The Capitalist Manifesto: How many millions of people escaped poverty, lived longer and got TV

Капиталистический манифест: Как миллионы людей избежали нищеты, стали жить дольше и получили телевизор

Capitalism gets bad press, but it has changed the world for the better more than all the wars, revolutions and revolts in history Author of the article: Michael Higgins Dec 13, 2021 

Капитализм получает плохую прессу, но он изменил мир к лучшему больше, чем все войны, революции и восстания в истории Автор статьи: Майкл Хиггинс Dec 13, 2021 

Dickens character Scrooge, the spinning jenny, the steam engine, Karl Marx, Mao, Bethlehem Steel, a recreation of the first steam train and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, writer of The Gulag Archipelago. Photo illustration by Gigi Suhanic/Postmedia
Dickens character Scrooge, the spinning jenny, the steam engine, Karl Marx, Mao, Bethlehem Steel, a recreation of the first steam train and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, writer of The Gulag Archipelago. Photo illustration by Gigi Suhanic/Postmedia

Capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any system in human history. On the 30th anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, join the National Post and Financial Post in a series saluting the unfashionable yet awesome power of the free-market system. Here, Michael Higgins traces capitalism’s long arc.

Life has gotten better since capitalism

When the Black Death ravaged the globe in the mid-14th century a “third of the world died,” said Jean Froissart, a contemporary historian. But the pestilence ushered in a new age. In Europe, before the Black Death, there was feudalism, with serfs tied to the land and beholden to a lord who held political, economic and military power. Peasants were slaves in all but name. Afterward, with labour in short supply and an economy in desperate need of revitalization, workers found themselves in great demand. Some began to choose their own masters and demanded wages up to three times pre-plague rates. The fetters of feudalism had been broken. “In an age when social conditions were regarded as fixed, such action was revolutionary,” wrote Barbara Tuchman in A Distant Mirror , a history of the 14th century.

По словам современного историка Жана Фруассара, когда в середине XIV века “Черная смерть” опустошила земной шар, умерла “треть мира”. Но эта моровая язва положила начало новой эре. В Европе до Черной смерти существовал феодализм, когда крепостные были привязаны к земле и подчинялись сеньору, обладавшему политической, экономической и военной властью. Крестьяне были рабами во всех отношениях, за исключением названия. После этого, когда рабочая сила стала дефицитом, а экономика отчаянно нуждалась в оживлении, рабочие оказались очень востребованы. Некоторые стали сами выбирать себе хозяев и требовать зарплату, в три раза превышающую дочумные расценки. Оковы феодализма были разорваны. В эпоху, когда социальные условия считались неизменными, такие действия были революционными”, – пишет Барбара Такман в книге “Далекое зеркало”, посвященной истории XIV века.

It was the beginning of the end for feudalism, as capitalism dimly flickered some new light after the Dark Ages. Capitalism gets bad press, whether it’s Karl Marx in the 19th century — it would result in “misery, oppression, slavery, degradation (and) exploitation,” Marx wrote — or neo-Marxist Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism two centuries later. For many people, capitalism is a caricature with parades of fat cats, robber barons and 10-year-olds down a coal mine.

Это было началом конца феодализма, а капитализм после темных веков тускло мерцал новым светом. Капитализм получает плохую прессу, будь то Карл Маркс в 19 веке – он приведет к “страданиям, угнетению, рабству, деградации (и) эксплуатации”, писал Маркс – или неомарксист Наоми Кляйн в книге “Доктрина шока: Восход капитализма катастрофы” два столетия спустя. Для многих людей капитализм – это карикатура с парадами жирных котов, баронов-разбойников и 10-летних детей, спускающихся в угольную шахту.

Portrait of Karl Marx. Source: The International Institute of Social History
Portrait of Karl Marx. Source: The International Institute of Social History

But ignore the word capitalism and call it something less tendentious, say, free enterprise, or free market economics, or economic freedom, and those phrases reflect a different reality. Economist and historian Deidre McCloskey calls it “innovism” and credits it with the “Great Enrichment” that has happened during the last 200 years. Whatever you call it, it’s a philosophy that has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, reshaped the world over and over with ground-breaking technologies, and created a worldwide middle class who enjoy a lifestyle unmatched in all of history, even more pleasant than that of history’s kings. Yes, there have been costs. Many iterations of the 19th century British Industrial Revolution have been accompanied by some of William Blake’s “dark Satanic mills.” However, the alternatives to free markets have produced the Soviet Gulags — 66 million dead by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s reckoning — the extermination camps of Hitler, the fascists of Mussolini, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, and Mao’s Great Leap Forward — 80 million people dead in four years by some estimates.

