In awe of prosperity

Goldberg extols the virtues of liberal democratic capitalism

Jonah Goldberg is puzzled when he hears someone ask, “Why is there poverty?”

“We know why there’s poverty,” he said. “Poverty is the factory preset in the human condition. The only really important question is, “Why is there wealth?”

Goldberg, a senior editor and columnist at National Review, entertained more than 400 people at Center of the American Experiment’s annual Fall Briefing.

Goldberg is also a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Fox News. The reason for our current prosperity, he said, is that “we stumbled onto this amazing thing called “liberal democratic capitalism.” Inspired by the Protestant work ethic, people became convinced that if they lived a certain way it was more likely that they were among the select that would go to heaven. “It turns out that when you behave that way you get richer,” he said.

The spirit of that attitude is “the idea that the individual is sovereign, that our rights come from God, not from government, that we are citizens, not subjects, that government belongs to us, we don’t belong to it, that the fruit of our labors belong to us, that we form government to do certain specific and limited things that protect our liberties.”

Pro Wrestling and Frankfurt School Marxism

Never far from his signature wit, Goldberg took his Fall Briefing audience on a sweeping philosophical review of contemporary politics, one that could integrate allusions to Hannah Arendt next to admiration for “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Piper, a professional wrestler once starred in They Live, a kitschy 1988 sci-fi thriller in which Piper discovers a pair of sunglasses that enables him to see that the world is being run by a secret cabal of aliens who are wearing human masks.

From this, Goldberg derives two observations:

First, “The best single line in They Live is when Roddy Piper comes into a room and says, ‘I’ve come here today to do two things, chew gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of gum.’”

Second, that the film represents “the best distillation of Frankfurt School Marxism ever in popular culture.” The Frankfurt School, he says, argues that “capitalism is seeded with these structurally oppressive capitalistic constructions to keep people oppressed.”