Capitalism Has Helped Far More Indians Than Mother Teresa

In my recent “Ask The Harvard MBA” post on “Ahead of the Curve,” I made the following statement:

“Capitalism has helped more people in India than Mother Teresa, and I see no reason to be ashamed of it.”

One commenter asked me to explain, saying, “It is a little shocking to hear this from a HBS grad.

Here is what I wrote:
Here’s a simple thought experiment to explain why capitalism has helped more people in India than Mother Teresa: Assume that Mother Teresa and her outfit were able to help 100 people per day, every day, for 40 years. That’s some 14.6 million people (and that’s assuming that it was a different 100 people every day). That’s 1.5% of the population. What percentage of the population of India is better off because of capitalism today? According to Wikipedia, the Indian middle class numbers anywhere from 200-300 million people, all of whose lives are substantively better because of capitalism. The cars we drive, the food we eat, the computers we write posts and comments on would not exist without capitalism. Sure seems like a noble pursuit to me.

5 thoughts on “Capitalism Has Helped Far More Indians Than Mother Teresa

  1. Anonymous

    One problem. In the long run…through greed, pollution and ” Capitalism wars of resources…” It will absolutely KILL US ALL. It was a nice try, better than many systems, if not all so far, but it MUST EVOLVE or dissolve into history like all other ” full of themselves ARROGANT EMPIRES,” who thought their system was perfect, had all the answers and didn’t need TO CHANGE!

    the independent patriot

    PS the INDEPENDENT in many of these articles has some great points!

  2. It is true that market failures do occur when externalities exist. Pollution is a classic market externality, where polluters don’t bear the full cost of their actions.

    Yet the answer isn’t to abandon free markets, but to amend them appropriately with, say, pollution or carbon taxes, to make the incentives more properly aligned.

    While capitalism isn’t perfect, it sure beats the alternatives. To paraphrase Churchill:

    “Capitalism is the worst form of economic system, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

  3. Anonymous

    This is sick comparison

    What Mother Teresa did is offer compassion, love and caring to the poor and needy. She worked with Lepers, people and kids who did not have a piece of cloth to cover themselves with and have the ability to put one rice morsel into their mouths.

    Capitalism does not do any of the above. Capitalism says – able minds and bodies are needed to build the empires of rich and greedy people.

    Pray – can write a followup article on how much money as Charity from Capitalist gains are being sent to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity?

  4. Anonymous (#2, that is),

    You just don’t get it. Mother Teresa was an admirable woman who did wonderful things for the poor. My point is simply that economic growth (which is driven by capitalism) has helped more poor people than charity ever has.

  5. Anonymous

    Well Chris, again I disagree. If you look at the greedy and disproportion of resources to the worlds wealthy, you realize capitalism is also strip mining humanity and their resources for the very few. It's easy for us with our white picket fences, 2.3 kids, ipods and blogs to think everything is rosey, but tell that to the billions living in poverty , much actually caused by war, starvation and support of dictators propped up by us wonderful greedy capitalists who most can't find Darfur on a map, let alone care about the people worldwide dying over water, oil, diamonds, whatever..Capitalism claims to fairly and semi-equitably distribute resources…Well, Excuse me…I have to run to the mall, walmart and Costco to buy more sh*t I don't need…..Again, sitting on our system and its' spotty at best track record & laurels eventually will end the world thru war and/or pollution. Carbon credits btw is probably too little/too late. If we babysit pollution, like we regulated wall street, we are all doomed anyway. Anyways, it's capitalism for us little guys, but socialism for the big guys with subsidies, tax breaks, allowances,turning the other cheek, etc. Capitalism is now a rigged game and most of us are not invited. I asked for my $85 billion dollar bailout and was turned down. Many Americans right now can't get a homeloan or a credit card….and as bad as their balance sheets may be, I doubt they look as ugly as Lehman's, Wamu's, Bears Stearns, Merril's , AiG's , etc. Too big to fail? Maybe the so-called " Capitalists," running the country should take the $400 billion dollars plus in bailout commitments and give it to us over 300 million US citizens! Are we not, " too big to fail also? Because right now, many Americans are failing.
    Oh, yeah, and please have our , " deregulation," capitalist friends open up the discount window to , " ALL AMERiCANS!" We can all use the cheap 2% money to pay off our crappy/rip-off 18 to 21% credit cards, our adjustible rate mortgages and ALL AMERiCAN HUMMER payments. America is turning into an ENSLAVED SOCiETY and that enslavement is not enforced by the whip, but by fear, disproportionate costs and taxes to the poor and middle class and finally DEBT. Yes, the modern day robber barons, Neocons, politically and financially powerful SLAVE MASTERS are sophisticated in their new slave system, but don't be fooled my friend….Most American workers are souped up slaves none the less. Capitalism doesn't exist anymore my friend. It's a twisted, ugly, bastard child and we're stuck with it until we change it, regulate it, make it FAIR TO ALL AMERICANS, not just a financial free candy store to the rich and powerful. WE THE PEOPLE must take our country back. Again, capitalism is a nice fantasy, and if fair and not rigged, an intriquing idea, but again, it has, it is and it inevitibly will….destroy us all. I have to now go back to my 600 cable channels, eat some more cholesterol laced fast food, send my kids off to poorlly funded McSlave training school, take my rush Limbaugh oxycontin and a lil prozac & ridlin and re-enter the denial zone with the rest of America….

    the disillusioned independent patriot

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