Thomas Sowell

Foreigners did not come in to help the Chinese but to help themselves. The only way they could benefit, and the Chinese benefit at the same time, was if more total wealth was created. That is what happened but the political left has virtually no interest in the creation of wealth, in China or anywhere else, despite all of their proclaimed concern for "the poor."

Since wealth is the only thing that can cure poverty, you might think that the left would be as obsessed with the creation of wealth as they are with the redistribution of wealth. But you would be wrong.

When it comes to lifting people out of poverty, redistribution of income and wealth has a much poorer and more spotty track record than the creation of wealth. In some places, such as Zimbabwe today, attempts at a redistribution of wealth have turned out to be a redistribution of poverty.

While the creation of wealth may be more effective for enabling millions of people to rise out of poverty, it provides no special role for the political left, no puffed up importance, no moral superiority, no power for them to wield over others. Redistribution is clearly better for the left.

Leftist emphasis on "the poor" proceeds as if the poor were some separate group. But, in most Western countries, at least, millions of people who are "poor" at one period of their lives are "rich" at another period of their lives -- as these terms are conventionally defined.

How can that be? People tend to become more productive -- create more wealth -- over time, with more experience and an accumulation of skills and training.

That is reflected in incomes that are two or three times higher in later years than at the beginning of a career. But that too is of little or no interest to the political left.

Things that work for millions of people offer little to the left, and ultimately the left is about the left, not about the people they claim to want to lift out of poverty.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate