Dump Pandemic-Era Authoritarianism and Let Capitalism Rebuild Prosperity

Free people and free markets reduced poverty in the past and are capable of doing so again.


A year or so into the pandemic, the world is a poorer place filled with poorer people than was the case before COVID-19 appeared. Part of this was the inevitable result of people voluntarily pulling in their horns to avoid infection, but much of it resulted from government-imposed lockdown orders as public health experts engaged in a panic-stricken effort to stop the virus's spread through the force of law. There's no way around the fact that the last year is going to leave a mark, but we can regain lost ground, and prosperity, by once again unleashing free markets to do their good work.

"A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that the global middle class encompassed 54 million fewer people in 2020 than the number projected prior to the onset of the pandemic," the organization announced last week. "Meanwhile, the number of poor is estimated to have been 131 million higher because of the recession."

The World Bank agrees in its latest Global Economic Prospects report, which estimates that the world's economy shrank by 4.3 percent in 2020. "COVID-19 caused a global recession whose depth was surpassed only by the two World Wars and the Great Depression over the past century and a half," the report notes. "The pandemic has caused a severe loss of life, is tipping millions into extreme poverty, and is expected to inflict lasting scars that push activity and income well below their pre-pandemic trend for a prolonged period."

This makes for grim, but unsurprising reading for Americans who have been thrown out of work and seen tens of thousands of businesses close over the past year. Fortunately, there's a known antidote for such grimness: capitalism has reduced poverty in the past and it's capable of doing so again if people are unleashed to build prosperity through free exchange.

"The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented," Alexander Hammond of Britain's Institute of Economic Affairs wrote in 2017. "Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet's population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too."

"In order to help the poorest, consider the impact free-market capitalism has had in the last 200 years in alleviating extreme poverty," he added. "The Industrial Revolution turned the once-impoverished western countries into abundant societies."

Hammond based his observation on pre-pandemic World Bank figures showing "the global poverty rate, defined as the share of world's population living below the [international poverty line], has dropped from 35.9 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015."

This explosion of prosperity occurred in countries that, to a significant extent, embraced property rights, deregulation, and free markets that unleashed people to put food on the table. Largely without planning and direction, people made the world healthier, wealthier, and happier. Ironically, though, these advances came as advocates of state control gained new strength, improbably blaming supposedly rampant capitalism for whatever ills they perceived among populations rapidly rescuing themselves from privation.

"Just at the moment that both the left and the right give up on global capitalism, it is celebrating its largest accomplishment," mused Swedish historian Johan Norberg, author of Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future (2016).

This second-guessing of the power of free markets and voluntary exchange threatens the liberty which gave so much of the world prosperity, and which has the potential to reinvigorate economies suffering from the effects of a pandemic and interventionist public health measures. 

"[T]he world's poorest countries are not characterized by naive trust in capitalism, but by utter distrust, which leads to heavy government intervention and regulation of business," points out Ricardo Hausmann, a minister of planning in Venezuela in the 1990s, before that country's current socialist regime dragged it back into poverty. "Under such conditions, capitalism does not thrive and economies remain poor."

That means the best path forward as the world emerges from the pandemic is to dump the flirtations of recent years with authoritarian economic notions, whether that's outright state ownership of the means of production or government bullying of nominally private enterprises to make them do what politicians want. It also means stripping officials of supposedly temporary public health powers that allow them to disrupt people's lives, interfere in voluntary arrangements, and kill prosperity. 

Letting capitalism rebuild the world's wealth also means continuing the work of getting government out of the way in general. Pre-pandemic, entrepreneurs told the National Federation of Independent Business's 2016 Small Business Problems and Priorities survey that they placed "unreasonable government regulations" as their second concern, after the cost of health insurance (itself made more expensive by regulations). Regulatory concerns continue to rank in the top ten in the 2020 survey, with tax concerns taking four other slots and "uncertainty over government actions" yet another.

The same concerns apply around the world as Hausmann emphasized and as noted by the World Bank.

