What do people around the globe think of capitalism? To find out the answer the Legatum Institute commissioned YouGov to ask ten questions of populations in seven nations.
First, the bad news. Contrary to overwhelming evidence, large majorities in all seven of the nations surveyed agree that the poor get poorer in capitalist economies. The survey also notes that majorities of the populations in America, Brazil, India, Thailand, and Indonesia support protectionist measures to defend their manufacturing industries from low cost imports and pluralities support restrictions in Britain and Germany. The U.S. is also the most deeply pessimistic about the future and has a “suspicion about big businesses’ ethics.”
The good news is that despite this negative view, more people in all seven nations believe that the free enterprise system is better at lifting people out of poverty than government. They also understand the value of family and community for free enterprise to work. Overwhelming majorities in all seven countries recognize that strong community and family life underpin a strong economy.
Most people are also more astute about economic problems than the majority of liberals in America: By margins of six or seven to one those surveyed recognize that poverty is a bigger problem than inequality and reducing unemployment is a larger problem than cutting the super-rich down to size.
Still, those of us who champion free enterprise still have a lot of convincing to do. As Tim Montgomerie writes in the Wall Street Journal:
For today’s pessimism about capitalism to be overturned, people must think that the same rules apply to everyone. For capitalism to enjoy the public’s confidence, we need a system where the rich can get poorer as well as the poor richer. There must be snakes as well as ladders in the boardroom board game.