Third world lending circles are incredible. Delinquency rates among these micro-loan groups, (often comprised of small collections of severely impoverished women), are very low, even lower than large commercial banks. The reason for their success rate seems to be found in the esteem these women have toward one another. It’s one thing to default on a loan from a banker in a pair of polished Oxford’s, but a woman has to look her village sister in the eye, and that’s motivation enough to get the job done!
Lending circles are cooperatives of a sort, but should not be confused with socialism. These are business women in every sense of the term. They are free to create, own, and produce the products they wish, and to sell their output based on prevailing market terms, and to keep their profits. Their market is free, not contrived or centrally-planned. Even the loans themselves are freely-negotiated, and subject to the undeniable penalty of the borrowers’ community-standing.
It’s been about 30 years since the dismantling of the communist iron curtain in 1989, and the horrors of its ruthless regimes seem to be fading in our public consciousness, especially among those born after that transition. By any measure, this amnesia is an extremely dangerous phenomenon.
I know it doesn’t help to have a pear-shaped blowhard sitting as leader of the free world, and self-proclaimed icon of capitalism. (Hint, in my experience, successful businessmen and women almost never brag, but rather blush at their own success.)
Of course there is always corruption in a free market democracy too, and it’s often brutal. But there should be no debate whatsoever about which system is preferential in terms of human rights and overall prosperity. One system walls its people in, and shoots them when they try to escape. If the other contemplates walling its border, (to keep the teaming, hungry masses out) it has to bicker with its own constituents first, and it could lose that argument.
Broadly speaking, communism is not good for enterprise, although there’s one local businessman in every communist state who invariably thrives. The undertaker. Communism is the McDonald’s of state-sanctioned murder, boasting over 100,000,000 coffins served and counting.
But, they say, “I’m not a communist, I’m a social democrat, I lean left. I’m a centrist. I’m a small L liberal. “
What is liberalism? The term means conflicting things in different times and places,
In this part of the world to be a liberal usually refers to an increase in government intervention, tempering capitalism’s sometimes cruel outcomes, but this was not always the case. The Globe and Mail notes that: “For its part, the word liberal has led a confused life. Politically, it used to be a rallying cry for those seeking less government and more individual liberty, and more recently has been employed to mean the opposite, a call for greater government regulation.”
So does it mean something like: “to wrestle power away from the hegemonic capitalist system?” Not always.
In a December 2018 editorial, The Economist referred to China’s “liberal intelligentsia,” (who were facing crackdowns by the communist regime there), as “an embattled band including free-market economists, reformist lawyers, retired officials and some business executives.” So in this context, to be liberal is to increase the power of business mindset, versus the government.
So maybe at its core, liberalism means something like: “to wrestle power away from power?” Not always. Sometimes liberalism is not really about human rights at all, but a conglomerate of left-leaning means-justifying opinion leaders, all too willing to overlook blatant human rights abuses.
George Orwell was once a communist sympathiser, who fought on behalf of socialist cause during the Spanish civil war. He later became disillusioned with the totalitarianism that Marx’s dream spawned, and its comfortable intellectual sympathisers, who were abundant during the Great Depression: The visionary writer opined:
“When one sees highly educated men looking on indifferently at oppression and persecution, one wonders which to despise more, their cynicism or their shortsightedness.” And, he added, “it is the liberals who fear liberty... any writer who adopts the totalitarian outlook, who finds excuses for persecution and the falsification of reality, thereby destroys himself as a writer.”
In our day, Globe and Mail writer, Bret Stephens aptly notes that this same blind eye is prevalent among some young Western Intelligentsia:
“Then there are the humanitarian causes young activists generally don’t embrace... Cuba’s political prisoners. (Radical) Islamist violence against Christians in the Middle East. The vast and terrifying concentration camp that is North Korea. Where are the campus protests over any of that? The case of Venezuela ought to be an especially worthy one for college students. It is urgent. It is close by. Its victims are fighting for democracy, for human rights, for the ability to feed their children. So why the relative silence? Part of the reason is that campus activism is a left-wing phenomenon, making it awkward to target left-wing villains.”
For what it’s worth, my preferred definition of liberalism is in a more classical sense. Something like: “Our inherent liberty to create, own property, trade, worship, and promote our ideas, moderately constrained by rules to mitigate our impact on others.” Under this system, we can all prosper.