The Ultimate Resource

The Story

Free market incentives are spectacularly changing lives and entire economies over much of the world. In the last 25 years, hundreds of millions of people—400 million in China alone—have climbed out of the dire poverty of living on less than $1 per day. It is the largest movement out of poverty in human history.

Yet, two-thirds of the world’s population—four billion people—still do not have the tools to thrive in free markets. Forced to operate outside the rule of law, they have little education, no legal identity, no fungible property, no credit, no capital, and thus few ways to prosper.

However, when given the incentives and the tools, these people are proving they can apply their free choice, intelligence, imagination and spirit to dramatically advance their well-being and that of their families and communities.

The Production

This new and exclusive documentary looks at the “before and after” lives of individuals and families, exploring some of the surprising, innovative initiatives and trends at work in unlikely places around the world. The production also features some of today’s most inventive thinkers:

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which uses microfinance to bring opportunity to the world’s poorest people by helping them to start their own businesses.

Hernando de Soto, founder of The Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, helps developing countries open their systems—creating strategies for legal reform that offer the majority of the world's people a stake in the free market economy.

James Tooley, British professor of education policy, explores the widespread, dramatic impact of low budget private education—financed not by charities or wealthy supporters—but by the poor families themselves in India, China, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

Johan Norberg, Swedish author and scholar, takes aim at both left-wing critics, who would condemn developing countries to poverty until they develop “First World” workplace standards, and Western governments, whose free market rhetoric is undercut by tariffs on textiles and agriculture, areas in which developing countries can actually compete.

Tease

From small villages in sub-Saharan Africa to the bustling cities of the Asian sub-continent, from Latin America to China and Eastern Europe, people everywhere are striving to improve their lives.

People seeking the same things—an opportunity to learn; an identity and ownership that allows them to prosper; a chance to earn a living for themselves and their families; to use their imaginations; and to take risks and possibly fail.

They want to develop their options and reap the rewards, if they succeed. This is the story of what can happen when ordinary people have the tools to help themselves.

Introduction

Somewhere on Earth, at this very minute, a child is beginning its journey through life. Two hundred and fifty babies are born every minute, 15 thousand an hour, 132 million a year—each and every year. Among them may be the potential to cure disease, or to change the course of world history, because people are the world’s ultimate resource.

Ghana

In a small fishing village in Ghana, a child is being celebrated. A welcoming ceremony—“Kpodziemo” or “Outdooring”—is held only after the mother believes her child will survive. This age-old ceremony is about the dreams of all parents for all children.

Joshua Korley has been fishing his entire life. His most prized possession is his outboard motor. He nets about 50 dollars a week, when the fishing is good. But schools of fish are not the only schools on Joshua’s mind. His daughter, 12-year-old Victoria, has a dream—to become a doctor. Public schools in Ghana are free, but overcrowded. There are 73 students in a class. Joshua wants something better for Victoria.

Peru

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru lay the ruins of Machu Picchu, the historic royal retreat of the Inca Empire. The indigenous people still farm this valley.

Eusebio Mendez Atau and his family own four bulls, two pigs and a few chickens. They farm the land as did Eusebio’s father and grandfather for the last 100 years.

Most days Eusebio hauls his primitive plow up the mountain for another day's work. Still, he is unable to hold legal title to the land on which his livelihood depends.

Eusebio’s only asset is the land. But without legal title, he cannot get a loan to buy more seed or more land. Without legal title, he cannot borrow to educate his children or improve his home. Nor could his father or grandfather.

Bangladesh

Carved from the Asian subcontinent after a bloody civil war with Pakistan, the small nation of Bangladesh is the most densely populated on earth. When Bangladesh won independence in 1971, more than 70 percent of its people lived on less than one dollar a day. Hunger and famine haunted almost every village and every family.

It was into this world that Minara Begum and Dinislam Hussain were born. When they were only 13, Minara and Dinislam were married in an arranged ceremony. Dinislam had grown up in a village of weavers and had learned the trade. He worked hard for others, but he could never get ahead. Dinislam and Minara could barely feed their first child.

Estonia

The small country of Estonia has been dominated by its neighbors and denied freedom for most of its long history. However, since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, sweeping, yet difficult, economic reforms have transformed Estonia.

In an older neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital is the story of Indrek Laul and the Estonia Piano Company—a story of amazing, complex change.

In the bleak times under Communist rule, the company built pianos exclusively for the state. There was no competition, no incentive. The instruments were sturdy, but hardly world-class.

Shortly after independence, Indrek Laul and his workers realized that companies around the world were making much better pianos than they were. Production in Estonia dropped from 500 pianos a year to a low of only 49.

China

Shanghai is a dramatic symbol of the fastest growing major economy in world history. Hundreds of thousands of people work in skyscrapers, some among the tallest in the world. Privately-owned designer boutiques line the city’s streets.

34-year-old Shi Hai is the private owner of Snail Game, one of China’s first Internet gaming companies. He believes his stock will be listed on the NASDAQ Exchange within a few years.

It would seem that Communist China is using free trade to reinvent itself, but not entirely. Shi Hai and his employees are navigating the delicate path between China’s cultural traditions and their bold new ideas.

Close

Around the world there are enormous and complicated challenges ahead. But extraordinary change can happen when ordinary people have the tools and the freedom to make their own decisions.