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The search entry, “Capitalism Causes Poverty” yields 3,920,000 results. The search entry, “Socialism Causes Poverty” yields 2,320,o00 results.  I’m actually surprised that there are so many entries on the latter. Maybe we are making progress.

Two points however. As a factual matter, neither is correct. You may hate capitalism. You may be an avowed socialist. You may hope there is some better way for the modern world to work. But you may not hold as a belief that, “capitalism causes poverty.” Why? Because  poverty is the natural state of man.

For thousands of years of human civilization, the living standards of most people did not change. Life expectancies were short, incomes stagnated, death was painful, food was scarce and risk was everywhere. But nothing remotely resembling capitalism (it might be useful to define it) existed until perhaps the 17th century, and certainly it was not well “established” until the 19th century. How could something that did not exist until recently cause something that had always been around?

Similarly, you could probably argue the same thing about socialism. However, if we take the natural state of man to be one of plenty – then by all means you can correctly argue that socialism causes less plenty and that capitalism does not result in less plenty. But I do not suspect this is what folks think when they invoke terms such as these.

Please understand that this does not mean that man could not have escaped poverty under some other social “system” (again, system is in quotes because capitalism emerged, it was never instituted by some plan, leader, or vote … it just … happened) or that you even have to accept the improvement of living standards as desirable. You should not also interpret this to mean that capitalism automatically leads to poverty reduction, despite the evidence of the past that it has done just that. What it does mean is that we need a more serious understanding about what poverty is, and what forces serve to perpetuate and reinforce this condition. Economic growth is a new phenomenon, it is a marvel, and it is this growth which requires explanation, not the lack of growth.

2 Responses to “Google Games”

  1. Harry says:

    An angle I had not thought about, Wintercow. Keep that idea.

    You look at poverty from a global long view. Most of the discussion among the political class is much more myopic, as in whether a $42,000-a-year adjusted gross income qualifies you for low-income housing, and whether the same standard should apply to Johnstown, Jack Murtha’s old congressional district. If the residents of northern Virginia 200 years ago would hear such a discussion, they would think you had come from Mars, assuming they had the time.

    There is ample historical correlation between unfree conditions and poverty, and it continues today.

    I often go to your map that shows the worldwide hits to your site. Most of Africa and Asia are not rich with hits. One can dismiss this by pointing out language differences.

    But that does not fully explain the zero hits from North Korea and Cuba, or the small dot from Tallin, Estonia.

  2. Rod says:

    Another fundamental truth is that people look after their own rational self-interest, starting with one’s self and one’s family, and then extending to others who invite one’s charitable and compassionate emotions. If the government gets in the way and claims a percentage of everything one earns, the less one can look after those self-interests and have anything extra to give to others. B.O. also thinks there’s a limit to how much one can keep, except himself. Is it any wonder why there is less plenty under collectivism than under capitalism?

    Which brings me to a news item: The Obamas intend to travel to the Taj Mahal (not the jazz group) after the election with an entourage of 40 planes (“We have some planes. Everyone remain calm until we return to the airport.) and six armored cars, and they have made reservations for every room in the Taj Mahal’s principal hotel. This is bigger, even, than Jamie Farr playing an Arab potentate in Cannonball Run. Line for Obama: “I am a river to my people!!”

    I guess they still take Federal Reserve Notes for the hotel bill.

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