Coffee House

Around the world, poverty is collapsing. Why is that so hard to believe?

6 January 2016

4:19 PM

6 January 2016

4:19 PM

In 2012 and 2013, The Spectator opened its Christmas special issue with a leading article counting the ways in which the world had never been a better place, and was set to get better still. We didn’t do so this year, as the list would have been a bit too similar to previous versions – but others did pick up the theme, including Dan Hannan on ConHome. This was taken up by Matthew d’Ancona in the Guardian making an excellent follow-up point: if things are so good, why don’t people feel it?

He traces this argument to Matt Ridley’s 2010 book, the Rational Optimist, and to Stephen Pinker’s 2011 book about declining violence. I agree with him that Ridley’s book is a landmark in the debate: if you haven’t read it, go buy it now. But other, earlier studies are worth noting. In 2006, Indur Goklany published a book called The Improving State of the World – Matthew d’Ancona spotted its significance and commissioned Allister Heath to bring it to the attention of Spectator readers in this article. But for me, the real eye-opener was Johan Norberg’s 2001 book, In Defence of Global Capitalism. That was written as a reaction to the anti-capitalist movement made fashionable by the likes of Naomi Klein. Norberg’s book changed the way I thought about the world. I would not have believed half of its assertions had they not been backed up by facts and figures: it converted me from a cynic into an optimist; from being agnostic about global capitalism into being convinced that it’s the greatest force for good on the planet.

But these books are, themselves, part of an important trend: things have been going badly right since the turn of the century and the digital era means that you can quickly and easily get hold of the data to prove it. Once, the idea that the world is ever-improving was a minority view – expounded by Julian Simon, the grand old man of development optimism, with his book The Ultimate Resource (1981), perhaps the founding text of what is now a genre. Then, you needed his book to argue that the world is getting better all the time. Now, the trend is so strong that it’s impossible to miss. Go try find any figures to suggest the world is screwed and you’ll find, as Bjorn Lomborg famously did, that it’s not.

The World Health Organisation, the United Nations, the OECD, the World Bank – all of them now keep annually updated records of human progress, and the story told by these metrics is the greatest story of our age. Some of the graphs are being compiled by Dr Max Roser, a German academic, in his project Our World In Data (which features the below chart). A few weeks ago, I wrote about just one of the trends for the Telegraph – the progress against malaria, once (but no longer) mankind’s biggest killer. Each year you check the statistics, they’re even more jaw-dropping. For example: remember polio? The disease that crippled Roosevelt and afflicted 350,000 children as recently as the 1980s? Last year, fewer than 100 cases were diagnosed. It’s on the verge of going the same way as smallpox: to extinction.

So why, as Matthew d’Ancona asks, is the good news story so hard to swallow? I have my own answer: People take the world as they see it, and we humans are problem-solvers. We scan the horizon for potential danger. We focus on what’s going wrong, rather than congratulate ourselves for what has gone right. The average Brit doesn’t wake up thanking God that he’s not living in a cave, or dying of consumption, or that he’s wealthier and healthier than his parents were at his age. He focuses on the next problem, and tries to solve it.

[Alt-Text]


This grumpiness, this glorious discontent, is the engine of human progress. And it’s crucial: even 1pc unemployment feels like 100pc unemployment to those looking for work. Those who have never feared polio can hardly be expected to celebrate its near-extinction; those who suffer from cancer have every right to ask why, after so many years of medical science, we still rely on such a blunt tool as chemotherapy. We tend not to zoom out, or look at the bigger picture. Which, by the way, looks something like this:

As we become more prosperous, as we deal with poverty, we become less tolerant of it. No one is seriously arguing that there is more hunger today than in the 1950s. But we have food banks now, and didn’t then, because we’re less tolerant of the (far lower) level of hunger in our society.

As I argued in my Daily Telegraph column, the need for food banks is deplorable but their emergence is a welcome sign of progress. And on a global basis, wealth of the rich world is being shared by the poor as never before, as shown by overseas aid figures (below) both private and public. It’s a paradox: a generation ago, there was far more global poverty yet far less anger about it. As the West grows richer, it starts to care – quite rightly – about problems that we can now solve. Chiefly through the promotion of free trade. As Norberg argues, the worst inequality in the world is the unequal distribution of capitalism.

