Prince Charles, you forgot something!
Britain’s Prince Charles visited us recently. His parting message was a strong criticism of capitalism. It is an economic system with enormous shortcomings, he told us.
Some commentators quickly came to capitalism’s defense. No other system has ever brought prosperity as capitalism has, they reminded us. “It is the profit motive that has pulled us out of man’s natural state of poverty,” one editorial stated. It has its faults. All systems do. But compare its results to those of Marxism and planned economies. Ask a billion Chinese which system lifted them from wretched poverty. Etc, etc.
I will let them praise capitalism’s virtues, which are many. At the same time I wish to remind the prince that he perhaps overlooks something: He is one of the world’s major capitalists.
First, a definition of capitalists. They who invest capital – money – to get a return. From rents, maybe. Dividends from stock. Interest from bonds. Profits when they sell assets for more than they paid.
Prince Charles is the Duke of Cornwall. He is, in effect, the CEO of the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy operates as a large company. It owns and manages properties galore. And collects millions in rent from them. Some are farms. Some are homes. Some are commercial buildings, shops and offices.
The Duchy owns a big warehouse for supermarkets. It owns a Holiday Inn. It is active in a wide range of businesses. This is capitalism, of course. In fact, it is crony capitalism. Because the Duchy pays no taxes. It competes against businesses that must.
The Duchy has $1.5 billion invested. It pays out a profit of over $30 million per year. To the Prince, to live off.
He also benefits from The Crown Estate. The whole Royal Family does. The Crown Estate is one of the largest capitalist operations in Britain. It owns shopping malls, properties of all types. It owns pipeline operations and windmill businesses.
It owns huge chunks of London’s famous Regent Street. And fun parks. And cable companies. And aquaculture businesses. And farms. And forestry ventures.
Like fellow capitalist businesses, Crown Estates borrows capital. It makes bets on property, buying and selling. Last year it bought and sold assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It climbs into bed with developers and other capitalists in joint ventures.
The Crown Estate has investments worth about $15 billion. It is proud to report that last year it generated nearly $400 million in profits.
Now the company’s propaganda is filled with terms like “responsible stewardship” and “socially-conscious development.” Well, so is the propaganda from ExxonMobil. Meanwhile, The Crown Estate proclaims its number one goal is maximum profit and growth.
You might like to read its annual report. You can find it through Google. In the report it boasts of its “market beating” results.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles boasts about how his Duchy is utterly responsible toward the environment. He makes it sound like a benevolent charity. But if he won’t face reality, we can: It is a business. A capitalist operation. It invests for profits and gains and dividends and rents. So does The Crown Estate.
The Prince also boasts about how green is his Duchy. He warns us we are destroying life on earth with our use of fossil fuels. Yet he leaves a larger carbon footprint in one day of jetting and helicoptering than you will leave in a decade.
The Prince got a superb education, I know. But I have to wonder what he was taught about capitalism. And capitalists. Like the one he sees in his mirror.