PBS's Tavis Smiley in Time: 'Capitalism Is Like a Child'

Time magazine is not wild about capitalism. In a "business roundtable" on the "future of capitalism," Time assembled several liberals to decry the idea: PBS host Tavis Smiley, blog founder Arianna Huffington, and soul singer John Legend all found the need for capitalism to have a large dose of government intervention.

Smiley was frankest: "I don't think that left to its own devices, capitalism moves along smoothly and everyone gets treated fairly in the process. Capitalism is like a child: if you want the child to grow up free and productive, somebody’s got to look over the shoulder of that child."

Time described its roundtable as a symposium on economic evolution: "With our economic world changing so rapidly, many writers and thinkers are looking at the roots of capitalism and how it must evolve. In the first of our series of Time 100 roundtables, we gathered a stellar cast of honorees to ponder the road ahead." None of them came to assert that economic liberty was a great value.

Arianna Huffington offered the familiar Greed Isn't Good attack: 

It was clear among many of the founders of capitalism that there had to be a moral foundation. What happened is that capitalism was reduced to Ayn Rand-ian selfishness. We need to recapture the principle that you do well, but in the process of doing well, you give back.

Huffington also attacked the idea of a bailout: "What is fascinating is the agreement among serious economists that we're doing the wrong thing by trying to protect the Wall Street oligarchy. What's amazing is that we're not having enough of a populist outrage about that."

David Sheff, author of an "addiction memoir," not only unsurprisingly came out for "decriminalizing marijuana," he lauded the chance we have "to break apart our health-care system in ways it needs to be broken apart. Here's an opportunity to rethink the whole thing."

The closest thing to a defender of capitalism was Stephan Schuster, a molecular biologist, who simply failed to denounce it. He offered this pedestrian thought: "The system as a whole is still working. But for capitalism to have a future, it needs to survive. What are the regulatory mechanisms that will ensure that in 100 years – in 500 years – there is still a system"?

Singer John Legend also loaded up a cliche: 

I believe there is a role for the government to play in evening the playing field and investing in development. We need to invest in the future and invest in the global good. Capitalism is not just a free-for-all, every man for himself.

Is this really the best Time can do, the best "stellar cast" of "writers and thinkers" that the magazine can assemble? It's certainly not a balanced cast in any political way.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis