Friday, August 1, 2008

Jonah Goldberg on Capitalism

Link: The Spoiled Children of Capitalism by Jonah Goldberg

People ask, “Why is there poverty in the world?” It’s a silly question. Poverty is the default human condition. It is the factory preset of this mortal coil. As individuals and as a species, we are born naked and penniless, bereft of skills or possessions. Likewise, in his civilizational infancy man was poor, in every sense. He lived in ignorance, filth, hunger, and pain, and he died very young, either by violence or disease.

The interesting question isn’t “Why is there poverty?” It’s “Why is there wealth?” Or: “Why is there prosperity here but not there?”

At the end of the day, the first answer is capitalism, rightly understood. That is to say: free markets, private property, the spirit of entrepreneurialism and the conviction that the fruits of your labors are your own.

For generations, many thought prosperity was material stuff: factories and forests, gold mines and gross tons of concrete poured. But we now know that these things are merely the fringe benefits of wealth. Stalin built his factories, Mao paved over the peasants. But all that truly prospered was misery and alienation.

His approach should be applauded. Sometimes we don't find the correct answer because we aren't asking the right questions. I liked this one too:

[On Capitalism] Leaving religion out of it, no idea has given more to humanity. The average working-class person today is richer, in real terms, than the average prince or potentate of 300 years ago. His food is better, his life longer, his health better, his menu of entertainments vastly more diverse, his toilette infinitely more civilized. And yet we constantly hear how cruel capitalism is while this collectivism or that is more loving because, unlike capitalism, collectivism is about the group, not the individual.

Above is the reason that when we debate poverty in America we are debating relative poverty vs absolute poverty. Absolute poverty can't be found in America, and our working poor have a relatively high standard of living compared to the rest of the world or when compared to generations past. So we concentrate between the differences between the rich and the poor and promote class warfare. For those who stand to benefit, it is a winning strategy. For society as a whole it has harmful implications for freedom and prosperity. Sphere: Related Content

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