In his annual letter to shareholders, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon delivered a fiery rebuke of socialism.
“When governments control companies, economic assets (companies, lenders and so on) over time are used to further political interests – leading to inefficient companies and markets, enormous favoritism and corruption,” Dimon wrote in the letter.
“Socialism inevitably produces stagnation, corruption and often worse – such as authoritarian government officials who often have an increasing ability to interfere with both the economy and individual lives – which they frequently do to maintain power. This would be as much a disaster for our country as it has been in the other places it’s been tried,” he added.
Successful nations are driven by the success of large and small businesses, according to Dimon. He contends in his letter that a country without any large, successful companies is an “unsuccessful country” that is likely to have limited opportunities for its people.
“And no country would be better off without its large, successful companies in addition to its midsized and small companies,” Dimon wrote. “Private enterprise is the true engine of growth in any country.”
While he acknowledges there are flaws in the current capitalism model, Dimon writes that free enterprise is “inexorably linked” with freedom.
“I am not an advocate for unregulated, unvarnished, free-for-all capitalism. (Few people I know are.) But we shouldn’t forget that true freedom and free enterprise (capitalism) are, at some point, inexorably linked,” Dimon wrote.
Dimon would find a cohort in Little Rock’s Warren Stephens. Stephens, too, has made a mission of defending capitalism. That’s why, in 2017, he launched a video series celebrating capitalism through the stories of hardworking Americans whose independent spirits and hard work exemplify the economic system, as detailed in the February cover story of Arkansas Money & Politics.
What prompted Stephens’ series? “Bernie Sanders,” says Stephens. “He carried 22 states in the Democratic primaries as an avowed socialist, appealing mainly to young people. They just don’t understand.”
Like Dimon, Stephens has seen the impact socialism has on countries. He echoed Dimon’s statements about countries been unsuccessful without robust private enterprise.
Stephens cites the stark differences he saw between East and West Berlin during a visit in the 1980s. “People were risking their lives and getting killed to try to get out of East Berlin into West Berlin,” he says. “Just the difference between West Berlin and East Berlin was just startling. You couldn’t really make an argument as to which one was better for the citizens; it’s not even close.”
Philanthropy, too, he says, wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for successful capitalists.
“Every great philanthropist in this country either was themselves or an heir to a great capitalist. Every one,” says Stephens. “I think people lose sight of that. In order to help your community, you’ve got to have a successful business.
“Look at what the Waltons are doing. The Rockefellers, in Arkansas,” he adds. “It’s a great system. It certainly is not perfect, and there are certainly some things that people think aren’t fair – great word today. People think things aren’t fair. Well, life’s not fair. But you do have a great shot at achieving your goals and objectives in this system, and nobody’s telling you that you can’t even try.”