UN Sustainable Development Summit: Everyone in Favour of Everything

Published on 2015/10/13
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It was the largest UN Sustainable Development Summit in history. One week ago, 193 member states agreed on 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets. The summit announced a commitment to end extreme poverty everywhere, within the next fifteen years.

Of course they all professed their support for supported this. In the same way that they are all equally committed to “gender equality,” including all of the representatives from the UN’s islamic member states. In exactly the same way that everyone at the summit supported the “protection and promotion of biodiversity.” The summit’s attendees also pledged to promote “good governance and democracy”-including North Korea, Egypt, and many of the African states that don’t even have recognisable governments anymore. They all lined up against corruption, even the African and Latin American states in which corruption is widespread and corrupt leaders govern.

A small group of nine heads of state, including Angela Merkel along with the presidents of Brazil, Tunisia, Tanzania, Columbia and Liberia, have been tasked with the job of ensuring that the goals and targets are met within the next fifteen years. What a pity that poverty, corruption, hunger and the rest of the world’s problems can’t simply be eradicated by a unanimous resolution.

What often gets forgotten is the enormous progress already made during the course of the last century. The UN itself released a study just a few years ago outlining how poverty had decreased faster over the last 50 years than at any point in the preceding 500 years.

Yes, the world is still plagued by levels of hunger and suffering towards which no one should be indifferent. At the same time, it is absurd that capitalism – as we saw in speech after speech at the UN sustainable development summit – should be identified as the sole culprit and hauled over the coals. The countries in Africa hardest hit by famine are suffering from a shortage rather than an excess of market economics.

Taken as a whole, capitalism has improved the standard of living on our planet far above and beyond anything achieved by any other economic system. 85% of the world’s population in 1820 were living on less than the equivalent of a dollar a day, today the figure is down to 20%. The average person in a developing country will now live beyond their 65th birthday, 100 years ago they were lucky to make it past 30. Life expectancy is rising in almost every country – including those in the third world – by a few months every year. “Capitalism,” wrote the Spiegel journalist Jan Fleischhauer, “can rightfully boast of its exemplary record in delivering on what it promised. When it comes to socialism, the exact opposite is true. Socialism hasn’t kept any of its promises, in fact things went completely wrong anytime its proponents made moves to translate their bold ideas into actions.”

Back to the UN Sustainable Development Summit: Instead of putting forward “17 goals” and “169 targets” the most sensible demand would simply have been: “Capitalism for all.” The fact that market economies deliver increased prosperity and planned economies deliver nothing but poverty and hunger is clear to anyone who glances at the ranking of economic freedom that is published every year.

The most economically liberal (i.e. most capitalist) states are:

  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

The most illiberal economies are:

  • North Korea
  • Cuba
  • Venezuela
  • Zimbabwe
  • Eritrea
  • Guinea
  • Kongo

Need I say more?

Comparing China, which has made rapid economic progress since liberal economic reforms

were introduced, with North Korea, where the state-run planned economy has led to poverty and shortages of food, is enough to support this thesis: Free market economics is the best recipe against all of the evils the UN sustainable development summit hopes to eradicate.

I mentioned earlier that a group of nine heads of state will be making sure that the summit’s lofty goals are achieved. Looking at where these countries stand in the economic freedom rankings is very revealing: Tunisia is 107th place, Tanzania is 109th, and Liberia is 141st. I would like to wish Angela Merkel, along with the heads of these other states, the best of luck in cleansing the world of all its ills.

About the Author

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann is one of the leading experts for the strategic positioning and communications of companies.