Friday, August 14, 2015

Mankind's greatest achievement...

Mankind's greatest achievement ... is capitalism.  I tweeted the chart at right yesterday.  Two readers emailed me and said (basically): “WTF does that chart show me?”  Here's why I found that chart tweet-worthy...

On the surface, that chart just shows the percentage of people living in “absolute poverty” over time (1820 to present).  That term (absolute poverty) was coined by the World Bank some time ago to represent those people whose income is so low that they do not have access to survival necessities: food, water, and shelter.  We're not talking about medical care, SUVs, or smart phones here – we're talking about staying alive.  Currently the World Bank pegs that at 1.25 “International Dollars” per day.  Those International Dollars are not at all the same as U.S. dollars; they're an imaginary currency and are adjusted for the buying power in each country, so this measure takes into account the different costs of food, shelter, and water in, say, the U.S. vs. Somalia.  Obviously poverty is a challenging thing to measure, and is to some degree subjective (I'm sure the Clintons think they're poor).  But it's a measure that at least attempts objectivity, and is better than anything else I'm aware of.

The red area on that chart shows what percentage of the world population lived in absolute poverty in any given year.  In 1820, nearly 95% of the world lived in absolute poverty.  In 1950, shortly before I was born, that was down to 72%.  It was over 50% when I was in high school, and I still vividly remember the news stories about people starving to death – especially in south Asia, Africa, and China.  Today the absolute poverty rate is down to 14% (and still falling).  The decline of the absolutely poor is a remarkable thing all by itself. 

Even more remarkable: why the rate of absolute poverty has declined.

Several economists have run similar analyses, and gotten the same results: the percentage of people not living in absolute poverty is almost identical (over time) to the percentage of people living in capitalist societies.  You need to think about that to absorb its full meaning, but it boils down to this: capitalism creates wealth, and any other form of societal organization ever tried does not.  It really is that simple.

Progressives, socialists, and (U.S. style) liberals are in denial about this.  They don't want it to be true.  They would hate it if it were true, so they must deny it.  But it is an easy-to-observe fact that no socialist, fascist, monarchy, or dictatorship ever, in the entire history of the world, raised the average standard of living for its citizens (discounting the short-lived effects of borrowing or selling assets, seen most recently in Venezuela and Greece).  Only in capitalist societies do we see a consistent track record of poverty being reduced and citizen standard of living increasing.

I've never yet had a progressive (much less a socialist or communist) admit that fact to me, despite the absolutely ludicrous amount of historical confirmation.  To do so would require admitting that those nasty, conniving, scheming capitalists might not be evil people after all.

And that would never do, obviously...

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