Friday, May 09, 2008

'The Rights that Make Us Rich'

In a piece called 'The Rights that Make Us Rich' (fantastic title) Mike Moore explains the result of increasing private ownership around the globe:

"In the past 60 years, more wealth has been created than in all of history. The number of people living on less than a dollar a day has dropped from 40 per cent in 1981 to 18 per cent in 2004. During the same period, the numbers living on less than $2 a day have dropped from 67 per cent to 48 per cent."

As Liberty Scott notes wryly, "That hasn't been because of charity."  "Private ownership works," says Moore.  It sure does. The great irony for New Zealand is that while much of the rest of the world is confirming that lesson, here at home the move du jour is to nationalisation, not privatisation.

How can we best help poor countries.  First of all, we should make sure we don't become poor ourselves.  And second, as Moore says, we should encourage their governments to get the hell out of the way of business activity, and

establish property rights which will encourage people into the formal economy. It's not that radical, it simply suggests that poor people in poor countries should have the rights that rich countries have. Perhaps that's why they are rich.

Property rights -- that concept now celebrated in New Zealand mostly in their breach.  National's Nick Smith provides a timely example of the endemic lack of local respect for this boon: he wants to confiscate the property rights of Kaiangaroa Timberlands to protect some Douglas Firs.

The man is an idiot.  He needs to read the former Labour Prime Minister.

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