The Only Trouble With Capitalism

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Dr. Malcolm Cross

“The only trouble with capitalism,” said Herbert Hoover, “is capitalists; they’re too damned greedy.”

Hoover’s insight today helps explain the disgust and revulsion political leaders, from Ted Cruz to AOC, are expressing over the groveling of the National Basketball Association before the government of China, one of the most oppressive, autocratic, and authoritarian regimes on earth.  The NBA says it respects China’s culture and history; its critics on both the right and the left say the NBA respects nothing but the bottom line, thereby carrying devotion to profit for its own sake to sickening extremes.

What touched off the controversy was a tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets expressing sympathy for demonstrators in Hong Kong protesting China’s growing control over their political system.  The Chinese consulate in Houston protested, and while the tweet was quickly deleted, the Chinese government and Chinese broadcasters and other companies in partnership with the NBA and its teams began to sever their business ties, thereby threatening NBA profits.  As of this writing, even the most groveling protests and apologies and pledges of love for China from the NBA jellyfish have failed to appease this most ruthless of authoritarian regimes.

Perhaps the NBA’s kowtowing to China would not have seemed so bad had its leadership taken the attitude that it was simply a business organization dedicated to promoting basketball, and that criticizing other political systems was outside the scope of its mission.  But the NBA has wanted to portray itself as more “woke” than Major League Baseball or the NFL.  It’s boasted that it’s dedicated to the protection of its members’ right to free expression, and to the promotion of social justice.  To that end, when the President of Turkey complained that a basketball player compared him to Hitler, the NBA stood by its man.  When North Carolina passed a bill requiring people to use bathrooms consistent with their genders at birth, the NBA threatened boycotts of the state.  Now, thanks to the NBA, males can call themselves females, and use the bathrooms of their choice.  You can’t get more “woke” than that.

But what about China?  But what about its oppression of Tibet?  What of its concentration camps for Muslims and its routine oppression of Christians and the Falun Gong?  What of the routine suppression of all the civil liberties which we Americans take for granted?  If the NBA has its way, Turkey and North Carolina will be fair game for retribution from the “woke,” but not China.  The reason for the NBA’s double standard is obvious:  Neither Turkey nor North Carolina offers as much potential profit as does China.   

In fairness to the NBA, it should be noted that it is by no means the only business prostituting democratic values to appease China.  A long list of other corporations, both foreign and domestic, which have sought to appease China by altering their product lines, or firing their employees for criticizing China, or practicing various forms of self-censorship, can be found here:  https://github.com/caffeine-overload/bandinchina. Their leaders have been aptly described as “spineless weaklings [who] have shamed their country,” as discussed by the Washington Post at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/11/maybe-woke-nbas-hypocrisy-china-has-awakened-us-consumers-about-their-own/.   And perhaps some of the blame rests with those of us who likewise patronize these businesses without protesting some of their policies.  I’ll admit to wearing some Nike apparel, and patronizing some of the hotels and airlines listed on the websites in my own travels around the world.

So how do we know when capitalists become “too damned greedy?”  There may be no clearly defined line separating legitimate profit-seeking from excessive greed.  But when people and corporations, in the name of profit-seeking, do the bidding of a ruthless totalitarian regime seeking to stamp out all dissent, and when they make every employee and customer potentially complicit in their effort to protect that regime’s reputation and obscure its oppressive cruelty, then they have gone too far over the line, wherever it may be.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

1 Comment

  1. Sports huh? Well the NBA goes to China to increase sales which produce more profits with increased sales they hope through team products and increase of basketball fan-base. I wonder amount of fuel that was emitted in flying to China for those games.

    But capitalism is up and running wild this morning with failing fossil fuels assaulting our and future generations tomorrows.

    Us sports nuts have had a good run with coaches enjoying great incomes and even sales. We have had a good run. But with an authoritarian regime hoping to gain full power in American sports is a stupid topic and let them play down and out. Sports needs to take a 10 year moratorium and cease its uncontrolled emissions it brings. Sandlot sports will serve American’s just fine.

    More importantly we need scientist and engineers to come to the spotlight and give us plans to regain sanity in our lifestyles and uncontrolled assault on nature. I don’t how many miles deep we are seeking out goal but we are to deep. We need Christians with their great connectivity to address stewardship of the planet more than an assault on Planned Parenthood.

    Our greatest debt are to the children and many of them live in fear of mankind destroying natures ability to support humanity. Try eating your gold and drinking your oil and see how that works how far you.

    We will fare fine with sports on the sidelines with what we can pull off within our city limits. One of Stephenville High School and Tarleton’s greatest athletes ever was a huge motivating force in beginning of the EPA that President Richard Nixon’s administration did start. The sports performer was Hugh Wolfe who even began trying to have water brought to Texas from the Mississippi River in the mid 1950’s.

    Capitalism is a bully and we can find much better ways to help others survive. We used socialism to build all our nuclear plants and democratic socialism to build our cities and towns in the form of water bills. In fact socialism just saved General Motors, AIG, Banks and brokerage houses in the George W. Bush administration in 2007. But building children to become billionaires is a devilish way to defeat a planets ability to continue carrying humans as riders.

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