"A renewed boost to underlying growth is needed, a boost that could be provided by reforms to governance and business climates," acknowledges the Global Economic Prospects Report. Such reforms "encourage private sector investment and innovation by establishing secure and enforceable property rights, minimizing expropriation risk, creating a stable and confidence-inspiring policy environment, lowering the costs of doing business, and encouraging participation in the formal sector where productivity tends to be higher." For developing economies in particular, the report specifies the importance of "strengthening institutions, reducing corruption, dismantling regulatory barriers to doing business and entrepreneurship."

In the U.S., there are some positive signs. Even as businesses died over the past year, the country saw a surge in entrepreneurial startups. Those numbers dropped a bit recently, but new business applications remain well above pre-pandemic levels, according to Census data. People may have had their paychecks ripped from their grasps, but many went down fighting, and their efforts may be a lifeline to the future.

But that lifeline will fail if the authoritarian trend continues. Capitalism can only make us prosperous in a world that allows the freedom to enjoy its benefits.

NEXT: The Dream of the '90s Died in Portland

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  2. 41% of liberals believe one in two covid patients require hospitalizations. This is largely due to media coverage of covid.

    A) liberals are fucking stupid
    B) liberal media is an effective propaganda stream
    C) liberals media is not reputable even though jeff thinks they are
    D) liberals will succumb to authoritarian impulses at the slightest hint of fear.

    1. Some (most?) liberals get their news from one source, the liberal media. They will not entertain outlets offering an alternative viewpoint. They will often grow agitated if you try to present an alternate viewpoint. They are not stupid but willfully ignorant. It’s probably fair to say they’re not super bright, but if they’re watching the news they’re at least making an attempt (a poor, lazy attempt) at being educated. There’s a lot of bullshit out there, sometimes it’s not easy to parse the noise. Getting a real plurality of views, particularly of the classical liberal variety, helps.

      1. Progtards (formerly known as liberals) pretty much only associate with other progtards within their blue bubbles, so their ideas, no matter how ill-informed, are reinforced and even the slightest deviation from the official NPR/NYT/WaPo statement is greeted with suspicion hostility. I wouldn’t say these people are inherently smarter than anyone else, but mostly are who they are because they were born into it (parents and grandparents went to college and had stable well paying jobs, helped them make connections and get internships). Yet they claim they have earned the right to tell everyone how to live.

        1. Only 11 cases of reinfected Covid patients in the states. My neighbor happens to know 4 of them. I mentioned that it is really rare to get it twice, “oh no, it happens all the time”.

    2. Well, then, riddle me this; if liberals are so stupid, why are they winning?

      1. Because they sound so smart and, more importantly, promise free shit for everyone.

      2. It’s not stupidity, it’s something else (and worse). As much as I would like to think they should, intelligence and political beliefs do not correlate. Assuming they do will get us nowhere.

      3. They have a long term goal to destroy institutions and have been playing it for a very long time. It is a cult like attack. They don’t have to know anything aside from what they want to turn society into. It doesn’t take intelligence to attempt to change society, just consistency and determination.

        1. The ultimate monopoly is state control of the means of production. Puts corporate greed to shame. See the CCP and its history (the context that is usually left out of arguments) for the expertise in how to roll this out (don’t forget to pay a virtual visit to Hong Kong now to check it out!)

      4. They aren’t. Ignoring Biden’s super questionable “win”, the Democrats got their asses kicked and the progressives got their asses kicked even more than regular Democrats.

        If the next election is free and fair, they will get demolished then too.

        1. Ignoring Biden’s super questionable “win”, the Democrats got their asses kicked and the progressives got their asses kicked even more than regular Democrats.

          ^ This. The Dems dancing on the grave of the Republican Party is very premature, and smacks of a certain hubris.

      5. They’re not stupid they’re evil. They’ll literally do anything for power even kill. It’s a huge advantage.

        1. And the most evil one of them all is the shadow president residing at 2446 Belmont Road in D.C.

        2. The only way to fix things is to reduce their numbers and restrict the activities of the remaining progs. Everything else has failed, and will continue to fail.

          Their lives and presence here are not worth our freedom.

      6. “Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.” —Friedrich von Hayek

    3. A lot of Republicans believe this B.S., too, which explains why even supposedly conservative states such as Texas had lockdowns and mask mandates.

    4. Funny you should say that. I went to the doctor’s because I started feeling sick. And the nurse practitioner said something interesting. She said the worse thing you can do is watch the news. Because most people with COVID show only mild symptoms.

