Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blethen the Rapacious Capitalist

The publisher of The Seattle Times, Frank Blethen, included one of his own essays in the Dec. 8 edition.

It appears to reveal that Blethen is one of the "rapacious capitalists" Thomas Jefferson decried (at least, according to Blethen -- I haven't yet found the source of Blethen's Jefferson quote).

Here's the beginning of Blethen's essay:

Guest columnist
America's democracy at risk
By Frank A. Blethen
Special to The Times

Almost all democracies the world has seen have died within 300 years of their founding.

Most implode from within.

At 230-some years, America has moved dangerously close to the fail-safe line for our survival.

We are in the later stages of one of the most important battles that will determine whether we survive.

It is the battle that pits democracy against the powerful. The powerful, who seek to co-opt our free press, control the news, and control the access to news, journalism and information.

It is a battle our country has fought before, but never with today's consequences.

It is a battle Thomas Jefferson clearly understood when he wrote that he "foresaw the days American democracy would have to fight the rapacious capitalists."

And, here's an "online book review" (admittedly a less than certain source of information) which indicates that Jefferson's words have been misconstrued by Blethen and his probable source:

He [Richard K. Matthews] constantly makes use of quotes which purport to demonstrate Jefferson's opposition to capitalism, which all the while only express his [Jefferson's] repugnance to wealth acquired through the machinery of the state, and not through the market.

I suspect that Blethen's source is the book discussed in the review -- published in 1986, written by Richard K. Matthews, and titled "The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson."

Maybe some day I will come across a copy, so I can look in the third chapter to see if Blethen's "rapacious capitalists" quote is there.

If my guess is correct, Blethen is one of those capitalists Jefferson spoke of -- one who wants to use government to acquire (or keep) his wealth, rather than simply compete in the market. As Blethen put it in his essay:

• We need new legislation, controlling and limiting in some fashion the ownership of newspapers.

Blethen's family has owned The Seattle Times for more than a century, and he wants Uncle Sam to protect his family's ownership of the newspaper from market forces.

Doesn't that make him a rapacious capitalist who tries to use government power to increase his own capitalist wealth, power and influence?


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