Capitalism doesn't just create generous wealthy people, but generous poor people, too. Americans give twice as much to charity as the most generous European nations, and the most generous Americans are, in fact, poor Americans.
But forget philanthropy. Since 2000, hundreds of millions of people in China and India -- home to a plurality of the world's poor -- have lifted themselves out of poverty and illiteracy thanks to capitalism.
China started to embrace markets as a last resort in the late 1970s. And by last resort, I mean last resort. First they tried murdering tens of millions of their own people through collectivism and oppression. When that didn't work, they embraced markets, and the poverty rate dropped from 64 percent to around 8 percent today.
As it always does, capitalism drove innovation over the last decade. The BlackBerry was introduced in 1999, but the iPhone didn't exist in 2000, nor did the iPod. YouTube was a fantasy, and no one could even imagine why you'd ever need something like Facebook or Twitter (in fairness, some people still ask that question). iTunes was launched in 2003, and five years later it was outselling Wal-Mart as the No. 1 music retailer. Government-funded basic research in medical science deserves some credit for breakthroughs, but it's worth remembering that lots of countries invest in basic research. America, with its markets, stands alone as the leading, arguably sole, source of medical innovation. Breakthrough drugs are as American as apple pie.
Every good thing capitalism helps produce -- from singing careers to cures for diseases to staggering charity -- is credited to some other sphere of our lives. Every problem with capitalism, meanwhile, is laid at her feet. Except the problems with capitalism -- greed, theft, etc. -- aren't capitalism's fault, they're humanity's. Socialist countries have greedy thieves, too.
Free markets are in disrepute these days, particularly by the people running Washington. For them, government is the solution and capitalism is the problem. If they have their way over the next decade, they won't cure what allegedly ails capitalism -- people will still steal and lie -- but they will impede everything that makes capitalism great. And that will be bad for everyone, even NPR.
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