Memo to Gates: The Cause of Third-World Poverty Is Not Capitalism, But a Lack of Capitalism
January 28, 2008
Irvine, CA--Bill Gates made waves at the World Economic Forum by calling on Western nations to adopt a new, “creative capitalism.” He complained that under “pure capitalism . . . . the great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequities in the world. The least needy see the most improvement, and the most needy see the least . . .” Gates called for corporations and governments to devote far more time and money “doing work that eases the world's inequities.”
“Gates’s entire speech essentially blames Western capitalism for the Third World’s poverty,” said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, “and offers a slightly more sophisticated form of foreign welfare handouts as the antidote. But the West did not become wealthy at the Third World’s expense--we did not seize computers, houses, pharmaceuticals, and railroads from the Sahara. We created our wealth under capitalism, the system that liberates individuals to produce and trade without interference. And Third World countries could do the same if they adopted that system.
“The last 200 years have shown that wherever capitalism is adopted--from Singapore to the United States to Hong Kong to Australia--it enables its citizens to create wealth and prosper. Yet not one word of Gates’s speech calls for poor countries to change their anti-capitalist governments.
“No matter how many billions Bill Gates gives to poor nations, until he starts advocating universal capitalism instead of attacking it, he is acting as an enemy of prosperity in the undeveloped world.”
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.