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EXISTENCE EXISTS

  • Aman Preet Singh

Capitalism Continues to be the Scape Goat for Today’s Societal Ills


capitalism

In 1966, novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand published a collection of essays titled, “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.” In the introduction to this book, she wrote,


“The method of capitalism’s destruction rests on never letting the world discover what it is that is being destroyed—on never allowing it to be identified within the hearing of the young.”


That method of capitalism’s destruction continues till date. Typically, an academic scholar of the looter or statist persuasion would focus on a specific injustice in a specified geographical location at a specific point in time, highlight certain aspects of trading activity in a narrow context of grave injustice within this area, term that trading activity as representative of the capitalist system and ascribe this trading activity as the root cause of the injustice he observes, thereby, implicating capitalism as a social system that has abysmally failed all of mankind now, in the past, and would continue to do so over the long-term. Context-dropping, conceptual obfuscation, and appeal to emotions are common tactics adopted by these so-called social scientists.


In this article, I shall focus on dissecting (read ‘reviewing’) just such an academic undertaking as illustrative of the kind of garbage that most prestigious journals of business and management regularly churn out. The author himself, a full professor (tenured) of Business and Management at Essex Business School, also holds an honorary lifetime fellowship - Batten Fellowship at the Batten Institute, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia (UVA), and an Affiliate Membership at University College Dublin (UCD) Earth Institute. My purpose in pointing out these credentials is to stress that the article I am to ‘review’ in the following paragraphs is not an average effort by an average social scientist in an obscure institution. This output is representative of some of the best that business and management scholars have to offer. I point out these credentials to make you, the reader, understand that as a productive, tax paying citizen, ‘your’ output goes, in large measure, supporting this level of academic quality and propaganda. Remember, only under a system of capitalism are citizens able to produce enough to part with some of that produce towards funding the functions of government. Would you like to part with some of that produce if it goes towards funding of propaganda that undercuts the very system that allows you to make an honest day’s living?


In “The Mobilization of Noncooperative Spaces: Reflections from Rohingya Refugee Camps,” Professor Rashedur Chowdhury challenges “key assumptions in the mainstream entrepreneurship literature that individuals have the capability to change their fate through entrepreneurial activities wherever in the world they may be.” Professor Chowdhary, in this essay, focuses on marginalized actors such as refugees and ordinary locals in the context of Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Given that the entire focus of this essay is on the economic plight of Rohingya refugees in one 13 square kilometer camp, one would have expected the author to provide detailed historical context as to how Rohingya refugees came into existence and why. Except for a brief two-liner on Bangladesh opening its borders to such refugees in August 2017, no such context is provided. As the reader shall see, such historical context is crucial to place Professor Chowdhury’s narrative in the appropriate historical and economic context.


Myanmar boasts of a brutal political history since 1962 when a military dictatorship was established under the Burma Socialist Programme Party. For two years, in 1988 after an uprising, Myanmar transited to a multiparty system before being taken over again by a post-uprising military council. The country has also witnessed one of the world’s longest running civil wars. It would be accurate to state that over the past six decades and upto the present, Myanmar has alternated between dictatorship and anarchy, and combined authoritarianism with ongoing civil war as the dominant political system. By any definitional measure, Myanmar has never had a constitutionally limited, democratic form of government that has offered a modicum of a free market system since 1962. As of 2019, Myanmar is rated as ‘corrupt’ on the Corruption Perceptions Index with a rank of 130 out of 180 countries worldwide. In this political context, the Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Stripped of their citizenship rights in 1982, the Rohingya civilian populace has been subjected to repeated state-sponsored riots over the past decades. In August 2017, continued instances of such violence triggered a mass-scale exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh, of which a significant proportion were women and children, which today houses 900,000 refugees in the Cox Bazar region of Bangladesh. Given this crisis, is it any wonder that the Cox Bazar region has become one of the most densely populated refugee camps in the world? As of this writing, the displacement of the Rohingya from Myanmar has not abated and the total number of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Myanmar has exceeded more than 1.1 million[1].

