OPINION | The latest myth: capitalism caused the building to collapse in Miami

Editor’s note: Carlos Alberto Montaner is a writer, journalist, and CNN contributor. His columns are published in dozens of newspapers in Spain, the United States and Latin America. Montaner is also vice president of the Liberal International. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN Spanish) – I live on Brickell Street in Miami. I have a very beautiful view of the bay, but with the drawbacks of residing in front of the sea on a high floor. There is a cafeteria in the building. The “experts” meet to comment on all issues. I watch and listen to them. I rarely give an opinion. I just ask. This time it was the turn of a young man in his twenties:

– It was a combination of the United States Navy and the greed of capitalism, said the young man about the recent collapse of a building in North Miami.

I ask him why he has come to that conclusion. He answers me, very sure of himself, but without offering proof, a theory that surprised me:

– Two weeks ago an aircraft carrier detonated a bomb of thousands of kilos of explosives that caused an earthquake of magnitude 3.5. That removed the foundation of the building. The owners had refused to pay the spill to fix the structural damage. You know, Don Carlos Alberto, capitalists tend to be irresponsible. It is the greed inherent in the system.

I retire to my apartment. I search the internet for confirmation or denial of the hypothesis. It’s true that the Navy did a controlled explosion on an aircraft carrier … about 100 miles offshore. It happened six days before the building collapsed and nothing has happened since then in other structures. Experts have ruled out any effect on the building’s collapse. The owners did approve the spill proposed by the Condominium Board and had planned to start paying a week after the tragedy. The premises of the young “expert” were false and conspiratorial.

But I bring it up for a reason. Fifty-one percent of American youth ages 18-29 have a positive view of socialism and 45% have the same view of capitalism, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. I find a very clear exposition in an essay by economist Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation . It’s titled “The Case for Capitalism.” Opposing capitalism is a planetary fad. It is not just the case in the US In Chile and Colombia it can be said that similar trends have been seen. In Peru as well, although there are other factors that confront the population: geography, the disparity in development results and the harshness that half of the country has for the Fujimori surname.

Edwards establishes three serious myths that anti-capitalists have embraced in the name of socialism: That capitalism is only for the rich; that capitalism is the new and modern name of the old exploitation of always; and, finally, that it is the cause of all the ills that affect the United States.

I would add to the myths the idyllic vision of European “socialist” societies. When some Americans (and South Americans) think of “socialism” they tend to have a vision that resembles Denmark and generally does not vindicate the bad image that North Korea or Cuba produce. And the proof is that they do not asylum in those bitter nations. They opt, when they can, for northern Europe.

In any case, Scandinavia is far from being the panacea of ​​socialism that some young Americans, Chileans, Colombians or whoever they may believe. There is abundant private property and great facilities for doing business. There is also high public spending and a (more or less) efficient state that employs it. But you have to be careful with which hands manage these resources in Europe and in our region: because the corrupt exist everywhere. There is a reason for Transparency International. I remember when Daniel Ortega said that he was going to make Nicaragua the Sweden of Central America. For me, it was rather the Uganda of Idi Amin.

The first myth: capitalism is only for the rich

It is true that the rich are getting richer in the US, but it is also true that the poor are getting less and less poor. In 1980, according to consumption, the poor occupied 13% of the census, in 2018 they were 11.8%. But the official figures do not reflect the non-cash income earned by the “poor” Americans. As I see it, it is a poverty in which some have a car, air conditioning, Internet, at least one TV, schools for children, police protection, access to the justice system and to some extent health services. A family of 4 with less income of US $ 26,500 is considered “poor”, since in some cities it may be little to survive, although it may seem a large number by Latin American standards.

There are also encouraging indicators on minorities in terms of employment and business. There are currently 11.6 million women-owned businesses. Unemployment among Hispanics in the US had hit a record low of 4.3% in 2019, before the pandemic hit. It is worth noting that the pandemic has deepened social and economic inequalities.

Myth 2: Capitalism is the new name for exploitation

Is not true. Private business had a strong presence among the Greeks (and especially the Romans). The last 250 years has seen an explosion of wealth like never before. Private property plus electricity generated the industrial revolution and with it, growing prosperity. While Marx saw the class struggle and surplus value, industrial society was remunerating some of its most creative and industrious representatives. Today there are, in the US alone, more than 20 million millionaires and 660 billionaires.

Two documents, one long and the other, more or less, a few pages, saw the light in the same year 1776: “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith, which explained how “the invisible hand” of self-interest ended up enriching us to all, and the “Declaration of Independence of the USA”, written by Thomas Jefferson, which established the objectives of the Republic that was being developed, in accordance with the most advanced thinking of the Scots: Americans had the inalienable right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. (Of course, they were thinking of white men, of legal age and landowners, but gradually and by force of clashes they were incorporating the whole of society).

Myth 3: Capitalism is the source of all evil

It is also not true. The more careful judgment of Alexis de Tocqueville opposes the view of the nineteenth century as the age of original sin. This young French aristocrat knew how to see below and behind the images on his nine-month trip to the United States in 1831. He wrote the work “Democracy in America” ​​(1835-1840) in two volumes and there established his admiration for the class of nation that was forging, based on competition and spontaneous collaboration. He even predicted that the 20th century would be settled between the US and Russia. He also criticized the problems of a country in the making.

It is true that some of the great fortunes were made after Tocqueville’s visit to the US, and they were not always upheld by the law, but there is a lot of imagination and hard work in the so-called “robber barons” (“robber barons”). ”) From the 19th century. Fearing John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt or Andrew Mellon, would be like fearing Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Warren Buffet today. They all did and are needed. In the era of the first, they made money in sectors such as energy, banking, rail or steel. As for the latter, they do it with the sale of objects, on the internet or on the Stock Market. But there is no doubt that the state is not worth sitting around waiting for. He would be late, bad and never.

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