Magazine December 27, 2021, Issue

The West Didn’t Steal Its Way to Wealth

A man and boy preparing cotton (Photos.com/Getty Images)
Liberty and innovation were the keys to the Great Enrichment

Let’s be clear ethically. Imperi­alism, as in South Asia, was very bad. Enslaving people, as in West Africa, was too. So was shooting striking workers, as in Ken­tucky. There are no excuses for the Opium Wars or King Leopold II in the Congo or the U.S. seizure of the Philip­pines or Ford’s goons beating up workers at the Battle of the Overpass. Stealing, coercion, murder are evil.

Wealth and its civilization, though, did not depend on the evil. The Left channels Vladimir Lenin in claiming that the West got rich by robbing the poor. And the Right channels Theodore Roosevelt in

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Deirdre Nansen McCloskey’s latest books include Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science and (with Art Carden) Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World and (with Alberto Mingardi) The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State.

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China’s oppression of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Hong Kongers, on top of its oppression of the mass of its people, makes it unfit to host the Olympic Games.

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