Andrew Puzder, the former CEO of Carl’s Jr. and former Secretary of Labor nominee for the Trump administration, encouraged students to embrace capitalism at an all-school assembly on Monday. Puzder also presented numerous statistics, and expressed his hope for a capitalist future of America.
Puzder first discussed the origins of Carl’s Jr. to emphasize the opportunities that a capitalist world provides for “self-made men.” According to Puzder, the founder of Carl’s Jr. traded his car for a small hot dog cart, but now has 3800 restaurants in 45 states and 44 countries, which generated over 4.3 billion dollars in sales in 2017.
Puzder also credited the capitalist economy to his own success.
“I didn’t think that [becoming wealthy] was unjust,” Puzder said. “What occurred to me was that I could do that. And luckily, I live in a country where I could do that. There was a path to success. There wasn’t an easy path, in fact, I started out scooping ice cream when I was 16 [years old] for a dollar an hour. I also worked jobs to get myself through college and law school because I didn’t have a family that was well off or qualified for government assistance. But it was a path: I cut lawns; I painted houses; I busted up concrete. I never resented those jobs, I just thought that there was nothing that was going to stop me from doing what I wanted to do.”
After explaining the difference between communism and capitalism, Puzder addressed what he said believes to be a common misconception that deters people from supporting capitalism.
“I want to start with the notion that capitalism is based on greed,” Puzder said. “Greed is not good and greed does not work. And capitalism is not based on greed. If you run a business in America, you succeed by serving the needs of other people. That’s the only way you can succeed in a capitalist economy. Capitalism opens you outwards as a way to extend to other people.”
To support his viewpoint, Puzder also cited graphs and statistics that related capitalist economies with the decrease of illiteracy, poverty and child mortality.
“This is what free market economies do,” Puzder said. “It creates prosperity for a wide range of people. If we do things that encourage economic growth, it lifts everybody. It lifts those in poverty, the middle class, the working class, the upper class. The fact is, that if prosperity lifts everybody, then there’s no need for class warfare.”
Puzder concluded by encouraging the audience to support capitalism in current or future situations.
“The system in which you live is unquestionably the best system ever devised in history for creating prosperity not only for you, but for the poor and the marginalized. It creates prosperity by empowering [individuals], by creating opportunity, and it will make them and you prosperous by focusing your desire on satisfying the needs of other people. Really, a form of benevolence, not a form of greed. That system is called capitalism. It’s your heritage, and soon it will be your responsibility. Imagine that you can be the generation that guarantees our political and economic freedom in the future.”
Students said they found Puzder’s speech engaging, and that he encouraged them to think about their own views on the topic.
“I thought it was really interesting to hear him talk about the differences [between socialism and capitalism],” Maitlyn Fletcher ’21 said. “His ideas were a lot less controversial than I thought they would be. A lot of his views I agreed with, but a lot of them I didn’t. It was interesting to hear other people’s reactions as well.”