Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can cover the topic of American foreign policy and the role democracy and capitalism play at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.
Full Video Transcript:
Hi and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about democracy and capitalism, and specifically American foreign policy. So when I went to university in Canada—I grew up in Canada—I went to university in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada, and I had a political science course in my first year of university. And we had a professor who told us, he said, “If you want to understand American foreign policy, the easiest way to do it is to replace the word ‘democracy’ and the word ‘freedom’ with the word ‘capitalism’ in all public statements.” Now, that’s a pretty harsh statement. You’re basically saying every time the US president or any administration or government official says, “We’re going into Iraq to promote democracy,” or “We’re intervening in Libya to promote democracy,” in fact the real statement should be, “We’re moving into Iraq to promote capitalism,” or “We’re going into Libya,” or Bosnia or any of these places that US has intervened in, dozens of different places over the years, but the motivating factor behind those interventions is not democracy or freedom but is in fact capitalism and the free market system.
Now, is this true? Often it is. It is quite often true. At least, it certainly appears to be true.
Now, the other question is, is it good or bad? Well, the truth is it’s not necessarily—a lot of people would hear what I’ve said so far and immediately go on the negative bandwagon that this is evil and America is evil and they’re going after money and they’re going after capitalism and so on and so forth, but the fact is that capitalism is built on economic freedom. That’s what capitalism is. It’s the free market system. The free market system means that the market will tend to correct for its own excesses. If there’s not enough or something or if there’s too much of something, the market will quite often correct for itself not only in terms of price, supply and demand – if there’s too much supply then the price goes down, if there’s too much demand the price goes up. These are automatic adjustments that the free market system facilitates.
Now, look, capitalism is not a perfect system. In fact, someone, I don’t know who originally said this, but someone said that capitalism is the worst system ever except for all the others. In other words, capitalism has performed better than any other system we have found so far. Does it result in a division between rich and poor? Absolutely. Does it result in a whole bunch of different injustices in the society, again, quite often between the rich and the poor or the powerful and the not powerful? Yeah, absolutely it does. Absolutely it does, but it also leverages human ambition, and human greed even, and all of those things that drive the economy forward.
So it gets back to this question of democracy and capitalism, which one came first? Or maybe the better question is, which one is the true backbone of America? Is the backbone of America democracy or is the backbone of America in fact capitalism? Well, I would argue that capitalism might be the more important of the two because capitalism is economic self-determination. Giving people the right to self-rule and so on, and political liberty, is great but it doesn’t affect people on a day-to-day basis. They vote once every two years or four years or whatever, or they have opportunities here and there or to contribute to the political process, but economic self-determination, that’s how you make money every day. That’s the job you choose or the business you start or whatever you choose to do. That’s your freedom every day to earn a living and provide for yourself and your family and your loved ones and so on. That’s a daily impact on your life.
So I would argue that capitalism is economic liberty. It’s economic self-determination and that is something worth pursuing despite the injustices that it brings. I know the injustices and I know the division between rich and poor is greater than it’s ever been or similar to what it was before the Great Depression or whatever those statistics are, I don’t know, depending on the measure you look at it probably varies one way or the other, but I know it’s bad. I know there are injustices. I know there are things that aren’t great. But the bottom line is, in America, you can start a business, you can go out and make the most of your life and no one’s really going to try and stop you from doing that. And when we pursue those same policies in other countries around the world, that does lead to progress in those countries because when people are employed and people have money and people are doing okay, that’s when things start to take hold. The birth rate comes down and social development accelerates and economic development accelerates because people have money, and institutions are created and established and there’s stability. Those are good things. If you just put democracy in place without the economic self-determination to back it up, it’s a hollow promise and it doesn’t mean anything because they still don’t have control of their lives. So what did their vote really mean? It didn’t mean anything.
So I grew up in Canada and I moved to this country because of capitalism and because of the freedom that capitalism provides. So going back to my political science professor, it sounds harsh, and I actually think he said it from a very critical perspective, but I today embrace what he said without that much critique. It’s true. If you want to understand American foreign policy, take any public statement that’s made by any government official including the president and replace the word “democracy” and the word “freedom” with the word “capitalism” and everything makes sense. All the hypocrisy, all the contradictions that people point to, the times when we’ve been on the wrong side of democracy or whatever it is, lots of people who are very critical of American foreign policy, but once you replace democracy and freedom with the word capitalism, all of a sudden everything makes sense, and I would argue that it’s still a goal worth pursuing.
Thank you for watching this video. My name is Patrick, reminding you as always to think bigger about your business, think bigger about your life.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.