It is nothing new for politicians and the powerful to despise commerce and "traders." In Medieval society, and continuing in Europe right up into the 19th century, the ruling elite scorned careers that involved actual productive effort. If you were actually producing something, rather than indolently feeding yourself off the work of the masses, you were not a "gentleman."
It appears that this attitude is coming back in vogue, most notably from the presidential candidates of both parties. From David Boaz in the WSJ:
Sen. Obama told the students that "our individual
salvation depends on collective salvation." He disparaged students who
want to "take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after
the big house and the nice suits and all the other things that our
money culture says you should buy."
The people Mr. Obama is sneering at are the ones who
built America "“ the traders and entrepreneurs and manufacturers who
gave us railroads and airplanes, housing and appliances, steam engines,
electricity, telephones, computers and Starbucks. Ignored here is the
work most Americans do, the work that gives us food, clothing, shelter
and increasing comfort. It's an attitude you would expect from a
Or this year's Republican nominee. John McCain also
denounces "self-indulgence" and insists that Americans serve "a
national purpose that is greater than our individual interests." During
a Republican debate at the Reagan Library on May 3, 2007, Sen. McCain
derided Mitt Romney's leadership ability, saying, "I led . . . out of
patriotism, not for profit." Challenged on his statement, Mr. McCain
elaborated that Mr. Romney "managed companies, and he bought, and he
sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs. That's the nature of that
business." He could have been channeling Barack Obama.
Mr. Boaz mentions the hypocrisy of Obama having a million dollar house and being famous for his beautiful suits, and then telling graduates not to aspire for the same things. But a bigger hypocrisy, or perhaps contradiction, is the fact that the candidates must know that the world won't function if everyone were to take their advice. While bashing the productive, each relies on the productive to fund his plans. While urging everyone to be parasites, they must know that some must ignore their advice to become the productive hosts on which the parasites feed.
But hypocrisy is not the biggest issue. The real issue
is that Messrs. Obama and McCain are telling us Americans that our
normal lives are not good enough, that pursuing our own happiness is
"self-indulgence," that building a business is "chasing after our money
culture," that working to provide a better life for our families is a
They're wrong. Every human life counts. Your life
counts. You have a right to live it as you choose, to follow your
bliss. You have a right to seek satisfaction in accomplishment. And if
you chase after the almighty dollar, you just might find that you are
led, as if by an invisible hand, to do things that improve the lives of