The triumph of capitalism – Stabroek News

Mr. Editor,

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the official end of the USSR and its disastrous experience of communism: a system with its internal contradictions that has miserably failed humanity.

The winning philosophy, capitalism, a more economically efficient system that can better harness human creativity, ingenuity, which reinforces a socio-political arrangement that gives primacy to individual autonomy and expression, has triumphed.

Think about these visionary leaders and the technologies they introduced, all from a system that now defines the way we work and live: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) , Tim Berners-Lee (Internet), Larry Page (Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). Their uncompromising vision, including a passion for changing the world, a willingness to take risks and a keen business sense, now defines the company. Could you imagine a world without email, the internet, smartphones and social media? Here are some more glimpses of how capitalism has contributed to the greater good of mankind.

Capitalism has created the environment to produce a range of new technologies that are fundamentally changing the way we work, live, do business and relate to each other with revolutionary tools such as blockchain, digital transformation, 5-G networks, financial technology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and biotechnology approaching critical mass in a constantly changing world evolution. Digital natives like Airbnb, Uber, and Spotify have all revolutionized the hospitality, taxi, and music industry through cutting costs and lowering customer expectations, all in a capitalist system.

Apart from the above, behemoths such as General Electric (GE), General Motors (GM), Ford, Proctor & Gamble, Deer, Caterpillar, Boeing, Shell, Exxon, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Pfizer, etc., and other large companies in industrial products, building materials, machinery, equipment, consumer products, agriculture, food production, information technology, finance, investment and commercial banking (including SWIFT – the global messaging system used by financial institutions which daily move billions around the world base), all have emerged from a capitalist system.

Capitalism laid the foundation for modern banking and finance, educational and industrial growth, the development of the arts, modern music, technological developments, advances in science and medicine – not to mention name a few. Non-traditional learning has played a central role in the history of continuing education. The system whereby any person, with stipulated prerequisite qualifications, could register as an external student of a university or professional body and, in due course, take an examination of an exactly parallel level to that of residential students, was certainly one of the notable educational inventions since its genesis in the 19th century under capitalism. It also offered the possibility of obtaining a degree or a title to thousands of people who had not had the opportunity to enter a university.

The fusion of three key factors, all from a capitalist environment, changed the world forever; the printing press, the Hindu-Arabic numerals from 0 to 9 (which gave birth to market capitalism and the creation of wealth) while creating double-entry accounting. The human concept of wealth, its measures, its creation and its distribution could not have been achieved without these factors.

The world owes India a great deal for these monumental changes triggered by the digits 0-9 which in turn were used to develop the current double-entry bookkeeping and ultimately led to human progress in many systems. Our lives are now interwoven with financial and non-financial numbers. When you examine a financial statement or report, you are essentially looking at the use of the numbers 0 through 9 in all their forms to measure financial health, growth, and performance. The death of Latin as the universal language of Europe and its gradual replacement by the language of science, whose foundation was mathematics, was made possible by the Hindu-Arabic numerals 0 to 9 which played a central role. Numbers made possible the triumph of science and the rise of mathematics as a universal language.

Double-entry accounting drove Europe’s new economic engine: industrialization which in turn gave birth to joint-stock companies and a new profession – accounting – the presentation and interpretation of accounting results in double entry to assess performance and financial position on a given date.

Double-entry bookkeeping has also played a key role in world history and the development of capitalism. Almost all requests for business information were met under double entry accounting. It allowed the recording and interpretation of commercial transactions; distinction between capital and income; private spending and differentiated business costs; and produces data for decision making. It gave rise to accounting and other subjects related to accounting: auditing, cost accounting, management accounting and financial management.

Capitalism has changed the world more than all of its wars, revolutions and revolts in history. It created more prosperity and progress for more people than any other system in the history of mankind. It lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, reshaped the world time and time again with revolutionary technologies, and created a global middle class that enjoys a way of life unmatched in all of history. Indeed, capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any other system in human history.

Yours faithfully,

Lal Balkaran


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