Why some people are not poor

The big question is not why some people are still poor but why today most are not. The world before 1750 was uniformly poor and miserable, a long dark age punctuated by a ephemeral points of light, enough to give humanity hope and a taste of truth and beauty, but never enough to sustain prosperity.

What happened around the middle of the 18th century to change this monotonously grim calculus?

As the author writes, “What enriched the modern world wasn’t capital stolen from workers or capital virtuously saved, nor was it institutions for routinely accumulating it…

“…The capital became productive because of ideas for betterment—ideas enacted by a country carpenter or a boy telegrapher or a teenage Seattle computer whiz…”

What happened was that a system developed that decentralized decision-making and spread incentives to a larger number of people. This greatly increased the total intelligence and innovation available.

““When people ask, ‘Will our children be better off than we are?’ I reply, ‘Yes, but it’s not going to be due to the politicians, but the engineers.’

“I would supplement his remark. It will also come from the businessperson who buys low to sell high, the hairdresser who spots an opportunity for a new shop, the oil roughneck who moves to and from North Dakota with alacrity and all the other commoners who agree to the basic bourgeois deal: Let me seize an opportunity for economic betterment, tested in trade, and I’ll make us all rich.”

Anyway, I saw this woman speak on two occasions now, and it is worth reading what she wrote here. A while back George Clack covered some of what she wrote in his quotations section.

Additional reference

The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has one primary source: the liberation of ordinary people to pursue their dreams of economic betterment
wsj.com|By Deirdre N. McCloskey
This entry was posted in Conservation & Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.