Pictures of starving Africans will always make a bigger impact than reading that six million more are alive today because of the retreat of malaria. Or reading that the number of sub-Saharan African children sleeping under malaria nets has risen from 2 per cent to 55 per cent since the turn of the century. Save the Children’s winter appeal pictures a sad-looking boy from Congo and warns that ‘thousands of children like Kabeya will wake up sick with hunger’ this Christmas. Quite true – but the stunning truth about Congo is that it has almost halved the number in extreme poverty in just ten years. In fact, worldwide, poverty rates halved since 1990. Back then, just 52 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa went to primary school. Now, it hit 82 per cent – and rising.

Are you getting bored of the statistics yet? They do tend to make the eyes glaze over: a picture of a dying girl with the distraught mother by the bedside (as per the Christian Aid malaria advert) will always hit home harder. Outfits like Christian Aid have no incentive to tell the good news story about Africa: it doesn’t help raise donations, nor does it sell newspapers.  Bad news always has more potency than good. Judging the world by reading newspaper headlines is like judging a city by spending a night in its A&E ward: you only see what’s going wrong.

The progress made against global poverty, which has accelerated to a mind-blowing degree since I first read about it from Norberg 15 years ago, is the biggest story of our age. I’m delighted to report that Norberg is writing a new book devoted to this: ‘Progress: Ten Problems Mankind is Solving’ – things like poverty, death, hunger, child labour, despotism, bigotry and environmental destruction. It’s needed: this is still the greatest story, and it’s still not being told enough.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • Johnnymcevoy

    Don’t say ‘go buy it’. It betrays a lack of education and awareness.

  • Hippograd

    In 2012 and 2013, The Spectator opened its Christmas special issue with a leading article counting the ways in which the world had never been a better place, and was set to get better still.

    And that was before the enrichment of Europe with 100,000s of entrepreneurs, inventors, feminists and gay-rights activists from Syria, Morocco, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria and other centres of economic vibrancy. And more are arriving all the time! The future is indeed rosy for all metrics of prosperity, liberty and conservative politics. Rosiest of all, we have a true Blue heir to Churchill in the shape of Sajid Javid, who is working hard to convince Conservative Friends of Britain that he’s the man for the top job. If his tongue stands the strain, he might be a serious challenge for Bozza when Conservative Cam steps down.

    Onward and upward, comrades!

  • trefjon1

    This is the obvious fact that the BBC, political parties and charities choose to ignore. The battle between fundamental Malthusianism and techno optimism is hardly new, but the availability of social media has clouded the issue and infantilised the argument.A dead child on Facebook is a powerful symbol, but in statistical terms bears no relevance to the facts. The optimism of which you speak was once placed squarely in the focus of news reporting, not any more when shamans such as Harrabin or Shukman are given such credence and the word scientist is equated to papist infallibility. We live in a world of plenty, the environment is improving, communications are revolutionsing, population is on course to stabilise and living standards are generally higher. This is not the impression broadcast and with naive people like Jeremy Corbyn being given a platform by a rather idealistic younger generation of London based hipsters working for the BBC, then it is unlikely to change.

  • David B

    The rise in use of the term “relative poverty” is proof that absolute poverty is being tackled

  • JabbaPapa

    aaaaah — the Myth of Progress.

    Heady stuff.

    These sorts of views confuse the natural trend towards the democratisation of technological advances with wealth.

    Wealth is not, as some freemasons in particular would have us believe, an intarishable well of goodness, but it is a relative quality opposing man to man.

    The rich have more, the poor have less ; the wealthy have the advantage of that which is denied to the impoverished ; and no ongoing technological shifts can change this state of affairs.

    People tinker with population control in the grossly mistaken belief that fewer people equals more resources for each — except that resources are the product of people, not of inanimate matter.

    The industrialised manslaughter of contraception and abortion is the reality of our impoverishment in the face of this Myth.

    • rbw152

      ‘Myth of Progress’? Sorry, not sure what you mean there. Surely there has been actual progress?

