Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Alvaro Vargas Llosa wonders if global capitalism makes the poor even poorer, or is it in fact rescuing millions of people out of their misery?

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, poverty has been significantly reduced throughout the world. Two hundred years ago, the average income per person worldwide was the equivalent of less than $2 a day; the figure is $17 today. This fact is relevant to the current discussion on globalization because, even though the information technology revolution, biotechnology, the emergence of new world players and outsourcing may give us the impression that we are in the midst of something entirely new, we are simply witnessing a new phase in the process of innovation that is the market economy -- and this began a few hundred years ago...

The fact that 20 percent of the world's population is extremely poor should not make us forget that millions of lives have improved dramatically in the last three decades. Illiteracy has dropped from 44 percent to 18 percent, and only three countries out of a total of 102 included in the U.N.'s Human Development Index have seen their socioeconomic conditions deteriorate. China's economy used to represent one-26th of the average economy of the countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; today it represents one-sixth.

These are not arcane facts. They are widely available and easy to understand. Publications such as Indur Goklany's "The Improving State of the World," David Dollar and Aart Kraay's report on the global economy, and Francois Bourguignon and Christian Morrisson's "Inequality Among World Citizens" -- to mention but three among many recent studies -- provide overwhelming evidence that the world is better off thanks to the increased flow of capital, goods, services and ideas.

All of which falls on the face of those who predict that in the next few years we will see a massive concentration of wealth among a few winners who will leave millions of losers behind. While it is probably true that the gap between low-skilled workers and those who are better educated will mean that different people will be impacted in very different ways by the continuing evolution of the global economy, the reality is that even those on the bottom rungs stand to benefit from the worldwide embrace of globalization.

Read it all.

There are many groups today who claim to stand against the "evil" of globalization. "Anti-globalization" is a term most commonly used to describe the political stance of people and groups who oppose so-called "neoliberal" policies of globalization. Generally, these groups consider themselves proponents of something referred to as "social justice" and are anti-large-multi-national corporations, anti-trade agreements, anti-capitalism, and anti-war (that last is thrown in for good measure to show how they associate trade with war and injustice; when the reality is that there is an inverse association--but why should facts get in the way of their fundamentally Luddite worldview?). Without the slightest bit of evidence, except for the marxist ideology which they consciously or unconsciously embrace, they assert that globalization and capitalism damage democracy, the environment, labor , and third world societies.

As Llosa observes, nothing could be further from the truth. But, such groups are not interested in the truth.

Marxism, which was supposed to bring economic prosperity, brought misery instead, and lost the competition with capitalism very badly. This required a hasty revision of the Marxist ethical standad, which originally said that wealth was a good thing and was being taken away from the masses by the evil capitalists. "Stick with us, kiddos," the communist/socialist revolutionaries claimed (see Hugo Chavez for the most recent itiration of this scam), "and you too will become prosperous and happy beyond your wildest imaginings!"

Well, clearly they made a serious miscalculation.

You see, even Karl Marx believed that wealth was a good thing. He was only delusional in thinking that socialism would be able to deliver the goods more efficiently and "fairly" than capitalism. Reality proved him terribly and catastrophically incorrect.

It is said that the only way to make a small fortune as a Marxist is to start with a large one--and this truth has been proven repeated all over the world where Marxist ideas have been applied to national economies.

Thus, Marx's decendents have been faced with a terrible ethical dilemma. Their ideology of choice is complete crap and is unable to deliver any of the material goods it promises--so what to do? Simple! You make one tiny little ethical change, and instead of touting that wealth is good, you convince people that wealth--and everything that is necessary to create it--is bad!

An even more subtle approach is to insist that wealth and prosperity is directly correlated to unhappiness.

All these global luddites, along with their medievalist and jihadi brothers have one thing in common. They despise capitalism and are all deeply resentful of the modern era because despite all the material things available to make life easier and more enjoyable, they aren't happy!

But, guess what? Happiness is not related to the number of things one possesses. It has more to do with the power and energy that actually creates the wealth and technology--the free expression of that creative impulse that lies within every human. It has to do with taking responsibility for your own individual life and striving for the best that is within yourself.

