Archive for June, 2010

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June 2, 2010
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Movie: The End of Poverty?

June 2, 2010

This is an interesting political documentary, which manages to reach a wrong and inconsistent conclusion after an otherwise convincing analysis of the causes of the poverty gap between nations. It simultaneously defends and attacks private property, without realizing it.

The main question in focus is, why are some countries still so poor?

The documentary identifies a number of causes in the past: a history of violence, theft and slavery from foreign nations. It also points out that many of those injustices continue even after colonialism has ended and independence was gained. In particular, it criticizes government corruption, government-granted monopolies (water), policies dictated by the IMF and foreign countries (tariffs), and lack of respect for private property (land is taken from families).

Where it gets confused is that it associates those evils with free-trade, privatization and market-based systems. This mistaken condemnation of capitalism leads to its conclusion that a form of collective ownership of resources is necessary.

It is distressingly common for people not to understand what capitalism is, even as its broad (but incomplete) implementation already brings its benefits on the world every day, both in rich and poor countries. Capitalism is simply the system of private property and liberty. In pure capitalism, the role of the state would be at most to protect those rights.
Therefore, it should be clear that most or all the wrongdoings which the documentary decries fall outside of capitalism, and belong in the realm of political power and government coercion instead.

The documentary should be calling for more capitalism, not less, since it attributes most of the responsibility on the past and present violations of private property and personal liberty in those countries.

PS: In passing, the documentary choose income as main measure of poverty. It consequently criticizes the income gap. Although this metric is common, it can be misleading as a indicator of standards of living (which are unfortunately much harder to quantify).