If Professor Rashedur Chowdhury was really, truly, and meaningfully interested in the plight of the Rohingya refugees and in providing meaningful solutions to this crisis, he would not only have addressed this historical background head on but would also have been the world’s foremost and leading proponent of individual rights for the Rohingya, and of a constitutionally limited, democratic government in Myanmar. Professor Chowdhury, as a Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management, would have been a leading proponent of laissez faire capitalism, exactly of the kind that Ayn Rand in her writings espoused, had he really and truly wanted economic prosperity and peace for the marginalized peoples of the world. It is not that Professor Chowdhury has never heard of Ayn Rand or of laissez faire capitalism. On the contrary, Professor Chowdhury knows of Ayn Rand only too well because in a couple of years after publishing this essay in July 2020, he was participating as a guest editor for the same Journal of Management Studies in a special issue titled, “Atlas Unplugged: Reimagining the Premises and Prospects of Capitalism for Business and Society.” In this call for papers of this special issue, Professor Chowdhury, along with other guest editors, states,


“Since its publication in 1957, Ayn Rand's dystopian tome, Atlas Shrugged, has come to define the characteristics of contemporary capitalism as a libertarian philosophy premised on the valorization of the individual (rational selfishness) and the moralization of greed (ethical egoism). The title of the book refers to Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology who holds the world on his shoulders and is meant to represent the aggrieved individuals who populate the entrepreneurial and capitalist class and who, according to Rand, support the ever-growing burden of "free riders" and "unproductive parasites" who demonize Atlas even as they add to his burden. The text has served as a bible to modern industrial thinkers who have, for too long, promoted the false assumption that economic activity is the foundation of civilization, and culture is a mere epiphenomenon. The flaws in this logic, which Bell (1976) described as the cultural contradictions of capitalism, are only beginning to be fully appreciated. Current financial, political and economic crises, most notably the 2020/2021 covid-19 pandemic and its coordination problems, the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, the looming environmental fallout from climate change, and the rise of populism, have created an extraordinarily perilous situation for much of humanity, but with particularly devastating effects for the marginalized, the vulnerable and the poor. While productivity and economic activity have increased substantially, most of the benefits have accrued to the few and inequality has increased, suggesting a crisis of the neoliberal governance system (Fraser, 2017; Zanoni et al., 2017). The model of capitalism described in Atlas Shrugged was intended to avoid a dystopian future plagued by excessive government control over business and individual entrepreneurship yet the current market system has created a dystopia of its own (Chowdhury, 2021a), weakening social and political institutions with calamitous effects (Chowdhury, 2017).”


Keep this mischaracterization of Ayn Rand’s works in mind for I shall come to it later (in a subsequent article) after I have finished dissecting (read ‘reviewing’) Professor Chowdhury’s essay.


In the essay, the Professor declares, after having visited the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp a few times, that “these camps and refugees are administered by a capitalistic system which I term as an ‘uncooperative sociostructure’ that does not support those who live under its influence to thrive. Based on my observations, I posit that this uncooperative sociostructure includes powerful actors such as United Nations (UN) agencies, multinational corporations (MNCs), powerful nongovernmental organizations (NGOs; mostly sub-contracted by UN agencies and various private or corporate foundations), government institutions and aid agencies. This uncooperative sociostructure is extended to local elites such as politicians, landlords and owners of larger enterprises.”


