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"Capitalism is convenient scapegoat"

Bill Dunn
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Bill Dunn's fulltime job is engineering sales and he works part-time as a freelance writer. His weekly humor columns and monthly opinion columns appear in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT. Bill has published one book, "Boomer Trek: One Baby Boomer's Surprising Journey From Secular Humanism to Faith in God," and has recently completed a yet-to-be-published suspense novel, "Purge the Evil," a story of crime, faith, and modern culture. Bill and his wife Joyce reside in Torrington, CT. They have two daughters, Mackenzie and Maureen. 


Capitalism is taking a beating these days. During the recent AIG executive bonus scandal, protesters marched outside the company’s offices carrying signs. Instead of a message such as, “You Shameless Greedy Bums!,” the signs said, “Capitalism is Organized Crime!” Obviously the protesters have an agenda far greater than mere anger at a handful of self-serving financial executives.

 

In the 1930s, the capitalistic system was blamed for the Great Depression, while Marxist-style economic programs were promoted as the solution. Today history is repeating itself.

 

Before we get carried away, however, it would be a good idea to review some important lessons that history teaches about economics:

 

1. Marxist and Socialist economies never succeed. Never. There is a 100-percent failure rate. If you’re skeptical, visit Bulgaria or Cuba. Or talk to anyone who lived in East Germany before 1989. Or check with people who live in North Korea, assuming they haven’t starved to death yet. Imagine if every sector of the economy operated with the same efficiency, innovation, and motivation of, say, the Department of Motor Vehicles. That is what socialist economies are like.

 

2. Free-market capitalism has proven to be the economic system most capable of creating wealth and prosperity. In direct opposition to the Marxist/DMV model, capitalism fosters efficiency and innovation, which produces services and products that are the most beneficial for the greatest number of people.

 

3. Capitalism will not operate properly if it’s not built on a foundation of ethics and morality. This third lesson of history has been forgotten in recent decades, and is the true reason the economy is a mess today.

 

When asked what factors make for a thriving economy, Charles Colson answered, “People have to be willing to work hard; that’s motivation and self-sacrifice. They have to be willing to honor contracts; that’s honesty and fidelity. They have to invest time and effort in projects that pay off only in the future; that’s self-discipline and delayed gratification….The conclusion is obvious. The marketplace depends on people holding high ethical standards. Values aren’t peripheral to the economy. They are its very basis.”

 

Almost two centuries ago Thomas Carlyle argued that if we want to raise people’s standard of living, we should not focus on their income, but on what he called the citizens’ “disposition,” that is, their beliefs and attitudes, their sense of right and wrong, and their motivation and purpose. A good personal “disposition” will produce economic progress.

 

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible warns: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, buy hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”

 

The current economic crisis was not caused by any inherent evil with the capitalistic system. The current crisis occurred because we forgot lesson No. 3 from history. We have allowed ethics and morality to become detached from the marketplace, and now we are reaping the bitter fruit of all those selfish “hasty shortcuts.”

 

Media attention is being focused these days on the shameless greed of the likes of Bernie Madoff, Wall Street bankers, and AIG executives. But don’t forget the greed of all the people who took out mortgages they had no chance of paying back. Or those who purchased multiple houses and planned to “flip” them for a quick buck. Or all the folks choking on credit card debt because their greed outweighed their self-discipline.

 

Free-market capitalism works just fine. It’s a lack of ethics and morality among its participants that cause problems. Marxist economic programs will only make things worse.

 

 

Published in the April 29, 2009 issue of Republican-American;  Waterbury, CT.

 

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