In June, I joined a group of Oxford Club Members on our Wealth, Wine & Wander tour of Italy, where we visited Milan, Verona, Lake Como, Venice and many lovely vineyards in the Italian countryside.
Along the way, we learned a lot about that country’s past… and present.
“You’ve taught us a lot,” I told our guide over lunch one day, “about the incredible achievements of Roman civilization, about how Latin became the West’s foundational language, about this country’s incredible Renaissance writers, painters, sculptors, poets and composers, and about your magnificent and beautiful culture.”
She nodded her head and thanked me.
“But let me ask… are there Italians who insist that these things don’t really represent your country? That what truly defines Italy is that the Roman empire subdued and enslaved other peoples, that your nation was the birthplace of fascism under Mussolini, and that you were the ally of Hitler in World War II?”
She cocked her head in disbelief.
“Of course not,” she said. “We know those things. But why would anyone argue that these things define Italy?”
“Good answer,” I said. “Now let me tell you about what’s happening in the United States.”
I explained how “woke” academics and journalists in the U.S. labor around the clock to deliver a distorted picture of the nation.
Their relentless drumbeat of negativity has convinced millions around the country – and the world – that the U.S. is a shameful and fatally flawed nation.
Even our greatest moment – the national founding – is under attack. Statues of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln have been pulled down.
In many quarters, these men are no longer viewed as heroic figures but merely white supremacists with retrograde views.
It’s true, of course, that men – and women – held beliefs 150 or 200 years ago that are unthinkable today.
The enslavement of Black people, the treatment of Native Americans and the subjugation of women are all shameful parts of our national history.
But conquest and domination have existed in all times and places throughout human history.
Take slavery, for example.
The Sumerians had slaves. The Egyptians had slaves. So did the Greeks, the Romans and the Arabs. And so did Africans and Native Americans.
White people owned Black people. Black people owned white people. White people owned white people. And Black people owned Black people.
The word “slave” is derived from the word Slav, as Eastern Europeans were commonly taken as slaves in the 13th and 14th centuries.
American slavery was hardly unique. Historians estimate that only 6% of all the slaves transported out of Africa came here.
Yet an initiative from The New York Times – The 1619 Project – claims that the American Revolution was launched not to win our independence but to maintain slavery.
It’s true that in November 1775, England offered freedom to enslaved people willing to join the British army.
However, that offer came after the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the appointment of George Washington as commander and chief of the Continental Army.
Despite devastating critiques from historians specializing in the American founding, The New York Times rolled out teaching kits about its 1619 Project to thousands of public schools around the nation, a clear attempt to indoctrinate them in woke ideology.
If the American Revolution had to include equal rights for Black Americans, Native Americans and women in 1776, there could not have been one.
It’s historical ignorance to believe otherwise. (Recall that even white men without property were denied the vote.)
It took many decades, a war between the states, women’s suffrage, civil rights and gay rights to build a more inclusive society and begin to fulfill the American ideal of liberty and equality.
So what is it that makes America truly unique?
Our nation’s founding was revolutionary. Not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another but in placing political authority in the hands of the people.
Our Declaration of Independence is a timeless statement of inherent rights, the true purposes of government and the limits of political authority.
Our core beliefs are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the longest-serving foundation of liberty in history.
Our nation’s growth and prosperity have been extraordinary. Our small republican experiment has transformed and dominated global culture and society.
Entrepreneurs were given free license to innovate and create. Profit was never something to apologize for. Rather it was viewed as proof that the businessman offered customers something more valuable than the money they traded.
As a result, our economy is the world’s largest, bigger than the second (China) and third (Japan) combined.
We also have the world’s deepest, widest and most transparent financial markets.
Yet even our incredible free market system – the greatest wealth creator and anti-poverty program ever devised – is now under attack from a new menace: woke capitalism.
It’s a new phenomenon that makes businesses less productive, less harmonious and more divisive.
Over the course of the next few columns, I’ll describe how it works, why it undermines our economy and how it diminishes your investment returns.