Но отбросьте слово капитализм и назовите его как-нибудь менее тенденциозно, скажем, свободное предпринимательство, или экономика свободного рынка, или экономическая свобода, и эти фразы отражают другую реальность. Экономист и историк Дейдра Макклоски называет его “инновационизмом” и приписывает ему “Великое обогащение”, которое произошло за последние 200 лет. Как бы вы его ни называли, это философия, которая вытащила сотни миллионов людей из нищеты, снова и снова перестраивала мир с помощью революционных технологий и создала во всем мире средний класс, который наслаждается образом жизни, не имеющим аналогов во всей истории, даже более приятным, чем образ жизни королей истории. Да, были и издержки. Многие итерации британской промышленной революции XIX века сопровождались “темными сатанинскими мельницами” Уильяма Блейка. Однако альтернатива свободным рынкам породила советские ГУЛАГи – 66 миллионов погибших по подсчетам Александра Солженицына, лагеря уничтожения Гитлера, фашистов Муссолини, поля убийств красных кхмеров и “Великий скачок вперед” Мао – по некоторым оценкам, 80 миллионов человек, погибших за четыре года.

This file photo taken in 1961 and released by China’s official news agency Xinhua in September 1976 following his death shows China’s top communist leader, chairman of Communist Party (CCP) and president, Mao Zedong, smoking a cigarette as he travels in 1961 on a train to Lushan Moutain. /AFP/Getty Images
This file photo taken in 1961 and released by China’s official news agency Xinhua in September 1976 following his death shows China’s top communist leader, chairman of Communist Party (CCP) and president, Mao Zedong, smoking a cigarette as he travels in 1961 on a train to Lushan Moutain. /AFP/Getty Images / На этой фотографии, сделанной в 1961 году и опубликованной официальным информационным агентством Китая “Синьхуа” в сентябре 1976 года после его смерти, изображен высший коммунистический лидер Китая, председатель Коммунистической партии (КПК) и президент страны Мао Цзэдун, курящий сигарету во время поездки в 1961 году на поезде в Лушань.

And yet capitalism is constantly under siege. What is its future in the 21st century? What is without question is that the arc of capitalism is long — very long. Not just 200 years long, when most people, if they were asked, believe it exploded on the scene with the Industrial Revolution in Britain. It has roots in the bazaars, squares and piazzas of the ancient world. The concept accompanied the traders who journeyed along the Silk Road. It has inspired the entrepreneurs who brought us air conditioners and cornflakes. And in the past few decades it has revolutionized the lives of hundreds of millions in once widely impoverished places like China and India. Capitalism has changed the world more than all the wars, revolutions and revolts in history. And a short history of that long arc might look something like this:

И все же капитализм постоянно находится в осаде. Каково его будущее в 21 веке? Бесспорно то, что дуга капитализма длинная – очень длинная. Не просто 200 лет, когда большинство людей, если их спросить, считают, что он появился на сцене во время промышленной революции в Великобритании. Его корни уходят в базары, площади и пьяццы древнего мира. Эта концепция сопровождала торговцев, путешествовавших по Шелковому пути. Она вдохновляла предпринимателей, которые принесли нам кондиционеры и кукурузные хлопья. А за последние несколько десятилетий она произвела революцию в жизни сотен миллионов людей в таких некогда широко обнищавших странах, как Китай и Индия. Капитализм изменил мир больше, чем все войны, революции и восстания в истории. И краткая история этой длинной дуги может выглядеть примерно так:

The Early Years

Capitalism, at least the spirit of it, is as old as the marketplace. It resided in the merchants and traders who took risks, gambled on turning a profit and found new ways to do it. The Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C. wrote about a camel caravan route in north Africa. When King Darius of Persia built a palace at Susa 4,000 years ago it contained ebony and silver from Egypt, cedar from Lebanon, ivory from India and gold from Bactria, a town north of the Hindu Kush mountain range, thus testifying to the extensive trading already in existence. In the 2nd century B.C., the Han dynasty began extending west, and the Silk Road emerged. Sima Qian, son of the imperial court’s Grand Historian, wrote that kingdoms were weak in the west but “clever at commerce,” according to The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan.

