The Socioeconomic System That Didn't Bark

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David Boaz notes that the New York Times' Gina Kolata, in her new musings on the mysteries of why we are so ding-dang robust and healthy these days, misses an obvious answer: capitalism.

The introduction of the institutions of economic freedom in the Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States, and then the rest of the world beginning around 1700 caused what historian Steven Davies calls a "wealth explosion." A great part of the unprecedented wealth creation went into sanitation and more abundant food and later into the research necessary to produce vaccines and antibiotics. Those institutions include secure private property, the rule of law, open markets, and economic freedom generally….

Capitalism has made the West rich and thus healthier and longer-lived. It could do the same for Africa, Asia, and the Arab world.

Kolata overlooked this point. Her article never mentions capitalism, freedom, or even wealth as an answer to the trillion-dollar question. But it's still a great report on just how much better off we are.

NEXT: Toni Morrison, Fighting the Good Fight Against PC

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  1. It’s totally true.

    It is a problem though that people equate in general greed with capitalism. When governments or wealthy assholes seize people’s ancestral properties or dump shit on their land and things like that, that’s not capitalism, that’s just greed-driven force.

    Incidentally, Emiliano Zapata should be considere one of the great heroes of libertarians around the world. He fought for liberty and capitalism. We shouldn’t we have revolutionary heroes like the commies do?

  2. Hey other Asian kid, wanna’ trade places?

  3. Well, I still like Gina Kolata. And getting caught in the rain.

    …sorry, it had to be said.

  4. “Asian Slave Child,”
    I put your name in quotes as I’m guesing not only are you none of the above but you’ve probably never even lived in a third world country, Asian or otherwise. If you did, maybe you’d know that the wages and working conditions offered by multinational corporations that “make our stuff” are far better than what’s offered in local factories. That’s why they line up to get those jobs in the multinationals, silly rabbit (quite likely spoiled westerner who has never lived outside his own neighborhood).

  5. We also make way better missiles.

  6. Incidentally, today is Milton Friedman’s birthday.
    He’s 94.

  7. Maybe people now in the materialistic West live longer, but are they happier keeping up with the Jonses and chasing after bigger TVs and bigger SUVs and bigger fake boobs and bigger whatever? And what about income equality? Maybe the worker in America or England has some nice stuff, and lives a long time, but his psyche is wracked with the misery brought about by knowing that Donald Trump and Richard Branson have so much more nice stuff! And, when he goes to the supermarket and has to choose between 35 different kinds of cookies, or turns on the TV and has to choose between 300 channels of capitralist propaganda, you think that makes him happy? No, he is tortured by the overwhelming number of choices!

    Look to Cuba, comrades. No rat race, no inequality, no surfeit of choices, but a life devoted to a mission– the revolution!

  8. Incidentally, today is Milton Friedman’s birthday.
    He’s 94.

  9. I know Commie is having fun, but it does bring up the whole we’ve-got-stuff-but-are-miserable-miserable-miserable-too-many-
    choices-help-me-Obi-Wan-you’re-my-only-hope argument. I’m not thrilled with my job, either, but neither having too many choices nor the evils of consumerism are the problem. It’s all on me. I could make do with less or even take a gamble and change careers. I have the freedom to make that choice. Part of that freedom comes from my personal wealth (puny that it may be) and from the greater wealth of my society. Another part of it comes from the political and social freedom that I still have, despite the best efforts of many to take it away.

    In other words, I would rather live in a complex society where I have the freedom to live a simpler life, than in a simple society where I get to live out my pathetic peasant existence with no hope for change or improvement.

  10. “Amplify your life that others may live amply.”

    Or, to put it as succinctly as any politician has ever put it, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

    I consider that my purchase of goods and services has at least three positive socioeconomic impacts:

    • It makes me happy, or satisfies a need that I’ve perceived. Without this, it’d be nuts for me to do it, so this is my primary motivation.
    • It increases wealth further down the supply chain – the people manufacturing, marketing and transporting the goods I buy all benefit from the transaction. There may be outlying exceptions to this rule (some incidence of slave labor in Chinese factories, for example), but generally, it’s impossible to act in a market without benefiting others.
    • It generates pressure on my own motivation to improve my economic productivity, as I need to pay my bills, and desire to continue purchasing goods and services.

    When I turn up the volume of my consumption, all of these positive effects also increase. My lust for an iPod or a new roof or a nicer car are all unalloyed positives.

    Similarly, my desire to increase my healthy, productive and comfortable lifespan drive me to consume goods and services to that end — with the same positive effects across the board.

  11. Child slavery is the perfect antithesis of free market capitalism, twice over.

  12. Maybe it’s my innate capitalist distrust of the NY Times (though I know nothing of Ms. Colata specifically), but after reading both articles I’m not certain that she accidentally missed the point of capitalism bringing health and prosperity to the modern age; the logical progression from the NYT article, and in particular the conclusion, seems to support public health and welfare spending. I think it’s the sentence, “Maybe it was his good fortune to have been born to a healthy mother and to be well fed and vaccinated.” At least that’s what the typical lefty approach would be, to dispel the claim of the benefits of capitalism.

  13. I know Commie is having fun, but it does bring up the whole we’ve-got-stuff-but-are-miserable-miserable-miserable-too-many-
    choices-help-me-Obi-Wan-you’re-my-only-hope argument. I’m not thrilled with my job, either, but neither having too many choices nor the evils of consumerism are the problem. It’s all on me. I could make do with less or even take a gamble and change careers. I have the freedom to make that choice. Part of that freedom comes from my personal wealth (puny that it may be) and from the greater wealth of my society. Another part of it comes from the political and social freedom that I still have, despite the best efforts of many to take it away. In other words, I would rather live in a complex society where I have the freedom to live a simpler life, than in a simple society where I get to live out my pathetic peasant existence with no hope for change or improvement.

    True that. This reminds me of a quote by Neitzsche about how things that make the higher man lighter (or happier) make the lower man heavier. Some people would rather have the comfort of a slave then have to deal with the pressure of making a decision. I say screw’em.

  14. So, uh, can anyone come up with an example of country that made the leap from agriculture to industrialism without an extensive system of protectionism for its nascent industries?

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