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A Free Education

August 23, 2018 (290 words)

Many of us admire Ken Langone for his shrewd business acumen and his generous philanthropic efforts. And we agree that his recent $100 million contribution to help fund “A Free Tuition Education” ( Wall Street Journal op-ed, Aug 21) is “pretty cool.”

Even cooler, though, would be if successful entrepreneurs of Mr. Langone’s stature were able to disrupt the business model and creatively innovate so that some of this prodigious wealth would trickle down to the rank-and-file workers who toil in these massively scaled-up retail operations.

That Home Depot, Mr. Langone’s special brainchild and claim to fame, employs some 400,000 people is quite an accomplishment. But does the WSJ really believe all those low-paying jobs “provide a livelihood”?

Let us set aside such facile bromides as “this is how a free society creates wealth and then redistributes it.” Using the philanthropy of the select few to justify the often cut-throat and inconsiderate aspects of our dynamic economic engine is not quite cricket.

And then there’s the catchy WSJ formulation: “Socialism creates little wealth and redistributes poverty.” Honestly, folks, let’s all agree no thinking person can possibly favor socialism, and move the discussion on from there.

The challenge we face is how to make capitalism work better for those who are not clever or advantaged. Even non-vested employees and their families should be able to experience a dignified existence, and have a reasonable chance at full participation in the social realm of our great society.

This means more than affordable access to a dazzling array of cheap consumer goods, which in the end proves to be a very thin gruel indeed.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
August 23, 2018

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