      The 500,000 who died, 75% of them were overweight or had underlying medical conditions.

  3. “Pandemic-Era Authoritarianism”

    The most egregious example of pandemic-era authoritarianism was Orange Hitler’s “border enforcement.” Absurdly, alt-right white nationalists actually believe a pandemic provides an excuse not to implement unlimited, unrestricted immigration.

    We Koch / Reason libertarians know better though. And now that Biden is President, we’re finally getting the open borders policy that our benefactor Charles Koch has been advocating for decades.


    1. Could not have said it better. America needs to Build Back Better under President Biden with substantial voting reforms to prevent another GOP win. This will be another win for the Libertarian party and our libertarian moment. Free markets, free education, free minds, free money too!

      1. Voting fortification is the correct term.

        1. If only Toosilly had had a choice in the matter of a few short months ago.

      2. I’m confused. Your list of free free free things doesn’t include free markets. Or thought or speech. Do those three things matter or can I be seduced and bought with that $400 check I am getting next month? And will my Evergreen College associate degree in Grievance Studies with a double minor of Victimhoodology and Gender Studies be considered useless if I ever go looking for a … that… thing… a … a… A job? Please answer soon, I am running out of questions.

      3. Oh Manischewitz you’ll drink then!

  4. Freely exchanging goods and services for mutual betterment? Sounds sketchy. That kind of uncontrolled behavior has danger written all over it.

    1. Well, conveniently, the Biden administration is going to shut that shit right down.

      1. Reason authors talk big when they know that shit ain’t going to happen.

        1. +100. Furthermore, when there is a president in the WH who could actually move in the direction they espouse, they spend their time and capital attacking his orangeosity.

  5. That means the best path forward as the world emerges from the pandemic is to dump the flirtations of recent years with [authoritarianism][.]”

    Be guided by Orwell:

    “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

    ― George Orwell, 1984

    If we are to emerge at all, we have to cast aside the illusion that the people with the power to lock us in our homes and dispossess us of our livelihoods have any interest whatsoever in our well-being, let alone the well-being of people on the opposite ends of the world.

    1. Trump was a fascist. Period! Thankfully, all of Washington DC’s bureaucrats agreed that Trump was a fascist and stopped him from ruining America. Now, with Biden in power, the government can reflect the true will of the people.

      1. Some time after it is enacted the writers here at Reason will no doubt explain just how ‘mistaken’ HR1 is.

        1. “Why Mob rule is actually a libertarian moment” by Nick “Leather Man” Gillespie

          1. I believe that Nick prefers the appellation “Leather Daddy”.

          2. Mob rule would be an improvement over what HR1 is going to impose.

          3. “The libertarian case for HR1”. Pick your author.

            1. “The “woke libertarian” case for gun confiscation”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for open borders”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for illegals voting”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for censorship”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for a liberal dictatorship ”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for court packing”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for reparations”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” case for voiding the Bill of Rights”. Pick your author.
              “The “woke libertarian” rewriting the US Constitution”. Pick your author.

      2. Using words you don’t understand. The closest thing to fascism we have this country are the progressives an assholes like you.

  6. Hogwash, we need government to provide for us by printing up trillions of dollars. If government just gave everybody enough money that nobody had to work anymore, just think of how much stuff would be produced! If nobody had to work to produce stuff, we could all be spending all our time consuming stuff and wouldn’t that be great?

    1. Sadly, there are people who actually believe exactly this.

      1. I remember the “everyone stay home and have food delivered “ crowd.

        1. Isn’t cognitive dissonance wonderful?

    2. Unsurprisingly this is exactly what Reason writers helped make happen.

    3. Isn’t consooming the only purpose in life? I want to consoom comic book movies. Then I will consoom some craft beer and consoom some music with my $1,000 iPhone X.

      1. Well, when you’re 40 years old and living in your parents’ basement, what else are you supposed to do?

        1. In a sense we all live in our parents basement now.

          1. Wow. Creepily accurate.

  7. Didn’t you pussies side with Biden and all the pro-lockdown people?

    No refunds

    1. What? The lockdowns were Trump’s fault obviously. Businesses are opening back up now that Biden is in charge, even NYC restaurants will soon allow 75% capacity.

