"The ladders are put away for the winter," Tuck announced triumphantly this morning after the hell of oiling the gutters at the southwest corner of the house yesterday (above at the top of a 30-foot ladder in the high winds of the second story of our Greek Revival house). Now on to washing windows from inside. The old boy has EARNED it.
"A Mexican migrant to the U.S. is five times more productive than one who stays home. Why is that?" asks Ronald Bailey in a Wall Street Journal commentary, finding the answer in a World Bank study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century." A few meaty excerpts from Bailey's commentary (available to WSJ subscribers only) and then a few comments about why Pope Benedict XVI should read the study:
[The study] began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.
But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.
The rest is the result of "intangible" factors -- such as the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. All this intangible capital also boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."
Bailey's words stirred up the embers of something worrisome that had been smoldering on the back burners of our mind of late re Papa Ratzi, the Pope who loves cats and Mozart and has been the subject of dozens of awestruck blogposts here. We had been getting a lot of Google Alerts (having put ourselves on a list to receive notice of news and blog commentary on Pope Benedict) asserting the Holy Father had been articulating a moral -- or more accurately, an immoral -- equivalence between Marxism and capitalism. We were put in mind of something The Anchoress had said awhile back about taking anything the MSM says about Benedetto with a grain of salt. But of course. We take everything the MSM says about anything with a grain of salt. In the case of the Holy Father, we had reveled over the apoplexy of the dictatorial relativist Left upon his election to the Throne of St. Peter back in April of 2005. Poking around in cyberspace this afternoon, we lucked upon Robert A. Sirico's May 7th essay "Does the Pope Blast Capitalism?" Sirico is president of the Acton Institute -- among the exalted ones listed on the WSJs "Our Favorite Sites" -- whose mission statement avers its aim "to promote a free, virtuous, and humane society" by integrating "Judeo-Christian truths with free market principles" [via Against the Grain]: Unless you're a Jihadi, what's not to like?:
“Pope's New Book Criticizes Capitalism” said the Associated Press. It was speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, the hot selling book that Pope Benedict XVI began writing before he was elected Pope. Now it is big news and selling in the millions.
The Boston Globe, MSNBC, Fox News, Miami Herald, and a hundred other outlets repeated the claim that the book knocks capitalism. He reportedly says that capitalism inflicts a kind of cruelty on people.
Now, in reading these stories, my first reaction was: What is meant here by capitalism? If by capitalism we mean a system where the elites own the wealth and the poor exist in a servile condition, yes, that sounds cruel. But if we mean the free economy, it is another matter entirely. The free economy (and you can call it capitalism if you want) has been the number one source of material liberation for the poor the world over.
Try telling that to the journalistas. As with military science, the gatekeepers whose self-appointed task is to put the feet of the powers that be to the fire know next to nothing about economics. Truly there is something rotten in the state of American public education.
Update: Dr. Sanity links with Carnival of the Insanities.