When you pick up Jason Mattera’s eye-opening new book Crapitalism and Daniel Hannan’s masterful Inventing Freedom, you wouldn’t expect such different works to lead you to the same destination. But despite the former being about “Liberals who make millions swiping your tax dollars” and the latter being the story of “how the English-speaking peoples made the modern world,” each leaves the reader with a palpable combination of anger and inspiration at what the U.S. could be as compared to what it currently is.
Jason Mattera, best-selling author and “ambush journalist” (you’ve no doubt seen his recent attempted conversation with former IRS thug Lois Lerner), is one of the few conservative writers who consistently brings humor to his work and targets young adults with a message of “open your eyes while you still have a country to save.”
Crapitalism is a full-throated utterly vernacular defense of free-markets explained through maddening contrast with 27 Crapitalists — almost all Democrats — who use the power of government to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. The ways that these people, ranging from members of Congress to lobbyists to entrepreneurs, are able to fleece taxpayers vary widely in method but share a common stench.
Congresswoman Maxine “Money” Waters steered bailout money to a bank her husband invested in, procured an earmark for a college that then became a major donor to her campaign, and makes sure that her children are hired by business and politicians who want her support, earning millions of dollars for her Mafia-like family business. As Mattera puts it, “You’d think being affiliated with Waters would be some sort of political STD, with only distance, time, and a healthy dose of penicillin being able to make it all better.”
But Waters is a piker compared to the serious Crapitalists whose pilfering of the taxpayer ranges into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
Chuck Swoboda is CEO of Cree, Inc., which makes those extraordinarily expensive LED light bulbs that you see at Home Depot as our long-loved, inexpensive and non-toxic incandescent bulbs become near impossible to buy. It’s not an accident that the cheap bulbs are no longer on the shelves: A 2007 law that aims to phase out incandescent bulbs was not enough help for Swoboda, a big supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. “Obama threw Cree nearly $40 million in stimulus cash, and another $18 million through Department of Energy research investments and grants.”
Mattera’s summary of Cree’s business model captures an essential feature of Crapitalism: “A lot of business owners like the idea of putting their competition out of business. But they usually look to do it as a result of the overwhelming success of their business. Chuck and the other Crapitalists like him want to do it the other way around. Put the competitors out of business first, then open up shop. It’s a brilliant strategy. It’s just destroying our country, one overpriced and taxpayer-subsidized lightbulb at a time.”
Other Crapitalist “businessmen” include movie mogul Steven Spielberg, Minnesota Vikings owner Zigi Wilf, and GE CEO Jeffery Immelt, along with others of more or less renown.
One thing they have in common is large contributions to politicians. Even the cynical will be shocked to learn what the typical payback is for major Crapitalist donors to Barack Obama’s campaigns. These “investments” make Hillary Clinton’s futures trading look like getting 0.25 percent in a bank savings account.
In terms of harm to the nation, one of the biggest villains in Crapitalism is Sally Susman, the chief lobbyist for Pfizer Corporation. Susman’s father is “an investment banker who raised over half a million dollars for Obama’s 2008 campaign.” (Sense a trend there?) Susman had much to do with the pharmaceutical industry’s collaboration with Obama to shove Obamacare down America’s collective throat. Mattera describes it with his usual style: “It’s fitting that the company responsible for an erectile dysfunction treatment got in bed with the government to bone the American taxpayer by forcing us to buy overpriced health-care plans we don’t want or need.”
Two of the most galling Crapitalists are (coincidentally?) not American: George Soros and Carlos Slim. When it comes to people manipulating the political system for financial gain at citizens’ expense, “while many of the people profiled in this book would be metaphorical planets, George Soros would be the galaxy.” One of his many “achievements” involves using leftist think-tanks to push the Obama administration to restrict oil production in the United States while successfully using the Ex-Im Bank (a Crapitalist tool if ever there was one) to subsidize oil production in Brazil — where Soros (not coincidentally) has a massive investment in Petrobras. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is a black-belt Crapitalism ninja move.”
And the way Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim — in an ongoing battle with Bill Gates for the title of richest man in the world — fleeces American taxpayers and low-income Americans is so infuriating that this chapter of the book is by itself worth the cost of Crapitalism.
Mattera closes Crapitalism with an important call to action: “It’s time to bust up the collusion between big business and big government. It’s time that ideas succeed or fail based on their merits, not taxpayer largesse… What I’m saying is, it’s time to tell all the Crapitalists to get lost.”
Hallelujah, Brother Jason.
Daniel Hannan is a British Member of the European Parliament who first crossed many people’s radar with an incredible 2009 verbal takedown of then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Hannan, who “read” (British for “studied”) history at Oxford is an intellectual of the first order and, more importantly, a lover and defender of the United States and the liberty and individualism it stands for — but which are receding before our eyes.
Hannan’s new book Inventing Freedom is primarily a fascinating history of English politics, culture, and law going back as far as sixth century Germanic settlers whose rulers “traced their descent back through various early Anglo-Saxon kinds to the ancient English god, Dunor and Wotan.”
The story continues through British history, including Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the complex relationship between Scotland and England (of which we were recently reminded), the colonization of India, and how the fundamentally English approach to law and economics “helped create what we now call civil society: that space between the state and the individual that is filled by unofficial, voluntary, and philanthropic endeavor.”
For an American reader, there is great interest in Hannan’s description of the relationship between the American colonists and the British government, including influential “radical” politicians such as Edmund Burke. The debate even impacted the British military: “Generals Burgoyne and Clinton had no stomach for the kind of coercive force that would have been required to bring the rebels to heel. One gets the impression that these were men doing their duty rather than fighting to win.”
