Fine with capitalism

An introduction to different world views started years ago when I attended a night course at the University of Guelph.

The professor was an engaging fellow and his course dealt with the environment and man’s misuse of the incredible resources this planet has to offer. Week in and week out, examples were provided where urbanization and growing populations were stretching Earth’s capacity to the limit. It has only got worse since then, as more countries walk away from their agrarian roots and turn into urban centres.

As countries evolve, the demands on the environment to provide food for more citizens and raw material for industry put a strain on resources, requiring innovation and science to meet the population’s needs.

Canada itself has been moving away from the family farm for generations now, as more citizens choose an urban lifestyle. Personally, the farm blood still flows in our veins, but economics were such that farming as a job wasn’t a viable option.

Daydreaming over the weekend, I was thinking how awesome it was to see a calf or lamb take its first steps. Less obvious, but just as impressive, is the first day seeds poke through topsoil to reveal rows of produce. During time in the bush or walking along the creek, there was always a connectedness with nature and the impact poor choices had on it. Being kind to the environment and using resources wisely only makes sense.

According to that professor long ago, capitalism bore great responsibility for destroying the environment. By comparison, communist systems tended to better for the environment in his opinion. It was an introduction to a different world view that didn’t square well with me at the time.

A recent opinion piece in the Dec. 28 edition of Maclean’s magazine suggests “The left must stand against capitalism. Now.” Therein the writer identifies numerous deficiencies of capitalism, not limited to the environment but also including numerous social ills. Capping off his treatise was a point from a Forum Poll released last summer that 58% of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism.

There are ups and downs with most economic and political systems, but the notion that socialism is the only solution to today’s problems is a fallacy that seems to be gaining wider acceptance.

It brings to mind Winston Churchill’s great quote: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Perhaps it was my rural upbringing or a generational thing, but there should be little argument against rewarding those who work hard.

For a thinking person, capitalism does suffer from some shortcomings, chiefly politicians capable enough to pull levers in the interest of the common good, whether it be environmental policy, housing programs, senior-related facilities or education. Good sense and strong voices are needed to ensure all citizens have access to opportunity and unbridled greed isn’t left unchecked.

Consider CEO pay where hired guns make more in wages on the first half-day worked in the new year than the average worker does in a year. Or how about polluters like Northern Pulp in Nova Scotia who choose profits over taking action to protect the environment, despite years of warnings to clean up their act. Egregious inequality should be challenged always.

Socialism, extending beyond what Canada employs today, is not the panacea its proponents would have us believe.