Haiti is proof that capitalism saves lives. Northern California’s 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was also a 7.0 event but only 63 people were killed. Haiti’s lack of freedom and capitalism could not afford the life-saving building techniques that capitalist countries benefit from.
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I received this wonderful post from George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux about last week’s earthquake and devastation in Haiti. I highly recommend Boudreaux and Russ Robert’s blog, Cafe Hayek:
“The ultimate tragedy in Haiti isn’t the earthquake; it’s that country’s lack of economic freedom. The earthquake simply but catastrophically revealed the inhuman consequences of this fact.
“Registering 7.0 on the Richter scale, the Haitian earthquake killed tens of thousands of people. But the quake that hit California’s Bay Area in 1989 was also of magnitude 7.0. It killed only 63 people.
“This difference is due chiefly to Americans’ greater wealth. With one of the freest economies in the world, Americans build stronger homes and buildings, and have better health care and better search and rescue equipment. In contrast, burdened by one of the world’s least-free economies, Haitians cannot afford to build sturdy structures. Nor can they afford the health care and emergency equipment that we take for granted here in the U.S.
“These stark facts should be a lesson for those who insist that human habitats are made more dangerous, and human lives put in greater peril, by freedom of commerce and industry.”
I think it is obvious that capitalism saves lives.
If you’re interested, I recommend Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, a powerful defense of capitalism and how it led to the greatest benefits to human health and well-being in history. (This book has sold a half-million copies since its publication in 1962.) The pejoratively named Industrial Revolution is castigated for its evils, which Friedman points out is an entirely false historical perspective. It should have been named the Freedom Revolution.
People think that the pastoral farm life was actually a good life compared to life in the cities — Dickens and all that. In reality, millions of people fled to the cities for jobs and opportunities that were far better than on the farm.
You can’t compare life then to life now. You need to compare life with capitalism to what it was before capitalism. The statistical evidence reveals that because of the wealth capitalism created, public health improvements from clean water, sewers and technology, life expectancy and average wealth increased dramatically during the Industrial Revolution.
It was similar to what happened in China after the freedoms introduced by Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese industrial freedom revolution was the greatest immigration in human history: some 100,000,000 people fled their farms for jobs in Shanghai and other industrial cities in Guangzhou.
Haiti is another economics lesson.
— Jeff Harding is a principal of Montecito Realty Investors LLC. A student of economics, he has a strong affinity for free-market economics. This commentary originally appeared on his blog, The Daily Capitalist.