It is hard to imagine how, by any stretch of definition or imagination, a refugee camp administered by a taxpayer funded UN agency and various other government institutions and aid agencies constitutes a capitalist system. A state funded refugee camp, by definition, is a taxpayer funded charitable undertaking. Under laissez faire capitalism, exactly of the kind that Professor Chowdhury likes to demonize, such United Nations agencies and other government institutions won’t exist at all. Under capitalism – real, laissez faire capitalism – the state has no role to play in humanitarian undertakings of any kind no matter how grave the crisis. In fact, under capitalism, there is a strict separation of state and economics, in much the same way and for the same reasons as there is separation of state and religion. If laissez faire capitalism were the de-facto political system across the world, in Myanmar, and in the West, there would have been no socialist coups in Myanmar over the past six decades, no military juntas in power, no mass killings of any ethnic minority, no decades on decades civil war, no pogroms, no rapes, no tortures, no internally displaced persons, no razed villages, and no refugees. Myanmar, under laissez faire capitalism, exactly of the kind envisaged in Atlas Shrugged, would have been a rich, prosperous, and yes, progressive state - progressive in the truest sense of the word – progressing year-on-year economically and culturally. The hallmark of the Myanmar state, under laisse faire capitalism, would have been the political recognition of individual rights. Myanmar could and would have been the great cultural melting pot, in much the same way the United States was owing to its open immigration and a mostly capitalist system in the nineteenth century.


It is important to discuss why laissez faire capitalism enforces a strict separation of state and economics. It is important because the remainder of Professor Chowdhury’s essay ignores this crucial characteristic of capitalism and then ascribes all the ills he describes to an “uncooperative sociostructure” that must be a natural consequence of laissez faire capitalism – exactly the kind of system envisaged in Atlas Shrugged. The guiding principle, the bedrock foundation of capitalism is not a specific form of economic system as is frequently touted in academia. The guiding principle of capitalism is the political recognition and protection of individual rights. Capitalism is not based on a fundamental principle of private ownership of the factors of production. That is an incomplete and out-of-context economic definition – one that is also misleading at multiple levels. Under capitalism, all property is privately owned, but this private ownership is a consequence of the political recognition and protection of individual rights. Because the guiding principle of capitalism is the protection of individual rights, capitalism recognizes the right of individual men and women to act on their judgement to further their own lives. Capitalism recognizes that man’s fundamental tool of survival is his reasoning mind, that man must be left free to think and then to act on his judgement. Capitalism further recognizes that man is a being of volitional consciousness who can err in his reasoning, either willfully or unknowingly. Thus, capitalism forbids a man from initiating the use of force in any form – fraud being a form of force. The rules of a capitalist system are simple and clear cut. No man may initiate the use of force against another, and governments are instituted among men to retaliate against those who do initiate the use of force, thereby, upholding and protecting individual rights. It is the retaliatory use of force against civilians by a government agency that must be strictly placed under objective control. Thus, capitalism forbids a government to act on whim, limiting it by a strictly demarcated constitution, and mandates a government to retaliate with the use of force only against those who have initiated its use and only after an objective determination of facts. Needless to state, had Myanmar instituted this form of constitutionally limited government, it would never have witnessed the horrors that it has over the past six decades. Under capitalism, since governments are instituted among men to secure individual rights, the government is, strictly, limited in its functioning and scope. Under a capitalist system, there are only three functions of government. The police to protect you from criminals, the armed forces to protect you from foreign invasions, and the courts to provide for a mechanism of fair arbitration between citizens and for the objective determination of facts to retaliate with the use of force against those who have initiated its use. An important function of the judiciary is to strike down those laws not consonant with the fundamental law of the land – which is the constitution.


We are now ready to discuss why a capitalist system mandates a strict separation of state and economics, and what this means in actual application and practice. Because capitalism is based on the political recognition and protection of individual rights, capitalism acknowledges that men have the right to engage in trade and commerce. A commercial transaction is a voluntary agreement between two parties wherein both parties stand to gain. Capitalism recognizes that such agreements violate no individual’s rights and based on the recognition that man, every man, has the right to think and act on his judgement, it stands to reason that each man has the right to undertake contractual agreements with other men. When we state that capitalism mandates a strict separation of state and economics, we are saying, in other words, that the state has no right to interfere in such commercial agreements between two willing individuals or two willing parties (a group of individuals). The state’s only role is to enforce such contracts and to provide for a mechanism of fair arbitration should disagreements arise between the involved parties based on their contractual agreement. And that’s it. The state may not interfere either in directly determining the content of such contracts or in influencing any party with any threats or incentives to sway the content of such contracts. The separation of state and economics is merely an application of a wider political principle upon which capitalism and individual rights are based, namely, that no man may initiate the use of force against another and that all relationships among men are voluntary. State interference into economics is a violation of the individual rights of the parties involved in a contractual agreement and when the state interferes in this manner, it becomes the initiator of force which capitalism forbids.


