Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Is Davos Drinking?

According to the front-page of today’s Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates is issuing a clarion call for a kinder capitalism to aid the world’s poor. Mr. Gates says he’s grown impatient with the shortcomings of capitalism. He thinks it’s failing much of the world, and he’s slated to say as much in a speech later today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

This from a guy worth around $35 billion. (Give or take a billion.)

It appears Gates is ignoring the global spread of free-market capitalism that has successfully lifted hundreds of millions of people up from poverty and into the middle class over the last decade or so. Think China. Think India. Think Eastern Europe (and maybe even France under Sarkozy). Gates wants business leaders to dedicate more time to fighting poverty. But the reality is that economic freedom is the best path to prosperity. Period.

The Heritage/WSJ 2008 Index of Economic Freedom clearly shows that free-market countries are prospering mightily. Per capita GDP is closely related to, and positively correlated with, market economies. The fact is that free-market economics is spreading like wildfire. State socialism is on the decline. Unsurprisingly, the study also shows that the least-free economies are mired in poverty. We’re talking North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, and others.

Also noteworthy is Venezuela’s plunge into poverty, orchestrated by the neo-socialist Hugo Chavez. His nation is sinking toward Cuba-type poverty as he attempts to adopt Fidel Castro’s failed economic model.

Check out the charts on economist Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem blog site. They show that the U.S. share of world GDP and its world stock market capitalization are shrinking. This is not a bad thing. It does not mean that America is heading downwards. On the contrary, it means that newly freed economies are heading up.

The reality here is that the rising tide of global capitalism is lifting all boats that employ it. It works. It’s a good thing. It’s the key to unlocking a nation’s prosperity.

So I just have to smile when a billionaire like Bill Gates turns a cold shoulder to the blessings capitalism bestows. Or when his buddy, Warren Buffett, broadcasts the importance of hiking tax rates on successful earners and investors. Look fellas, the command-and-control, state-run economics experiment was tried. It was called the Soviet Union. If you hadn’t noticed, it was a miserable failure.

What’s in the drinking water at this place called Davos?