The closeness of the British and American people — who, again, would not have considered themselves separate from each other except geographically — leads Hannan to create his own term for the American Revolution: The Second Anglosphere Civil War.
The degree to which public sentiment about England’s relationship with the colonies was as divided there as it was on this side of the Atlantic adds to the interesting narrative of how pre-revolution Americans truly considered themselves British.
Indeed, Hannan makes the thought-provoking point that the word “revolution” can be thought of as turning a wheel in a full circle until it reaches its original starting point. Therefore, to the extent that George Washington and the American Founders would have thought of themselves as “revolutionary,” it was only in the truly conservative sense of fighting to restore their natural and common law rights as Englishmen.
Throughout Hannan’s meticulously researched and flowing text, you’ll find yourself feeling smarter (and occasionally referring to a dictionary) while also marveling at his artistic turns of phrase. But Hannan’s goal is neither of these as much as it is to make citizens (or those who hope someday to be) of the “Anglosphere” (including India) appreciate their cultural, legal and economic patrimony.
It is particularly important for Americans whom Hannan, like Ronald Reagan a half-century earlier, clearly views as the last best hope for man on Earth as Europe voluntarily sinks into a miasma of Brussels-dominated hyper-regulation and conformity. After all, “the American colonists had not just borrowed British political values and institutions; they had intensified them.”
One of the most important of these institutions is the common law, which Hannan describes, quoting from “an English Master of the Rolls named William Brett in a late-nineteenth-century ruling”:
The common law consists of a number of principles, which are recognized as having existed during the whole time and course of its existence. The Judges cannot make new law by new decisions; they do not assume a power of that kind: they only endeavor to declare what the common law is and has been…
It’s hard to read this without thinking of how far American judges have drifted from this fundamentally modest role and how disappointed Tocqueville would be today since he “believed that Americans had distilled their English heritage into a stronger and purer form. Nowhere else, he wrote, was the law so independent of the executive and legislative branches of the state, nor so accountable to the people expected to obey it.” It’s enough to make one wistful for America as it is supposed to be, and to instill fear and loathing of the last generation’s drift — and the last decade’s race — toward being more like France and less like… well, less like who Hannan (and I) believe we really are.
Inventing Freedom delves into the current cultural relativism that now makes it “awkward to celebrate the distinguishing features of Anglosphere culture. To do so is to risk the appearance of complacency or jingoism.” Sadly, “it is now quite normal, in English-speaking societies, to approach our history with guilt rather than pride.… As we lose sight of what the Anglosphere has achieved, we risk losing the institutions that have served to make it what it is.”
It is not just a comment about international affairs that “There’s no getting around it: Barack Obama doesn’t like the Anglosphere and, in particular, doesn’t like the British.” Hannan gives an insightful explanation — somewhat different from conventional wisdom — about the source of Obama’s “antipathy” and “Anglophobia.” Hannan’s thought-provoking analysis strongly supports his damning conclusion that:
In disdaining Britain, the president also disdains the things that Britain bequeathed to the Thirteen Colonies and, through them, the republic: the common law, a peculiar emphasis on personal freedom and property rights, distrust of government, a determination that laws should not be made, nor taxes levied, save by elected representatives.
The first eight chapters of Inventing Freedom lay an intellectual foundation for Dan Hannan’s powerful final chapter, titled with a 1644 quote from John Milton: “Consider what nation it is whereof ye are.”
When thinking about the strongly liberty- and individual-oriented “peculiarities of English law,” Hannan asks a painful question: “How could we not be disquieted by the readiness with which our generation has squandered its heritage?”
After stating that “the English-speaking states are (moving toward) uniformity, centralization, high taxation, and state control,” Hannan adds a note of hope: “There is nothing inevitable about this process. It is our choice, not our fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
What is the way out of this mess (other than making sure not to elect a Democrat as president of the United States in 2016)? Daniel Hannan exhorts us with the words of Joseph Warren (“the man who sent Paul Revere on his ride”): “You are to decide the question on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
On the surface, Jason Mattera’s Crapitalism — every bit as biting and entertaining as its title suggests — and Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom — which perfectly represents Hannan’s passion for freedom (and for the United States) combined with his double-major in history at Oxford — would seem to have little in common.
In fact, together they represent a single, singular and critically important story.
Hannan explains what our English cultural ancestors built, what was sacrificed to build it, and how “modern” theories and mindsets, no matter how misguided, threaten all that has made the Anglosphere generally and America specifically the most successful and ennobling creations of human political endeavor. (In this context, the term ancestors applies equally to immigrants to the United States as to descendants of the Mayflower voyagers as long as their intent is to be of, and not just in, our republic.)
Mattera picks up where Hannan leaves off by giving us specific examples of how forgetting or ignoring fundamental precepts of our historic approach to government and law leads to big government working hand-in-stinking-glove with Crapitalist businessman to “swipe your tax dollars.”
When government assumes powers it was never intended — and becomes populated with politicians and bureaucrats who have an incentive to use those powers to benefit their own positions — only bad things can happen, at least to those of us who don’t or can’t play the buy-your-favorite politician game.
Perhaps the best call to action is a combination from both of these wonderful books. The first two sentences from Hannan, the latter two from Mattera, their differing styles obvious: “We remain an inventive, quizzical, enterprising people. All we need to do is hold fast to the model that made us that way. The entire system needs cleansing. So get to work.”