer. This pursuit of the quintessential, though, removes opportunity from the market. The poor no longer have the opportunities available to them – there is no leveled playing field – instead the poor are attempting to run up an ever-increasing slope. It is as though the richest are aboard the sinking Titanic, clinging to the stern as the ship begins it’s vertical nose dive beneath the waves. The poor, left on deck have nothing to hold on to as angle increases and fall into the freezing water.

The opportunity that is preached gets swallowed up by the system that intended to provide it.

Similarly, of course, quintessential “liberalism” would suggest that everybody be rewarded for the efforts of some subset of the population, among other things. This too is inappropriate as it acts as a disincentive to pursue anything. Why should I bust my hump if it will get equally doled out to the masses?

My point is simply this: that the march towards either of the end-points of this scale is not ideal.

But it seems as though we as a people feel that that’s exactly what we should be doing: marching as far away from those with whom we disagree. More about this polarizing effect in a coming post. We seem to think that in order to best make our point, we have to be as aligned with one or the other.

The practical effect of this is easy to see – even when it makes sense to regulate the insurance agency we can’t come to an agreement because the quintessential right to which are aspiring says “Absolutely not – free market rules!!!” while the quintessential left says “ONLY if it’s public and not an option.” To those in the middle, looking to the left and the right for support see only others’ backs as they march away from the middle ground to their ideological forts of isolation and contempt.

And this is ideal?