4.06.2009

Capitalism for the Masses


I had to do a double-take when I read this in an insert in our church's Sunday morning worship bulletin: "The grain bank helped the community resist the market forces that diminish the value of their crop when they sell it and increase it when they buy it back." What this "food security" blurb was referring to was the fact that poorer, agriculturally based communities were beholden to the dynamic of having to sell their excess crop at its lowest, during boom harvests, and then having to buy food at its highest during poor harvests.

But at a time when capitalism-bashing is running high, I couldn't mistake the swipe being taken. Never mind that our poorest countries suffer not because of too much free trade but rather not enough: eliminating subsidies in rich parts of the world like America and Europe would lead to massive gains for the entire world, mostly enjoyed by poorer, agriculturally-dependent regions. And never mind that capitalism is the very mechanism that efficiently provides the capital and motivation for communities to diversify away from economies that are beholden to the hit and miss of different seasons of harvests and toward economies that are more consistently able to provide its citizens with the jobs and products they need to live.

Which is why I am alternately amused, saddened, and enraged by anti-capitalist protests at gatherings such as the G20. If you really want to help "the bottom billion," you should be vigorously championing for more free trade and more free markets and more financial wizardry, not less. Capitalism has brought billions out of desperate poverty so far, and I'm hoping it can do the same for billions more. Let's quit demonizing it and the people and institutions that make it work, and instead harness it all for the benefit of those billions to come.
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