According to the comprehensive 2001 Index of Economic Freedom, Ethiopia
"remains by far the poorest area in the world." In Ethiopia, per capita
is estimated at $108. By contrast, the per capita GNP in the United
Most people forget that pre-industrial Europe was vastly poorer than
contemporary Ethiopia and had a much lower life expectancy. Even a
relatively well-off country like France is estimated to have suffered
general famines in the 15th century, thirteen in the 16th, eleven in
17th and sixteen in the 18th. And disease was rampant. Given an utter
of sanitation, the bubonic plague, typhus and other diseases recurred
incessantly into the 18th century, killing tens, sometimes hundreds of
thousands at a time.
The effect on life expectancy was predictable. In parts of France, in
middle of the 17th century, only 58 percent reached their 15th
life expectancy was 20. In Ireland, life expectancy in 1800 was a mere
years. In early 18th century London, more than 74 percent of the
died before reaching age five.
Then a dramatic change occurred throughout Europe. The population of
doubled between 1750 and 1820, with childhood mortality dropping to
percent by 1830. Something happened that enabled people to stay alive.
What did that early period lack that the later period had? Capitalism.
does Ethiopia lack that the West has? Capitalism. It is capitalism that
enabled the West to rise to great prosperity. The lack of capitalism is
responsible for Ethiopia's crushing poverty.
What is capitalism? It is an economic system in which all property is
privately owned, a system without government regulation and government
handouts. It is a free economy, a system in which individuals are free
produce, to trade, and to make-and keep-a profit.
Capitalism is a social system based on individual rights, the right of
individual to his life, his liberty and the pursuit of his own
The thinkers of the Enlightenment, including John Locke and the
Fathers, brought these ideas to the forefront in Europe and America.
result was an economic revolution, which-in a relatively brief
time-transformed the West from a poverty-stricken region to one of
productive wealth. This system of freedom liberated the most creative
of Western society, resulting in a torrent of innovations-from James
steam engine to Louis Pasteur's germ theory to Henry Ford's automobile
the Wright Brothers' airplane and much more. This new freedom, and the
Industrial Revolution it spawned, resulted in vast increases in
and industrial production.
Creative minds-from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs-flourish only under
The result is new products, new jobs, new wealth, in short: the
of life on earth, in length, quantity and quality. Under the kings,
theocracies, military dictatorships and socialist regimes that dominate
Ethiopia, such minds are stifled. The result is stagnation, poverty and
Ethiopia has the identical natural resource fundamentally responsible
the West's rise: the human mind. But it has neither the freedom nor the
Enlightenment philosophy of reason, individualism and political liberty
necessary for creating wealth and health. Ethiopia is mired in tribal
cultures that stress subordination to the group rather than personal
independence and achievement. All over Ethiopia the brutal dictators
and rob innocent citizens, students and the opposition in order to
aggrandize themselves and members of their tribes.
What Ethiopia desperately needs is to remove the political and economic
shackles and replace them with political and economic freedom. It needs
depose the socialist regime and establish capitalism, with its
political/economic freedom, its rule of law and respect for individual
rights. And to accomplish that, it first needs to remove the
shackles and replace tribal collectivism with a philosophy of reason
freedom. The truly humanitarian system is not the Marxism espoused by
Western intellectuals but the only system that can establish, as it
historically has, the furtherance of life on earth: capitalism.
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