This is the real opportunity that capitalism on a global scale brings--not the general wealth and better living conditions--those are just the by-product of unleashing the inner creative spirit and pursuing one's individual happiness; and by doing so, raising the general happiness.

Many of these anti-globalism elites mistakenly believe power over others is what will make them happy, and so they attempt to control and shackle that creative power--the best that is within others.

Their idea of "social justice" is intimately tied to making themselves feel good and establishing their own caliphate of the do-gooders, where happiness is mandated for all in equal measure. But they approach happiness from the wrong direction.

The "happiness gurus", and all those in the "self esteem" promotion business fail to understand what it is that eliminates misery--either on an individual or societal level.

Robert Samuelson writes:
In 1974, economist Richard Easterlin pointed out that beyond a certain point -- presumably when people's basic needs for food, shelter, public order and work are met -- greater wealth does not generate more national happiness. The America of 2007 is far richer than the America of 1977. Life expectancy is 78 years, up from 74 years. Our homes are bigger and crammed with more paraphernalia (microwave ovens, personal computers, flat-panel TVs). But happiness is stuck....

The psychology of prosperity -- striving, taking risks -- feeds on ambition and insecurity. Our system often seems an insane rat race. But over time, it has created huge gains in material well-being. Air conditioning may not have made people in the South and elsewhere happier.

But it surely has made them more comfortable....

The popularity of happiness research suggests that economists and other social scientists think they can devise public policies to elevate the nation's feel-good quotient. This is an illusion. Happiness depends heavily on individual character and national culture. Some people will complain no matter how great their fortune; others will smile through the worst of times. In international comparisons, the United States ranks lower in happiness than some smaller nations (Denmark, Ireland, Sweden) but much higher than many large countries with paternalistic welfare states (France, Germany, Italy). Governments can provide health care. But they cannot outlaw despair or mandate euphoria.

Read it all. As Samuelson notes, the old adage, "Money can't buy happiness" is appropriate here. What is forgotten, however, is that money, free trade or the "increased flow of capital, goods, services and ideas" that Llosa talks about, makes everyone better off.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOver and over again we seem to be required to watch the spectacle of the wealthiest, most privileged, and yet seemingly most miserable people in the world, go on in tiresome detail how evil everything is that made their wealth and privilege possible. Many of these elites from across the globe have no problem using the same technology they hate to spread their ideological messages of anti-capitalism, anti-technology, anti-progress, and, of course, anti-Americanism (the symbol of all the previous).

What is most distressing is the desire on the part of the anti-globalists to oppose the very thing that will ease human misery; while their underlying socialist ideology encourages them to legislate or mandate happiness. This is more than just an illusion; it is a frank utopian delusion.

And, it is at the heart of why about half the population of this country isn't happy.

Happiness is not related to power over others; rather it is intimately connected to learning to have power over one's self in order to harness the capabilities within and become the best person you can be, or as Samuelson notes, "Happiness depends heavily on individual character and national culture."

And that last says it all. A culture that promotes victimhood and the entitlement mentality; and which fosters class consciousness and envy is going to be stuck in a hopeless "happiness quagmire." There are actually people who believe that they can not only "redistribute wealth", but that in doing so they will be "redistributing happiness".

But these do-gooder dictator wannabees can't have it both ways (and, of course, they do want it both ways; no matter how perverse the contradiction). They can't simultaneously morally condemn the materialism of capitalism and then at the same time redistribute the wealth it produces. So, instead they claim that they are trying to minimize human misery and promote social justice by opposing the very policies that are most likely to put the world out of its physical misery and give each person a fighting chance to tap into the potential within.

Global capitalism can't guarantee happiness; or an end to evil in the world. All it does is provide the conditions that enable the pursuit of happiness. It is the freedom to pursue that which one thinks will make one happy that, slowly but surely, decreases the level of misery in the world.

Without human freedom there can be no wealth created; because wealth is the product of the unfettered human mind. If the do-gooders really wanted to help poor of the world out of their misery, they would stand aside and let the market do what it does best.

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