John Stossel

Maybe the Gates Foundation's private charity will work wonders, but more government-to-government subsidies won't do the trick. The trillions spent in foreign aid have little to show for it. As William Easterly writes in "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," "Economic development happens, not through aid, but through the homegrown efforts of entrepreneurs and social and political reformers. While the West was agonizing over a few tens of billion dollars in aid, the citizens of India and China raised their own incomes by $715 billion by their own efforts in free markets".

At Harvard, Gates said, "We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism -- if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities."

He misses the point. Gates faults the free market for problems caused by governments. What constricts the reach of the free market is the state. Gates seems oblivious to all the ways that governments here and abroad cripple enterprise. In poor countries, corrupt bureaucracies smother entrepreneurship while enriching cronies. The lack of formal property rights and stable law keeps average people from accumulating capital. So the poor stay poor. That's what causes "scarcity of clean water" and kills "children who die from diseases we can cure."

Gates said, "We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes."

He should know that for spending to better reflect people's values, governments must butt out. Politicians are notoriously bad at improving the lot of their populations. What they are good at is confiscating money and spending it the way they want it spent. It's only when governments do less , and tax people less, that people are free to earn and keep their own money. Only then does their money really "reflect their values."

You want poor countries to get rich, Bill Gates? Work for free-market reform.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate