On 2 December 2019, Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf spoke to the Alberta legislature, saying the seemingly random rant seen below:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A few short weeks ago the NDP joined an Extinction Rebellion protest outside of the Legislature. They stood alongside people shouting and screaming for the total shutdown of our economy. They lined up beside antipipeline, anti-oil, and anti-Alberta signs and nodded along as
the crowd screamed that we must keep oil in the ground. The NDP then joined the virtue-signalling cheers as Greta Thunberg took the stage. Now, we know that Greta would fit right in with the anti-oil and gas rhetoric of the NDP and their Extinction Rebellion friends, but what we didn’t know is that she would fit into the anticapitalist rhetoric of Alberta’s left as well. The free-market system, that Extinction Rebellion, the NDP, and Ms Thunberg call colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression, is what built our modern world.
Alberta’s indigenous communities are standing up for themselves, demanding to have their voices heard as they fight to lift their people from poverty to prosperity and build new opportunities for themselves. We are proud to help provide the support they need to tell their story to the eco colonialists who want to speak over the voices of our indigenous peoples.
In case the radical activists of the left have forgotten: global poverty is dropping and has been for decades. Why? Because of capitalism. Since the 1980s the expansion of free-market capitalism and free trade access across the world meant that two billion people who previously lived in extreme poverty no longer do so. Modern miracles are saving lives through the transformative innovation in health care. Why? Because of capitalism. Global hunger is declining, and new high-tech crops are being developed to combat hunger at its source. Why? Because of capitalism.
Mr. Speaker, Albertans know that the Leap Manifesto, Extinction Rebellion, leave it in the ground, antipipeline NDP and their friends have never supported the systems that built our modern world. But on this side of the House we are thankful for the prosperity, the progress, the modern miracles made possible through and because of innovation, ingenuity, and the creativity of capitalism.Alberta, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 50th Leg, 1st Sess, No 50 (2 Dec 2019) at 2664.
His diatribe wasn’t in response to another member’s comments, nor was it directed to another member or a minister. It was like a lone ship out on the vast ocean of relevance, without a sail or fuel.
Anyhow, there are 4 points I thought I’d address.
1. Capitalism and oppression
When Neudorf claimed that “the free-market system, that [they] call colonial, and patriarchal systems of oppression, is what built our modern world”, he did it in such a way as to imply that the free market system built our modern world in a way that was free of colonialism and patriarchal systems of oppression.
Capitalism, however, is inherently oppressive. Capitalism is built on the concept of hierarchy.
Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production. It is designed so that only a small number of people own the means of production, and as such, also the products from that production, as well as the labour that created that production. It is impossible for there to be a business owner who owns the product and labour of the workers in that business without there being unequal distribution of power. For capitalism to succeed, the business owner must have more power than the business workers.
That power imbalance is what makes capitalism oppressive. It’s what created slaves and slaveowners; it’s what created billionaires and beggars; it’s what created homeowners and homeless.
Capitalism is what convinced Europeans that people of colour had less value than white people, what allowed them to rationalize slavery.
Capitalism is what convinced Europeans that it was okay to take resources from other areas of the world and bring them back to their own. To take resources without paying for them, then using the low input costs to create massive profits after reselling their finished products at a premium retail price.
Capitalism is what funds civil wars over tantalum and diamonds, coups and multi-nation wars over oil, and destruction of orangutan habitat over snack foods.
To imply that capitalism and colonialism aren’t connected is to lie or to be utterly ignorant on what these words mean.
And socialism built the modern world, not capitalism. See point #4.
2. Free market system
The free-market system hasn’t existed in Canada for over a century. The state has regulated capitalism for decades: in the 19th century, through the entire 20th century, and now 1/5 of the way through the 21st century.
And that’s a good thing.
The free-market system is how we ended up with slavery, how we ended up with people working 16 hour days, 6 days a week in hazardous conditions, how we ended up with children as young as four years old working in factories. The free-market system keeps wages low and endangers worker safety.
A free-market system is designed to benefit business owners, by maximizing profits. Profits are only possible if revenue is higher than expenses, and expenses are primarily labour and raw materials. In a free-market system, there is significant incentive to exploit both labour and raw materials.
Without state regulation and intervention (never mind the work of worker collectivization), the condition of the natural world and society in general would be much worse than it is today.
3. “our indigenous peoples”
“Alberta’s indigenous communities”
“our indigenous peoples”
Neudorf, the Indigenous people who live in what is now Alberta do not belong to you. They do not belong to the Government of Alberta. They are not your children. They are not your property. They are not your pawns to be used in your political games.
To tie Indigenous people to the Government of Alberta is to continue the colonialist oppression they have had to endure for centuries. It’s attitudes like yours that perpetuate the state genocide of the people you claim to provide support to. What are you doing to prevent them from being stolen from their families through the provincial foster care system? What are you doing to prevent them from being overrepresented in the provincial justice system?
The only time you care about Indigenous people is when you can appropriate their plight to further your pro-business agenda.
4. Global poverty is dropping
Neudorf claims that global poverty is dropping, health care is being innovated, and global hunger is declining because of capitalism.
What he fails to realize is that all of these things are made possible by the state. More people have access to food because of the infrastructure states have created: transportation, communication, banking, and so on are all made possible because of governments, not because of capitalism. Research in food technology and in medical technology is made possible by public funding to public research institutions, such as universities and federal research centres, not because of altruistic billionaires.
Capitalism would have let people starve if it meant business owners could make a profit. Or at the very least, business owners would feed the poor just enough to keep them alive as they worked in their mines, on their plantations, and in their factories.
Neudorf sounds like just another ignorant capitalist, parroting the same tired tropes that are based on made-up myths. Apparently all those years working in construction never taught him how the real world works.