Yeonmi Park considers herself a lucky woman. She was born in socialist North Korea in 1993. Her father was condemned to slave labor for importing and selling sugar and salt—a crime under the communist regime’s laws against black-marketeering. She was expelled from elementary school, receiving only the equivalent of a second-grade education. Her mother was arrested for illegally changing her residence. The family crashed into unspeakable poverty; Yeonmi suffered malnutrition and ate bugs to survive. At thirteen years old, she weighed but sixty pounds. With no hope of improving their situation, she and her mother escaped North Korea into China.

There, their troubles continued. Those who helped them leave North Korea were sex traffickers who subjected them to misery for years before they managed to escape. Eventually, she and her mother trudged mile after mile in the brutally cold Gobi Desert to reach Mongolia, where authorities threatened to return them to communist China. Mother and daughter vowed to commit suicide with their razors—and only then did the government officials relent. Yeonmi was finally permitted to defect to the relative freedom of South Korea, and, eventually, to America.1

Today, Yeonmi Park is the successful author of In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, and she speaks out on Korean and American political issues. As an activist for the rights of North Koreans and oppressed persons globally, she savors the relative freedom of life in America. She has said, “When I came to this land [the United States] I just felt a spirit of justice,” and that “the best thing I could have given [my son] is American citizenship.”2

Why is life so grotesquely brutal under communism and similar politico-economic systems? Why is life so much better in freer, more capitalist countries?

To answer these questions, we will contrast capitalism with its antipode, statism (which includes all systems in which the state is supreme and the individual is subservient to it); examine contemporary economic evidence; compare the historical records of statist and more capitalistic systems; analyze the causes of capitalism’s wealth-generating capacity (which even its fiercest critics acknowledge); and evaluate the arguments of capitalism’s critics. Throughout, we will integrate these analyses to reveal one overarching lesson: Capitalism is the only practical system because it is the only moral system.

Capitalist versus Statist Systems

What are some essential differences between capitalist and statist systems? . . .

“Whatever supports and furthers human life is morally good. Capitalism is the system that, from every standpoint and perspective, preeminently supports human life.” —@andyswoop
Click To Tweet


1. Her mother was also able to escape North Korea. Yeonmi Park, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

2. “Yeonmi Park: Why I Love America,” PragerU, February 9, 2022,

3. Ayn Rand, “What Is Capitalism,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 19.

4. Jean-Louis Margolin, “Cambodia: The Country of Disconcerting Crimes,” in Stephane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 597.

5. Gerald O’Driscoll, The 2001 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal, 2002), 1–5.

6. James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, and Joshua Hall, Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report (Vancouver: Fraser Institute, 2013), v.

7. Terry Miller, Anthony Kim, and James Roberts, The 2021 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal, 2022), 1, (accessed May 3, 2023).

8. The 2021 Index of Economic Freedom, 2, (emphasis added) (accessed May 3, 2023).

9. Friedrich Engels, The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, trans. W. O. Henderson and W. H. Chaloner (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1968), 10–11.

10. M. Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Capricorn Books, 1965), 85–86.

11. Nathan Rosenberg and L. E. Birdzell Jr., How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World (New York: Basic Books, 1986), 172.

12. Angus Maddison, Phases of Capitalist Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 4–7; Maddison doesn’t say what year’s dollars he’s referring to. Nonetheless, by the standard of any years’ dollars of our era, this was desperate poverty.

13. E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541–1871 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 230, 234–36, 528–29.

14. Fernand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 73–78.

15. Carlo Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000–1700 (New York: Norton, 1976), 151.

16. Braudel, Structures of Everyday Life, 74–77 (emphasis added); Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (New York: Crown, 2001), 9.

17. Braudel, Structures of Everyday Life, 73.

18. Andrew Appleby, “Epidemics and Famine in the Little Ice Age,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10, no. 4 (Spring 1980): 643–63.

19. Gwartney, Lawson, and Hall, Economic Freedom of the World 2013 Annual Report, vi.

20. Yves Santamaria, “Afrocommunism: Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique,” in The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 692–95; “1980s Ethiopian Famine: Facts, What’s Changed, and How to Help,” (accessed April 24, 2023).

21. Pierre Rigoulot, “Crimes, Terror, and Secrecy in North Korea,” in The Black Book of Communism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 562–64.

22. J. H. Clapham, An Economic History of Modern Britain, Vol. 1: The Early Railway Age (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 548–61.

23. R. M. Hartwell, The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth (London: Methuen, 1971), 328–37, 356–60.

24. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, reprinted in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton, 1972), 339 (emphasis added).

25. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration (Overland Park, KS: Digireads, 2015), 79–80.

26. Locke, Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration, 102.

27. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999), 308.

28. Andrew Bernstein, Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2010), 34.

29. Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson, “English Workers’ Living Standards during the Industrial Revolution: A New Look,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 36 (February 1983): 1–2, 23–24.

30. Jeffrey Williamson, Did British Capitalism Breed Inequality (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1985), 7–33.

31. Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 3rd rev. ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1963), 621. See Mises’s full discussion of capitalism’s enormous benefits to the working man, 615–23.

32. “Say, Jean Baptist,”, (accessed April 24, 2023).

33. Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, 230, 234–36, 528–29.

34. Samuel Preston, “Human Mortality throughout History and Pre-History,” in Julian Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995), 30–32.

35. Hartwell, Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth, 338.

36. Julian Simon, ed., “Introduction,” in The State of Humanity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995), 8–9.

37. Charles and Mary Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, vol. 2 (New York: Macmillan, 1930), 411–12.

38. Johnson, History of the American People, 550–55.

39. Johnson, History of the American People, 552; Johnson does not mention whether these numbers were adjusted for inflation.

40. Burton Folsom, The Myth of the Robber Barons (Herndon, VA: Young America’s Foundation, 1991), 86.

41. Folsom, Myth of the Robber Barons, 83.

42. Richard Hofstader, The American Political Tradition (New York: Vintage Books, 1948), 16.

43. Hofstader, American Political Tradition, 164.

44. Louis Hacker, The World of Andrew Carnegie (New York: Lippincott, 1968), xxv–xxxi; Jonathan Hughes, The Vital Few: American Economic Progress and Its Protagonists (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966), 400–401.

45. Hughes, Vital Few, 215.

46. Johnson, History of the American People, 596–97.

47. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Signet, 1943), 678.

48. Rosenberg and Birdzell, How the West Grew Rich, 265.

49. Andrew Bernstein, Why Johnny Still Can’t Read or Write or Understand Math: And What We Can Do about It (New York: Bombardier Books, 2022), 168.

50. “Eric Harris’s Journal,” (accessed April 22, 2023).

51. Andrew Bernstein, “Heroes of Great Literature,” The Objective Standard 14, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 16.

52. Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), 23, 17.

53. Rand, The Fountainhead, 679.

54. Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Meridian Books, 1993), 230–31.

55. Rand, Virtue of Selfishness, 44.

56. Lady Macbeth hurls this as an accusation at her husband. But, in truth, to be filled with kindness, properly understood, is a great virtue.

57. Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, 235.

Return to Top
You have loader more free article(s) this month   |   Already a subscriber? Log in

Thank you for reading
The Objective Standard

Enjoy unlimited access to The Objective Standard for less than $5 per month
See Options
  Already a subscriber? Log in

Pin It on Pinterest