Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mind the Gap

People have a natural tendency towards pessimism on the subject of economics. For an example, check out the responses to the first question in this survey of Americans and Economists. This disparity doesn't surprise me, since I've had a lot of conversations with non-economists who think people were wealthier in the 60's/70's, poverty is becoming more of a problem, and so on. Frequently, the pessimists' response to these perceived problems is to recommend a broader role for government in the market economy - we have problems, so we have to "do something" about them.

This kind of pessimism is in fact a central tenet of statism, and has been since Marx. Since we currently live in a market economy, more or less, to admit that things are good and getting better would be to admit that capitalism has a lot to recommend it.

So here's a challenge, to any pro-government Progressives among my readers (who number in the tens of millions, I'm sure): If capitalism is so destructive, exploitative and in unjust, why is it that the world has seen such immense gains in wealth and quality of life since the outset of the modern capitalist era?

Here's the video that inspired this post. It's humbling to consider how lucky we are to have been born where and when we did.