Capitalism Sustains Development; Socialism Sustains Poverty

Daniel J. McLaughlin, February 20, 2020

We have witnessed a dramatic decrease in the percentage of the world population living in extreme poverty over the last few decades. The United Nations likes to attribute it to its Sustainable Development Goals and its amazing government-run programs for redistribution, economic manipulation, and central planning. There is another explanation, however, that is much more plausible: economic freedom in the world has increased at an unprecedented rate, and economic freedom, markets, and individual private property rights are the actual means to individual prosperity and accumulation of wealth. Further, individual accumulation of wealth and capital for investment by the people is the only way for development to be sustained or sustainable.

The sustainable development goals sound great. Who doesn't like the idea of eradicating extreme poverty? The problem is that they entirely misunderstand the cause of poverty. Poverty is the lack of wealth and productive capacity of individuals. Nations and regions are poor because a high percentage of individuals are poor. Poverty, however, is not that difficult to understand. It is the default position. For most of history, the bulk of the population was what we now call poor. It is only in relatively recent centuries that the general populace of any nation lived a comfortable life. Those nations with generalized prosperity are those which embrace some form of what is called capitalism, the protection of private property rights, thriving markets based on voluntary commerce, and the limitation of rapacious political forces.

The west is rich because the countries have long ago embraced those ideals, at least to a significant extent. Once-prosperous nations can decline into poverty when they forsake them. Argentina, Cuba, and Venezuela were once relatively prosperous and advanced. In each case, the government thought they could do a better job of spending other people’s money and planning the economy than the people themselves could. There are plenty more examples of politicians squandering wealth accumulated from relatively free markets and respect of private property.

Development economics has followed the philosophy that, if only we can pump enough money or resources into poor countries, they will rise up and become prosperous. Even Bill and Melinda Gates, through the Gates Foundation, often try the same tactic. Gates said, “Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty,” and they put their money where their mouths are. In 2016, they donated 100,000 chickens to African countries as but one example.

Yes, families that receive the five chickens are somewhat better off temporarily. Wide-scale development, however, comes not from donations with good intentions, but from markets, advancement beyond subsistence agriculture, modern manufacturing methods, from the advantages of division of labor, and from protection from predators, both inside and outside the government.

Somalia, as an example, is poor, not because they don’t have chickens or any other “stuff.” A Somalian acquaintance who graduated from business school now works for a U. N. development agency because, if you are a business person, you are likely to be robbed or killed. Somalia is poor because people cannot accumulate wealth without risk to their lives and property, reminiscent to the tale of Ali Babba. He buried the treasure he had gotten in the ground because neighbors would get jealous and the forty thieves would find him out and murder him. Treasure is of no use when it can’t be invested.

Much of Africa is now developing because they are demanding rights to freedom and property. They are experiencing free markets, where they can sell their services and benefit from competition that drives down the cost of living. If we really want to see poor nations prosper, we need to find a way to eliminate corrupt dictators, socialist parasites, and their pretend-capitalist cronies. 

Who's Complaining About Investigations Now?

Byron York, February 20, 2020

Attorney General William Barr is looking into the murky origins of the politically charged Justice Department investigations that have roiled American public life for the last three years.

Just how did the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign get started? What led the FBI to look into whether President Trump was working on behalf of Russia? Why did the Justice Department use an ancient, never-enforced law as a pretext to interrogate then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, leading to one of the most troubled court cases in recent years? And more.

Each investigation involved highly publicized leaks that led to many headlines and endless discussion on cable TV. Anti-Trump voices stood firmly in support of more, and more detailed, probes of the president and his allies.

But now, as Barr looks into how it all started, some voices that were part of that frenzy are changing their tune about the value of investigations. They now express concern about investigations, and concern that Barr is politicizing the Justice Department to go after perceived political enemies.

"The power to investigate is the power to destroy," a former U.S. attorney, Gregory Brower, told The Washington Post recently. "The ability to simply point to a pending investigation against a person can have devastating effects on that person and can have a potential political benefit to the person orchestrating the investigation."

"President Trump appears to be now using [his] power, with an assist from the Justice Department, to exact revenge on some perceived political enemies," said NBC's Chuck Todd.

The president is "weaponizing the Department of Justice against perceived enemies," said CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Not to be too blunt about it, but where were these voices the last three years?

Where were they when the Steele dossier burst onto the scene in January 2017, with its extremely damaging and unsupported allegations, leaked to undermine the president right as he took office?

Where were they when the public learned that the FBI, using false information, wiretapped a low-level former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, giving it entree into some of the campaign's communications?

Where were they when the Justice Department cooked up the idea that Flynn had violated the Logan Act, the 1799 law under which no one has ever been convicted, as a reason to question him? And where were they when officials bragged about going outside channels to grab a chat with a busy, distracted Flynn, and later used that as the basis for a false statements charge even though investigators did not believe Flynn actually lied?

Somebody was using the Justice Department to go after perceived political enemies. And when they did, the investigations stretched into months, and then years, expanding as time passed.

As Brower said, the probes had devastating effects on the people investigated -- just ask Flynn or Page or another former low-level Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. They have paid a big price, in both money and reputation, for running afoul of the investigative apparatus.

Also, as Brower said, the investigations were a potential political benefit for the people orchestrating them. Just ask virtually any Democrat on Capitol Hill.

But none of that was much of a concern to the combination of opposition politicians, resistance and NeverTrump activists, and a go-along press that fed the investigation machine since before Trump took office. The targets were figures unpopular with Democrats and many in the media.

But now, as Barr seeks to shine a light on how the investigation machine revved up, we suddenly hear concerns about the costs of such probes.

Former FBI No. 2 and current CNN commentator Andrew McCabe played a role in the excesses we now associate with the Trump-Russia investigation. Now, though, he is complaining about the Justice Department's internal probe into whether he lied under oath to agents seeking the source of a high-level leak. The source was McCabe himself, but he denied it multiple times. The Justice Department, facing an uphill battle trying a case before a deeply anti-Trump District of Columbia jury, recently decided against charging McCabe. And now McCabe is indignant about the treatment meted out to investigative targets.

He is particularly angry that the investigation took a long time. "It's just an absolute disgrace that they let this thing drag on as long as they did," McCabe said on CNN, "and put my family through what we've gone through over the last two years ... I'm just disgusted at the way the whole thing has been handled."

An investigation lasting seemingly forever and putting one's family through hell? Imagine that! Coming from McCabe, the lack of self-awareness is so pronounced that it would be darkly funny, were not the events of the last three years so serious.

More complaints are sure to come as Barr, and Barr's appointees, investigate the questionable acts of the investigators. Yes, it will be painful for some. But the public deserves to know what happened.

Editors Corner 

I talked to a realtor this week who called me asking about Locust. He is no stranger to this area, so there was no pulling the wool over his eyes. I told him that this could be our biggest year in new home construction with a realistic number of over 200 homes being built. The biggest issue is that treatment plant located in Oakboro and if it can handle our growth rate with the anticipated announcement of a large industrial complex coming to Oakboro. Locust has started plans for more infrastructure going in the ground for the new growth. You can't stop the growth being in the fourth fastest growing metro area in the United States. Locust may have to take other avenues to handle the expected growth. Only Stanly County can determine which action Locust chooses.