Friday, November 18, 2011

Think "capitalism" instead of "Romans"


Excerpts:  
By Gary Wolfram
William Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy
Hillsdale College

Whenever I watch media coverage of another Occupy Wall Street event I am reminded of an exchange between Jewish protesters in the 1979 Monte Python movie Life of Brian. One of the protesters asks another what the Romans have brought to the area and the conversation goes like this:
Question: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Answer: Brought peace?
Response: Oh, peace - shut up!
Every semester I ask my students: "What would you rather be? King of England in 1263 or you?" Turns out, students would rather be themselves. They enjoy using their iPhone, indoor plumbing, central heating, refrigerators and electric lighting. All of these things are available to the average person in America today and none of them were available to the aristocracy when the West operated under the feudal system.

How is it that for thousands of years mankind made very little progress in increasing the standard of living and yet today half of the goods and services you use in the next week did not exist when I was born?

I try another experiment with my students. I tell them they are about to be born and they can choose whatever country in the world they would like to be born in. The only caveat is they will be the poorest person in that country. Every student picks a country that is primarily organized in a market capitalist system. No one picks a centrally planned state. No one says, "I want to be the poorest person in North Korea, Cuba, or Zimbabwe," countries which are at the bottom of the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom. More here:

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