Capitalism gets a bad rap

If anyone hadn’t noticed, capitalism is getting a bad rap south of the border and in other parts of the free world.

The land of opportunity seems to have soured on the notion of hard work and perseverance leading to success. 

Key agitators range from the almost octogenarian Bernie Sanders to young, novice representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They and others espouse the belief that socialism is far better than the current circumstance that seems to favour the extremely wealthy. There are points to be made on both sides of the debate, but what isn’t debatable is why the debate is taking place.

Even our sleepy county is far removed from the days of one industry towns. We use that one-industry phrase in a literal sense, since most small towns had several businesses. The likes of old Fergus stands as an example of one employer, chiefly Beatty Brothers, driving the local economy.

Those times were different. Although operating on a for-profit basis, a capitalist enterprise in every sense, there was a spirit of goodwill and an understanding that if workers did well, the community would too. Workers could count on having a job with their employer for life. 

Of course, this mindset and option has changed as workers have the chance to search out better positions but more so because many companies have abandoned the notion of fair, good-paying jobs for workers. Instead, for many, profit has overtaken social conscience. Some call that unadulterated greed, others call it short-sighted in the extreme.

This burr in the saddle was made itchier this week when we read the Globe and Mail expose on “The perils of being ‘casual’ at the CBC.” Basically, it summed up a circumstance that exists in businesses, non-profits and government organizations. Casual or contract workers are hired with little chance of renewal, let alone opportunities to get full-time employment.

While this type of work is sometimes necessary, in the case of special projects, short-term programs based on grants or even to get over the hump of an exceptional influx of work, far too many workers are being exploited to benefit management.

With the magnetism of title character Tom Sawyer in the classic book, Mark Twain laid out the setting where a lazy Tom talked neighbour kids into painting his aunt’s fence for free. With the long stroke of his brush and the gush of paint beautifying old fence boards, he actually drew some kids into paying him for the honour of work.Sound familiar? It should because it happens every day, whether it be volunteer organizations with paid staff or even in this case a Crown Corporation with executives and personality journalists pulling down hundreds of thousands per year.

It is beyond the pale to believe people starting their careers should work for free. 

Commitment is a two-way street, which speaks to the aversion as of late for capitalism. It is unfortunate that greed and short-sighted treatment of workers is tarnishing the reputation of a system responsible for making the free world as strong and dynamic as it is.