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The Worst Environmental Calamity Is The Absence of Capitalism

Here’s a letter to CNN:

Katharina Rall’s account of the perils and travails suffered today by the world’s poorest people is meant to highlight problems caused by climate change (“Why climate deal is everyone’s business,” Nov. 30). But it does no such thing. Instead, it highlights problems caused by the failure of some peoples to embrace norms and policies that unleash market-driven economic growth.

All the perils and travails that Ms. Rall mentions – from inadequate access to clean water and sanitation to long dreary hours of backbreaking work – were routinely suffered by nearly everyone on earth before the industrial revolution. Filth, hunger, short life expectancy, illiteracy, subjugation of women, sanguinary conflicts over scarce resources – these horrors are not the recent consequences of climate change. They are the ages-old consequences of persistent and widespread poverty. This poverty and its accompanying miseries were eliminated only when and only where people embraced the very economic system that so many of today’s environmentalists wish either to abolish outright or to jeopardize with unprecedented government-fashioned fetters: entrepreneurial capitalism.

Ms. Rall’s grotesquely mistaken diagnosis of the problems that ail the world’s poor serves only to encourage calamitously counterproductive policies that will not only not enrich people in poor countries but will also impoverish people in rich countries.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

(I thank Brooks Harris for alerting me to Ms. Rall’s essay.)