Капитализм, по крайней мере, его дух, так же стар, как и рынок. Он живет в купцах и торговцах, которые рисковали, ставили на карту получение прибыли и находили новые пути для этого. Греческий историк Геродот в V веке до нашей эры писал о караванном пути верблюдов в северной Африке. Когда 4 000 лет назад персидский царь Дарий построил дворец в Сузах, в нем находились черное дерево и серебро из Египта, кедр из Ливана, слоновая кость из Индии и золото из Бактрии, города к северу от горного хребта Гиндукуш, что свидетельствовало об уже существовавшей обширной торговле. Во II веке до н.э. династия Хань начала расширяться на запад, и появился Шелковый путь. Сыма Цянь, сын великого историка императорского двора, писал, что королевства были слабы на западе, но “умны в торговле”, согласно книге “Шелковый путь” Питера Франкопана.

About the same time, Rome was morphing from a small town into an empire pushing east in search of spices and silk, a consumer good that was deplored by Pliny the Elder, who was outraged at its high cost and for allowing women to “shimmer” in public, according to Frankopan. Some of the chapters in Frankopan’s book perfectly illustrate the importance of trade between east and west in the history of the world: The Road of Furs, The Road of Gold, The Road of Silver, The Wheat Road, The Slave Road. As Frankopan notes, the most repugnant of businesses — human trafficking  — was also highly lucrative, although slavery is very much at odds with a truly free labour market. At the height of the Roman Empire, it has been estimated that it needed 250,000 to 400,000 new slaves each year. In the 9th and 10th century, slavery was an essential part of the Viking economy.

Примерно в то же время Рим превратился из маленького городка в империю, продвигающуюся на восток в поисках пряностей и шелка – потребительского товара, который, по словам Франкопана, осуждал Плиний Старший, возмущенный его высокой стоимостью и тем, что он позволял женщинам “мерцать” на публике. Некоторые из глав книги Франкопана прекрасно иллюстрируют важность торговли между Востоком и Западом в истории мира: Дорога мехов, Дорога золота, Дорога серебра, Дорога пшеницы, Дорога рабов. Как отмечает Франкопан, самый отвратительный бизнес – торговля людьми – также был весьма прибыльным, хотя рабство очень сильно противоречит действительно свободному рынку труда. По оценкам, во времена расцвета Римской империи ей ежегодно требовалось от 250 000 до 400 000 новых рабов. В IX и X веках рабство было неотъемлемой частью экономики викингов.

In the 17th century, the Portuguese would open up the west coast of Africa, leading to a transatlantic slave trade that saw upward of 13 million people trafficked. For all its force for good, there are those who see capitalism as having that blood on its hands. But it also has its unlikely champions. The great and ferocious Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who conquered most of the known world in the 13th century, was a great fan of merchants. He encouraged them to set up businesses but passed a law that they would be executed if they went bankrupt three times.

В XVII веке португальцы открыли западное побережье Африки, что привело к трансатлантической работорговле, жертвами которой стали около 13 миллионов человек. При всей своей силе, направленной на благо, есть те, кто считает, что на руках капитализма есть кровь. Но есть у него и маловероятные защитники. Великий и свирепый Чингисхан, монгольский вождь, завоевавший большую часть известного мира в 13 веке, был большим поклонником купцов. Он поощрял их к созданию предприятий, но издал закон, согласно которому они подлежали казни, если трижды разорялись.

Genghis Khan (1162-1227). Emperor of Mongol Empire. (Photo by Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)
Genghis Khan (1162-1227). Emperor of Mongol Empire. (Photo by Leemage / Corbis via Getty Images) / Чингисхан (1162-1227). Император Монгольской империи.

