The other day one of this blog’s regular trolls expressed amazement that I’d linked to a post on poverty in good faith. Surely, reasoned the troll, the only reason a blog promoting “capitalist acts” would link to the story of a woman living in poverty would be to point and laugh.
The troll doesn’t get it.
Because it is capitalist acts that are lifting people out of poverty all the time. And that’s one of the things this blog was created to celebrate.
Consider this: capitalism inherited millennia of poverty, and (despite battling statism all the way) delivered two centuries of prosperity unimaginable at any other time in history. That’s a great thing.
Nearly 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 2o years alone. That’s a really great thing.
1 billion people lifted out of poverty not through charity, welfare, or the donations of the pope or Gwyneth Paltrow. But through greater capitalism: its markets, its rule of law, its production, its innovations.
One of the greatest insights into capitalism is that every trade is win-win. It’s only kings, warriors and governments that can coerce people against their will: but all human interaction when uncoerced are voluntary. They must be. “All proper human interactions are win-win; that’s why the parties decide to engage in them.”
This is one of the great benefits of living in a society, when it’s peaceful. Alone, none of us could produce all we need to flourish; but embedded within a network of folk all specialising in what they do best (and all being allowed to!) we can trade for the things we each value and favour.
That’s one of the underlying reasons capitalism succeeds in producing prosperity: because we trade values, capitalism rewards those who are best at creating new values. Because it values creation, it rewards the productive and the innovative. Because it rewards rewards the productive and the innovative, we see increasing production and innovation.
It was Ayn Rand who first identified that because this fabulous engine of production called capitalism requires no coercion to set it in motion, because it is properly the system that protects individual rights -- because it is based on voluntary exchange of human-created values – it is a system uniquely based not on any need for human sacrifice, but on the recognition that all gain is inherently non-sacrificial. It is a system in other words promoting natural harmonies between men; demanding of each their best; allowing each of us to gain from the general existence of others.
In 1962 Ayn Rand wrote this:
Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.
Since she wrote that, the evidence has only become more incontrovertible – yet the voices in opposition have not got any less.
Perhaps because man’s well-being really isn’t their goal. Because if it were, they would surely be the loudest in proclaiming their desire to expand capitalism – or at least understand it. That they aren’t, and don’t, and chose to stay and point and laugh instead, suggests eliminating poverty is still not their goal.