September 30, 2015

A Capitalist Responds to the Pope

SMITH BRAIN TRUST -- Go ahead and call Ed Snider ’55 a capitalist. The Philadelphia Flyers founder and Comcast-Spectacor chairman has proudly used the principles of voluntary exchange to bring jobs, opportunities and tax revenue (plus back-to-back Stanley Cups) to his adoptive city.

“It’s a shame that our children don’t really understand what capitalism is, and they don’t really understand that it’s not a dirty word,” Snider said Tuesday during the BB&T Colloquium on Capitalism, Ethics, and Leadership at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “No system is perfect, but there is no other system that can compare. It’s what enabled this country to become great.”

Snider, who donated $5 million through his foundation to establish the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets in 2014, said recent comments by Pope Francis miss the mark about what really drives capitalists.

“It pains me when I see the pope say that capitalism is terrible,” Snider said. “But I kind of believe that he grew up in Argentina in a dictatorship with no middle class, and he saw probably the wealthy — he thinks they’re capitalists — but the wealthy people who — I don’t know how they became wealthy in Argentina — probably exploiting the poor, and no middle class whatsoever. I can see where he is possibly confused. And that’s the case not only with the pope, but it’s the case with our president and a few other people.”

Snider said true capitalists focus on building win-win solutions, so people want to buy their products, work for them, and create other types of partnerships with them. Cronies focus instead on lobbying government officials for unfair advantages.

“Most all businesses are run honestly and with integrity, I believe, in order to get to where they’ve gotten,” Snider told his audience of about 300 Smith School faculty, staff and students. “Some then lose their way and become cronies — where they have lobbyists and so forth. That’s not capitalism. A lot of people think that’s capitalism, but it’s not. Capitalism is when companies have nothing to do with the government, and total free enterprise. They don’t want anybody to interfere with them, and they don’t want anybody to take away anything they have. And that’s what true capitalism is.”

Snider said the poor people who Pope Francis wants to help are the ones who benefit the most when governments leave entrepreneurs alone to collaborate and innovate on level playing fields. The poor lack access to buy political favors, so cronyism always works against them. 

“Man left to his own devices is pretty innovative and pretty talented,” Snider said. “In fact, with all of the regulations and everything else that we have to face, what we’ve accomplished (in the United States) is amazing. In the few eras of our history when we didn’t have those kinds of obstacles, the growth was spectacular. And I dream of the day when we will have all of these things eliminated, and let man do what he is capable of doing.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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