As the Mongol invasions stretched into the 14th century under Genghis Khan’s descendants, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived — so it is claimed by some — was opening new trading routes in Africa. The kingdom of Mali was already rich by the time Mansa Musa took over but “his work in expanding trade made Mali the wealthiest kingdom in Africa,” according to National Geographic. Trading in salt, gold and ivory made Musa so rich that, as legend has it, when he went to Mecca in 1324, he took 100 horses and camels laden with gold. He distributed gold so freely while stopping in Egypt that it led to rampant inflation that took 12 years to bring under control. Back in Europe the first cracks in feudalism appeared as workers demanded more pay, but the system, the dominant political and social structure in Europe for hundreds of years, would continue well into the 15th and 16th centuries. Medieval Europe was still a dark, ignorant and backward place. A world away, China appeared to be ascendent. The magnificent Forbidden City was completed in 1420. The Chinese had already given the world paper, printing, the compass and the wheelbarrow. But a top nomination for the biggest missed opportunity in the history of the world happened in China at the beginning of the 15th century. Admiral Zheng He commanded a fleet of 300 ocean-going ships that in six voyages between 1405 and 1424 sailed as far as the east coast of Africa trading silk for porcelain, iron cauldrons, gifts and ammunition among other items, wrote Niall Ferguson in his book Civilization.

В то время как монгольские нашествия продолжались в 14 веке под руководством потомков Чингисхана, один из самых богатых людей, живших когда-либо – так утверждают некоторые – открывал новые торговые пути в Африке. Королевство Мали уже было богатым к тому времени, когда его возглавил Манса Муса, но “его работа по расширению торговли сделала Мали самым богатым королевством в Африке”, согласно National Geographic. Торговля солью, золотом и слоновой костью сделала Мусу настолько богатым, что, как гласит легенда, когда он отправился в Мекку в 1324 году, он взял с собой 100 лошадей и верблюдов, нагруженных золотом. Во время остановки в Египте он так свободно раздавал золото, что это привело к безудержной инфляции, на борьбу с которой ушло 12 лет. В Европе появились первые трещины в феодализме, когда рабочие потребовали повышения заработной платы, но эта система, которая была доминирующей политической и социальной структурой в Европе на протяжении сотен лет, сохранится в XV и XVI веках. Средневековая Европа все еще была темным, невежественным и отсталым местом. В другом мире, в Китае, казалось, происходило восхождение. В 1420 году было завершено строительство великолепного Запретного города. Китайцы уже подарили миру бумагу, книгопечатание, компас и тачку. Но в начале 15-го века в Китае произошла самая большая в истории мира ошибка. Адмирал Чжэн Хэ командовал флотом из 300 океанских кораблей, которые за шесть плаваний с 1405 по 1424 год доплыли до восточного побережья Африки, обменивая шелк на фарфор, железные котлы, подарки и боеприпасы, а также другие товары, пишет Ниалл Фергюсон в своей книге “Цивилизация.

A statue of famed Chinese navigator Zheng He stands at the new park surrounding the Treasure Boat Factory Ruins, in Nanjing, China. (GOH CHAI HIN/AFP via Getty Images)
A statue of famed Chinese navigator Zheng He stands at the new park surrounding the Treasure Boat Factory Ruins, in Nanjing, China. (GOH CHAI HIN/AFP via Getty Images)

But in 1424, China’s emperor died and with him China’s ambitions. Zheng’s expeditions were stopped, oceanic voyages banned. “From 1500, anyone in China found building a ship with more than two masts was liable to the death penalty,” wrote Ferguson.

Но в 1424 году император Китая умер, а вместе с ним были похоронены и амбиции Китая. Экспедиции Чжэна были остановлены, океанские плавания запрещены. “С 1500 года любой житель Китая, уличенный в строительстве корабля с более чем двумя мачтами, подлежал смертной казни”, – пишет Фергюсон.

