Our office location in Toronto is directly on the route from St. James Park to the financial center of Toronto – so we’re fortunate enough to see and hear the Occupy Toronto protestors marching past our building every day.
I will admit that I’ve been intrigued by the Occupy Wall Street movement and how it has progressed and spread around the world. In particular, the use of technology to create community and some sense of cohesiveness to an otherwise very disparate group of people has been fascinating.
However, in the media coverage of the many messages that emanate from the various “Occupy” events, there seems to be a shared sentiment that capitalism is “evil” and by extension, that all capitalists are also evil.
Now while I will admit it’s pretty easy to find glaring examples of capitalism’s failures like exorbitant executive pay packages for marginally performing companies and bank bailouts followed closely by annual bonuses (while continuing or increasing irritating user fees), I am troubled at attitudes that seem to be throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
I count myself and my business partners proudly as entrepreneurs and capitalists. However, far from feeling like we’re part of an elite 1% that is in control of more than our share of global wealth, we feel very much like we’re part of an important part of society that helps to build wealth for many people.
Our day to day capitalist lives include employing dozens of people who all expect to be paid promptly every two weeks – no matter how our business is performing or how quickly our customers pay us. From these paycheques we remit significant income and payroll taxes as well as employer portions for Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan contributions.
When our customers pay us slowly, we need to turn to the worst evil capitalists, the banks, in order to finance our business. While we’re lucky to have a very positive relationship with our bankers, they certainly do expect us to pay for the convenience of using their money.
After paying everyone else, hopefully there is money left over at the end of each month. If there is, we have corporate income taxes and personal income taxes to pay.
Don’t get me wrong – the risk/reward trade-off of owning my own business is one that I am more than happy to take and I remake the commitment to it every day. But I’m not quite sure how we’re hurting society by providing employment to many people and paying our fair share of taxes so that our governments can provide all the services and benefits that we collectively need. I certainly don’t feel particularly evil while we’re doing it.