Free-enterprise carries a price

Letter writer concerned about impact of free-enterprise on ordinary residents

The description of free-enterprise in the Canadian Dictionary of the English Language is as follows: “Free-enterprise is the freedom of private businesses to operate competitively for profit with minimal government regulation.”

The mostly small and medium size businesses John Trainor writes about are now the least part of the free-enterprise system, and I would agree with Steve Gunner that free-enterprise is indeed a doctrine. In fact it has become one of the most powerful and important doctrines in the world. Huge international corporations, even countries, usually run their financial and economic affairs according to the precepts of free-enterprise and have done so for decades.

It should be noted that free trade has long been an integral part of free-enterprise as they work together and cannot be separated. Some supporters have given free-enterprise almost the status of a cult. True believers feel its principles are sacrosanct, and they embrace even those extreme policies which have sometimes led to negative social consequences.

Considering the information that has come forward in recent years, Steve Gunner may be correct in his comments that, “the free enterprise doctrine is no longer working.” If results mean anything, it certainly is not working the way it is supposed to. A highly reputable and comprehensive study with figures no one disputes has been released, and its evidence shows that long before the recession, the difference between the rich and the poor in developed countries had increased enormously.

We now have more people living in poverty then we have had since the Great Depression. The research indicates the race to the bottom has been going on for well over 20 years. This suggests the policies we have been following are seriously flawed, and if we continue on this path, we risk causing the breakdown of society. The information from the above study shocked the developed world and helped to inspire the occupy movement.

Free-enterprise (which includes free trade) is a valuable economic tool if used with discretion and balance. Unfortunately, this seldom happens and the figures show our actions have enriched mainly corporations and the wealthy, (the so-called one per cent). Economic practices some say are ruinous and ruthless have impoverished whole sections of society, and are helping to create a large underclass which is a perfect breeding ground for social unrest, even insurrection. The U.K. riots are an obvious example. Canada now has hundreds of thousands of working poor who work very hard but make barely enough to survive. I am ashamed that this situation has become part of the Canadian way of life. Unlike John Trainor, I believe that due largely to the misuse of free-enterprise, we have already travelled a long way on the road back to the dark ages.

Although other factors played a part, the often unrestricted free-enterprise with its free trade component would appear to have been responsible for many of the economic and social ills that have overtaken the developed world. Sadly, Canada’s present rulers seem determined to follow the kind of self destructive policies that caused this mess in the first place.

The future Canada–EU trade accord is truly frightening in its scope and endangers everything from public health care to local and municipal government programs. No wonder negotiations have been kept secret from Canadians. I find it deeply troubling when the followers of a particular ideology are so obsessed that they happily promote the dismantling of their own country and show little concern for the welfare of its citizens.

Sharon Ramsdale

Vernon