On these terms, today, no nation on earth can be characterized as capitalist. What we have, today, is a mixed economy in varying degrees with the state protecting individual rights in some respects but violating it in others. Some illustrations of the violation of the separation of state and economics are in order. When the state provides subsidies to electric car manufacturers and to buyers of such electric vehicles in the name of reducing carbon emissions or combating climate change or reducing pollution, that is a violation of the individual rights of those taxpayers who do not buy electric vehicles as well as a violation of the rights of those tax-paying car manufacturers who do not manufacture electric vehicles. The taxes that these individuals and corporations pay to the government are for the protection of their legitimate rights but not for giving an unfair advantage to their fellow consumers or competitors. Indirectly, owing to such subsidies, the government interferes in the contractual agreements between car manufacturers and buyers of non-electric vehicles by introducing a hidden tax that has the effect of increasing the on-road price of such vehicles. When the government borrows money and spends more than it collects in revenues leading to fiscal deficits on the premise of welfare statism, it violates the rights of all participants in an economy by introducing a hidden tax in the form of inflation that affects all economic contracts and arrangements. When the government makes it mandatory to buy health or car insurance, it brings into existence a forcible (not voluntary) contract between an individual and an insurance provider which is a direct violation of the rights of the individual who is forced to buy such contracts. Such regulations work directly to the benefit of the insurance provider at the expense of the consumer. Perhaps the most egregious violation of state interference into economics, practiced almost universally with few exceptions, is the prevalence of economic immigration quotas and restrictions. Such quotas are a direct violation of the contractual rights of both the citizens of the country that implements such policies as well as the rights of would-be immigrants seeking better economic opportunities. Immigration quotas and restrictions on economic grounds are so notoriously wicked and pervasive that they are directly responsible for human trafficking in most parts of the globe. The magnitude of the Rohingya crisis, in part, was caused because cross-country restrictions on human mobility owing to economic immigration quotas are so severe that it is almost impossible for a persecuted person to flee from a totalitarian state to a freer country since no country is willing to accept such flights or influx of immigrants on economic grounds. Again, it is not laissez faire capitalism that is responsible for this situation, but a mixed economy premised on welfare statism. Of a mixed economy, philosopher Ayn Rand wrote,


“A mixed economy is a mixture of freedom and controls—with no principles, rules, or theories to define either. Since the introduction of controls necessitates and leads to further controls, it is an unstable, explosive mixture which, ultimately, has to repeal the controls or collapse into dictatorship. A mixed economy has no principles to define its policies, its goals, its laws—no principles to limit the power of its government. The only principle of a mixed economy—which, necessarily, has to remain unnamed and unacknowledged—is that no one’s interests are safe, everyone’s interests are on a public auction block, and anything goes for anyone who can get away with it. Such a system—or, more precisely, anti-system—breaks up a country into an ever-growing number of enemy camps, into economic groups fighting one another for self preservation in an indeterminate mixture of defense and offense, as the nature of such a jungle demands. While, politically, a mixed economy preserves the semblance of an organized society with a semblance of law and order, economically it is the equivalent of the chaos that had ruled China for centuries: a chaos of robber gangs looting—and draining—the productive elements of the country.“


Based on the preceding discussion, we are now ready to ‘review’ the rest of Professor Chowdhury’s diatribe. Writes the Professor,