      1. New Jersey is “pausing”.

        1. In Washington we’ve been “paused” since the middle of February. All metrics are falling rapidly and our hospital system has NEVER been in danger, but we’re “paused” anyway. There aren’t even metrics or data or A PLAN for “phase three”, but I’m sure that Inslee is REALLY looking out for us.

          1. We should go after him for various crimes from the last year.

  8. This is a bizarre headline for an outlet that endorsed Biden.

  9. Are you insane?
    1. I got a $400 check coming in May so don’t fuck with that.
    2. MMT works. So there.

    1. Sarc or stupidity?

      1. I would guess sarc, people that stupid have never heard of Reason, or these days Unreason.

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  11. You know, this pandemic was excellent in creating a market for crafters where none existed. Suddenly, there’s a demand for fashion masks.

    It is quite irritating because by all metrics, such masks don’t work. And so a whole new industry has sprung up around narcissistic pathologies.

    I can not bring myself to join this industry because it sounds like taking advantage of people’s mental illnesses.

    1. How many billions of dollars have been spent on useless masks?

    2. What do you call clinical therapists?

  12. Mainstream media and the establishment government are partners in tyranny. The police departments are the hired thugs to control we the people.

    1. I really would t have a problem executing all of them after we regain control of the government. Although there are alternatives. I can’t very well call them ‘humane’ given that progs aren’t really human.

  13. Can capitalism rebuild prosperity with about a $30 trillion dollar National debt, almost $7 trillion of funny money of that debt in the last year? Can capitalism beat the coming inflation?
    Or are we just screwed and only waiting for the economic collapse? That certainly is not going to end “Authoritarianism” it will only increase it.
    it is great to preach, but we need real solutions before it is to late.

    1. Yes, I know it is probably already to late. Yes I know spending more money is NOT the answer.

    2. The dollar is fucked.

      Buy bitcoin.

  14. What a waste these comments are.

    1. Don’t like your fellow authoritarian left liberal democrats being called out, eh? Get used to it.

      By the way, you should run away and hide forever, considering how completely, totally, utterly, and hysterically wrong you were from the beginning, when you spouting that Imperial College bullshit about how millions of Americans were going to die. You’re the biggest waste in these parts, JSlave.

    2. Especially your comment.

    3. Translation: You guys are spot on, I got nuthin’.

  15. “Free people and free markets reduced poverty in the past and are capable of doing so again.”

    Not if Newsom gets hit way. He has a ‘planning commission’ at work, planning a new economy with more equity!

  16. “Free people and free markets reduced poverty in the past and are capable of doing so again.”

    That is possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
    The opposite is demonstrably true.

    1. “The opposite is demonstrably true.”

      I’m sure you have some cites which somehow didn’t end up supporting your asinine claim.

    2. Still waiting, lefty shit.

      1. “Still waiting, lefty shit.”

        Why should I reply to poor white trash?

        And you know what else is demonstrable?

        These far-right garbage websites that talk about capitalism, extreme fascist policies, and “libertarianism” are nothing more than outlets for the misanthropes and uneducated like yourself.

        1. “Why should I reply to poor white trash?”

          I have no idea where you find them, lefty shit. Outside of parasitic lefty shits like you living off the productive among us, I’m certain most posting here are fairly well off.
          But you posted an asinine claim (a lie, to be honest) absent one bit of evidence, which is no surprise; it’s hard to find evidence supporting such a steaming pile of lefty shit.
          Why should any one here bother to read one word you post, lying lefty shit?

          1. Yes, as night follows day, your reply was predictable, and just reinforcing what I said earlier.

            You are just too stupid to realise you are too stupid.

            Just look at the biggest capitalistic system in human history, the United States over recent decades.
            How many of those have lived in grinding property?
            5, 10% of the population?

            Wealth disparity is a major feature of capitalistic systems.

            1. “Just look at the biggest capitalistic system in human history, the United States over recent decades.
              How many of those have lived in grinding property?”

