John Stossel

Should we worry that the people of China, India and other undeveloped countries are getting richer? Apparently so, according to the newspapers and the "experts" they quote. They don't come right out and say that global prosperity is bad for us. Instead they say, as The New York Times recently said, "As development rolls across once-destitute countries at a breakneck pace, lifting billions out of poverty, demand for food, metals and fuel is red-hot, and suppliers are struggling to meet it. Prices are spiraling, and Americans find themselves in what amounts to a bidding war with overseas buyers for products as diverse as milk and gasoline [http://tinyurl.com/2m6m8n]."

It is certainly true that China's economy is expanding dramatically -- 10 percent last year. The Chinese build factories like crazy to pump out the inexpensive exports we Americans love to buy. To do that, Chinese producers have to purchase oil, steel and lots of other commodities. The new demand drives prices up.

And as the Chinese and other people get richer, they improve their diets and eat more meat, putting pressure on world food prices.

So media handwringers suggest we should worry about the poor becoming rich.

Actually, we shouldn't. It would be a sad world if one person's economic success depended on another's failure?

More of us would understand this if we learned what the great economics writer Henry Hazlitt preached in his classic book, "Economics in One Lesson": "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy."

In the short run, richer Chinese and Indians bid up the prices of things. But that's just the beginning of the story. Increased demand and higher prices create opportunities for entrepreneurs.

When the price of, say, oil goes up, entrepreneurs and inventors have a strong incentive to: 1) find more, 2) find alternatives, and 3) find ways to use oil more efficiently. You and I cannot foresee what they will invent, but that means nothing. Predictions about the end of progress have been issued countless times. There is no reason to think they will be right this time.


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 >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate