Free people are prosperous people. When not forced to do otherwise, they work out the best ways for achieving their ends. These ends are often shared or overlapping, so cooperating with others is often a natural way of successfully resisting and overcoming the engulfing harshness of the natural world. When people bring things into the world that they or their fellows value, we have prosperity. Prosperity is the natural thing for a human society to achieve.
Throughout history, there have been groups of people that want the benefits of prosperity without the costs. Instead of co-operating, they intimidate. Instead of producing, they expropriate. Instead of trading, they steal. Sometimes these groups of call themselves states, or otherwise operate in concert with states.
Parasitism is a supremely unnatural way for humans to live. Without a prosperous population to live off, parasitism cannot exist. There always has to be some cooperation to produce the fruits from which parasites can benefit. Why should some people work and live peacefully while others live work-free through violence? One could only begin to justify one’s own parasitism by thinking one was different to those one depends on – by thinking one was something more than human; as having a different nature to one’s inferiors.
Parasitism causes poverty. It takes away from the value people create without adding to it. Sometimes those who live parasitically forget that they need a prosperous population to live off, and use their coercive power to control their affairs even more. Not being well-acquainted with the everyday realities of co-operation and exchange, they often do this in ways which massively destroy the capacity of their subjected population to be prosperous.
In Venezuela, the stranglehold the state exerts over the economic affairs of the people has plunged the country into poverty. People are now unable to access basic food and medical care. The Venezuelan people have been coerced into abstaining from activities that would otherwise bring them things they need. This is a deeply unnatural way for people to live. In other areas where people have been subjected to similar control, the slightest loosening of those controls has led to immediate changes in the way they act. They suddenly start utilising opportunities to create things of value that they and their fellows need. These people are alert to what they need to do in order to improve their lives and they are uniquely alert to their immediate surroundings and how they can transform them. The state has to sustain institutions that threaten people with violence if they decide to unilaterally improve their condition. These threats are always there; they have to be in order for people to refrain from that which they would otherwise do.
Certain brands of economists like to say things like “poverty is the natural state of man,” implying that we come into a world that is unwelcoming to us, and we have to work to make it more suitable to our desires. This is true as far as it goes, but what they are gesturing at is a larger political point about the state of many of the world’s poorest countries. They are not poor because any person or group is doing something that makes them poor, it is an absence of people acting in the appropriate way that is rendering these peoples poor. They don’t have the right “institutional mix,” these economists will say. Our task is not to work out what causes their poverty, but what causes our prosperity, and work out how to transplant our social institutions to these faraway places.
This is wrong-headed. Those living in poverty know what they need to do: they need to be permitted to seek a better life. They know better than anyone how to make the most of the opportunities that would otherwise be available to them, were states and proto-states not violently interfering in their lives.
The Right usually thinks engaging in free trade and little else with the poorest countries is the best way to encourage their prosperity. That would be true if the natural conditions for prosperity – freedom and a lack of centralised coercion – actually existed. Our own states are dependent upon our prosperity, which in turn is dependent upon our access to resources in the world’s poorest places. As such, our states take steps to ensure the parasites in control of those resources are friendly to the West. For us as individuals to take the laissez faire approach would be to permit our governments to take a very un-laissez faire approach. Contrarily, we should be doing anything and everything we can to delegitimise our own local parasites that are supporting the more distant ones, in the vain hope of them releasing their grip, even a little, so that the natural propensity to live well might be unleashed.
Whenever we see humans living in poverty, we are observing a deviation. We ought to recognise the impoverished as shackled. They are people who know what they want, and have an idea of how to get it; we just need to stop the people who are stopping them from doing so.