Is global capitalism the solution to world poverty?

November 17, 2011 | John Roberts, Newspage Editor

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by Summer Woods '14, Contributing Writer

What if there were a country with a government that placed no limits on industry?

Andrew Bernstein, a philosopher and author, asked this question during a Cultural Life Program event Wednesday night as he argued for capitalism as a solution for the end of global poverty. The event was sponsored by Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow.

Bernstein, a visiting professor of philosophy at Marist College, earned his Ph.D. from the Graduate School of the City University of New York. His most recent book is Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights.

His speech focused on economics from a moral point of view and, as he put it, “I’m only a philosopher, not an economist. But I can read.”

In his discussion, Bernstein sought to give a proper understanding of capitalism and to explain the benefits that flow from the economic system. He said the fundamental nature of capitalism is “the respect for the rights and freedom of an individual, which allows them to live by their own rational judgment in their own life. . . . It provides a rule of law that protects private property.”

He cited the historical success of capitalism and its origins in Western Europe with the great intellectuals of the Enlightenment, such as Isaac Newton and John Locke. Bernstein stressed that these great thinkers were common men whose ideas were only able to flourish in a society with political and religious freedoms. Using this example, Bernstein said capitalism fuels scientific and technological development and better living standards.

“As Americans, we are proudly the fattest people in history. But the problems associated with that pale in comparison to a parent watching their 3-year-old die of starvation. And famine is the greatest consequence of not being a capitalist country.”

He said the only way to end global poverty is to raise real wages, which can be done only after the amount of consumer goods has been increased in relation to their demand. He believes that the only way to increase consumer goods is to “glorify the human mind” through capitalism.

To end poverty, he said, individuals must be given rights through political and social freedoms so that economic growth can occur.

“If your life belongs to you, then ipso facto your mind belongs to you.  The mind is the means by which man creates all things valuable to human life. And the mind requires capitalist freedom.”