“Based on my observations, I posit that this uncooperative sociostructure includes powerful actors such as United Nations (UN) agencies, multinational corporations (MNCs), powerful nongovernmental organizations (NGOs; mostly sub-contracted by UN agencies and various private or corporate foundations), government institutions and aid agencies. This uncooperative sociostructure is extended to local elites such as politicians, landlords and owners of larger enterprises. Further, I find that in Cox’s Bazar, these local elites are involved in economic transactions with refugees as they consider this their ‘side businesses’ through which counterfeit products or illegitimate services are sold. These elites also have an interest in receiving tenders from the UN or other NGOs for the supply of refugee rations (generally comprising rice, lentils, and oil and gas for cooking) and materials for shelter, and for other purposes such as internet service, fuel, and office supplies. These tender businesses become significant transactions where all parties including local elites and a section of UN and NGO officials share large numbers of commissions. However, the ordinary locals I talked with do not see these transactions as transparent and beneficial to the community, as these transactions only boost the incomes of powerful actors. Hence, during my second and third visits in late 2018 and early 2019, I sensed significantly increased resentment among the locals and refugees against authorities.”


The situation that Professor Chowdhury describes is emblematic of welfare statism not laissez-faire capitalism. The UN and other NGOs have taxpayer funds at their disposal for the procurement of refugee rations, materials for shelter, and other purposes such as internet service, fuel, and office supplies. These funds were not earned by these UN agencies and allied NGOs on a free market but were taxed by UN member states. As such, the only mandate of a UN agency bureaucrat is to ‘spend’ these funds that he has at his disposal towards the ‘welfare’ of Rohingya refugees. Keep these catchwords in mind – spend and welfare – for they represent the essence of welfare statism. A government bureaucrat in a welfare state is not accountable for a return on the capital he employs towards his mandate. His ‘success’ in carrying out his mandate is not ‘commercial success’ as determined by the return he earns for his employer or shareholders. He is only being assessed on the disbursal of funds towards procurement of essentials for the refugees. The fact that he is in custody of public money and yet must procure these essentials from the local open market is the mixed economy element in the entire undertaking. As such, all the factors that contribute to making a profitable investment are absent in a disbursal of this kind. Since profit is not the motive here but government enforced charity is, it is not efficiency of processes or customer centricity or agility in response to changing market conditions or development of competitive advantages or upskilling of employees or introduction of ongoing innovations that concern the UN bureaucrat. What does concern the bureaucrat is the efficient and smooth ‘spending’ of funds that for the sake of all humanitarian appearances must be seen as having gone towards the procurement and distribution of essentials for the refugees. If this process requires paying commissions to intermediaries, to lower-level staff, or to market suppliers, then the bureaucrat-in-charge would have no qualms in the entire matter and more so, if he is in on the cut. Indeed, divorced from the profit motive and from any direct accountability of profit-making to the original taxpayers across the globe, like any welfare statist’s scheme, the entire ‘system’ of receiving funds from a central office of the United Nations to the distribution of essentials on the ground towards the Rohingya refugees is a process that is fraught with influence from special interest groups, free riders, and unproductive parasites. Since the UN money was ‘free’ to start with – meaning that it was expropriated by national governments in the name of international welfare – no honest man would want to profit from such an undertaking. But the field then does open to those kinds of “mixed economy” businessmen who thrive on a combination of pull and merit. Such actors crave the security of a government-sponsored undertaking with many perennial years of assured money supply while putting in some realistic effort to keep the protection racket going.


