In his latest column, Brian McLeod claimed free enterprise is better at solving problems than governments ("Free enterprise can do what governments can’t," Jan. 27 Gazette). But free enterprise has its problems too, and sometimes governments are actually better at solving problems.
Just look at the privatized American health care system. Despite being run by free enterprise, it’s so bloated and inefficient that it’s a far bigger drain on both Americans’ public and private dollars than our government-run system. There are plenty of horror stories about people being financially ruined by hospital bills, often for things that aren’t their fault. If free enterprise is always the best solution, then why can’t it provide Americans with cheaper care?
Every single conservative Albertan I’ve ever asked has supported our public healthcare system. Whenever they support some private delivery, it’s because they think it’ll take pressure off the public system. Even then, it’s a tough sell. Former premier Ralph Klein called his health privatization efforts as a ‘Third Way’ between public and private medicine, but neither his caucus or the public wanted anything to do with it.
Free enterprise has accomplished a lot of great things and elevated our standard of living, but the best results come when it’s combined with a strong social safety net and proper government limitations. Public education has increased the number of skilled workers available to entrepreneurs, while public healthcare helps those employees return to work sooner. Public infrastructure such as roads and power lines helps companies receive and deliver services.
Communism caused ecological and economic disasters in countries like China and Russia, but what many people don’t realize how it got started. Unregulated free enterprise in the 19th century led to large numbers of people, including children, working for next to nothing in grinding poverty. The resulting misery made Karl Marx’s ideas appeal to a lot of people and led to the rise of communism. Government action played a large part in saving Canada from communism by improving Canadians’ standard of living and depriving communism of one of its strongest arguments.
Canada has benefited from free enterprise and government actions each complementing each others’ successes. Unrestricted capitalism generated a lot of wealth and scientific advancements, but it failed to ‘trickle down’ to the general public. Communist regimes led to economic and technological stagnation, but even they often improved things like their populations’ literacy and infant mortality rates.
Governments can make mistakes, of course. Canada’s problems getting a supply of vaccines during the pandemic are one major example. But critics like McLeod overlook the efforts of health care workers to treat people suffering from the pandemic, and the financial support people and businesses have received to help them deal with layoffs and closures. Even if government actions can’t completely solve things like homelessness, they can still help alleviate it.
Combining the best from different ideologies has often been a huge benefit for Canada. Blending the best of free enterprise and government action is a perfect example.