Sunday, March 16, 2008

Capitalism is making the world better -- not worse; despite what the doom and gloomers contend

Of course we have to realize that misery, blood, dread, hatred, anger, fear and evil sell newspapers and magazines, and generate audiences for TV news programs. It's almost to the point that the world is worse than it ever has been because of us.

But that's not true: the world is better today than ever before and, every once in a while a news report comes out that confirms this. Not very often, but it happens.

Last year on the TV program 20/20 on ABC there was a report on how things are NOT as bad as we hear in the media that they are. That despite all the bad things we read about, the world we live in today is better than it ever has been.

This wasn't in the 20/20 report, but one of the main reasons is the spread of free market economies. Nation states that have adapted capitalism have economies that are improving, have their poor earning more and more money, and getting better paying jobs.

Because of capitalism, poverty is declining. Which is funny, because for hundreds of years people have been shelling money at the poor thinking that was going to get rid of poverty, and it never has (it treats the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure poverty. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Then this thing called free market economies comes about and poverty starts to decline; not just in the U.S. but around the world. Howver, despite this, many people still sit around feeling gloomy all the time, even people that are well off, like Al Gore for instance, who has predicted more than once that the world is going to be destroyed in ten years if we don't change our ways.

But to sit around and be gloomy all the time is not going to solve our environmental problems. And, on a similar note, sitting around feeling sorry for the impoverished people of the world is not going to solve their problems either.

Technically speaking, the best thing we can do for the poor, instead of feeling sorry for them, is to work hard, make as much money as you can, live life to the best of our ability, and be a cheerleader for how great life can be in a free, capitalistic nation.

Yes, it is true there are still too many people living in poverty; but things have greatly improved for them just in the past 25 years. The reason for this is the spread of free market ecomomies (or capitalism).

According to the Fraser Institutes Economic Freedom of the World Report, as free economiic markets have spread globally, poverty has decreased worldwide from 1.5 billion in 1981 to 1.1 billion in 2001.

Likewise, the only people living in the world who yet to remain really poor and famished are those living in nations run by corrupt governments like Iran, North Korea and Etheopia. It would be very rare to find a poor person in America who doesn’t have a roof over his head, a radio, a color TV at his disposal. Many in poverty even have a car.

Poverty in the U.S. is nothing like it was, say, in 1900.

At the turn of the century city roads were all dirt roads causing dust, and were covered with horse manure which attracted flies. Garbage often lined the streets, fecal extriments were dumped into rivers and lakes making them uninhabitable for many animals and definitely unswimmable for human. Many cities were so filthy they were covered in a permanent thick fog making vision difficult, air difficult to breathe. Flies, fleas and rats only added to the spread of disease.

Today, however, new technologies, improved sewer and water treatment plants, filters on smoke stacks, cars instead of horses, improved garbage removal systems, clean hospitals and new medical treatments, have greatly improved most of these problems.

In fact, most of the diseases that caused fear and panick in the 1920s have since been eradicated so that most kids today can’t even name them. And it’s safe now to swim in rivers in big cities like the Hudson River in New York.

The best result of all this, the crem de la crem, is that life expectancy of humans has increased by 30 years since 1900. That’s real progress.

Now, getting back to what 20-20 reported last year, there is enough food produced by the world so there is almost too much of it. The reason for this is technology. The only places on earth where people continue to live in extreme poverty, famine and filth are those who live in corrupt nations. One report indicated that there remain thick, black fogs over just a few cities in the world today, and they are all in underdeveloped nations run under dictatorships.

And, while many people and many nations continue to send money to those impoverished people on a daily basis, this money is first filtered through these corrupt governments; many of whom hoard this money for themselves. Saddam was a perfect example of this, as he lived in luxurious mansions eating feasts while his people starved and struggled to shelter themselves.

