By Gene Balfour
The “politics of envy” was on full display in “How much is enough? The politics of capitalism and wealth”, published on August 24, 2018 in the The Lindsay Advocate by Roderick Benns. Benns, who describes himself as an ‘advocate,’ seems to be afflicted by the same mindset of all left wing politicians; the discovery that the easiest thing in the world is to spend other people’s money and make themselves appear magnanimous and heroic with each spending proposal.
I’m guessing that making such public proclamations must be accompanied by the same endorphin rush that long distance runners occasionally experience. In my opinion, it was a shot below the belt to showcase David Thomson and his family as evidentiary support for Benns’ spurious characterization of the wealthy, simply for being a member of a Canadian family with over $40 Billion in assets.
What Benns fails to reveal is how that $40 Billion is used.
Does he think that the money is currently stored in Thomson household closets collecting cobwebs? Maybe the tens of thousands of Thompson employees may wish to express their thanks to the Thompson families for providing so many good jobs along with the massive capital investments with which to work productively and safely each day. I wonder.
Would Benns prefer to confiscate the Thompson family fortune, then announce from a soapbox in front of adoring fans, how he intends to distribute it freely to his chosen people? What would Roderick do about the crowds of angry ex-Thompson employees who would surround the adoring masses with pitchforks and Molotov cocktails, ready to take back Benns’ heist?
As Margaret Thatcher famously explained, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.“
Imagine if Benns’ political dream were to begin with the Thompson family and then systematically confiscate the assets of the top 100 richest Canadian families in a closet spring cleaning campaign. Clearly, he would not reach even the 3rd richest family before the other 97 would have already run for the hills in desperation from the grasping hands of Canada’s reincarnation of Karl Marx.
Journalists world-wide are currently writing about the catastrophe that is Venezuela’s economy and society but, in such a wealth-grab scenario, the same articles would likely be simply copied and pasted into new publications with Canada replacing Venezuela. Why are so many modern journalists so unwilling to acknowledge the lessons of the history of socialism, and even its more contemporary failures in countries like Greece, Venezuela, and others?
I blame our current public education system that seems more intent on promoting the touchy-freely topics of inclusiveness and their politically-tainted version of equality, rather than teach useful subjects such as Austrian economics and unvarnished political history. Unfortunately, our teachers are government employees, paid from mandatory tax collections, and few have any clue about the challenges and rewards of running a for-profit business.
Benns made reference to economic historian Robert Hielbroner’s earlier belief that only government should address social problems, but he too suffered from the myopia of a lifetime of employment at taxpayer expense. In an interesting footnote to Heilbroner’s legacy, a man who was an outspoken socialist for nearly his entire career, he famously wrote in a 1989 New Yorker article, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, “ Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won … Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism.”
No one believes that capitalism is perfect. However, it is a mystery to me why anyone would wish to denigrate the current and past business leaders who have contributed hundreds of thousands of incremental advancements and improvements to human life over the past 200 years.
Instead of being ungrateful, Benns may wish to show some journalistic balance and begin writing articles of appreciation for the standard of living that he and his family members currently enjoy, rather than scheming to dismantle the very mechanisms of capitalism to which he owes so much.
Gene Balfour is the former chairman of the Ontario Libertarian Party.