Can Capitalists and Leftists Find Common Liberal Ground?

Recently I wondered if a rag-tag and informal “Reason-Rights Coalition”—made up of assorted atheists, skeptics, religious secularists, Objectivists, libertarians, and civil libertarians—could jointly support a culture of reason (in an era of fake news and “alternative facts”), a pro-human orientation, freedom of speech, secular institutions, and related values.

I continue to think that this nascent coalition already exists, albeit informally, and advances various shared values. I hope that drawing attention to it will encourage people in it (or potentially in it) to promote each others’ relevant work and to open up new lines of discussion with each other. Put simply, we need each other in this dangerous era, and we can learn from each other. Continue reading “Can Capitalists and Leftists Find Common Liberal Ground?”

Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress

Are things generally getting better or worse? We routinely hear that the environment is going to hell, that inequality is damaging people’s lives, that the next disaster is just around the bend. But does such doom-and-gloom handwringing have any connection to reality?

In his latest book Progress (Oneworld 2016), Johan Norberg discusses ten key ways in which the human condition has gotten spectacularly better. Continue reading “Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress”

Watkins and Brook Return with Book Challenging Inequality Narrative

Is there something immoral about the fact that such great creators and producers as author J. K. Rowling, business leader Steve Jobs, and football star Peyton Manning earned enormous wealth, or should their achievements and resulting wealth be celebrated? Continue reading “Watkins and Brook Return with Book Challenging Inequality Narrative”

Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism

Perhaps the most important thing Ted Cruz has done this political season is to solidify in many people’s minds the supposed link between capitalism and religion. This is important—and bad—because, logically, capitalism is based not on religious faith, but on secular reason. By trying to defend free-market capitalism on religious grounds, Cruz and his fellow evangelical Republicans discredit capitalism in the minds of many (otherwise) pro-reason secularists. Continue reading “Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism”

Global Poverty Has Dropped Radically

Image: David Patton
Image: David Patton

As Michael Shermer tweeted a few days ago, global poverty has declined sharply from 1820. The graphic Shermer shares, created by Max Roser for OurWorldInData.org, reports that 94 percent of the world’s people lived in poverty in 1820, whereas 21 percent did in 2010. That’s remarkable progress by any standard—although of course there’s still a ways to go. Shermer notes that this advance was accomplished “not by making [the] rich poorer, but making [the] poor richer.” Specifically, it was accomplished by producers working in relative freedom. See also Shermer’s article, “The Myth of Income Inequality.”

The “Miracle of Manufacturing”: Better Goods, Lower Prices

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

At AEI Mark J. Perry offers an interesting comparison between old and new window air conditioner units. In 1956, Sears sold a unit for $299.95. In 2014, it sold a better unit for $219. Based on an average manufacturing wage, “the time cost of a Sears room air conditioner has declined from 164 hours in 1956 to only 11 hours today,” Perry writes. Perry writes that such advances “are part of the ‘miracle of manufacturing,’ which continues to deliver cheaper and better goods to American consumers year after year, which translates into a higher standard of living for all Americans, especially for lower and middle-income households.” Of course manufacturing is no miracle; it is the consequence of productive and self-interested people collaborating voluntarily to earn a profit.

These African Cocoa Bean Producers Had No Idea What the Beans Were Used For

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

A remarkable video from VPRO Metropolis shows what happens when a reporter brings a chocolate bar to cocoa bean farmers from the Ivory Coast—it is the first time the farmers learn what their produce is used to make (hat tip to Twisted Sifter). Some of the men thought the beans were used to make wine. One of the farmers says of chocolate bars (apparently in perfect seriousness), “This is why white people are so healthy.” One thing the video demonstrates is how people, interacting through global markets, can cooperate to mutual benefit without even knowing how they’re benefitting their trading partners. Of course, it also shows how communication technologies can help people, including chocolate lovers, become more educated about the world around them.