The Capitalist Manifesto: Free markets won in the Cold War, but threats like wokeism are rising

Манифест капитализма: Свободные рынки победили в холодной войне, но такие угрозы, как уокеизм, растут

Sean Speer: Capitalism’s vulnerabilities still persist in the face of new ideological challenges, including the rise of wokeismAuthor of the article:

Sean Speer Publishing date: Dec 14, 2021  

A woman walks past a huge state emblem of the U.S.S.R. that was removed from an avenue after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, in a modern history sculpture park in Moscow on Dec. 8, 2021.
A woman walks past a huge state emblem of the U.S.S.R. that was removed from an avenue after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, in a modern history sculpture park in Moscow on Dec. 8, 2021. PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/NATIONAL POST

Capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any system in human history. On the 30th anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, join the National Post and Financial Post in a series saluting the unfashionable yet awesome power of the free-market system.

Life has gotten better since capitalism

While in hindsight it seems self-evident that capitalism would ultimately triumph over communism due to the latter’s internal contradictions, it certainly wasn’t obvious during the Cold War. Soviet spy-turned-conservative intellectual Whittaker Chambers even famously told a hearing of the house committee on un-American activities that he had left the “winning side for the losing side.” Capitalism, of course, had a lot of advantages. It was more economically efficient, better harnessed human creativity and ingenuity, and reinforced a sociopolitical arrangement that granted primacy to individual autonomy and expression. But this final advantage also reflected liberal capitalism’s inherent weakness. Its neutral stance on matters of virtue and lack of a singular definition of the good life made it somewhat unsatisfying for certain audiences. Capitalism was a superior means of allocating scarce resources in the economy and could help to make us rich, but it couldn’t tell us what individuals ought to value or how they ought to live. That left a lot of people feeling unfulfilled and in search of sources of meaning and purpose. In the past, it had been the traditional religions that filled these transcendental needs. But as those foundations started to weaken, driftless people like Chambers were drawn to communism not so much as an economic system, but rather as a totalizing ideology. After all, it wasn’t merely a description of how economic actors participated in the marketplace. It was an ethos. That was communism’s great advantage. It was so great in fact that it continued to draw people to its side long after the horrors of Stalinist totalitarianism, as manifested in the brutality of the gulag, were widely known. Irving Kristol, the American intellectual and father of neo-conservatism, foresaw this inherent challenge for liberal capitalism in his 1978 book, “Two Cheers for Capitalism.” Capitalism could never claim “three cheers” precisely because it left so many crucial questions — indeed, the ultimate ones — unanswered. It purposefully privatized matters of metaphysics in the name of public square pluralism. As Kristol wrote, “A capitalist society does not want more than two cheers for itself. Indeed, it regards any impulse to give three cheers for any social, economic or political system as expressing a dangerous — because it is misplaced — enthusiasm.” But he also recognized that this made liberal capitalism susceptible to competition from alternative ideologies that purported to offer more than a mix of economic growth and the solitary search for meaning. It could be credibly challenged by upstart intellectual movements that seemed to provide a fuller sense of inclusion and identity. This was the basis of Chambers’ own gloomy pessimism. He assumed that liberal capitalism’s material strengths would be superseded by communism’s deeper moralistic commitments. As he argued in his famous 1952 book, “Witness”: “Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem which can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age.” And, in Chambers’ mind, communism was manifestly better placed to speak to the faith problem. As we now know 30 years after the Soviet Union’s collapse, he was fortunately wrong: liberal capitalism ultimately prevailed. But the vulnerabilities that Chambers and Kristol observed still persist in the face of new ideological challenges, including the rise of “wokeism,” which, like communism, comes with its own language, structure and religious-like rituals and sacraments. Capitalism may even be more susceptible today to such a threat. A combination of forces — from rising support for socialism, to the amorality of conspicuous consumption, to the documented decline of social capital — has contributed to its weakened standing in the current moment. Although we may be more materially better off than we’ve ever been before, modern society’s moral foundation seems weaker and more attenuated. One can also sense a growing restlessness in our culture and politics. Pandemic-induced social distancing has almost certainly exacerbated these trends. We must not forget, however, that liberal capitalism’s inherent weakness is also its strength. That it’s only worth two cheers isn’t an indictment — it’s a proper recognition that a singular conception of virtue in a pluralistic society can only be imposed by some combination of public and private coercion. The goal should instead be to strengthen a sociopolitical architecture that fosters a culture of freedom, choice and broad-based opportunity. It must aim to create the material conditions and moral space for individuals to flourish according to their own values and preferences. We need, in other words, a renewed commitment to liberal capitalism. Of course, capitalism is by no means perfect. But that’s the wrong standard, as Kristol rightly contended. The proper question is: which ideas and institutions are most likely to boost living standards and enable a multiplicity of viewpoints about the good life to co-exist free from coercion or persecution? The answer remains liberal capitalism. And, as we mark the anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union, that’s still worth at least two cheers.

