The Economic and Moral Case for Property Rights, Open Trade and Competitive Markets
The below is an extract from the paper ‘From Poverty to Prosperity’, originally published by the Legatum Institute. Please click here to read the full document.
Undertaking the journey from poverty to prosperity has been the primary task of humanity since we first came out of the cave.
The ancient Hindu scripture, the Rig Veda, says that: “No one is superior, none is inferior. All are brothers marching towards prosperity.” Conventional wisdom holds that human beings naturally embody twin but separate impulses:
a. the desire for self-enrichment, to move from material poverty towards the satisfaction of physical needs; and
b. the desire to care for vulnerable people and to seek a sense of a higher sense of meaning and purpose.
The first speaks to the need to satisfy temporal needs and wants. This is what most people understand, incorrectly, as a limit of prosperity. The second speaks to man’s inherent desire to satisfy a spiritual need.
Unlike temporal needs, our spiritual needs are satisfied by giving and service. True prosperity cannot be achieved without it. In reality, these impulses are deeply intertwined within every human being. They cannot be separated without damaging the integrity of the person. When human beings meet together in voluntary exchange to serve the other’s needs, that single transaction has both a temporal and spiritual dimension.
The exchange allows both sides the potential to become more materially prosperous and more spiritually prosperous; indeed, that is why humans seek such exchanges. Reducing an exchange to one or the other dimension, or damaging it by putting obstacles in its way, hinders both the temporal and spiritual gains that would otherwise arise. Therefore, the goal must be to reduce to zero—or as close to zero as possible—any obstacles to voluntary exchange. In doing so, nonzero sum growth in both economic and spiritual terms is made possible.