Editor's note: This is the campus perspective from our partners at UWire.com. Author Giles Howard is a student at the University of Pittsburgh.
G-20 protesters have descended upon Pittsburgh with seemingly one unified message: a cry against capitalism, portraying it as an oppressive and unjust system foisted upon billions of people by a cabal of world leaders.
These protesters promise to make our city their ideological playground filled with tent cities, anti-capitalist marches and — if the bluster of online anarchists is to be believed — threats of violence directed against local businesses.
But Pittsburgh is a vibrant counterpoint to the whining of socialists, Marxists and anarchists who seek to blame an economic system for all the world’s troubles.
Our libraries, museums and universities are the product of industry. Every building, public space or charitable foundation with the name Mellon, Frick, Carnegie, Heinz or Schenley is a product of capitalism and the wealth generated by innovation and competition.
Of course, our city’s relationship with capitalism has been tumultuous. From the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to the Battle of Homestead to the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, Pittsburgh has borne witness to violence perpetrated by both labor and capital.
Moreover, we often look back on the practices of 19th century industry with distaste. Today we view coal, the material that powered this nation, as a disastrous pollutant. However, Pittsburgh would not exist today as a center of education and medical research, had it not been for our past industrial success.
Our story of success is one of hard work, competition and innovation. It is a story that goes along with the history of capitalism in this nation. The simple truth is that no other economic system would have enabled such a history. We need look no further than the gulags of Soviet Russia, the murderous Great Leap Forward of Communist China or the authoritarian nightmare of Fidel Castro’s Cuba to understand the capitalist imperative.
The history of state-directed economies is the greatest vindication of capitalism, as capitalism is the economic system that allows people the greatest liberty and chance for success without undue impositions or interference.
Of course, with this chance for success comes the chance for failure, and no capitalist economy is without those who have failed.
This appears to be a major source of contention for protest organizations like Bail Out the People, which kicked off this week’s G-20 protests with a March For Jobs on Sunday.
On its Web site, Bail Out the People called for “a moratorium on layoffs, foreclosures and evictions” and proclaimed “the right of everyone to a job or a guaranteed income.” The suggestion that everyone deserves an income regardless of his or her ability or work is ridiculous.
Bail Out the People is demanding that need be elevated above ability and that competition be abandoned in favor of an individual’s “right” to employment, regardless of his ability to perform a job or the job’s necessity to the economy.
Bail Out the People is just one of the organizations protesting the G-20, but it is important to remember that neither this nation nor this city were built by giving jobs to the unqualified or by paying people to do nothing.
Over the next week, media outlets will subject the nation to the protesters’ slogans, placards and proclamations. As they criticize and demonize capitalism as an economic system of oppression, we must remember that all we hold dear in this city -- and nation -- would be impossible without it.
We must also remember that capitalism’s critics have had their chance in other nations to establish socialist, communist and statist alternatives but have only succeeded in creating greater pain and suffering.
For all of capitalism’s flaws, it has proven to be the economic system most conducive to individual liberty and social mobility.
Let the protesters attack capitalism. Let them march in our streets. Let them protest outside our businesses. When they have exhausted their rage and the circus has ended, our city will still be standing as a testament to the achievements of free men and women engaged in a free capitalist economy.