To the Editor:
What causes poverty? I love it when leftists begin their ramblings with this question, as if to considerately warn off any potential readers with the disclaimer: “I am ignorant of economics and basic logic; your time would be better spent elsewhere”.
Sadly, Mr. Ferrer failed to grant me this courtesy in his recently published letter, and instead lured me in with references to voluntary charity and less state spending on “weapons of war”. Seems reasonable so far. It wasn’t until his last paragraph that the question of hunger and poverty is explicitly raised, with “selfishness” and “profit” taking the blame.
Poverty and hunger have no cause; like ignorance, they are the natural state of Man. If you do nothing to find food, you will be hungry. If you do not create or find wealth, you will be poor. It is wealth and prosperity that have a “cause”, not poverty. Luckily, the requirements for wealth creation are not difficult to understand. Metrics like the Economic Freedom Index show that in countries where grinding poverty and starvation exist, the fundamental foundations for wealth creation are missing.
Property rights are not respected by the state, taxes are high, honest enforcement of contracts is absent, the freedom to buy, sell, or start a business is restricted by laws and permits, and government corruption is everywhere. Not only does this hamstring local economic development, it keeps foreign investment at bay as well. To end hunger, this is what needs to change.
The good news is that since the industrial revolution, and the spread of capitalism and free markets, global rates of extreme poverty have been in freefall. From 94 per cent in 1820, to 44 per cent in 1981, to less than 10 per cent in 2015, this unprecedented reduction in human suffering is cause for celebration, but somehow always seems to escape the notice of the left. Indeed, much like socialist Venezuela blames capitalism while it collapses into absolute starvation, Mr. Ferrer blames hunger on the free market ideology that has reduced it from the norm to the exception.