We hear a great deal about the supposed evils of capitalism, the wonders of governmental interference and planning, and the accusation that capitalism is associated with greed. Of course, for many politicians, “capitalism” really means government, tax-financed favors for the “capitalist” who will pass back the most money to politicians. Against that kind of “capitalism” all the accusations are true.
But when it comes to a real free market where people are left alone to produce and trade with others without requiring permission or regulations from the government, greed has virtually nothing to do with it. I’m not denying that people in such a society can be greedy, and are greedy. That misses the point. Every society has greedy people. The question is, does a free market require and utilize greed to operate.
The answer from Pakistan is that greed destroys capitalism rather than drive it to work properly. According to the New York Times,
“Electricity shortages, bad for years, have reached crisis proportions. Lights go out for at least 10 hours a day in major cities, and up to 22 hours a day in rural areas. As the summer heat pressed in suddenly last week — touching 118 degrees Fahrenheit in the eastern city of Lahore — Pakistanis again took to the streets to protest the chaotic state of the country’s power delivery system. Doctors and nurses picketed outside hospitals, complaining about lacking clean water and having to cancel operations. Demonstrators burned tires, blocked traffic or pelted electricity company officials with stones. Students cannot study for exams, morgues struggle with decomposing bodies, and even the rich complain that their expensive backup generators are straining badly — or, in some cases, blowing up from overuse.”
Sounds dire doesn’t it? What could be keeping those utilities from delivering services?
“The crisis is the product of multiple factors, from decrepit power plants to crumbling transmission lines to decades-old policy mistakes. One reason, however, stands above the others: most Pakistanis will not pay their bills. The system is paralyzed by $5 billion in ‘circular debt’ — basically, a long chain of unpaid bills that cuts across society, from government departments to wealthy politicians to slum dwellers. At its worst, this leaves power providers with no funds to pay for fuel, so their plants slow or shut down entirely.”
Other kinds of corruption are also fingered as part of the problem, but the bottom line is that greed doesn’t give us capitalism; greed gives us poverty at every level of the economy. Even the rich are unable to get and use electricity. There are a few who are much better off than the rest, of course, but they too would be much better off in a country where electricity was produced and delivered to customers. But greed destroys it all. Many people “want” the service but simply won’t pay for it. So the problem is being treated as a political problem when it is actually a cultural crisis.
Pakistan needs a religious revival to sweep through the country and teach the people to love. Capitalism thrives on love, not greed.