‘Free enterprise’ v. Life

Those who hold that capitalism is about ‘free enterprise’ and ‘healthy competition’ should consider the aircraft industry. Visit any airport in any part of the so-called ‘free world’ and you will notice the vast majority of aircraft are of US manufacture.

Revelations of widespread bribery by firms like Lockheed are only part of the story. The US Government discourages foreign competition by imposing a 5 per cent. import duty on non-US aircraft purchased by American carriers. Presently, west European companies account for only 7 per cent. of the world-market (excluding Russia and China) and attempts to break US protectionism meet heavy resistance.

An example of this: US ‘feeder’ airlines (those which ferry passengers from the smaller airports to international ones) receive Government subsidies for aircraft carrying up to a maximum of 30 passengers. The increase of air-traffic has put pressure on the Government to increase subsidies to cover 50-seaters. But, if they did this, the US aircraft industry would be vulnerable to European competition in this range. According to Radio Nederland (13.4.78), a successful Dutch aircraft in the 45-seater range is expected to remain unattractive to US carriers because of Government legislation which will restrict the subsidy to planes carrying no more than 36 passengers.

Aircraft safety is another area where profits are given priority over passengers.

According to a Radio Canada International report (2.4.78), statistics covering commercial aircraft accidents only record fatalities among fare-paying passengers and leave out a host of other categories such as employees using special passes and very young children who travel free.

In ground accidents fire is one of the chief killers in aircraft. Foam sprinkler systems could easily be incorporated into aircraft but no aircraft company has, so far, done so. An executive of one large airline was reported, [in the same broadcast], as saying that, on a 650-seater ‘jumbo’, the inclusion of such a sprinkler system would reduce the payload by 8 seats. For the sake of ‘healthy competition’, it seems, the loss of eight fares is too serious to bear consideration so all the rest, including the crew, are put at risk.

Such examples—and they are to be found everywhere—illustrate how capitalism devalues human life by exploiting it for the sake of making a ‘fast buck’. As a system it offers no lasting solution to the problems confronting workers. If capitalism continues workers will pay an increasingly heavy price. Only socialism bases itself on the needs of humanity, not on exploitation.