Michael Tanner

ntrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.” That statement came not from a tea-party leader or a congressional Republican, but from Bono, singer, celebrity, and global anti-poverty activist, speaking to Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative last year.

As we mark the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street this week, it is worth recalling just how much Bono is right and OWS, at its anti-capitalist core, is deeply and profoundly wrong.

Occupy Wall Street did have a point when it took to criticizing the crony capitalism that helped precipitate the economic crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed. But that unholy alliance of Big Business and Big Government, a dog’s breakfast of regulation, guarantees, and bailouts, has nothing in common with free markets and entrepreneurial capitalism.

OWS was and remains hostile to the very idea of capitalism. “Capitalism is tyrannical, exploitative and dehumanizing; it’s intolerable … Capitalism IS the problem,” proclaims the main OWS website.

Yet capitalism has done more to empower people and raise living standards than any other force in history.

Throughout most of human history, nearly everyone was poor. Even our wealthiest ancestors enjoyed lower standards of living than ordinary people in America today. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the masses started to enjoy real and growing prosperity.

What was the difference? Capitalism and its offspring, the Industrial Revolution. As Charles Murray explains, “everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.”


Michael Tanner

Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.