There have been turning points in the development of humankind. Some would point to the ability to make fire and the effect it had on people’s diet and survival chances. Undoubtedly the development of agriculture about 12,000 years ago and the domestication of grains and livestock enabled humans to become a settled species and to store value against adversity.
For most of the time men and women have been on this planet they have lived a meagre existence at subsistence level, vulnerable to storms, drought and crop failure. Something happened about three centuries ago that changed that for an increasing proportion of Earth’s population. It was undoubtedly a turning point when people began to use some of their resources as capital to generate wealth.
Social and intellectual changes played their part in fostering a culture of experiment, innovation and investment. Led by Britain, the Industrial Revolution set humankind on an upward course of wealth creation that has lifted large and increasing portions of humankind out of starvation and misery. The wealth generated by the use of capital has made possible a secure and adequate diet as well as modern medicine and sanitation. It has enabled widespread access to education and healthcare. It has profoundly altered the conditions of life along with the other major turning points.
Capitalism has spread and is spreading its benefits across the world. It is not to Socialism that we owe lifestyles replete with opportunities as well as comforts. By concentrating on the creation of new wealth instead of the mere redistribution of existing wealth, capitalism has set humankind on an upward path of limitless development. In place of envy of those who have more, it provides space or what Adam Smith called “the uniform, constant and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition,” and of course it applies equally to women.
It seeks not a fairer world but a better one, not equality but opportunity. It works with the grain of the real world rather than attempting to impose a preconceived mental pattern upon it. It works by improvement and evolution, not by revolution. Even though this seems obvious, it is worth repeating from time to time to people for whom this is not so. When people are tempted by the fantasy world of Socialism, it is worth reminding them of the real-world achievements that Capitalism has brought about and Socialism never has and never can.