Emad Barsoum: Capitalism, Democracy and Social Responsibility
Quite number of countries around the world adopts a strategy known as “preparing the Nation for war”, in which formerly designed measures and procedures are established to allow the State to function and operate under certain unusual circumstances such as wars, natural catastrophes or pandemics. However through history it was observed that such measures would vary according to eras, regimes and cultures, where the means could differ but the goal is to allow the nations to survive during such exceptional circumstances.
Today the whole world is falling under the attack of a new virus from the Corona family of viruses known scientifically as COVID-19 which became a pandemic, surprisingly, through the media and modern ways of communication we observe that many countries are like a ship in the midst of a tempest where decisions to face the calamity are unorganized, there is lack of communication and organization between different departments within the same State or among different nations, whilst some others didn’t even take serious measures and as the time passes by more people get infected.
Unexpectedly the scene shows that western countries which are known to be the most advanced and democratic are suffering from the fast spread of the virus infections, countries with sophisticated technology and technical research and medical advancement are still behind on taking strict measures to contain the disease, although the Asian communist giant has taken very large steps towards preventing the spread of the infections.
It is imperative to state that although the citizens of western countries are enjoying the very freedom of democracy yet they are less likely to adhere to the strict measures and directions of their authorities, or, are the western governments unable to enforce these measures to avoid the criticism and being labeled as anti-democracy consequently upsetting their citizens and ultimately lose flow of donations and support from the business owners and entrepreneurs, in doing so government would cherish flow of profits over the public interest! As we can see that democracy is now abused by the citizens of these countries that created a paradox of becoming, either much obedient to their governments measures or strict procedures similar to the communist and social regimes or consider freedom and democracy to rise above public interest and eventually put themselves into more jeopardy!
But before deciding which path they should follow they have to remember that this same democracy had its citizens entered into the “social contract” by which the citizens of a state are to surrender some of their freedom and submit to their elected government in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the safety and social order.
While trying to understand this paradox we can simply realize that citizens of the democratic states are behaving without much social responsibility on the individual level, and it’s manifested clearly in the way they are hoarding food stuff and healthcare supplies disregarding their governments’ assurance that the supply chain is in good shape, such rush even led to lots of hassle and arguments between the individuals themselves and with the stores workers even that law enforcement forces and medical teams had to rush to shopping outlets. On the other side the nations practicing less democracy have had their citizens abide by the governments’ directions and negligibly have witnessed such behavior form the individuals.
Accordingly and during war times in the past such lack of social responsibility have allowed multiple groups of individuals to create parallel markets or black markets for the supplies that people start to accumulate, and the chance to acquire these supplies rest for the highest bidders, the history is repeating itself creating socially irresponsible citizens who are not only refusing governments’ measures but acting against the public interest and social order in a time of war. Nevertheless, not only individuals are abusing their nations during the time of war but we can see that even corporations and businesses would follow the same route, as they immediately tend to increase their prices due to the high demand or tend to slow down the supply to create higher demand which directly leads to increase in prices. In a free market or capitalist markets that is the standard mechanism and an acceptable trend in the market dynamics; however, in times of war and national crisis such behavior should be considered as direct attack on the nation and its citizens itself, which requires the governments to take all necessary measures to halt such opportunist behavior.
On the other hand, we are witnessing another social crime against people executed by some business owners and entrepreneurs whether small or medium size mainly, where they tend now to take advantage of the current global and national situation to exercise many forms of moral and fiscal extortion against their employees, knowing that these are the worst times to be deprived from a job or a pay cheque. Though there is no direct threat by employers but they use various forms of pressuring employees minimize their work importance or achievements, or even go far and humiliate them, knowing that they have no other choice. Consequently such behavior went even further by keep running their businesses regardless of all the warning and directions given by authorities to avoid exposing people to each other to reduce the chance of infection, it is the utmost form of social irresponsibility. Tragically, many individuals cannot make their own decision to stay home by themselves hence the business owners refrain from sending them home otherwise they have to keep paying them, so the business owners let them to decide on their own to avoid any financial responsibility.
This picture reminds us with the feudal age where the land lord used to own the land and the people on this land. Ironically this behavior took place in the medieval ages and before the industrial revolution in Europe and the era that witnessed the rise of Freedom, Democracy, Social values, and the revolutions in France and USA that shaped our current Democracy. Now during this time of war we are back to these days of feudalism. It is the lowest form of humanity when a person feels that he/she and their families are facing two enemies at the same time, the unseen virus and their employer. Those employers, although living under the umbrella of capitalism and its responsibility, have deliberately forgotten their social responsibility which is one of the foundations of the western economic and moral culture developed as mentioned earlier by great revolutions against atrocity of monarchies, feudalism and absolute abuse of mankind.
Indeed this should be left for the governments to manage and protect its citizens, yet most governments are already exerting the best towards fighting the war and stabilizing the life of the citizens, however, even governments have a certain capacity and as part of the socio-capitalist systems, a huge social responsibility is falling on the corporate and business organizations to play its role and truthfully support their people, and ultimately the governments will interfere and provide them with financial relief after the calamity is over. Otherwise our societies have to reconsider what type of socio-economic systems would maintain the dignity and well being of humanity.
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