Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

A Billion People Out of Poverty

Excerpt from Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Enlightenment Now

News headline you won't see today:

"NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EXTREME POVERTY FELL BY 137,000 SINCE YESTERDAY."

You also didn't see it each day for the last 25 years, on each day of which it was also true. Courtesy of:

Cut the global poverty rate in half, lifting a billion people out of poverty, in twenty-five years? Yeah, yeah. But the world reached the goal five years ahead of schedule. Development experts are still rubbing their eyes. [Nobel-prize winning economist] Robert Lucas said, “The consequences for human welfare involved in [understanding rapid economic development] are simply staggering: once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.”

The point of calling attention to progress is not self-congratulation but identifying the causes so we can do more of what works… So what is the world doing right?

Market economies, in addition to reaping the benefits of specialization and providing incentives for people to produce things that other people want, solve the problem of coordinating the efforts of hundreds of millions of people by using prices to propagate the information about need and availability far and wide, a computational problem that no planner is brilliant enough to solve from a central bureau…

Though intellectuals are apt to do a spit take when they read a defense of capitalism, its economic benefits are so obvious that they don't need to be shown with numbers. They can literally be seen from space. A satellite photograph of Korea showing the capitalist South aglow in light and the Communist North a pit of darkness vividly illustrates the contrast in the wealth-generating capability between two economic systems, holding geography, history, and culture constant…

[Another] cause is globalization, in particular the explosion in trade made possible by container ships and jet airplanes and by the liberalization of tariffs and other barriers to investment and trade… Notwithstanding the horror that the word elicits in many parts of the political spectrum, globalization, development analysts agree, has been a bonanza for the poor. “Some argue that globalization is a neoliberal conspiracy designed to enrich a very few at the expense of the many. If so, that conspiracy was a disastrous failure – or at least, it helped more than a billion people as an unintended consequence. If only unintended consequences always worked so favorably.”

See also this dispatch from, goodness, almost exactly ten years ago: Eat the Rich: Chipping Away at One of the Worst Ideas of All Time.


  books     economics     hope     steve pinker  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
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