I am having a difficult time responding to this challenge of a free market system. – Does U.S. consumerism/materialism cause others to be poor? If the world’s resources are fixed and the U.S. consumes a high percentage of them that means their are less resources for poor nations and therefore less wealth that is able to be produced. Or, if all other nations began to consume and produce as much as the U.S., wouldn’t prices go up (for the fixed amount of resources available) making it more difficult for anyone to maintain or grow their standard of living? I’ve heard it said that if other countries consumed the same amount of resources as the U.S. that we would have exploited all the resources equivalent to 3 earths.
Critiques like these ignore the human element. They view resources from the perspective of our given technological knowledge about their use. (Remember the Peak Oil scare from a few years ago, now forgotten in the shale oil boom.) But humans are creative, they learn. As so, we develop better resource using technology over time.
Take a look at the work of George Reisman on this issue: