Bob Stewart: "The objectives of jobs, equality and justice are clearly matters at the heart of every economy; the problem for ordinary people is to understand what policies and practices (many of which are counter-intuitive) result in the prize of jobs, equality and justice."
Bob Stewart: "The objectives of jobs, equality and justice are clearly matters at the heart of every economy; the problem for ordinary people is to understand what policies and practices (many of which are counter-intuitive) result in the prize of jobs, equality and justice."

It is impossible not to sympathise with the objectives of the People’s Campaign for Jobs, Equality and Justice, which took place on May 1 — Karl Marx day, the man who has done most in history to sabotage the interests of ordinary people.

The objectives of jobs, equality and justice are clearly matters at the heart of every economy; the problem for ordinary people is to understand what policies and practices (many of which are counter-intuitive) result in the prize of jobs, equality and justice.

A quick history lesson 

About  250 years ago there was a revolution that took place in Western Europe, mainly in England, and which rapidly spread to the rest of the world. 

This revolution, called the industrial revolution by historians, created wealth generation after generation, until the present day, which has allowed ordinary people like you and me to enjoy bountiful food, amazing health (people commonly die now in their 80s), and amenities which even our grandparents could not have imagined.  

What caused these economic miracles were policies and practices which resulted in those living in the West, including Bermudians, being able to enjoy hitherto unheard of prosperity — even in difficult times. Such practices resulted in jobs, equality, and justice. They were not perfect, but if you seek perfection seek it in the world after this.

Many such policies were put into place in Bermuda in the 1960s, and before, which made Bermuda one of the most successful economies ever created by mankind. I wrote two books on what was the economic miracle of Bermuda.

1. Jobs

Let’s deal with jobs first, which the Campaign rightly thinks is the top priority. Bermuda is a speck of rock in the middle of the Atlantic. It has few of the economic advantages of large countries. 

It must, as a matter of necessity, sell its services to other parts of the world. In the early days it provided vegetables to the East Coast of the US, and provided a military base for the Royal Navy.  

At the end of the 19th century the nascent tourist industry catered to wealthy Americans. In the late 20th century it catered to average people who wanted to vacation in a nice place, and it provided a friendly environment for international companies that wanted to base some of their activities in Bermuda.  

This was a winning formula until about 10 years ago when government policies changed.    Such changes included highly restrictive immigration, resentful attitudes towards immigrant workers, out-of-control government spending, more than a whiff of corruption, the creation of massive debts, a deteriorating environment and skyrocketing violent crime.  

Changes of this nature do not create jobs — they destroy them.  However, I doubt if Premier Ewart Brown or Finance Minister Paula Cox broke into a sweat if they ever contemplated the destruction they had wrought on the hitherto successful economy of Bermuda. 

Ten or 15 years ago the problem of jobs was not that there weren’t any — it was that there were way too many, and according to some critics too many people and too many immigrants. 

As is common in most countries, immigrants are disliked. They work too hard, they crowd the road with their cars, and their children take away places at school. They were frequently of a different race from the majority population and for the most part they seemed to make big money. In short, they were a pain in the neck.  

Government policy was to make life difficult and uncomfortable for them. Over a period of time they drifted away, but this had adverse consequences. They took not only their own jobs but many support jobs that had hitherto been done by Bermudians.   

They also paid taxes so government receipts fell and they also rented houses so property values fell as well. The obvious knock-on effect was that Bermudians became poorer and many vulnerable Bermudians either lost their jobs or experienced poverty for the first time.  

Jobs exist because customers are prepared to pay for the service provided. Jobs do not exist because of luck or magic. If customers don’t come jobs disappear.  

Bermuda Government policy was to make jobs disappear. It was not its intention but economic policies have many consequences — some obvious, some not. The unintended consequence of hostile attitudes towards immigrants was job losses. That was simply financial madness on the part of government policies.   

2. Equality

No one would argue against the principle that everyone should be treated equally. In fact, the only way to treat everyone equally is for the customer to objectively determine what is valuable and what is not. 

Those who meet the requirements of the customer — which in the case of Bermuda is usually overseas — get paid more than those who produce less.  

This is how people are currently rewarded in the job market.  The problem of equality is really centred around the creation of jobs and how jobs are rewarded, and it is this to which I now turn under the heading of justice. 

3. Justice

By justice, I assume the People’s campaign means economic justice that avoids huge disparities in incomes and wealth.   

There are only three methods of obtaining income:

l. Each person may have whatever he can grab or take by force what he can — might being right. 

2. Some person other than the one who produces the goods and services may decide who shall be rewarded. 

3. Each person may be allowed to have whatever he produces, or what financially he is worth.    

These three methods cover all the possibilities; there are no others. The first is readily recognized as the law of the jungle and by definition an injustice; the second is that utilized by all authoritarian systems, while the third is the only method consistent with justice and individual freedom.

I think the People’s Campaign means some person such as the Government should intervene and determine incomes, and what every job is worth. 

This means less freedom, which means more injustice — the opposite of what is intended. This leaves only method three, which is basically what happens in Bermuda now. 

There is no doubt that many people, especially those who are disadvantaged, are now suffering financially. 

Generating business is the only way to alleviate the suffering but this is a difficult task given the recent treatment of Bermuda’s customers. They were effectively told by the former government to go away.

As long ago as 1776, a smart man called Adam Smith gave the recipe for financial success and jobs: “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.”  

Another smart man, US President James Madison (1797-1801) said: “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”  

I did not see any of the demonstrators carrying placards with those messages.