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LETTER: Original point stands on private enterprise working together with government

"Governments might not be very good at creating wealth on their own, but they’re often very good at providing social services."

Regarding Brian McLeod’s response to my column ("Let free enterprise deliver the solutions we need," March 17 Gazette), he accuses me of missing the point of his original column. I’d submit that he missed the point of mine, too.

I actually agree with Mr. McLeod’s basic point that we’ll need private enterprise to develop a lot of the technology we’ll need. What he neglected to mention was how much of that is supported by governments in the form of research grants, tax credits and other programs. He cites the example of how NASA has turned over a lot of its space research to the private sector, but wasn’t a lot of the scientific and technological progress that companies like Spacex now use developed by NASA itself during the space race? The private sector’s taken the ball and run with it, but the government often helped get the ball rolling in the first place.

Mr. McLeod claims that the U.S. healthcare industry is pervaded with government influence. Maybe it is, but so are a lot of other sectors ranging from petrochemicals to agriculture to aerospace. Does that mean none of these are free enterprise systems? The U.S. healthcare industry is still managed by for-profit HMOs and insurance companies. Sounds like free enterprise to me, just like with petrochemicals, agriculture and aerospace.

Mr. McLeod also writes about how governments don’t improve peoples’ standards of living and weren’t responsible for saving us from communism. Except then he mentions how governments transfer some of the wealth produced by free enterprise (and which is itself sometimes assisted by governments, as I mentioned above) and transfers it to lower-income individuals.

Well, what does he think killed so much of the appeal of communism? Government investments in everything from education to healthcare to pensions gave many more people a much higher standard of living, depriving communism of its argument that it was the only system that offered more than the 19th century’s squalor. Governments might not be very good at creating wealth on their own, but they’re often very good at providing social services. They didn’t just improve literacy and infant mortality in Russia, but also in places ranging from China to Tanzania, usually because they were the first ones to actually bother trying. Mixed economy countries like Canada and the U.S. accomplished the same thing, and with a higher overall wealth due to a strong private sector.

Hence my original point – Canada’s benefited from the advantages of both private enterprise and government action. Relying solely on private enterprise led to the 19th century squalor, while relying solely on the government led to the problems of communism.

Jared Milne, St. Albert