People ask me all of the time, “Ben, now that you’re not doing a quiz show, what do you do?” The answer is that for my fun and livelihood, I travel the country from end to end and up and down talking with business people about the economy. And it’s a fascinating, eye-opening journey.
In a word, it reminds me of the immortal Walt Whitman poem, “I Hear America Singing.” I hear and I see America, and the free market capitalist system working. And working beautifully.
Remember those evil oil companies who were using their muscle to oppress the American family by keeping oil and gas prices high? Well, despite being fought tooth and nail by the government and the environmentalists, the oil companies discovered a way to get immense amounts of oil and gas out of shale.
The result, as every American now knows, is a giant drop in energy prices that translates into a bonanza for almost all American families. The oil companies did that, not the Energy Department. The oil companies might now regret that they did it since oil has fallen so much… but in the end, the consumer made out great as the free market would have predicted.
Remember those evil Wall Street types who were out to rip us off at every turn while feathering their own nests? There definitely were some of them. But on the other hand, I speak to a lot of venture capital and private equity types. Their work is, often, to invest in new medical technologies to fight pain, defeat disease, and prolong life. They have almost unbelievable nanotechnologies that put tiny devices in our blood to detect heart problems. They have devices to help us old people as our kidneys falter. They keep us from unbearable pain without making us drug addicts.
They invest and if the process works, they make money, and plenty of it. If it doesn’t, they lose money. Much of the money they make goes into teachers’ pension funds, fire fighters’ pension funds, and college endowments. The system allows the best and brightest we have among our young to find the best technologies for improving and prolonging life — with the most powerful possible motive — doing well by doing good.
I see plenty of other things, too… Insurance companies that allow cities with earthquake faults to keep operating. Financial consultants that allow old people to retire.
There is so much good going on inside the free market system I almost always leave these meetings with my head spinning. Yes, the system is far from perfect. Yes, we humans are far from perfect. But I see America working and it’s a beautiful sight. Look for the good and praise it, and I just did.