Dr. Yaron Brook, an Objectivist academic who is Executive Chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, was confronted by a college student who complained about Chinese worker conditions in sweatshops.
“You sit here in Europe, in your cushy middle-class chairs — I’m serious about this,” Brook lectures the college student. “And you wanna judge the African, or let’s take the Chinese cause that’s … you know an Apple, or an Indonesian so-called ‘sweatshop’ or whatever, and you wanna tell me that two bucks a day is not a dramatic improvement in their life?“ he said. ”It is."
“And there’s no way for them to get to the point to be as rich as you are, unless they go through that phase,” he said. ”And if you deny them the ability to make two bucks a day, by insisting the companies pay four, and therefore they withdraw completely from the market."
“Because you know what?” he continued. “I’m not paying 600 bucks for this. I’ll pay 300 (bucks). And if I stop buying this, who suffers? That Chinese kid, who’s right now making, whatever, three bucks a day or whatever. Right? And his alternative is to go back to the farm and you know what they did on the farms? Forty years ago and the Chinese were all producing agriculture they were dying of starvation. Forty to 60 million Chinese died of starvation under Mao. Suddenly you’ve given them opportunity to actually attain middle-classhood, to learn a skill, to have a profession, to make money to make themselves into something.”
A Yale University report in 2011 announced a historic decrease in global poverty following the rollback of socialism in nations such as Russia and China:
We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen. The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people – the population of Turkey or Thailand – out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet remain almost universally unacknowledged.
Yale gave an overview of the economic combination that had led nations out of the direst poverty:
The poor countries that display the greatest success today are those that are engaging with the global economy, allowing market prices to balance supply and demand and to allocate scarce resources, and pursuing sensible and strategic economic policies to spur investment, trade and job creation. It’s this potent combination that sets the current period apart from a history of insipid growth and intractable poverty.
So, dear college students, what economic system is the most “compassionate”? As Ayn Rand once famously stated, always “check your premises.”
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.