Now I think it’s great that people have a good heart and want to help the poor, because a few U.S. coins can go a long way, expecially in undeveloped nations. But while money might help in the short term (if it gets through the filters), history has proven it does not cure poverty.

If you truly want to get rid of poverty, free market economies is the way to go about it. The trend shows that as free market economies go up, poverty goes down. R.J. Rummel, author of several nonficiton books, explains on his website why capitalism works to end poverty:

"As government loosened its stranglehold on national economies and foreign trade, as it allowed creative and enterprising people to produce new things, there was a surge in new inventions, new businesses, and the earnings and wages of the poor. Before this revolution, laws tied workers to a farm or manor and forced them to live the most basic and poorest of lives. They often faced the threat of starvation if a harvest was meager, if they lost or broke their tools, or if they were dispossessed of their land by the government or feudal lords. They wore the most basic and plainest of clothes and ate the simplest and cheapest food. The revolution of freedom liberated the poor from this kind of servitude, assured them of a basic wage, and enabled them to improve their consumption."

Capitalism, thus, has allowed the poor to make more money, allow them to purchase some of the luxuries that only the richest used to be able to afford, like cars, TVs, radios, or more effective farming equipment. Likewise, they are able to dress better so often it’s difficult to even tell the poor apart from the rich. By removing the shackles of government, people are now free to learn, to get better jobs, and to succeed.

Using Iraq again as an example, since it has become a democracy, and thus a capitalistic nation, it’s economy has greatly improved, and its stock market is soaring. The people of Iraq are far better off in that aspect. And so long as they maintain this economic freedom, the nation’s economy will continue to grow, the lives of the people will continue to improve.

China is another good example. Since it endorsed a free market approach, it’s economy has grown so that it rivals ours. Also, so is Japan after WWII.

Another fear the media spreads is that the world is becoming overpopulated with people. The 20-20 report noted: "...(T)here’s no space problem. Our planet is huge. In fact we could take the entire world population and move everyone to the state of Texas, and the population density there would still be less than that of New York City."

With the current trend of Americans having only 2 or 3 kids, and the Chinese not allowed to have more than 1, scientists predict the world population to peak around 2020 and then to start declining.

Forests are also growing, not declining as the media proclaims. Twenty-twenty reported that the U.S.Agriculture Department states there are now 749 million acres of forest land while there was 735 in 1920. The reason for this increase is that lumber companies no longer simply cut a tree down and leave it at that; they now replace each tree with two or three. Likewise, the thinning out of forests allows them to grow better, and the removal of shrubbery helps prevent the spread of large forest fires.

In 1900, whenever fires burned rampant, people lacked the technologies now available to stop the spread of fires, many of which destroyed woods the size of some states.

The 20-20 report also noted that new "technology...allows us to grow five times more food per acre — so we need less farmland. Lots of what once was farmland has reverted to forest."

On the same note, it reports that 93% of those forests are natural forests, and, that while some wildlife have decreased, many "other animals have actually increased in the past 75 years."

And still, many Americans continue to feed into the pessimism that the world is getting so bad that it is headed towards Armaggedon. The reality is: it’s a wonderful world, and with the continual spread of free market economies, and improved technologies, it will continues to get better.

I can set a good example, and you can to. So put your head up, smile, and feel joy in knowing that the world is getting better with each passing day.


Mike said...


Was this a John Stossel report? It sounds like something he would do.

I agree with your basic premise regarding capitalism and its positive effects on economies, and the world in general. The one bone I would pick is with the way you seem to use "capitalism" and "free market" interchangeably. A free market economy is a type of capitalism that a) doesn't exist, and b) would be short-lived and ruinous if it did. In my experience, the term has mostly been used by conservatives to describe a deregulated capitalist market, or the privatization of nationalized resources such as water or oil.

Also, I hope that in ten years we aren't all writing blog posts about how Al Gore was right and maybe we should have listened to him. :)

Freadom said...

I think we do listen to Al Gore, as I think we should.