Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Prosperity & Its Discontents

JONAH GOLDBERG ON CAPITALISM and prosperity:
"Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for alleviating general human misery, and yet it breeds ingratitude.

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."
I like his point about the "default position." Looking over the course of world economic history, the important question does seem to be: Why do some countries enjoy great prosperity while others don't? It seems to me the answer to this question has to involve the idea that the for what ever reason the prosperous countries have governments sufficiently limited in scope and sufficiently attentive to protecting individual economic liberty. Or, in other words, what Goldberg says in his last paragraph above.

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