Working Papers

"The United States and Third World Poor in the International Economy: Some Economic and Ethical Issues for Discussion"

Ernest Bartell, CSC


In mainstream economic models of free markets, optimization criteria take on a greater priority than other important value considerations. However, the most efficient allocation of resources in a competitive free market does not necessarily lead to a distribution of income and wealth which meets acceptable ethical standards of social justice and human equality.
Distribution of gains from international market activity tends to be biased against Third World countries, and particularly against the poor within those countries. An adequate economic and ethical evaluation of United States international economic policy must take this into account.
Value judgements about distribution, though they affect the domestic economic policy of most countries, historically have had little influence on the workings of international markets. The richest fifth of the world's population accounts for 50 times the per capita GNP of the poorest fifth and, in the absence of international intervention, the inequality will continue to grow because of the biases against the poor nations in markets for labor, goods and services, and financial capital.
This paper examines these distributional biases together with some policy options proposed to redress them, and concludes that only a broad based popular appeal grounded in the considerations of higher ethical and moral values, as well as in the requirements for survival of an international economic system, is likely to create the collective will necessary for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to a rational distribution of economic means and opportunities in an increasingly interdependent economic world.


En los modelos económicos de libre mercado convencionales, los criterios de optimización adquieren una más alta prioridad que otras consideraciones valóricas de importancia. Sin embargo, la asignación de recursos más eficiente posible en un sistema competitivo de libre mercado no asegura una distribución del ingreso y riqueza que satisfaga las normas éticas de justicia social e igualdad entre los hombres.
La distribución de las ganancias que se crean como resultado de la existencia de los mercados internacionales tienden a discriminar en contra de los paises del Tercer Mundo, y en particular en contra de los pobres al interior de dichos paises. Una evaluación adecuada de la politica económico y ético, debe tomar en consideración los aspectos mencionados.