Out of Left Field

Increasingly, socialism appears to be both a viable and desirable replacement for capitalism. It isn’t, on any level

CAPITALISM IS AN economic system that has provided a much higher standard of living for more people for a longer period than any other in the history of humanity. But it’s not all sunshine and investment portfolios. It is built on individual initiative and competition, which makes it a ­sink-or-swim proposition, inherently blind to human needs unless meeting them contributes to its continuing success. It rewards the ruthless over the public-spirited and encourages economic exploitation at the expense of compassion.

But it also creates wealth and offers economic advancement for all who are willing to apply themselves. It does not promise outcomes, just plenty of opportunity to trade your efforts for someone else’s treasure.

Those among us who would tear down our current system in favour of an increasingly popular socialist model should not forget that we humans are notoriously tribal, combative and self-­destructive. In politics as in all things, we must be very careful what we wish for, as the Russian people learned to their appalling detriment after supporting their own socialist revolution.

But we are also capable of soaring acts of compassion, empathy and charity. It is these traits that have allowed hackle the worst excesses of capitalism and use its resources and our own to build a society where most people enjoy a quality of life unknown to much of the world.

“I am ­prepared to say that any truly objective ­reading of history supports a singular conclusion: systems that emphasize the rights of the collective over those of the individual have invariably failed in whatever efforts they may have made to deliver anything even remotely resembling social justice”

In the U.S., the Democratic Party has all but endorsed a wholesale shift from capitalism to socialism in a manner that would have rendered their candidates unelectable as recently as a generation ago. In Canada, our federal ­leaders are steadily pushing us toward a model of ­governmental economic policy that is socialist in everything but name.

One of socialism’s current selling points is its supposedly superior ability to deliver what is commonly called social justice. As a hobby, I have studied the rise and fall of political and ­economic systems all my adult life. As a result, I am ­prepared to say that any truly objective ­reading of history supports a singular conclusion: systems that emphasize the rights of the collective over those of the individual have invariably failed in whatever efforts they may have made to deliver anything even remotely resembling social justice. And not just it, but the protection of the rights of people to work hard on their own behalf and reap the rewards of their labours.

Soviet Russia, Communist China, Chavez’s Venezuela, Castro’s Cuba—take your time, do your homework objectively, read the Gulag Archipelago and try to prove I’m wrong. I’m open to the possibility, but I don’t believe you can.

When it comes to something as important as our economic system, we are fools if we don’t exercise extreme caution in changing something that has been unparalleled in history in putting food on our tables, clothes on our backs, ­individual freedoms into our laws, economic opportunities into our lives, savings into our retirement accounts, hospitals in our communities, schools in our neighbourhoods and smartphones in our pockets.

As members of our business community, we do our society and those we care about a terrible disservice if we allow ourselves to be intimidated and silenced by the historically challenged, when we should instead be speaking out loudly in ­support of a system that provides so much bounty for so many.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous statement, “Many forms of economic system have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that capitalism is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that capitalism is the worst form of economic system, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time… ”

As always, when it comes to understanding ­history and human nature, it’s hard to top Churchill. Jim Chapman

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