Opinion: Let’s talk about the cruel fallout from our economic system


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After thinking long and hard about columnist Chris Nelson’s June 24 op-ed, “Legal Leftists Ignore Working Class Needs,” (Herald Opinion), I wish I had the opportunity to respond.

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Being part of the group made up of “green lobbyists, the college professor mob, social justice warriors and apologists for everything under the sun”, let me state that I am not incapable of understanding “ how vital a job is for ordinary people”. .”

Yes, I have the privilege of having a pension beyond CPP — something not everyone is lucky enough to hope for. But I also see this financial benefit as a call to assume a responsibility associated with public service. As a university professor, I am not alone here. As far as I know, each of my colleagues works extremely hard in teaching, research and service. Are there any who take advantage of it? Probably, but I haven’t met them. Nelson writes as if everyone with a decent pension or the so-called government job security is living the life of some kind of tax leech, taking but never giving back.

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But to go deeper into the question of capitalism and its discontents, my position is that any economic system has its costs and it should be part of the public discourse to highlight them so that the appropriate adjustments can be made. The groups that Nelson seems so impatient with are simply trying to do their civic duty by noting some of the current costs of contemporary capitalism.

Yes, jobs are vital for ordinary people, and it is one of the highest costs of our current system that it is so difficult to get and keep a job. Additionally, the challenge comes from the uncertainties inherent in a global marketplace—uncertainties over which employees have no real control. As for employers who can only exist to the extent that they can make a profit in a hypercompetitive environment, they are generally unable to provide their workers with the kind of pensions that would allow them to retire comfortably.

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Another cost of capitalism is the fear, anxiety and anger that arise from the aforementioned uncertainty. Money that could be used to provide greater economic security is funneled into health care and even the police to control the toxic fallout of all the human suffering the system seems to be generating.

A third cost is a subtle soul corruption that comes from basing one’s success on another’s failure. Yes, I guess we should be proud of our economic accomplishments — accomplishments based on ingenuity and hard work. But what about the ingenuity and hard work of its competitors? In this regard, Nelson talks about how other countries would pick up the slack if Canada lost its competitive advantage and its economy “imploded”. Does this mean that other countries would suffer in some way if Canada maintained its economic advantage? Are we supposed to rejoice in our relative success if it is tied to someone else’s failure?

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There are, of course, other costs (for example, the threat to jobs from increasing automation), but the one not unique to capitalism arises when the problems besetting a system seem so vast that those who live there develop an inability to cope. constructively and start seeing critics as enemies. Yes, there is much to fear when it comes to going back to the drawing board and rethinking the basic assumptions by which we have chosen to live our lives. But obviously we have to try; and while some critics of the system might not be on the side of the angels, others want to make things better. Just as US Navy hero John Paul Jones said, “I haven’t started fighting yet,” I feel like we haven’t started talking yet. Let’s start.

Ronald Glasberg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary.

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