All of the ills that Professor Chowdhury subsequently describes in his essay are a direct consequence of national governments, via the United Nations, acting on a premise of welfare statism. No, this is not an argument against any form of aid and succor to the Rohingya refugees who for no fault of theirs are caught in an intricate web of political intrigue and power-lust that stretches back six decades. This, however, is an argument for laissez-faire capitalism and for the separation of state and economics which, in this instance, translates to no humanitarian aid by a government agency that relies on expropriated tax-payer money. Well-meaning readers may naturally ask what then can be legitimately achieved for the Rohingya given their dire condition particularly when the situation is not of their making. As a citizen of a semi-free country with your own economic means, there are a few actions you can immediately take for the benefit of the Rohingya refugees. You can donate your time and money directly and voluntarily (not self-sacrificially at the cost of your higher values) to the extent you are able to afford. If your own situation permits, you can pay an actual visit to these refugee camps and help those in most need by procuring essentials from the open market. The wider point is that if there are enough of you willing to help these refugees with your own earned money, you will, on principle, take the necessary steps to ensure that no middlemen eat away your contributions and that your money actually reaches those for whom it is meant. You could set up your own charitable organization and help these refugees directly without asking any national or international governments for intervention or aid. Politically, as a citizen with full democratic and suffrage rights, there are a few important actions you can immediately take. You can write to your elected representatives asking them to allow these refugees to be able to immigrate to your country without red tape or bureaucratic interference. However, remember, the bulk of the immigration laws, today, in most semi-free countries are based on some form of economic protectionism symptomatic of welfare statism and a mixed economy. Those public figures and influencers in your culture that proclaim the loudest concern for humankind are also usually the loudest in supporting restricting immigration in any form. While their bleeding hearts go out for the poor and marginalized peoples of the world, when it comes to taking actual actions for those who are in a desperate situation, they are the loudest in proclaiming that their nation can only support a fixed number of immigrants, that the ‘economics’ of their nation necessitate taking in only those immigrants that can be linked to ‘high priority’ occupations, that if they were to allow open immigration their own citizens would be without jobs and would lead to a lowered standard of living for all. A popular argument that such influencers make is that their existing cities cannot take in an unrestricted number of immigrants because the existing ‘infrastructure’ cannot withstand the stress and would simply collapse. These are all statist and totalitarian arguments. It is true that, given the mixed economy prevalent in nations, cities and infrastructure are a combination of public and private projects. Typically, roads, railways, public transport, airports, public utilities are government undertakings. As such, to make modifications to existing cities in order to accommodate an influx of immigrants is difficult, not because it cannot be done technologically or spatially but because government regulations such as building codes, zoning laws, etc. forbid it. If cities were a product, predominantly of the free market, which they are currently not, they would be free to grow and expand geographically as demand for more space and accommodation became apparent. How, then, must someone who is genuinely interested in the plight of the Rohingya refugees make the case for unrestricted immigration for them? You can advocate for open immigration in your country in the way Bangladesh approached the problem. Barring few exceptions, most nations have large swaths of unworked land where no one lives, and no existing private ownership exists. In the nineteenth century, the United States instituted a system of open immigration, but it did so without disrupting its existing cities. How? By embarking on a deliberate program of opening the lands of the United States to new settlements by conferring property rights to anyone who had worked on a previously unworked patch of land for a fixed number of years. Remember, the problem of the Rohingya refugees is political not economic. What the Rohingya desperately need is political freedom – freedom from riots, rapes, tortures, forced disappearances, civil war, and anarchy. Your country could offer the Rohingya such political freedom if you were to make the argument that they should be allowed to settle previously unclaimed, unworked, or unsettled land and must be given full property and political rights once they have worked on such land for a fixed number of years to justify title to the property. On these terms, the Rohingya would not directly compete for existing jobs in a mixed economy and would not put stress on existing infrastructure of cities that are predominantly products of such a mixed economy. On the contrary, the ablest and the most knowledgeable amongst the Rohingya would be the first to take up such a challenge and in a few years your country would witness new, growing settlements that would be gainful additions economically and culturally to your country. Of the Homestead Act (1862) in the United States, philosopher Ayn Rand wrote,


“A notable example of the proper method of establishing private ownership from scratch, in a previously ownerless area, is the Homestead Act of 1862, by which the government opened the Western frontier for settlement and turned "public land" over to private owners. The government offered a 160 acre farm to any adult citizen who would settle on it and cultivate it for five years, after which it would become his property.


The citizens did not have to pay the government as if it were an owner; ownership began with them, and they earned it by the method which is the source and root of the concept of "property": By working on unused material resources, by turning a wilderness into a civilized settlement. Thus, the government, in this case, was acting not as the owner but as the custodian of ownerless resources who defines objectively impartial rules by which potential owners may acquire them.”


