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Rockstar Capitalism in the Developing World

The three quotations below carry virtually the same message, yet come from very different sources:
  1. “Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.”
  2. “In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure.”
  3. “Entrepreneurship is the most sure way of development.”
On November 12, in a speech at Georgetown University, U2’s Bono (quote #1) discussed the role of enterprise and capitalism in alleviating global poverty. For a rock star whose travels to developing nations and advocacy of foreign aid are well known, this recent focus on commerce has surprised many observers—and apparently the man himself: For AEI President Arthur Brooks (quote #2), the importance of free enterprise in helping the poor has long been clear. As he writes in “The Road to Freedom:”
The number of people in the world living on a dollar a day—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80 percent since 1970, from 11.2 percent of the world’s population to 2.3 percent.
Brooks, an economist by training, goes on to write that great poverty still exists in the world because free enterprise still has not spread widely enough. In this video, he argues that “If we’re good Samaritans, if we really love the poor, we have to fight for free enterprise for everyone.” Yet, as Brooks attests, statistics only tell us part of the whole story. To truly appreciate the positive results and remaining challenges of free enterprise in the developing world, we need to witness how free-market capitalism plays out among the lives of real people in developing countries. Paul Kagame (quote #3), the president of Rwanda, was an early proponent of private investment and improved rule of law, though his record in other areas has been controversial. Nevertheless, the people of Rwanda are creating success stories through their own willpower and entrepreneurship. In a forthcoming documentary film, “Mama Rwanda,” filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson tells the story of two working mothers who “represent a new generation of women transforming post-genocide Rwanda into one of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world.” Watch the trailer below. On December 11, 2012, Values & Capitalism will host “Entrepreneurship in the developing world: Lessons from the front lines,” a conversation at AEI featuring Michael Gerson of the ONE Campaign, Chris Horst of HOPE International, and Andrea McDaniel of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative. As we approach this season of giving and take stock of many blessings over the last year, please join us for this timely discussion on how people and policy are making a difference among the lives of our neighbors abroad.