I recently received a copy of Joe and Blake Kernen’s book, Your Teacher Said WHAT?!: Trying to Raise a Fifth Grade Capitalist in Obama’s America. I’m about halfway through it. Joe Kernen is an anchor of MSNBC’s morning show Squawk Box. Blake is his young daughter – ten years old when this book was started. The impetus for it is explaned in the preface. An excerpt:
…a couple of years ago, I found the first truly worthwhile reason to rant about the economy. It wasn’t unfunded mandates, Medicare insolvency, CEO compensation, or the federal deficit.
It was one nine-year-old girl. And that same girl – by the time you read this she’ll be eleven, going on twenty – is the reason for this book.
She’s not what I rant about, of course. From the day Blake Alexandra Kernen was born, the day after Christmas in 1999, she’s done hardly anything worth complaining about.
By the time Blakes’s brother, Scott Joseph, showed up two years later, I was an old hand at worrying. In fact, by then I had found an entirely new and durable thing to worry about. Like any father, I worried about whether I would measure up – whether I would succeed in doing for Blake and Scott what my parents had done for me: giving them the values that reflected what their mother and I cherished most. We wanted our kids to believe in God, love their country, and respect the principles of hard work and fairness. We wanted them to value honesty, courage, and kindness, to be polite and respectful.
Simple, right? After all, these principles are widely shared in twenty-first-century America. Our church teaches us that we are obliged to care for people who can’t care for themselves; our schools reward hard work and demand respect. Kids learn good sportsmanship from playing tennis and soccer. The heroes of their favorite movies and television programs are generally pretty brave (though occasionally a little goofy; SpongeBob, anyone?).
With one exception. Penelope and I are capitalists – and not just because we’ve done pretty well out of the capitalist system. We believe that free-market capitalism is not only the most powerful engine for human prosperity ever but also history’s strongest force for freedom and human advancement. We beleive – no, we know – that economic freedom is as important as religioius freedom or freedom of speech. We believe that productive work, freely exchanged, is a virtue, just like charity freely given.
Please don’t misunderstand this. We’re not teaching Blake and Scott that their purpose in life is to get as rich as possible; it’s to make sure that everyone is as free as possible. For us, the only difference between defending economic freedom and defending religious freedom is that while the mainstream culture offers no real opposition to the many ways in which Americans worship, there is a powerful current of antagonism toward the way they do business.
Some of the attacks on free-market capitalism are overt: the idea, for example, that capitalism is unavoidably brutal, or at least immoral. Some are of the moren-in-sorrow-than-anger category, such as the notion that we should increase the benefits of the free market by taxing and regulating it into submission. Many are specific to the issues of the moment, like the idea that the best solution to the unsustainable growth of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare is to make them grow even faster (you can’t make up some of this stuff).
And that is something worth ranting about: not anything my kids do, but what is being done to them.
A little later:
…if you’re anything like me, I can guarantee that your jaw will drop the same way mind did once I started paying attention to the hostility to free-market capitalism that infects almost every movie and television show your kids are watching.
And later still:
One thing I learned is that the most powerful way in which nine- or ten-year-olds resemble grown-up Progressives is in their love of regulating things. There’s just no way Blake can see something that’s not good for you – like smoking cigarettes, or eating too much fast food – without wanting a law to ban it.
And from chapter 1:
“My teacher says the recession is the banks’ fault.”
“That’s way too simple, Blake. For something as big as this recession, there’s a lot of blame to go around.”
“And my teacher says it’s ’cause we care too much about buying stuff, and it might not be so bad if we stopped.”
“Your teacher said . . . what?“
So far, this is an excellent book for pretty much anybody, not just capitalist parents of young children – but especially for them. And especially if they’re the victims of our now anti-capitalist culture. But the previous excerpts aren’t the Quote-of-the-Day. This is, from Chapter 4, October 2009: Who made my shoelaces?:
Now, I know that Progressives aren’t all, or maybe even mostly, socialists, but that’s a little like saying that they only have a chronic head cold instead of tuberculosis. When it comes to the economy, Progressives have a reflexive distrust of the market, and for the same reason that Scott does: They believe that it’s just as sensible to trust an economic system designed and operated by no one as it is to be a passenger in a car without a driver. Progressives, who are reliably hostile to the idea of intelligent design in human evolution, are positively ecstatic about it in economic planning.
Of course, intelligent design in biology at least argues that the designer is divine and lives in heaven; in Progressive economics, it just assumes that the designer has a PhD and lives in Washington, D.C.