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BMJ. 2007 September 29; 335(7621): 628–629.
PMCID: PMC1995499
Health Equity for All

Capitalism is a force for good

Bruce G Charlton, editor-in-chief, Medical Hypotheses

Maryon-Davis's editorial embodies the doctrinaire anticapitalism characteristic of public health administrators, including the World Health Organization.1 This bias leads to stunning misrepresentations of reality and currently stands as a major obstacle to improving world health.

The largest scale reduction of poverty in the history of the planet has occurred over the past two decades.2 This unprecedented progress is mainly due to the progressive adoption of capitalism by the vast populations of China, India, and other Asian nations: China alone is lifting a million people a month out of poverty.3 Yet Maryon-Davis seems not to have noticed this.

The poorest parts of the world are the least capitalist. Some nations in sub-Saharan Africa are going backwards. In Malawi the standard of living (daily calorie consumption) is perhaps the lowest that has ever existed in human history. This is a consequence of medical advances which allow population to increase even during chronic famine.4

Poverty is bad for health; and wealth is the only thing that can cure poverty.5 And China and India show that capitalist wealth creation is effective, while the more “socialist” and redistributive WHO strategy (focusing on health equity) has a poor track record.

The entrenched ideology of anti-modernisation among international public health professionals stands in the path of further progress, both at home and abroad. What the sick and poor of the world need is more capitalism, more industrialisation, and more globalisation.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Maryon-Davis A. Achieving health equity for all. BMJ 2007;335:522-3. (15 September.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. The Economist. Understanding global inequality. . 11 Mar 2004 (accessed 15 Sep 2007)
3. Harford T. The undercover economist London: Little, Brown, 2006
4. Clark G. A farewell to alms: a brief economic history of the world Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007
5. Sowell T. Curing poverty or using poverty? . 10 Jan 2006 (accessed 15 Sep 2007)

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