October 11, 2002

“yay capitalism”

This op/ed piece by Radley Barko gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

At about the same time a hodgepodge of protesters descended on Washington, D.C. last month to protest capitalism, globalization and free trade, the United Nations and the Institute for International Studies released a triad of studies declaring that humanity is, for the most part, in the best condition it’s ever been.

World poverty is down. Income gaps are narrowing. And the reasons for all of this are, to the protesters’ chagrin, none other than capitalism, globalization and free trade.

The numbers on world economics are good, too. World poverty fell more than 20 percent between 1990 and 1999, a decade of aggressive globalization. The number of world Internet users is expected to double by 2005 to one billion. In those regions of the world most sympathetic to liberal reform, the news is even better. In ten years, poverty halved in in East Asia and the Pacific regions.

Since 1990, 800 million people have gained new access to improved water supplies, and 750 million to improved sanitation. In the last 30 years, infant mortality rates have dropped from 96 deaths per 1,000 live births to just 56.

These are all good things. Capitalism still has its work cut out for it, though:

Huge swaths of humanity still fester in abject poverty. Not surprisingly, the regions witnessing the most poverty also happen to house those cultures and regimes most averse to markets and capitalism — sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world.

Somewhat related is an article in this month’s Outside magazine about Iran that does a beautiful job in personalizing the people of that country, today. Teenagers can now hold hands. Women can paint their toenails. Shahram went to graduate school in America and became a ski bum. Iranians wouldn’t stop being nice.

The piece is actually about assassins, but it’s the little glimmers through the fabric that I found most interesting. There’s no reason these people should be oppressed by such a foul government and strict culture. When you get down to it, their passions and desires are quite similar to our own.

We are all moving in the right direction.