A few parting words

Al Lewis, The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal.

July 13, 2014

Al's Emporium: Commentary


A Few Parting Words

Criticizing Capitalism Does Not Make One Anti-Capitalist.

This is my last column.

I know what some of you are thinking: Good.

You are sick of this guy named Al, who pretends to run an Emporium, offering barbed criticisms of business, usually with a tinge of sardonic humor, and in The Wall Street Journal Sunday, of all places.

Many other readers, I know, will miss me. Your emails bury me in way too much adulation, but it has been much appreciated.

I never quite got what I did, though, to get some of you so angry. Thousands of articles get published every day. 

When most people see a piece they don't like, they turn to the next one. Not you.

You send emails that are often longer than the column itself. You hurl names when you can't form arguments. 

You suggest that a business columnist shouldn't have an opinion, especially if it doesn't align with yours. "Since you have never written a pro-business article, how do you get published as a WSJ business writer?" one reader recently wrote. "You sure have 'em schnookered, don't you?"

All my articles are pro-business. I love capitalism. I want the economy and our corporate system to run well. I admire entrepreneurs and seek free enterprise for all. Unfortunately, some things stand in the way, including tyrants, idiots and ideologies. And when you're a columnist, it's your job to point this out.

If music critics pan a symphony, do you think it's because they don't like music? When sportswriters rip on a coach, do you think it's because they are anti-sports? Why do some people love pointing out flaws in Big Government, but loathe those who point out the shortcomings of Big Business? Business deserves the same journalistic treatment as every other endeavor, from investigative reporting to commentary.

I've been writing columns, for various publications, for nearly 14 years. I am quitting because it's time to chase a new opportunity. On Monday, I become editor in chief of The South Florida Business Journal, where I'll lead a group of talented journalists. You can read more at

Let me reiterate key points with the words I have left:

-- Wherever there's money, there's someone trying to steal it.

-- There are bad leaders in business, just as there are bad leaders in government.

-- Nothing grows forever. Why should anyone believe economic thinkers who pretend the economy should?

-- Consumption isn't a virtue to be left unchecked.

-- Corporations wield more power than individuals.

-- Cheerleading and boosterism aren't good journalism or good business.

-- Businesses externalize costs. They consume. They pollute. They exploit. You aren't a flaming liberal if you weigh costs versus benefits and make wise choices.

-- Bad ideas, and poorly managed businesses, should be allowed to fail.

-- Crime should be punished irrespective of the wealth of the perpetrators.

-- The free market doesn't work without referees. There are many bad laws, but wise regulation is critical.

-- No one can predict the future.

-- Most investors would do better in index funds rather than pay a so-called expert to manage their money. Most of the investment industry is simply unnecessary.

-- Some stock traders know how to game others—through technology, insider information and secret handshakes.

-- There's a difference between positive thinking and misplaced optimism.

-- There really is a sucker born every minute. Don't be one.

Thanks for reading, whether you loved my words, or hated them. You have made my career worthwhile.

— Al Lewis is a columnist based in Denver. He blogs at; his email address is