…and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
One of the reasons I fell in love with economics, and free markets in particular, is because of their ability to do good in the world. Markets allow for individuals to build skills, sell their goods and services, and generally support themselves. This is a truly glorious thing. This is, in the final analysis, why markets are such an effective tool at fighting poverty: they can address the underlying root causes of the poverty.
Consequently, this is also why government welfare and private charity often fail to cure poverty: they do not address the root causes. If a man is starving because he cannot grow food, giving him a meal won’t change that. It’ll just mean he needs another meal the next day. But if a man can grow food thanks to market-supplied fertilizer, seeds, and protected property rights, then he won’t need to beg.
In the past 30 years, 26 of them I’ve been alive, global poverty has more than halved. This isn’t due to a rise in socialist states or government welfare programs; those have existed for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years and they did nothing to solve poverty. It is due to increased market liberalization, especially in China, India, and the former USSR. Whereas government welfare merely masked the issues, markets solved them.
The world is becoming a better place, and I am optimistic for the future, especially as more Asians and Africans learn to fish.