Why doesn’t Colorado Teacher’s Union have a clue about history?

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

According to Fox News, the final draft of the resolution passed by the Colorado Education Association (CEA) reads: “CEA believes that capitalism requires exploitation of children, public schools, land, labor, and/or resources. Capitalism is in opposition to fully addressing systemic racism (the school-to-prison pipeline), climate change, patriarchy, (gender and LGBTQ disparities), education inequality, and income inequality.”

I have rarely read so many false claims in just two sentences. There is not enough space to refute them all here – I have done so in my book “In Defense of Capitalism.”

But some facts teachers should actually know:

  1. Exploitation of children? For thousands of years before capitalism, children were forced to do hard labor. The reason is that before capitalism, 90 percent of people lived in extreme poverty and parents depended on child labor. It’s still that way today in some countries where there is too little economic freedom. But the good news is: The number of children in child labor around the world has dropped significantly, falling from 246 million in 2000 to 160 million twenty years later in 2020. And this decline is despite the fact that the global population increased from 6.1 to 7.8 billion over the same period.

  2. Patriarchy/women’s rights: For thousands of years, women were oppressed and did not have equal rights with men, if only for economic reasons. The other day, after a lecture I gave about my book, a woman stood up and said, “I want to say why I am in favor of capitalism. Quite simply, because I am a woman. For the first time in history, capitalism has enabled us women to stand on our own two feet and be economically independent of men.”

  3. Climate Change: Nowhere was the environmental destruction as great as in socialist countries. Here in this film you can see some facts, if we compare the capitalist West Germany with the socialist East Germany: The CO2 emissions in socialist East Germany were three times bigger than in capitalist West Germany. In their book Ecocide in the USSR, Murray Feshbach and Alfred Friendly Jr. concluded that “no other industrial civilization so systematically and so long poisoned its land, air, and people.”  And a comparison of the “Index of Economic Freedom” with the “Environmental Performance Index” shows that the more capitalist a country is, the better its environmental conditions are.

  4. Income inequality: Yes, inequality is greater in capitalist countries than in times when everyone was poor. But even left-wing economists like Thomas Piketty admit that inequality has fallen, not risen, during most of the 20th century. Inequality is what envious people are interested in. We should be more concerned about poverty than inequality. And poverty has decreased since capitalism came into being: In 1820 around 90 percent of the global population was living in absolute poverty. In recent decades, since the end of communism, the decline in poverty has accelerated to a pace unmatched in any previous period of human history. In 1981, the absolute poverty rate was 42.7 percent; by 2000, it had fallen to 27.8 percent, and in 2023 it is below 9 percent.

  5. Racism: Anti-capitalists claim that U.S. capitalism has its roots in slavery and leads to racism. Racism and slavery are, after all, much older than capitalism. Slavery, which had existed for 5,000 years, came to an end with the emergence of capitalism about 200 years ago. Fact is: 14 million African slaves were taken across the Sahara Desert or shipped through the Persian Gulf and other waterways to the nations of North Africa and the Middle East, compared with some 11 million Africans shipped across the Atlantic. The slave trade existed mainly in Africa: Africans hunted other Africans, and it was Arabs who organized the slave trade.  Of the approximately 11 million slaves taken to the “New World” between the 15th and 19th centuries, 5.53 million were shipped to Brazil, 1.2 million Africans were sold to Jamaica, 911,000 to Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), 890,000 to Cuba, and 608,000 to Barbados. Far fewer Africans were trafficked to the U.S. as slaves — about 472,000. The success of capitalism in the United States is not based on slavery but on the abolition of it.

When teachers tell their students as much nonsense as is contained in these two sentences alone, one has to be very concerned about the children’s education – and the teachers’.

Rainer Zitelmann is a historian and sociologist and author of the book “In Defense of Capitalism.”


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