National Post

The Capitalist Manifesto: Capitalism allows the individual to shape society for the better and it needs to be protected

Jim Balsillie: Policymakers must put an end to abusive practices and develop marketplace frameworks that force companies to contribute to the productive capacity of the marketAuthor of the article:Jim Balsillie,  Special to Financial PostPublishing date:Dec 15, 2021  •  December 16, 2021  •  4 minute read  •   7 Comments

Capitalism is the best economic system for the generation of new wealth.
Capitalism is the best economic system for the generation of new wealth. PHOTO BY GIGI SUHANIC/NATIONAL POST ILLUSTRATION

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Capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any system in human history. On the 30th anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, join the National Post and Financial Post in a series saluting the unfashionable yet awesome power of the free-market system.

Life has gotten better since capitalism
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I believe that capitalism in a liberal democratic society is by far the best system to promote human flourishing. It’s the best economic system for the generation of new wealth, which is why even authoritarian states like China have embraced it. The generation of new wealth is a critical first step for any debate on redistribution or expanding publicly funded social services.

As a tech entrepreneur who did not come from economic privilege, capitalism has provided me with opportunities to generate public and private wealth on a global stage. The shift 40 years ago from an industrialized, production-based economy to a knowledge-based economy provided innovative individuals with more power to assert into existing markets or to create new markets.

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When entrepreneurs have access to capital, they can channel their ideas into products and services that can improve the lives of fellow citizens, industry and even governments. No other economic system allows a single individual to profoundly shape society for the better and to simultaneously create public and private good — this is why capitalism is worth protecting.

Yet those of us who are at the frontlines of economic activity know that capitalism does not exist in a vacuum, or as Karl Polanyi famously wrote in The Great Transformation : “Laissez-faire was planned.” Despite its beguiling simplicity, the notion of a free and inherently efficient marketplace was always shadowed by inconvenient truths, starting with the fact that the global financial order lives at the mercy of government and that capital occasionally needs massive government interventions in order to survive its own periodic crises. The so-called “invisible hand” of the open capitalist market is always attached to some policymaker’s very active forearm.

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For all of its destruction, COVID-19 has at least forced neoliberals into retreat. Even in Canada, market fundamentalists are finally abandoning the myth of the independent marketplace and accepting the obvious: the way industries are organized and markets allowed to function are not determined by inexorable forces outside our control but are matters of social and political choice. In capitalism, policy choices are inescapable because policy determines every part of how markets work.

No other economic system allows a single individual to profoundly shape society for the better and to simultaneously create public and private good — this is why capitalism is worth protecting

Today, there is a renewed belief that government invariably shapes the economy, and that it must continue to do that effectively. This is especially critical now in the age of surveillance capitalism, which is not only reshaping markets but threatening to unmake liberal democracy. As Professor Shoshana Zuboff has shown in painstaking detail, surveillance capitalism leaves a trail of social wreckage in its wake: the wholesale destruction of privacy, the intensification of social inequality, the creation of a mental health crisis amongst our youth, the poisoning of social discourse with misinformation, the demolition of social norms and the weakening of democratic institutions.

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If we are to preserve the very best of capitalism and especially its ability to generate new wealth, we must bring this mutant form of capitalism under democratic control. Throughout the last century, industrial production-based capitalism was tamed through employment rights, new social supports, mandatory environmental practices and many other industry-specific regulations.

Today, because we lack meaningful regulation of the data-driven economy, we have competition to control markets rather than competition within markets. Unlike physical assets, data has unique features such as its “economies of scope and scale,” “network effects” and “information asymmetries.”

