Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently made headlines when he stated in an interview, “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.” Many have criticized the comment, while others have labeled it “one of the most substantive of the campaign so far.” Over at Bleeding-Heart Libertarians, philosopher Jason Brennan of Georgetown University responded to Sanders with an excerpt from the forthcoming book Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests. I’m quite excited for this volume and those interested in economics and the morality of markets should be too. Here is a snippet:
Philosophers advocate that we do what economists say doesn’t work and avoid doing what economists say does work. On this point, [philosopher] Bas van der Vossen rebukes his colleagues:
As a profession, we are in an odd but unfortunate situation. Our best philosophers and theorists develop accounts of global justice that are disconnected from the best empirical insights about poverty and prosperity. Reading these theories, one might think that our best prospects for alleviating poverty around the world lie in policies of redistribution, foreign aid, reforms to the international system, new global institutions, and so on. And one might think that markets, property rights, and economic freedom are at best incidental, and more likely inimical, to the eradication of global poverty. Such ignorance, if not denial, of the empirical findings about development and growth is irresponsible.
We share van der Vossen’s concerns.
Mainstream development economics, in a nutshell, holds that the poverty is an institutional problem. More precisely, poverty is human being’s natural state. Poverty is normal and does not need to be explained, but wealth does. The main reason some nations are rich and others poor is not because some nations have better geography, better natural resources, or better genes. Rather, rich countries are rich because they have better institutions. Rich countries have institutions that incentivize growth and development. These institutions include strong private property rights, inclusive and honest governments, stable political regimes, a dependable and inclusive legal system characterized by the rule of law, open and competitive markets, and free international trade. Poor countries have institutions that fail to incentive growth and development, and often instead have institutions that encourage predation. These countries have weak recognition or active disregard of property rights, exclusive and dishonest governments, instable political regimes, undependable legal systems characterized by the capricious rule of men rather than the rule of law, and closed, rent seeking, crony capitalist markets, or few markets at all, and little international trade.
Check out the full excerpt and be sure to pre-order Brennan’s book. You can watch an interview with Brennan on his Why Not Capitalism? below: