Wow, this clever article by John Tierny in New York Times Op-Ed (what a great news source now that the paywall is down!) suggests maybe the Nobel Peace Prize should go to Wal-Mart for lifting more people out of poverty than pretty much any other organization on earth. He notes a notion that the best route out of poverty for the developing world is to make stuff for Wal-Mart to sell to … those of us who live in the developed world.
This is a provocative piece but it cleverly *should* get people to realize the complexity of economics, and the fallacy of ideas that prosperity in the developed world comes from exploitation in the developing world. This last notion is one of my pet peeves because it is a very naive and inaccurate view of the way international economics works. Systems that avoid capitalism and avoid interacting with capitalism don’t thrive. In fact they perform abysmally as indicated by the experiences of early communism, and present conditions in North Korean and Cuba. Prosperity comes from becoming part of the developing world through economic interactions. This is not the whole solution to poverty, but it is an important part of that solution. If well intentioned people would work to understand the importance of getting poor folks *involved* with the globalized economic experience it would be easier to bring the billion+ in extreme poverty to a higher standard of living. It does NOT end there of course. I’m happy to see organizations try to force corporations to greater levels of worker responsibilities. But that needs to happen *after* workers and countries show that they want to play the big game.
As Tierney suggests, making stuff for Wal-Mart is probably one of the fastest ways an Indian or Chinese guy can feed their family. What’s wrong with that? (I’m serious – there are some problems with that approach, but I’ve gone on long enough here for now ….)