In defence of the new capitalism.

It seems like many years ago, I was standing in front of business students in Ontario defending responsible capitalism. Nobody called me a raving socialist—at least, not out loud. There was no question that what I was lecturing was more on social democracy than the bitchiness of Donald Trump’s raw and nasty version of capitalism.

Recently I was sent a copy of a Bill Maher piece called Capitalism Plus. This clip must be a hot item in democratic circles in the U.S. today. He explains how socialism is an excellent add on for capitalism. It explains why caring for others matters. It is also great to have a few good laughs as a popular and practiced raconteur explains something that is very important.

There seemed to be as many examples of good companies back in the 1970s and 80s as there are examples of bad companies today. Take the General Motors situation for example. I think the giant company has shot itself in the foot to remove the Oshawa plant’s manufacturing from Canada.

In the 1970s and 80s, there were companies throughout the United States and in Canada that believed in the social responsibility of business. They treated their employees as responsible partners in the enterprise, sharing the benefits and financial success.

And there were lessons to be learned in failure at the same time. There are different ways of handling layoffs as assembly lines become redundant. A company I worked for ran to the end of a product cycle and we had some good employees on that product line without work. One day some of them were repainting the hallways of the plant and they asked me why there were no layoffs. All I could do was ask them to be patient.

What we had done was ask our personnel people if they would like to try out their sales skills. We sent them out to similar type companies in the municipality to sell them on interviewing some of our employees. The only layoffs that took place where when everyone had a new job.

But call it democratic socialism, social responsibility of business or capitalism plus, business wants to be part of a stable environment where it can plan ahead and grow its opportunities. Canada offers that. We hardly need to tell anyone that we are open for business. Nor do we always need to attract business with lower taxes or incentives. We know that business will come.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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