Lexington in the economist:
THE past couple of years have not been private enterprise’s finest hour. From the collapse of Lehman Brothers to the implosion of General Motors and Chrysler to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one great firm after another that had boasted of making society richer has turned into an expensive liability for taxpayers at best or, at worst, a menace to the general prosperity or the environment. You might expect this sequence of calamities to have made people sourer towards capitalism and friendlier to the state. But in America, at least, you would be wrong. Americans remain deeply wedded to the free-enterprise system.
Even after the collapse of Wall Street and all that has followed, an overwhelming majority of Americans say in opinion polls that they prefer capitalism to socialism. Gallup found in January that 61% had a positive view of capitalism and about the same percentage had a negative view of socialism. In March last year the Pew Research Centre asked Americans whether they were better off in a free-market economy “even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time”. Seventy percent answered in the affirmative. Most Americans also say their federal income taxes are too high. Even those who favour higher taxes on the rich think the top rate should be 20% or less.
If Americans will stand behind the free-enterprise system come what may, it makes sense for Barack Obama’s opponents to portray the president as a danger to it. “We are facing a ruthless secular-socialist machine that is alien to America’s history and traditions,” bellows Newt Gingrich, the hero of the Republican victory of 1994, as he flogs his latest book (“To Save America”). The Republicans are sure to do well in November’s mid-terms.