              Poverty defined has having no dishwasher? Oh, 5% or so.
              Grinding poverty? Close to zero.
              Yep, as predictable as lefty shits everywhere and always.
              Which system put hundreds of millions in abject poverty and then starved or murdered another hundred million?
              Why, communism! As is continues to do in NK, Venezuela, and Cuba!
              Which system raised millions out of poverty, even if some got richer faster than others?
              Why, capitalism!
              You need to find someplace populated by lefty shits as stupid as you are for your lies to get an audience.
              Fuck off and die, steaming pile of lefty shit.

              1. Again, just proving my point.
                You and the other troglodytes that populate these far right wing websites, have no brains to articulate a coherent argument, instead, you just rant and rave like a demented school child.

                Ad hominem and non-sequiturs are your default positions.

                1. You brain-dead pile of lefty shit, please tell us how effective the Berlin Wall was in keeping all those people suffering under Capitalism from storming into the “workers’ paradise”.
                  And the Iron Curtain? People lined up for miles trying to get in, right?
                  You’re a laugh riot. Keep digging shit-for-brains, I’ll get you a new shovel if you break that one.

                  1. Again, your nonsense is an irrelevant non-sequitur.
                    We are now living in the third Decade of the 21st century.
                    This, from a libertarian…


                    1. Again, you are full of shit.
                      All social arrangements value materialism (as in finding food, for instance), create winners and losers, and don’t bother peddling bullshit about ‘undermining community’.
                      Why is it that lefty shits can’t seem to read history. Some might claim ‘idealism’; Nope. Just plain abysmal stupidity.
                      Fuck off and die, lefty shit.

                  2. Again, you’re so predictable.
                    You don’t have the intellectual rigor to mount an intellectual argument, so like everybody on your far side of politics, you rant and rave with insults, like a petulant child in the schoolyard…

                    “Free people and free markets reduced poverty in the past and are capable of doing so again.”

                    I’ve just proven that point to be false, with someone from your side of politics.
                    You really are pathetic and sad, and it’s a good thing that you far-right fools will not achieve anything in politics.

  17. Dump Everyone In Your Life Who Supports Authoritarianism and Let Ethical Capitalists Rebuild Prosperity

    1. Ok, I’m totally alone now, here in SF. Let the ethical capitalists commence rebuilding prosperity!

      1. Thinning the prog herd would help a lot.

  18. Reason spent five years bashing Trump over everything, carried the water for Biden hiding in the basement telling everyone to follow the science, and is worried about a continuation of Corona Authoritarianism? Reason supported the real Authoritarian and got their wish. Reason also bashed Trump continuously over open borders so the writers must be pleased they are least had that wish fulfilled.

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  19. This article, like many of its siblings, seems to be a self-serving rant on whatever will attract comments and outrage.

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Most of the arguments in the article are specious, or taken out of context, or just wrong.

    The general theme I would agree with, if it were presented coherently, is this, “Cautious easing of social restrictions, travel restrictions, and opening of venues; and temporary monetary and other support of consumers and businesses is the best approach. This still includes quarantining travellers and contacts, vaccination programs, and PPE where appropriate.”

    However, I can see by most of the responses here that moderation and considered caution are outliers, and extreme positions and responses are the norm. I don’t know why this site is called “”, unless that’s an aspiration. It’s certainly not an uncontested fact.

    “Smart” and “lucky” are the new proxies for Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”. I hope to see you on the other side. Stay well.

  20. free markets is dead! when you need the kings permission to start a business and the cost so outrageous that only big corps. can afford.
    little kid wants a lemonade stand, got to have the kings permission! street vendors/ performers got to have the kings permission! want to make money, got to have the kings permission……..
    and of coarse it’s big corps. that write the laws to over charge small business because they hate competition!

  21. Semantics and correct use of words may attract a larger viewer base and understanding. Karl Marx coined the term “capitalism”, whereas the article speaks of a free market system. People are ” free/have liberty” to produce a product for marketing. As a buyer I am also “free” to purchase on the seller’s terms.
    This Libertarian publication would do well to address the US Free Market system and forego referencing Karl Marx’s verbiage. IMO

  22. Capitalism is not supported by libertarian ideology – only free markets!

    In fact @reason confuses the 2 using them interchangeably in the article as if they were the same thing !

    Tucille ‘s knowledge in this sphere appears somewhat limited.

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