Economic Liberty Benefits the Least the Most
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, where he specializes in foreign policy and civil liberties. In the article below, he promotes economic liberty (a.k.a. capitalism) as a means by which the least of these can benefit. On the cusp of Congress passing a major tax overhaul, regardless of your politics, there is a lot of discussion about economics. Three great reminders come out of this article: wealth is not a bad thing, capitalism is not perfect, and opportunities abound to promote economic liberty—we should be on the look out for them.
We live in a world of exploding opportunities and growing challenges. New technologies are transforming our lives. Despite intermittent economic and financial crises, residents of the West live better than any other people at any other point in human history. Many people in the East, and increasingly in Latin America and Africa as well, are joining them.
Yet tragedy still abounds in a world of plenty. Hundreds of millions of people live in immiserating poverty. Malnutrition and even starvation stalk some lands. The promise of development, opportunity, and prosperity seem beyond the reach of many people, including millions of Christians.
Jesus observed that the poor will be with us always (Matt. 26:11), which means our obligation to assist those in need also will be with us always. Our obligation is to all people, but particularly to those in the community of faith (Gal. 6:10).
The Global Impact of Economic Liberty
Capitalism, or more fundamentally, economic liberty, has come to imperfectly dominate the global economy. Of course, that does not mean laissez-faire economics reigns everywhere. Even Western societies sport mixed economies with extensive government intervention through state enterprises, business regulation, subsidies, taxes, and redistribution programs.
Still, in these economies, you will see:
- Private firms provide the bulk of goods and services, and prices generally move unhindered, directing investment and consumption.
- People are largely free to choose their employment and the terms under which they are willing to work.
- Most economic decisions are decentralized and outside state control.
Increasingly, this model is being applied throughout the former Soviet states and third world, once models for various forms of state intervention and collectivism.
What all these relatively freer economies have delivered, despite periodic problems and even crises, is rapid economic growth, which is a relatively recent phenomenon.
It is a direct result of increased economic liberty, and has proved to be of extraordinary benefit to humankind, especially the most vulnerable and poorest among us.
Ancient people were intelligent and creative, yet throughout most of history they made astonishingly little material progress. Only during the last two to three centuries has humanity flourished at an increasing rate. This is due to the rise of the capitalist, commercial society. Political, legal, and moral philosophies and institutions finally came to accept and then foster economic growth.
Thanks to Dương Trí who provided the photo from Unsplash