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  3. Read the full series

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Plainly stated, the more data a company gathers the more value it gains from it. Every new data set makes all pre-existing data sets in the hands of the same few companies more valuable, disproportionately enhancing the power of established data giants and their vested assets. This is why the data-driven economy has, in less than 10 years, created the greatest market and wealth concentrations in economic history, reduced the rate of entrepreneurship, innovation and business dynamism, and lowered wages.

If capitalism is going to survive this century, our policymakers must put an end to abusive practices and develop marketplace frameworks that force companies to contribute to the productive capacity of the market. Only then can entrepreneurial individuals make the best use of what capitalism has to offer and continue to sustain and advance shared economic prosperity and democratic values, as they have done for centuries.

Jim Balsillie is a businessman and philanthropist. He is co-founder and chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators and founder of the Centre for Digital Rights.

The Capitalist Manifesto: Peter Foster on the subversion of McDonald’s, and how ESG stole the anti-capitalism agenda

The sustainability agenda is bound to implode, Peter Foster argues. The question is how much damage it will inflict before it doesAuthor of the article:Peter FosterPublishing date:Dec 16, 2021  •  December 17, 2021  •  10 minute read  •   163 Comments

MCDONALD_S_RUSSIA

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Life has gotten better since capitalism
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Capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any system in human history. On the 30th anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, join the National Post and Financial Post in a series saluting the unfashionable yet awesome power of the free-market system.

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Between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, I had an opportunity to look at a face-off between capitalism and collapsing communism. I was in Moscow in January 1991 for the first anniversary of Moscow McDonald’s. Political turmoil meant that a celebration had been cancelled, but I turned up anyway and was given a remarkable insight into a remarkable operation.

Many believed that trying to introduce the demanding standards of quality, service, cleanliness and value (QSC&V) that McDonald’s was known for to the Soviet Union was an act of “fatal optimism,” but the company pulled it off. Its glistening restaurant in Pushkin Square, and the operation behind it, represented a business marvel because it managed to manufacture QSC&V out of the dross of communism’s congenital ineptitude.

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Instead of relying on a range of eager and innovative suppliers and franchisees, as in the West, McDonald’s had to build a huge food processing plant from scratch, coax Soviet farmers to hoist their output and standards, negotiate its way round an obstructive bureaucracy, deal with a larcenous “partner” and operate with the funny money of the ruble. The one bright spot was the enthusiasm of young Russian workers who applied in droves to work for the company.

Perhaps the most important revelation from my visit was how the experience had made the company’s western employees fully appreciate, perhaps for the first time, the co-ordinating marvels of the invisible hand, whereby individuals’ inevitable self-interest is guided to serve others without any central plan. Indeed, the Soviet Union had confirmed that central plans inevitably destroy both wealth and freedom.

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Thirty years on, McDonald’s appears to have been a huge success in Russia, continuing to grow through myriad economic and political crises. The company now operates more than 750 stores in 150 Russian cities, and has 60,000 employees. But while McDonald’s has persevered in Russia, its operations in the West — like those of all western corporations — are still under anti-capitalist assault. And its presence in Russia remains controversial.

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Many observers naively assumed that in the wake of communism’s implosion, market capitalism would somehow take hold in Russia. Instead, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin allowed the emergence of the oligarchs, clever former apparatchiks who seized control of state assets at knockdown prices. Yeltsin then handed power over to former KGB operative Vladimir Putin, who turned on the despised oligarchs and seized control of the commanding heights of the petroleum industry. Fortunately, McDonald’s was not a “strategic” industry and was allowed to continue to serve “Beeg Maks.” Nevertheless, the company is a big generator of tax revenue for a man who is amassing troops on the border of Ukraine.

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Hundreds of Soviet patrons queue outside Moscow’s first restaurant in the U.S.S.R., which opened on Jan. 31, 1990. Corbis/Reuters
Hundreds of Soviet patrons queue outside Moscow’s first restaurant in the U.S.S.R., which opened on Jan. 31, 1990. Corbis/Reuters

My Moscow experience confirmed that capitalism is a “natural order” that one does not have to understand to thrive within, any more than you need to read a book on biology to stay alive. But the fact that the invisible hand is inconceivable to most people, and that capitalism is easier done than said, represents an inevitable weakness. Whatever its collective bounty, the fact that it is cognitively inconceivable, even unnatural, and morally suspect leaves capitalism (a word invented by its enemies) perpetually open to attack.

