As Winston Churchill famously observed,
democracy is the worst political system in the world - except
for all the others.
The same is true for capitalism.
Some argue that recent scandals at WorldCom,
Global Crossing, Enron and elsewhere are proof that capitalism
doesn't work. They argue that business, especially big business,
should simply be nationalized.
These folks want to throw the baby - the
capitalistic engine that has made the United States and this era
the most prosperous nation and time of any in the world - out
with the bathwater.
Ironically, if they succeeded, we'd not
only be economically poorer, but our economy would be more corrupt
There are two words for anyone who believes
business scandals can be avoided by a government takeover of industry:
Fans of nationalization should be asked:
Ever heard of them?
The rest of us have. In fact, political
scandals are more common than business scandals. Just open a newspaper.
Corporations today are supervised by accountable
boards of directors watched by private auditors and government
regulators who are joined by the unofficial supervision of Wall
Street financial analysts, the scrutiny of stockholders and the
informal oversight of the business press.
A nationalized business would be run by
government, which reports to... government. The news media covers
government, but when government doesn't want it to, it simply
classifies something as secret.
So much for checks and balances, scrutiny
Big business might not be perfect, but
no cure for business scandals can be found in turning over industry
to the same government that not too long ago had a huge House
If politicians are so much more honest
and competent than businessmen, why are the same folks who push
nationalization always calling for campaign finance reform?
How is it that the federal government
has lost - simply misplaced - literally billions of taxpayers
dollars over the years?
Why is it that some federal government
agencies are in such financial shambles that they literally are
We need not go far to see what happens
when business is nationalized.
Our neighbor to the north, Canada, nationalized
its health care system. Now, over 2.85 percent of the total Canadian
population of 30.8 million is waiting in line for medical treatment.
That appalling figure is nearly three percent of all Canadians,
including the healthy, not merely three percent of all Canadians
who need treatment.1
To put these figures into perspective,
if the U.S. had nationalized its health system with results comparable
to Canada's, almost 7.9 million Americans would be waiting for
In Canada, waiting five weeks to start
chemotherapy for cancer is considered a short wait. In Saskatchewan,
the typical wait is ten weeks and it is 12.6 weeks in Newfoundland.
Yes, over the past few years some shenanigans
went on in the telecommunications, energy trading and cable television
industries, among others.
However, if we nationalize those industries,
we'll still have scandals.
What we'll also get is a poorer economy.
Care to wait 12 weeks for a dial tone, anyone?
Amy Ridenour is President of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
1 Michael Walker and Greg Wilson, Waiting Your
Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, The Fraser Institute,
Vancouver, 2001. The survey was conducted between December 2000
and February 2001. This study can be found at: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/admin/books/files/wyt.pdf.
Waiting times are calculated as the median time spent waiting
2 2.85374% of the total U.S. population of 276.54 million