While the U.S. has been in a period of slow growth lately,
there is no question that Americans are the wealthiest people in the world, at
least when considering major countries.
It is possible that a few small countries such as Switzerland and Hong
Kong may have more wealth per capita.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the reasons for
this wealth and it spreads across the political spectrum.
The left simply does not understand capitalism and therefore
cannot understand the reasoning for great wealth. Some, like Obama, attribute it to government. But this doesn’t make much sense,
because there is government activity in virtually every country in the world. The only way this reasoning is possible
is to say that the U.S. government is somehow more efficient, wiser, and more
benevolent than all of the others.
Many on the left will say that Americans are rich at the
expense of the rest of the world.
They will say that Americans consume the greatest percentage of the
world’s resources. Actually, it is
true that Americans are the biggest consumers, but they are consuming things
that have either been produced by Americans or have been obtained through
This is really where the left fails to understand
capitalism. They think the only
way someone (or some country) can get rich is at the expense of others. They do not understand the basic
concept that we don’t live in a world of limited wealth.
They do not understand that wealth can be increased through
increased production. They think
that there is a wealth pie that should be divided up equally (unless they are
talking about themselves). They
think the pie can’t grow. They
think there is limited pie to go around.
They don’t understand the pie will grow under capitalism.
Now, there are also those on the left who think that America
is wealthy because of the American empire. They think America is rich from occupying other countries
and stealing from them.
These people aren’t completely off base, but they are mixing
cause and effect. The only reason
that the U.S. government can have such an interventionist foreign policy is
because it has a lot of resources to draw from. This is because of American wealth. But it would be a huge mistake to think
that wars and occupations are any kind of a financial benefit to
Americans. It may be a benefit to
certain sectors that make military equipment, but as a whole, it is a net loss
for Americans when the government tries to run the world. Does anyone really think that the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan have been any kind of a financial benefit to the
On the other side of the coin, some conservatives, and even
some libertarians, mistakenly think that America is wealthy because of the
great freedom that we have today.
While there is certainly still some semblance of a free
market in the U.S., it is far away from what it once was. Overall, the gap has narrowed, if not
closed completely, between the U.S. and many other major countries. Is there really much difference between
the U.S. and Canada, New Zealand, and Australia?
In fact, in terms of economic liberty, countries like Hong
Kong and Singapore are far freer than the U.S.
I think some people forget to remember the history of the
U.S. The 19th and 20th
centuries saw phenomenal growth.
People living in the year 2000 would have had almost nothing in common
with people living in 1800. The
difference in living standards is amazing. People living in 1800 would have had far more in common with
those living 2,000 years before them.
So, during the last two centuries, Americans created an
amazing amount of wealth. It is
incredible what compounding growth does over time. And while the U.S. is no longer as free as it once was,
Americans have been able to keep most of their wealth and even continue to grow
it, even if at a much slower pace.
In conclusion, capitalism should get credit for Americans
being relatively wealthy. But it
isn’t so much the capitalism of today, as there is a lot less economic freedom
than there once was. Instead, we
should credit over two centuries of capitalism, along with an entrepreneurial
spirit that still remains today, even if to a lesser extent.