Hollywood In Defense Of Free Enterprise?

Ray Keating
Chief Economist, Small Business Survival Committee
©2000 All Rights Reserved

The TV shows and movies cranked out by Hollywood rarely have anything nice to say about free enterprise and the business world. Indeed, the business owner often gets portrayed as a ruthless killer, an unfeeling, greedy bastard, or a dim bulb in most sitcoms, dramas and films.

This, of course, is somewhat ironic considering how much money the entertainment industry sucks in year after year as part of our glorious capitalist system. But liberal Hollywood guilt apparently must have a creative outlet. Therefore, free enterprise does not fare well on either the small screen or the big screen, and many celebrities insist upon advancing the cause of big government. In Tinsel Town, the appearance of liberal compassion or adopting the latest lefty cause are crucial.

However, as Ronald Reagan made clear, not everyone emerging from Hollywood is a mindless dupe for ever-encroaching statism. Most prominently, Charlton Heston has taken up the role of spokesman for the National Rifle Association and masterful defender of the freedoms ensured by our Constitution.

Some other stars have even come to the defense of free enterprise.

For example, in early 1998, comedian Drew Carey--star of "The Drew Carey Show" and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"-took part in a protest against California's smoking ban in bars. Sitting in Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood, Carey declared: "It should be up to each bar owner and patron to decide if they want to smoke or not." His co-stars Ryan Stiles and Nan Martin accompanied him at this "smoke-in".

Carey possesses a strong libertarian streak. When asked in a November 1997 Reason magazine interview about his basic attitude toward government, Carey replied: "The less the better. As far as your personal goals are and what you actually want to do with your life, it should never have to do with the government. You should never depend on the government for your retirement, your financial security, for anything. If you do, you're screwed."

Earlier this month, Art Linkletter, former host of TV shows like "People Are Funny" and "House Party," journeyed to Capitol Hill. He spoke on behalf of the United States Seniors Association, calling for the elimination of federal death taxes.

Linkletter told the truth about this killer of family businesses, declaring: "It's immoral." He went on to ask: "Why should people who've spent their lives trying to assemble something have it taken away when they pay taxes on it all the way through?"

Meanwhile, earlier this week, it was Clint Eastwood's turn. On May 9, The Wall Street Journal reported that, in reaction to a lawsuit charging that his Mission Beach Hotel in Carmel, California, is not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Eastwood is taking on the trial lawyers. Eastwood is pushing a simple and sensible reform to the ADA that would give businesses 90 days to comply with access standards. In this way, according to the Journal, businesses would be able to avoid paying mounting legal fees starting when a lawsuit is filed.

Celebrities fighting government over-regulation and taxes, what a concept. Hey, maybe I can turn this into a sitcom, or better yet, an hour-long weekly drama. How about a dashing economist being joined in each episode by a big star to fight off the ills of intrusive, costly government? It could be called "Diagnosis Small Business Survival."

Excuse me, I have to find an agent. But don't worry, if I make it big in Hollywood, I will suffer no pangs of liberal guilt.

Raymond J. Keating is Chief Economist of the Small Business Survival Committee, and co-author of the new book, U.S. by the Numbers: Figuring What's Left, Right, and Wrong With America State by State. Mr. Keating also co-authored D.C. By the Numbers: A State of Failure, and has written more than 300 policy studies, book reviews, and articles published in such periodicals as The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, The Journal of Commerce, The Washington Times, Newsday, New York Post, Insight, The Freeman, Human Events, and many more. He regularly testifies before the Congress, and is an experienced and sought-after spokesman on a wide range of political and economic issues. He is currently at work on his second book tentatively titled New York By the Numbers: State and City in Perpetual Crisis.

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