Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jan. 11: Capitalism as a magic wand

This morning I had a note from David Seymour of the Frontier Centre from Public Policy. The answer was an almost immediate reponse to my Jan. 10 blog which suggested that Mr. Seymour did not appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. That thought came as I read his Moncton T&T column about what a bright and wonderful future lies ahead of us. (In fairness, he's smug and unthinking enough to get his data from Freedom House - an organization 80% financed by the American government with the rest coming mostly from millionaires and billionaires - and at that he got some of the data wrong.)

Mr Seymour's problem is that of most neo-conservatives and their serving peasantry. They think of capitalism as a mgic wand. You just wave it, and all problems - climate change, pollution, poverty, dictatorship - well, they all just vanish. (Did you know that EBay, a great capitalist invention, actually is solving the pollution problem by recycling used goods? No? Well, that shows you have more brains than Mr. Seymour does. He doesn't realize how much of the stuff sold on e bay is new. Or how much would earlier simply be sold through newspaper ads and lawn sales. Even if E Bay were doing that, the idea they are a major factor in cleaning up world pollution is behneath sophomoric.)

In fact, no ism cures all problems all the time; and only neo-conservatives, communists and fools could believe in any such concept. Any ism is a human creation. Any leader of an ism is human. Mr. Seymour may not believe this; but humans are people - and, oh people are imperfect.

Captialism is very good at creating wealth. But, as the North American experience is showing, it does one hell of a bad job in distributing that wealth. It also creates enormous poverty to supply itself with resources. There's a reason why countries like Congo, Guatemala, Haiti and so on are poor.

Haiti, in particular, has been under American control for almost a cenuturty - either directly or through dictators imposed by the US. In that century, it has been government by pure capitalism. It doesn't even have public schools or public sewage or public water for most of its people. Never has had.  Some people, a few, have made money out of Haiti - exotic fruit plantation ownders, clothing manufacturers. But they haven't been Haitians. Most of the people of Haiti, for decades, have been among the poorest people in the world. Capitalism has not been a magic wand for Haiti. It's been a bludgeon.

No ism - not capitalism, not communism, not socialism - works perfectly in any pure form. Any of them might work in certain situations - for a time. All need regulation. All of them need elements borrowed from the other isms at times.  Anyone who calls himself capitalist, social or communist is really just a damn fool, Mr. Seymour. Or possibly a hired flack who either has brains without principles or principles without brains. Possibly both.

Meanwhile, read today's column in your spot.  It's by Gwynn Dyer,one of this world's more intelligent commentators. He notes rising food shortages (accompanied by deadly riots) as results of what looks like a modest climate change. We've already seen some rise here, and we're going to see more. He also points out this will get worse as we rapidly pump of the last of the giant, underground waters that our agriculture has relied on. This is not a distant threat. It has already caused violence and death, and that is certainly only a hint of more than is to come - soon.

Quick, David Seymour. Quick! Quick! Wave your magic wand.


  1. Dear Graham,

    You're the best straw man attacker I have ever seen. Anyone who reads my column will see that eBay was but an example (I actually made that explicit and mentioned a generic series of others right after it), and that the comment I made on your previous post (you really should be more polite to people who comment, you don't get very many here) was about your claim I misinterpreted the FH data, and you made a false accusation there (of course I'm waiting for you to attack the other sources I used, you know, Yale and Columbia, the U.N. and I'm sure you already think Fraser are the anti-Christ so have nothing useful to say). What's more I never championed "capitalism," that simply isn't what the op-ed was about, it was about human ingenuity, progress, and the current measured state of the world. With 40 per cent of GDP spent by governments and everything from employment to where you can build a house being regulated by governments, not to mention virtual govt monopolies on education and (in Canada) healthcare, it's not even clear we have capitalism to blame for the woes you point out. One could just as easily look at contemporary U.S. and Canada and proclaim that socialism has failed.

    Anyway, it does amuse me that somebody pointing out a few basic facts about the world that aren't all doom, gloom, and fuel for whatever dull prophesies you adhere too can get such an old man into such a tizzy. Will I get another long diatribe about something unrelated to what I said in my Google Alerts tomorrow? I can wait.

  2. Wow! The US is socialist?
    It is, course, if you're a bank. Then you get huge government handouts for breaking the few government regulations there were. And, like all socialists, they tax the rich unmercifully.
    Is it also true Obama is a secret Moslem?

    I won't waste time in future debating you. You obviously have not the faintest idea was capitalism, socialsm and communism mean. And all the "human ingenuity" in your comment was what you fancied to be capitalist ingenuity.

    And you don't like medicare? Simple solution for a man of you integrity. Refuse to accept it. Let you body go to pot as your mind has.