Capitalism is the cause of Poverty

Watch the following clip in which Milton Friedman addresses the problem of poverty in the United States.

My response:

If Marshall Sahlins is correct about hunter/gatherers forming the original “affluent” society, then poverty must surely be some kind of departure from the hunter/gatherer society. [I include horticulturists and herders.]

There are three characteristics which such primitive or “savage” societies have. The first is that everyone has a free access to subsistence land (socialism). The second is that they form small egalitarian democratic groups (anarchism). The third is that they share freely, and are prone to gift giving (communism).


Today (Dec. 3, 2020), someone posted on Facebook the following story, which for me illustrates the communism of hunter-gatherers:

“An anthropologist invited children from an African tribe to play a game. He placed a basket of fruit next to the tree and announced to the children, “The first of you to run to the tree will get all these sweet fruits.” When he motioned for the children to start the race, they clasped their hands tightly and ran all together, and then all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit. The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could enjoy the fruit for themselves? To which the children replied: “Obonato”. Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad? “Obonato” in their language means: “I exist because we exist.””


Peter Joseph has characterized poverty as a deprivation of each of these. The first he calls “absolute poverty.” The second he calls “relative poverty.” The third he calls “poverty of the spirit.” [Peter Joseph, The New Human Rights Movement, 2017, pp. 157-59.]

The fundamental one is the deprivation of people of a free access to subsistence land [absolute poverty].

This deprivation — as Franz Oppenheimer has convincingly shown — can occur only through conquest. The conquest results in class divisions between the conquerors and the conquered, which morphs into the governors and the governed, the masters and the slaves, the landlords and the serfs, and now into a tripart system of the governors, the employers, and the employees.

All these systems i.e., slavery, feudalism, and capitalism, have one thing in common: forbidding a free access to subsistence land.

Milton Friedman has claimed that capitalism has been responsible for reducing poverty. If Friedman were conscious of the fact that capitalism requires a mass of proletarians (these are people who do not have a free access to land and subsistence) — something created by the laws of a centralized State — then the fact that some proletarians are given wages by the same system which deprived them of subsistence to begin with, then the situation has the form of taking everything from you, and then returning some of it back to you.

In other words, capitalism creates a proletariat and then takes some of them out of the created poverty by employing them.


See also: Andrew Chrucky, Milton Friedman’s Hidden Anarchism in Capitalism and Freedom, Aug. 8, 2008.

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