Tag: prosperity

Trade Can Help the Poor Escape Poverty

Professor William Easterly, the economic development expert from New York University, has written an excellent comment for the Financial Times online. He writes, “The Millennium Development Goals [summit that wraps up in NY today] tragically misused the world’s goodwill to support failed official aid approaches to global poverty and gave virtually no support to proven approaches. … But current experience and history both speak loudly that the only real engine of growth out of poverty is private business, and there is no evidence that aid fuels such growth.”

At the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, we have continuously emphasized the power of trade to help the poor escape poverty. Unfortunately, politicians in rich countries find it easier to waste billions of taxpayers’ dollars in the form of foreign aid than to take on special interests that thrive on trade protectionism; hence European and American agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

However, the impact of rich countries’ protectionism should not be exaggerated. African countries are typically more protectionist than rich countries. In fact, they are more protectionist against one another than against rich countries. The sad truth is that poor countries are perfectly able to shoot themselves in the foot by following growth-killing economic policies – irrespective of what the rich countries do.

Foreign aid, incidentally, has been ineffective at promoting liberalization.

Now He Tells Us…

Here’s a story for the better-late-than-never file. Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro confessed that communism doesn’t work and that his nation’s economic system should not be emulated.

Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago. The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel’s brother Raul, the country’s president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba’s 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows. Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore” Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

Too bad Castro didn’t have this epiphany 50 years ago. The Cuban people languish in abject poverty as a result of Castro’s oppressive policies. Food is harshly rationed and other basic amenities are largely unavailable (except, of course, to the party elite). This chart, comparing inflation-adjusted per-capita GDP in Chile and Cuba, is a good illustration of the human cost of excessive government. Living standards in Cuba have languished. In Chile, by contrast, the embrace of market-friendly policies has resulted in a huge increase in prosperity. Chileans were twice as rich as Cubans when Castro seized control of the island. After 50 years of communism in Cuba and 30 years of liberalization in Chile, the gap is now much larger.

How to Explain Free Trade in Less Than Three Minutes

The professionally ignorant (and I’m thinking here of Lou Dobbs, among others) never “get it” about trade. They think it’s some complex swindle, in which we deny ourselves “jobs,” or that it should be about being “fair” or “balanced.” They don’t see how free trade creates prosperity and peace. I was inspired by the outstanding trade economist Doug Irwin of Dartmouth to explain what goes on when people trade. The challenge was to explain international trade in under 3 minutes. So here’s the result in 2:57: The Great Prosperity Machine.

Share it with your favorite protectionist, or with professors and teachers. (There’s more information at AtlasNetwork.org/BastiatLegacy.)

Watch and share:

Obama’s ‘New’ Industrial Policy

Last night, after the SOTU, Politico Arena asked:

State of the Union:  How did he do?

My response:

If you don’t look behind the stirring rhetoric, this was a fine performance – and many of Obama’s supporters will leave it right there. But behind it all is a single theme: People have problems, and government’s job is to solve those problems. Obama and his people, including many in Congress, still don’t get it. The recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were not about government doing more or better. They were not about all the subsidies or jobs programs or green initiatives Obama spoke about tonight. They were about government getting out of the way – about lowering taxes and lifting burdensome regulations so that businesses, large and small, can once again provide the jobs and the prosperity that have been crippled by the kinds of programs Obama was promoting tonight. This was micromanagement from Washington. We need management from Main Street.

Early on in his speech Obama said that many Americans don’t understand “why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.” Doubtless that’s true. But many more Americans do understand why. And so, as when he said that health care reform was in trouble because he had not explained it more clearly, Obama continues to believe that the problem is with the messenger, not with the message. Fortunately, we have elections in this country. I predict that come November the people will make it clear again that we don’t need yet another round of “industrial policy.” We need less of that, and more of what this country is really about – freedom.

Tuesday Links

  • Afghanistan: A war we cannot afford. “Democrats say raise taxes. Republicans say no worries. The best policy would be to scale back America’s international commitments.”