A leading expert in the world of free markets took the stage recently to give a Ted Talk on how advances in trade have done more to solve global poverty than any one thing in human history.
American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks used his time Thursday to show how extreme poverty has been decreasing worldwide thanks to globalization, free-trade, property rights, rule of law and entrepreneurship. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading unique ideas by hosting a range of different speakers.
“There has been an 80 percent decline in poverty since I was a kid, and I didn’t even know about it,” Brooks told the audience. “It was the free enterprise system spreading around the world after 1970 that did that. Now I’m not naive, I know free enterprise isn’t perfect and I know free enterprise isn’t everything we need to build a better world, but that is great and that is beyond politics.”
Brooks said he started his career with no interest in politics and simply wanted to figure out how to solve poverty. He first asked whether poverty had increase since he was a child and was surprised to find out it has actually decreased. The startling revelation set him on a journey to find out why, and that journey led him to economics.
“Here’s what I learned, here’s the epiphany, capitalism isn’t just about accumulation,” Brooks continued. “At its best its about aspiration, which is what so many people on this stage talk about. The aspiration that comes from dreams that are embedded in the free enterprise system and we got to share it with more people.”
Brooks said he knows addressing poverty through free markets can become a bipartisan solution if it’s allowed to rise above politics. President Barack Obama himself, Brooks recalled, even told him that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty that any other economic system ever.
“This is the solution to the biggest problem facing America today,” Brooks added. “Its coming together around these ideas, liberals and conservatives, to help people that need is the most.”
The United Nations found through its own research that extreme poverty has indeed declined since the 1970s. The Libertarian Fraser Institute found that over the decades economic freedom has also increased worldwide. The decline in worldwide poverty is not true across the board, however, including in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau found poverty nationally has increased from roughly 11 percent in the 1970s to 14.5 percent in 2013.
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