A 1948 Cartoon Explains Why Capitalism Is the Best Thing Ever

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Classic Cold War propaganda, Make Mine Freedom promotes free enterprise as the secret to American prosperity. Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, the animated short cites the postwar economic boom as evidence of the success of U.S. capitalism over exotic "isms" (shorthand for communism and socialism). The various concepts are brought to life as goofy (and sometimes racist or sexist) cartoon characters, like the sleazy, mustachioed snake oil salesman that hawks bottles of "ism" as the "cure [for] any ailment of the body politic!"

Not so fast! Suspicious "John Q. Public" doesn't fall for the scam. "Sure," he says, "our system of free enterprise isn't perfect, but before we throw it away for some imported doubletalk, let's turn the clock back a few years to see what it's done for us." The cartoon goes on to tell the inspiring story of an automobile inventor who, with a few investments from friends and family, goes on to build a booming auto business. "Today the automobile industry provides millions of jobs that never existed before," the narrator explains. "And remember, this is the story of only one industry! There are thousands more scattered all over the United States." The short was produced by John Sutherland Productions for an initiative at Harding University

For more films from the Prelinger Archive, visit http://archive.org/details/prelinger

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/12/a-1948-cartoon-explains-why-capitalism-is-the-best-thing-ever/266140/