I’m a fan of U2’s Bono for several reasons. I like his music and his singing for one thing; he’s been a star performer for decades. Secondly, I liked it when he featured me on his website, having discovered that the Adam Smith Institute advocated forgiving much of third world debt even before the churches launched their ‘Jubilee’ project for the Millennium. Then recently he told Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise unit that capitalism and business were the solution to third world poverty. He described aid as “just a stop-gap,” pointing out that commerce and entrepreneurial capitalism lift more people out of poverty than aid does. He described entrepreneurship as “the most sure way of development.”
At a time when much of the aid brigade mixture of NGOs and celebs are busily denouncing capitalism and multi-nationals, Bono is hard-headed enough to recognize reality when he sees it. Countries don’t get rich by having wealth given to them by others: they make it for themselves by trade, business and economic enterprise. They need opportunities and markets to create their own wealth, as has been happening in China and India. He recently told the Guardian:
“My father was Labour, classic Dublin Northside household. And I still carry that with me. And though I believe that capitalism has been the most effective ideology we have known in taking people out of extreme poverty, I don’t think it is the only thing that can do it, and in some ways I wish it wasn’t.”
He thinks that while other things might help people out of poverty and subsistence, capitalism is the most effective. So the solution is not socialism or some ‘third way.’ It is capitalism. He even found time to respond to calls for global tax harmonization to prevent countries engaging in tax competition. Of his own country, Ireland, he said:
“Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty. People in the revenue accept that if you engage in that policy then some people are going to go out, and some people are coming in. It has been a successful policy. On the cranky left that is very annoying, I can see that. But tax competitiveness is why Ireland has stayed afloat.”
A big round of applause for Bono, please, for recognizing the benefits brought by business and enterprise, and the recognition that it flourishes best under mild rather than onerous taxation.
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