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Reflections


Devils and Anti-Capitalists

by Ralph R. Reiland,
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University
 

People believe some funny stuff -- some of it religious, some of it about economics.

A long-running idea in the Catholic Church, for instance, says the devil can be scared off by the sight of the cross or a medal of St. Benedict.
American historian Henry Osburn Taylor (1856-1941) wrote of the dying moments of Odilo, an abbot in a monastery, in his book The Medieval Mind: A History of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages.

Odilo's final words are directed to the devil: "I warn thee, enemy of the human race, turn from me thy plots and hidden wiles, for by me is the Cross of the Lord, which I always adore: the Cross my refuge, my way and virtue; the Cross: unconquerable banner, the invincible weapon. The Cross repels every evil and puts darkness to flight. Through the divine Cross, I approach my journey; the Cross is my life — death to thee, enemy."

About the power of medals and crosses, who knows? After lunch in the city one afternoon, an elderly nun in a storefront gave me a special medal as we talked about a loved one in my family who was diagnosed with an especially aggressive type of cancer that had low survival rates. Beating the odds, the malignancy was defeated. It's hard to say if it was the old faith, the new medical advances, the proficiency of the surgeon, or some combination of all three, that saved the day.

Moving to economics, something more earthly and less cryptic, I always thought it was strange how liberals and other assorted leftists would frequently turn red in the face and stammer or run when confronted with the fact that Reaganomics succeeded in producing lower unemployment, lower inflation, and higher wage growth across all income quintiles.
Just as the sight of the cross is said to cause the devil to panic and run, just the words "trickle-down" seem to have the same effect on liberals.

Wrote C. M. Phillips in his American Thinker article "Hillary Clinton: Trickle-down Ignorance," May 2014: "Hillary Rodham Clinton, future president of the U.S., was deviously rubbing her hands together like one of the Witches of Eastwick when she delivered this line: 'Don't let anybody — don't let anybody — tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried; that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.' "

I always thought the positive trickle-down part of capitalism, investing, and entrepreneurship was obvious. Henry Ford and Bill Gates invested their time, talent and wealth in new products and pioneering processes and there was a clear societal benefit of more jobs, better products, increased productivity, heightened innovation, economic growth and higher revenues for the public sector.

Similarly, the current cost in the U.S. to develop and win marketing approval for a new drug is approximately $2.6 billion, according to a 2014 report by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. The billions invested produce the self-evident and widespread trickle-down value of healthier lives and longer life expectancies.

The Moscow Times, in contrast, reported last August that Russia's lag behind the rest of the world over the past two decades in terms of longevity has had the effect of "pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position -- between Iraq and North Korea."

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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Ralph R. Reiland


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