A True Utopia
by Karina Carley
Imagine a world in which no one is needy. Everyone is cared and well provided for, no one is ever hungry nor cold, no one is lacking in necessary items to survive, and all of the world’s resources are divided up equally. Private, greedy corporations are gone from this world – instead, the government controls all aspects of business, entrepreneurship, and innovation. This is the utopian vision and promise of many socialists today. But is this scenario really what government involvement in the marketplace brings about? In reality, what we can see throughout history exposes the truth that government intervention in the private sector leads to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and eventually disaster. The only way that society can function with quality, respect for others, and excellence is through private innovation.
To begin with, government control does not lead to success. For example, in 1865, after the Civil War, the government sought to unify the country with transcontinental railroads. They gave out enormous federal grants to build three separate tracks: the Union Pacific, the Central Pacific, and the Northern Pacific. Soon, all three of these railroads, despite the mass amounts of funds they were gifted with, were beset with problems such as financial scandal, bankruptcy, and negligent construction practices. According to PBS News in its article ‘The Crédit Mobilier Scandal’¹, since the federal railroads were paid for each mile of road they build, they would intentionally build the railroad crooked to increase the surface area, thereby increasing their paychecks. As a result, the Union Pacific went bankrupt within ten years.
Government failure is seen in everyday modern life as well. Most Americans who have been to the DMV or endured a long customs line at the airport can vouch for the fact that these government-controlled industries are – to put it plainly – disasters. Why is this so? Why is it that shopping at an Apple store is so exciting, but going to the DMV is so painful? The answer is that there is an enormous difference between these two industries—one wants to satisfy customer needs, while the other does not. One needs to do well and provide quality services to survive, while the other has no such need, because it gets paid regardless of the value of what it supplies. Government control does not lead to success—in fact, it paves the way for waste, inefficiency, and failure.
If government control is not the answer, then what is? Let’s go back to the transcontinental railroads in the 1800s. At around the same time as the government railroads were being built, an entrepreneur named James J. Hill started his own railroad building project: the Great Northern Railroad. Hill’s roads were efficient, sturdy, and straight, while being completely privately funded. According to the Great Northern Railway Historical Society², Hill’s railroad company went on to remain in business for close to a century, then merging with another company—in stark contrast to the federal railroad Union Pacific, which was wrought with misdeeds and corruption and lasted only a few years before it went bankrupt. Clearly, while government efforts in this instance failed, private enterprise and entrepreneurship thrived.
In our world today, we can see a plethora of examples of private innovation, rather than government, leading to extraordinary success. Think of the company Uber. Before this company was in business, travelers did not have many choices in quick, personalized car rides—they could either call a taxi, which was often very expensive and difficult to find, or recruit a friend or family member, which could be cumbersome and, in many cases, impossible. Uber was developed to serve its customers, meeting their needs and bringing another option to traveling methods. Today, Uber is a multi-billion-dollar company with over 19,000 employees worldwide. As Jared Meyer for Prager University explains in the video “Why You Love Capitalism³,” government could never have done this – they would have absolutely no motivation, and would probably not have even known we wanted a service like Uber in the first place. Another example is the postal service; private companies such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL are increasingly challenging the government postal system, and customers often defer to these companies because of their more efficient and quality-oriented customer service.
Supporters of government intervention in the private sector often point to countries like Sweden or Denmark as the ‘socialist paradise’—the true success of government-run markets. But the truth is that although these countries do have high taxes and many government-run programs, they are not truly socialist countries. Sweden and Denmark still stand for capitalistic private property rights and entrepreneurship, unlike the government-run system that socialists call for. However, socialists are correct in that these countries are teetering on the edge of becoming socialist, and the devastating effects of the government policies they implement are becoming more and more apparent. My great-grandfather lived in Denmark, and a few years ago, he fell and broke a rib, having long-term effects that could have been cured by surgery. However, the Danish government healthcare system did not want to ‘waste’ their resources on an old man, whom, they hoped, would die soon anyway, so they kept delaying the surgery. Eventually, my great-grandpa did die because he could not get the medical care he needed.
In conclusion, a true utopian future is not one in which the government owns means of production and enterprise. Instead, the only way in which society can be prosperous, successful, and fulfilled is through a free market and risk-taking entrepreneurs who use their own resources to serve and meet the needs of the people around them.
- The Crédit Mobilier Scandal (n.d). PBS News. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/tcrr-credit-mobilier-scandal/
- Great Northern History (n.d). Great Northern Railway Historical Society. Retrieved from https://www.gnrhs.org/gn_history.php
- Why You Love Capitalism (2017, Jun 15). Prager University. Retrieved from https://www.prageru.com/video/why-you-love-capitalism/