In recent decades, the Marxist charge sheet of greed, exploitation, inequality and unconscionable corporate power has been expanded to include various ecological “crises,” the main one of which is an alleged “climate emergency” that threatens life on earth.

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The great 18-century Scottish economist Adam Smith, with whom the invisible hand is usually associated, noted that commercial actors in relatively free markets do a broader good that is “no part of their intention.” Now the claim is that they do a massive potential harm about which they do not care.

Corporate executives have proved to be suckers for doing intentional, conspicuous “good,” but it is important to recognize that the opinions of capitalist entrepreneurs and managers are not synonymous with capitalism, which is the system within which they operate. Smith noted that he had never known much good done by those who professed to trade “for the public good.” However, that conceit has now become a universal aspiration and a key vulnerability.

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The demands of QSC&V continue, but have been joined by a new external mandate, which goes under the initials ESG, for environmental social and (corporate) governance. ESG is the child of two subversive doctrines that have been around since before the collapse of communism: corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability.

The economist Milton Friedman warned against the dangers of CSR 50 years ago. His views have been misrepresented and pilloried ever since. Friedman pointed out that corporate executives are employees of the owners of the corporation, its shareholders, so their chief responsibility is “to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.” He never suggested that profits were, or should be, earned at the expense of other genuine “stakeholders,” such as customers, employees, suppliers and local communities. However, Friedman left a loophole in suggesting obedience to “ethical custom,” because this provided an entry point for new forms of moral condemnation. In particular, the concept that marched through the gap was sustainability, whose essential stance is that markets are unsustainable. Since corporations are allegedly profit-obsessed and shortsighted, they are marching the world towards resource depletion and environmental Armageddon.

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Economist Milton Friedman, leaving 10 Downing Street in London, in 1980.
Economist Milton Friedman, leaving 10 Downing Street in London, in 1980.

While fascism, an autocratic nationalism that allows some tightly controlled private ownership, has become the model in both Russia and China — where McDonald’s has shrewdly hived off its operations — in the West, anti-capitalism now marches under the banner of ESG. As with communism, the ESG movement’s aspirations are for global control.

This new anti-capitalist and anti-democratic agenda was promoted and exemplified, perhaps more than any other individual, by a Canadian, Maurice Strong, a self-confessed socialist who openly declared that he intended to use capitalism to achieve socialist ends and installed a brilliant strategy to do it. Building on the growing environmental concerns that followed Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” book in the early 1960s, he masterminded two seminal United Nations conferences, in Stockholm in 1972 and in Rio de Janeiro 20 years later. He engineered the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme, which became co-parent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where climate science was bent towards political ends. He co-opted the business community via the World Economic Forum, whose head, Klaus Schwab, was a protege, and whose meetings at Davos became superspreader events for subversive ideas. He also formed the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, which remains a major player in the ESG agenda. Finally, Strong created and fed an ever-growing web of activism through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He virtually created the environment as a lucrative career. International bureaucracies and national bureaucrats were drawn to the sustainability agenda because it represented the global rule of bureaucrats.

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Maurice Strong, in Ottawa on Oct. 28, 2003. Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press
Maurice Strong, in Ottawa on Oct. 28, 2003. Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press

Strong died just before the 2015 Paris climate conference but his true heir is another Canadian, Mark Carney, who became UN special envoy for climate action and finance after stints as governor of the Bank of Canada and Bank of England. Carney’s declared aim is to control the commanding heights of finance, in order to choke off funds to disapproved industries, particularly those producing fossil fuels. (Vladimir Putin has been delighted to support western anti-fracking activists, who increase the demand for Russian natural gas.)

Carney and Schwab were great supporters of the claim that the COVID-19 pandemic was a golden opportunity for a “Green New Deal,” a scheme for greater technocratic control of global affairs. However, confusion over both COVID science and policy has further dented the already shaky belief in the status of progressive “experts.” Meanwhile, the latest UN climate Conference of the Parties, COP26, resulted in yet another policy farce. Nevertheless, the ESG tumbrel rolls on, with the whole corporate sector appearing eager to be aboard. In fact, they don’t dare get off.

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