With six children and 16 grandkids, our governor is a consummate Utah Mormon. Gov. Gary Herbert's regular pep talks on the American flag, motherhood, education and apple pie have made him a popular leader, particularly among those of the same faith. He is currently our country's longest sitting governor, and while his recent complicity in subverting the will of Utahns on the medical cannabis initiative and Medicaid expansion bill has alienated some, it certainly appears that his mantra largely resonates with the people he serves.
Herbert seems happy where he is, and his glaring absence of personal vices forecloses any possibility that he can ever run for a higher office. Without a plethora of allegations of sexual misconduct, corrupt business practices and a trash-mouth from which a steady stream of lies emanates, he won't—for damned sure—ever qualify to be president. (He has never grasped how scandals could really improve his public support.)
As one of the keynote speakers at the recent 13th annual Utah Economic Summit, held at The Grand America hotel, Herbert took aim at what he sees as a growing problem of the younger generation.
Noting that Bernie Sanders, whose social vision successfully drew more primary votes (2 million) from the 19-29 age group than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined (1.6 million), Herbert launched into a crusade pointing out what he sees as a naive ignorance on the part of the young. "Part of this fascination could be, I think, a misunderstanding of what capitalism truly is. When I think of capitalism, I think of the opportunity to dream big ... then having the opportunity to go out and work and realize that dream." But Herbert is the one who misunderstands.
While Herbert's words brought the usual cheerleader-style pep-rally response from participants, some saw his patriotic support of capitalism in a different light. Indeed, the rah-rah-rah of our (horse-with-the-bit-in-its-mouth) government fails to address our system's failings—especially the growing gulf between the richest and everybody else. There's a reason why the young are considering alternative political philosophies. They are afraid, and they should be. Herbert, perennially wearing rose-colored glasses, doesn't get that there's a problem.
The past few years have posed a daunting reality on the horizon: In a nation where 2% of the citizens have the net worth of all the rest combined, the economic forecast isn't that good. While the town criers shout out the illusion of a booming national economy and a stunningly low jobless rate, Herbert makes the mistake of only seeing the little picture—lives filled with what appears to be fortuitous bounties.
"We need to have a better and more accurate understanding of free market capitalism, I believe, because we seem to have a growing fascination—especially among the younger generation—of a more command-and-control form of government, particularly socialism," Herbert said.
Herbert went on to tout the success of the free market as measured by the gains of Americans in the last century or so in metrics like health, longevity, infant mortality, earnings, homeownership and recreational time. He also noted the failed attempts at socialist experiments, highlighting food production systems as an example of why that approach doesn't work. Actual statistics fail to support his claims: Our infant mortality is up; health care is an ongoing nightmare; Americans don't live longer than everybody else; the net worth of workers has declined; and affordable home ownership is a continual, growing problem. Well, Gov. Herbert, do you still want to claim that capitalism is a whopping success?
There's a reason why Brigham Young instituted the United Order in a number of Utah communities. It addressed both the poverty of the many and the wealth of the few. Not surprisingly, that socialist-communist experiment was a dismal failure, and its death knell was simply the natural greed of people—interestingly, the same flaw that is endangering the continuing existence of our capitalist system today. From a historical perspective, virtually all capitalist societies eventually fail because of the selfishness of the individual.
Herbert is not so different from the rest of us; the word "socialist" is uncomfortable to most Americans. But there needs to be change—not necessarily to socialism, but to a government that actually operates for the good of all Americans. Someone made the observation that any political system which helps everyone is labeled "socialism." As Sanders' ideas continue to gain traction among the young, we must keep in mind the reality of capitalism's long-term failure—its impoverishment of the majority, its enrichment of the rich, and its cultivation of government-sanctioned mega-corporations that now control our lives.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org