I won 19 Emmy Awards by reporting a myth: that business constantly rips us off—that capitalism is mostly cruel and unfair.
I know that's a myth now. So I was glad to see the publication of The 5 Big Lies About American Business by Michael Medved.
I invite him on tonight's Fox Business Network show to talk about that.
"You can only make a profit in this country by giving people a product or a service that they want," he says. "It's the golden rule in action."
Medved used to write about the movies, so he's familiar with the businessman as villain. I'll play a clip from the movie Syriana, in which an oil tycoon makes this ridiculous speech:
"Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the street."
"What's interesting," Medved commented, "is that in the old days, Hollywood would have businesspeople who were very positive: George Bailey, the Jimmy Stewart character, is a banker in It's a Wonderful Life."
No longer. Today's movie capitalists are criminals or playboys. Apparently, Hollywood writers think it's plausible that CEOs have lots of time to sip cocktails and chase women.
"In school, we all studied a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class, which ... indicted the leisure class and these people who were out there exploiting other people and really had nothing to do except sit on their yachts and go to their swimming pools and their vacations."
In real life, that's nonsense.
"The higher up on the income scale you go, the less leisure time you have. You make money in this country by working hard."
Medved's second myth is that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. This is the old zero-sum fallacy, which ignores that when two people engage in free exchange, both gain—or they wouldn't have traded. It's what I call the double thank-you phenomenon. I understand why politicians and lawyers believe it: It's true in their world. But it's not true in business.
"If you believe that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, then you believe that creating wealth causes poverty, and you're an idiot," said Medved. "One of the things that I hate is this term 'obscene profits.' There are no obscene profits ... . (The current economic downturn shows) "that when the rich get poorer ... everybody gets poorer."
Myth No. 3: Government is more fair and reliable than business.
"Remember the last time you went into Starbucks, and then remember the last time you went into the DMV to get your license," Medved said. "Where did you get better treated? And it's not because the barista is some kind of idealist or humanitarian. She wants a tip. She wants you to come back to the Starbucks ... ."