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Rep. Bette Grande, Published January 22 2012

Critic of capitalism misses the vital opportunity factor

Professor Shelton Gunaratne raised several excellent points in his op-ed published in The Forum Jan. 15. He accurately pointed out that President Abraham Lincoln would not recognize nor accept the state of our republic today.

I agree with Gunaratne when he said “… we have to concede that Congress is more interested in preserving the status quo than in ushering in changes for the welfare of the ordinary American.” The ruling class – from both parties – derives wealth and power from the status quo. There is an all-too-cozy relationship between successful business interests and politicians in Washington.

But the writer was not correct when he pointed the finger of blame at capitalism. We often hear that free-market capitalism has failed. It hasn’t failed … it hasn’t even been tried. When we point to our failing economy today or to the current state of government and say that capitalism is to blame, we fall for the big lie that progressives – again, from both parties – have fed us for generations.

The “status quo” the writer refers to is not capitalism, but is instead the opposite of capitalism. It is crony capitalism, where those who have achieved success use government to protect them from competition. This alignment of big government and business is intended to stop the creativity and competition of free-market capitalism.

I disagree with the statement that “survival of the fittest” is “the principle of unadulterated capitalism.” In fact, survival, in the sense of survival of any individual business, is not guaranteed, nor is it the goal of capitalism. Free-market capitalism, like our nation’s founding documents, is based on the principle of opportunity, not outcome.

Healthy free-market capitalism encourages risk-taking and expects failure; after all, if there is no failure, there was no risk.

Henry Ford went bankrupt in 1901, and he did not get bailed out like General Motors did in 2008. A bailout was not what Ford needed; his business model was wrong. When he failed, he was forced to innovate, and he then formed Ford Motor Co. (the only domestic auto company that wasn’t bailed out in 2008) and changed the world.

Yes, many are frustrated by Washington’s cozy relationship with companies like Goldman Sachs. But free-market capitalism is not the cause – it is the way out. It provides opportunity for all.

The answer is not to attack the rich or attack the risk takers. The answer is limited government. Only by shrinking the size and reach of the federal government can we ensure economic freedom and opportunity. When government gets too involved in the free market – when government picks winners and losers – we all lose.

Those empowered and enriched by politics as usual will continue throwing money at politicians who are willing to play along. But the people have the ultimate power and authority to control government. It is up to us to take a stand.

Grande, R-Fargo, has represented District 41 in the North Dakota House since 1997. She is an announced candidate for her party’s endorsement to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.