It is clear that capitalism is having a moral crisis, when even Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of a prosperous capitalist economy, terms it a “blatant failure”.
But Australians have good reason to be sceptical of the criticism: our capitalist system of private enterprise and free trade has worked remarkably well for us.
As outlined in my new paper, Why We Should Defend Capitalism, economic reforms from the 1980s to early 2000s unleashed the productive power of markets, and led to real growth in incomes and living standards.
But what does that mean for ordinary Australians? For a start, it means we can more easily afford to buy that dress from ASOS and Michelle Obama’s autobiography from Book Depositary, without stretching our wallets.
It means we can afford more overseas trips and holidays – in fact, millions of them each year; Australians are among the most widely travelled people in the world.
It means we enjoy our work more – our jobs have become more interesting, highly skilled, less mundane and much safer. It means we can afford better food and healthcare – with our life expectancy now sitting at 82 years, up from 49 years in the last century.
And it means that nearly 9 out of 10 of us now has a smart phone – which was cutting edge technology just a decade ago.
But remember why we have these opportunities. Governments do not supply us with mobile phones; we buy them from private companies.
Australians do not queue up at a charity kitchen for their weekly fix of sashimi or pizza; they go to private businesses. If you support your local hairdresser or drycleaner, you are supporting capitalism.
However, 27 years of relative prosperity has led to complacency among young Australians; and a growing attraction to socialism.
But their attitudes could easily change – if ditching capitalism meant giving up social media, Instagram, and that annual backpacking adventure through south-east Asia.
To safeguard our prosperity, we should unashamedly defend capitalism — and more importantly, connect the success of capitalism with our everyday lives.
That may be the only way to convince Millennials – and Jacinda Ardern.
12 February 2020 | Spectator
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