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EDITORIAL: Capitalism has been the bane of poverty worldwide

Polls show Democrats and millennials moving closer and closer to succumbing to the alluring clutches of full-blown socialism. Hopes and dreams are often immune to facts, but this development seems especially impervious to reality.

Venezuela, once one of the world’s richest nations, sits on the verge of complete collapse thanks to a 20-year dalliance with Marxism and radical progressive politics imposed in the name of protecting the poor and promoting equality.

Meanwhile, leftists attack the most effective method in history for improving living standards and lifting the masses out of poverty.

Last week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Bill Gates noted that the proportion of people on Earth living in extreme poverty has declined from 94 percent in 1820 to below 9 percent today. Nor did most of that improvement occur in the 19th century. World Bank statistics reveal that 41 percent of the world’s population existed in extreme poverty as recently as 1981.

“Over the last 25 years,” noted World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in September, “more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time.”

Bernie Sanders and his band of merry collectivists may be loathe to concede it, but this development is the result of market-oriented policies that promote individual liberty, human rights and freedom. In other words, democratic capitalism.

“Most of the credit … must go to capitalism and free trade,” noted The Economist last year, “for they enable economies to grow — and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution. … The biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalizing markets to let poor people get richer.”

A handful of leftist economists discredit the World Bank’s definitions and statistics, but the facts keep intruding. “During the past two centuries,” Ronald Bailey of Reason.com noted this week, capitalism “has lifted billions out of humanity’s natural state of abject poverty, ignorance and violence.”

Efforts to turn the United States into a socialist utopia with “free” health care, “guaranteed” incomes, confiscatory tax rates and the like will have an especially destructive effect on efforts to increase worldwide living standards. This country’s fruitful bounty and innovative spirit, which springs from the entrepreneurialism borne of its many freedoms, serve as the engine for prosperity across the globe.

Winston Churchill called socialism “the philosophy of failure,” arguing, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of its blessings,” while the “inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Democrats appear eager to blithely advocate the latter as a winning political strategy.

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