Capitalism or Religion: What's Better for the Poor?
Anita Sharpe on Making a Difference
One of my favorite, non-mainstream magazines is 'What is Enlightenment?', which currently poses this question on its cover: Will Big Business Save the World?' Among the stories is a piece by Howard Bloom who makes this case:
'Nearly every faith, from Christianity and Buddhism to Islam and Marxism, promises to raise the poor and the oppressed. But only capitalism delivers what these ideologies and religions profess, century after century. Capitalism lifts the poor and helps them live their dreams. The proof is in the mega-perks we tend to take for granted. Here are some examples.
'In the early 1700s, cotton clothes were a luxury import that only the super-rich could afford. The masses worked from day to day in stiff fabrics that housed insects and that scratched and tortured the skin. Changing into new clothes every few days or laundering them regularly was impossible. There was little sense in bathing if your shirt carried last month's stench. In 1785, capitalism introduced the power loom and changed the very nature of the shirt on man's back. By the 20th century, capitalism had made a T-shirt of cotton -- the fabric of kings -- the norm for even the poorest sub-Saharan African.
'In the 19th century, capitalism gave us another universal: soap. Statistics show that Westerners grew dramatically healthier and added decades to their lives beginning in roughly the 1840s, when the soap-and-cotton revolution kicked in.'