Sunday, 24 March 2013

Capitalism works and we should celebrate

After all there's an International Workers Day, why not an International Capitalism Day.

Here in England we've got rather used to being told just how bad capitalism is. And how a decent society is only possible because of the control and regulations placed on that capitalism by the benevolent hand of the government. There's sort of a point to this argument - it justifies government (and the millions it employs to administer those controls and regulations) and it reminds us that we can never be completely free.

But what is missing in all this is a celebration. Something that recognises just how fantastic capitalism has been for us, how it allowed us to escape from the bitter toil of subsistence agriculture, how is gave us wages to spend and, in time, a surplus from those wages to spend on pleasure. We seem to have forgotten just what capitalism did for us.

Fortunately, we get a glimpse still of capitalism's wonders:

"There have been big changes," she said, sitting in her office on an industrial estate 20 miles from the city's market. "Yiwu is changing every year - new buildings, new markets, new products and also many new customers." Yu Hexi, 52, the manager of Yiwu Beautiful Life Flower Co. Ltd a local firm that makes the imitation flowers that adorn the heads of women across Europe has fared even better.

"I never imagined, or even dared to imagine, that I would enjoy such a good life now," he said. His parents were once part of a rural Communist production team. Now, he runs a company with an annual turnover of more than half a million pounds.

"When I was little, we were really, really poor. My parents were peasants.

We didn't have enough food. Now our family has three cars. We built the best house in our village.

Multiply Yu Hexi's experience a million times and you get an idea of what capitalism is doing for China - and, because we're buying the things those Chinese businesses are making - for us too.

But it's not just the people who run the businesses, it's the workers too:

"There have been big changes in recent decades," she added, without pausing from her packing duties on the production line. "The city is getting better year after year. The most important change for me is that more factories are bringing more job opportunities." Shen Youfeng, 52, who works in the factory alongside her 18-year-old daughter, Feng Xueqing

More jobs, rising wages, the benefits of urban life and the chance to progress through education, hard work or both. This is what that capitalism brings to China and what we should be celebrating because we only have those things today because of capitalism.

The evidence of the last three decades - a time of unprecedented improvement in the lives of the world's poorest people - tells us that the idea of a free market, of free trade and of capitalism provides the sort of social and economic improvement we want for everyone. Yet we never pop open the champagne corks or put out the bunting to celebrate what free enterprise and free trade has brought the world.

If you want to reduce poverty then go buy things made by poor people in poor countries. And this is also why everyone who is even vaguely lefty in outlook, even a tiny bit concerned about improving the lot of the poor, should be pro-trade, pro-globalisation, in short, should be neoliberal capitalist running pig dogs intent on exploiting the labour of the poor.

And the reason for this is that it works.

Every other approach to improving the lives of the poor has failed. Every single one from socialism, fascism and communism to import substitution behind trade barriers and the grand state approach so loved by central African despots (and their French sponsors).

Capitalism may seem "unfair" - some people got pretty rich - but the deeper truth is that this unfairness is a chimera, a distraction from the real business of globalisation, free trade and free enterprise. And that business is making us all better off. Not just in economic terms but in every measure of human development. Free enterprise and free trade really do make our lives better. Every time.

Capitalism - free enterprise, free trade - made us rich. It's making the Chinese rich. And it will make Africans rich. Let's celebrate it just for once.


1 comment:

asquith said...

I would agree with this, but I have to point out that what we have now, in terms of state ownership and subsidies and sistortions of various forms (which always, weirdly enough, benefit the already well off) is not a truly liberal system.

We should be demanding more liberalisation because we're a huge distance from being there yet. The status quo beats communism, feaudalism, etc. but liberal it isn't and that's the work that has to be done.

Did you, in that context, ever read this?