I'm a believer in classical liberalism. 8.15.2006

Too bad the modern liberals don't: The wealth of generations - Capitalism and the belief in the future.
Karl Marx explained that capitalism would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. If someone was to gain, someone else had to lose in the free market. The middle class would become proletarians, and the proletarians would starve. What an unlucky time to make such a prediction. The industrial revolution gave freedom to innovate, produce and trade, and created wealth on an enormous scale. It reached the working class, since technology made them more productive, and more valuable to employers. Their incomes shot through the roof.

What happened was that the proletarians became middle class, and the middle class began to live like the upper class. And the most liberal country, England , led the way. According to the trends of mankind until then, it would take 2 000 years to double the average income. In the mid-19th century, the British did it in 30 years. When Marx died in 1883, the average Englishman was three times richer than he was when Marx was born in 1818.

The poor in Western societies today live longer lives, with better access to goods and technologies, and with bigger opportunities than the kings in Marx’ days.

Ok, said Marx’s evil apprentice Lenin. We might have been wrong about that. But the working class in the West could only become richer because they are bribed by the capitalists. Someone else would have to pay the price for that bribe – the poor countries. Lenin meant that imperialism was the next natural step of capitalism, whereby poor countries had to give up their work and resources to feed the West.

The problem with this argument is that all continents became wealthier, albeit at different speeds. Sure, the average Western European or American is 19 times richer than in 1820, but a Latin American is 9 times richer, an Asian 6 times richer, and an African about 3 times richer. So from whom was the wealth stolen? The only way to save this zero-sum theory would be to find the wreckage of some incredibly advanced spacecraft that we emptied 200 years ago. But not even that would save the theory. Because we would still have to explain from whom the aliens had stolen their resources.

posted by William Woody at 3:24 PM

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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