Professor Rashedur Chowdhury, instead of blaming a system, the vestiges of which continue to permit mankind a civilized existence, should have been the one explaining, propagating, defending, and further researching laissez faire capitalism had concern for the marginalized and the oppressed been his true motive. While Professor Chowdhury rants against ‘noncooperative spaces’ controlled by an ‘uncooperative sociostructure,’ the solutions he proposes are of an extremely narrow worldview that appear more to justify his metaphysics of suffering than providing any real glimmer of hope or solution for the trapped and stateless refugees. No, the Professor does not suggest political, business, or entrepreneurial solutions for the refugees to move out of a 13 square-kilometer refugee camp in a country that does not allow them basic access to its own markets. For instance, the Professor writes,


“Nurturing of refugee potential is possible because even refugees are eager to actualize

their necessities and desires. Refugees are initially interested in meeting their basic needs.

For instance, the hand-to-mouth rations that they receive from camp authorities fulfil

their basic necessity for nutrition. But meeting this necessity triggers basic desires. For

example, it is difficult for anyone to live on rice and lentils month after month, refugee or

not. In such a situation, eating fish or any meat, at least once a month, becomes a most

desirable expectation. Thus, to fulfil their most basic desire to eat better refugees are encouraged to create some small economic activities to generate income.”


Aren’t the Rohingya human beings with minds that can reason and think? Do we need to visit the refugee camp and speak to them in person to affirm or confirm that they are “eager to actualize their necessities and desires or are initially interested in meeting their basic needs.” Yet, this level of analyses and insight is symptomatic of the quality of discourse that Professor Chowdhury routinely fills his essay with. Observe the condescension tinged with disdain for both the refugees and the reader with which the Professor teaches us that “nurturing of refugee potential is possible because even refugees are eager to actualize their necessities and desires.” Why shouldn’t refugees be eager to actualize their necessities and desires or reach their potential? Again, don’t we already know that these refugees are human beings who have traversed difficult terrain, on foot, amidst extraordinary circumstances and have literally escaped with their lives to reach this particular 13 kilometer-square refugee camp? I would think that someone who has escaped a totalitarian state under difficult, extraordinary, and life-threatening circumstances is someone “eager to actualize his or her potential and eager to be initially interested in meeting his or her basic needs.” Yet, this level of context dropping is emblematic of research in the social sciences. In a spirit of proper academic ‘reviewing,’ I really must pose two imperative questions of Professor Chowdhury’s manuscript. Where’s the theoretical contribution and is it appropriate to be theorizing in the domain of entrepreneurship literature when the specific setting is a refugee camp? Refugees are a particularly vulnerable group of men, women, and children who have been the victim of extraordinary violence in their recent past. We know they are termed as refugees because they are seeking “refuge” in another country or geography due to ongoing strife, conflict, and persecution. As such, a refugee is a brutalized human being with a high level of legal uncertainty owing to his stateless situation. To apply theories of entrepreneurship to such an exceptionally victimized group of people and to then point out how theories of entrepreneurship have failed to adequately apply to such a group is to make a mockery of the study of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline and to subvert the concept of entrepreneurship. Further, to call the entire administration of a refugee camp as an instance of a capitalist system and to then extrapolate the failures of a capitalist system on such an instance is a sign of gross intellectual dishonesty.


How could such a situation have turned out for the Rohingya refugees had the nations of the world embraced free-market capitalism in the first place? In all likelihood, a crisis such as this would never have occurred. A single nation on earth, no matter its size or the state of its economy, declaring that it embraced laissez-faire capitalism in the name of protecting the individual rights of its citizens because each of its citizens had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness could and would have changed the course of history in the twentieth century as the United States once did in the eighteenth by crafting a Declaration of Independence and a Bill of Rights. Such a nation would not only have inspired the rest of the world to follow suit with its moral intransigence but would itself have served as a magnet and a haven to that most fleeting or vanishing of human species – a thinking mind, a reasoning mind fleeing persecution. The United States, once, was such a haven. With its open immigration and a system of an almost free market capitalism, the United States attracted and retained the most talented men and women from across the globe.

[1] Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained, https://www.unrefugees.org/news/rohingya-refugee-crisis-explained/

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