The topic of my speech is, Capitalism has too high a price, and while stating the fact I am reminded of what the American humourist and essayist Elwyn Brooks White had said many years ago, The trouble with the profit system is that it is highly unprofitable to most people. For those among you who may doubt these words, let me remind them of what took place in June last year.
Even though there were just 3000 to 4000 protestors on the streets of London, in the melee just two protesters and one policeman were injured. This made front page news all over the world. It was not the size or the intensity of the protest that made it newsworthy; it was the cause of it. To coincide with the opening of the G8 summit in Cologne, young persons in United Kingdom, a home to world capitalism, observing a “carnival against capitalism . The youthful protesters shouted “You show me a capitalist. I will show you a bloodsucker.”
In capitalism the consumption pattern to which the production system is supposed to adapt itself most efficiently depends not on the wants and tastes of the people; not even on what may be socially desirable, but on the wants and desires of those who are most powerfully backed by purchasing power.
Capitalism, today, is characterised not by perfect competition but by monopoly and this negates all arguments for welfare optimum. During the time of the British industrial revolution for example, unregulated capitalism played havoc with human life. The penetration of capitalism in British agriculture brought about many changes one of which was the migration of peasants to towns for urban employment as it was wont to do in other countries as when they entered the industrialisation era. This situation is described poignantly by Oliver Goldsmith in his poem, ‘The Deserted Village’, stanza one of which reads as follows:
“Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Admist thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green.”
Across the Atlantic, in USA, the operation of capitalism brought the Great Depression of the 30s when there was unemployment, destitution, squalor, hunger and disease for the working class under the load of falling wages, and declining standards of living.
As we turn over the pages of history we find that the myth that capitalism was an eternal system was exploded by Karl Marx when he gave to the world an alternative formulation: capitalism is a transitory stage in human history and it has to be replaced by socialism. Interestingly, however, while capitalism as an economic system and a political entity has survived for over 200 years, socialism as a state system disappeared in less than three quarters of a century with the fall of the Soviet empire. The system collapsed under its own weight with concentration of power in the hands of a chosen few and suppression of individual freedom, besides wrong socio-economic priorities with scant regard for the interest and welfare of the people as a whole. Nothing illustrates the inadequacy of the two systems more vividly than a joke narrated to Jon K. Galbraith during his tour to Poland in 1958: “Under capitalism man exploits man. Under communism, it is just the opposite.”It will be seen that under both economic systems — capitalism and socialism — the people to have suffered the most are the poor, the dispossessed and the weak. Sir, what capitalism has been doing for the past two hundred and fifty years is that it is exploiting the poor for the benefit of the rich. No wonder, in these countries, the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer.
The present authors of modern capitalism in the world are the Americans. To highlight the maladies of capitalism and their ill-effects on the people at large one can do no better than recall the words of a former American President, Roosevelt, in his address to the US Congress on April 29, 1938:
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private enterprise to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
Having gone through two world wars in one century perpetuated by forces of fascism who would want society to turn fascist which it will do very definitely if capitalism is allowed to grow unbridled. Capitalism has, indeed, a high price after all.