      If progress can be defined in terms of declining infant mortality, increasing life spans, the eradication of certain diseases and rising living standards then that’s hardly a myth is it?

      Can you explain what exactly is mythical about all that?

  • Gilbert White

    I bet most Africans do not sleep under mosquito nets. Too stuffy? A lot of africans had natural immunity as well. We may never know the truth, because the NGO is as corrupt as the government they excuse? The crook Clinton distributes a few nets whilst paying golf. The uses these expensive nets are put too defies the imagination. Oh yes if you try to buy one as a white tourist you will be sold an inferior, overpriced product.

  • Bonkim

    Feeling better increases expectations. Modern communications and ease of travel accelerates migration and consequent social problems in the developed world.

    A beggar getting half his food need has to think where his next meal is coming from. On a full stomach the same man is plotting to get what he does not have and has seen others having somewhere else.

    Poor social organisation, medieval religions and cultures breed poverty – their own fault.

    • Mary Ann

      So what are you plotting to get?

      • Bonkim

        Reduction in real poverty only possible by drastic reduction in world population, stopping all overseas aid, and making those left responsible for their own survival. The earth is grossly overpopulated and the apparent rise in affluence across the earth and consequent reduction in apparent poverty is just a transient blip. Wealthier nations have contributed to unregulated breeding in the poorer regions.

        • Todd Unctious

          No. The World is not grossly overpopulated. That is a lie. Read some Danny Dorling.

          • Bonkim

            Can think the equations myself without help for this socialist Professor.

          • Richard

            It is overpopulated by African standards: only by importing food and almost everything else from societies that are more efficient can they feed themselves and participate in the global world. Left to themselves and their inefficiencies, their continent could probably only support fifty million people, if that, and only if they had high mortality and lived in huts. Essentially, Africans are like cuckoo chicks.

    • sidor

      “Modern communications and ease of travel accelerates migration and consequent social problems in the developed world.”

      Are you talking about 1 million Arabs who recently crossed Mediterranean sea in their primitive boats? The problem is entirely political. Its name is frau Merkel.

      • Bonkim

        They would not have heard about the German invitation without modern communications – many on the March had smart-phones and credit cards in communication with people smugglers and collaborators in Europe. TV and the media also had exposed them to what awaits them in Europe. So a well informed and well endowed crowd of refugees with high expectations.

        • sidor

          It is amazing that people in remote places happened to learn so quickly about the beginning of WWI without any smart phones.

          • Bonkim

            Telephone cables were already strung across continents in early 20th century and Radio was starting but the poor did not have access to all that. Mass media – Radio, TV, etc, as we know today started after WW2 – more since the 1960s, and 70’s – even then communications in most parts of Africa and Asia were sketchy and unaffordable for the majority. Mobile phones and the internet/social media were introduced in the last decade or two and even here have become cheap only in the last few years in the Third World. People were mostly illiterate and communications restricted to within the Elite.

  • rbw152

    Thanks for this.Fraser.

    Another attitude which I think applies to ‘deniers’ of this positive state of affairs is that ideology stops them from seeing the world in that way.

    After all, if you’re politically wedded to the idea that capitalism is at the root of all the world’s ills, you’re not going to admit that the opposite is true very readily are you?

    There are one or two on this very forum in fact. Go and check the figures yourself guys, read the books. Let’s face it, the world’s improving state is hardly due to the global spread of socialism is it?

  • Richard

    The problem, of course, is that hunger in places like Africa is in decline only because of food aid. The moment the West stops sending bags of grain, they will all start starving again. Inequality is not a problem per se, only if such inequality is the cause of others dying is it a problem. If an African couple chooses to have ten children they cannot feed, is that caused by a wealthy person living in America? When I lived in Africa, I was always amazed at the complete inability by people to use reasoning like this to solve their problems. They wanted babies, so they just kept having them. They were tired of coming to work, so they just walked away one day, and returned expecting to be able to carry on as usual three weeks’ later. I don’t doubt that poverty and hunger are on the decline, I just doubt that this is because these primitive peoples have changed their ways. It remains the white man’s burden.

    • Tamerlane

      Food aid therefore being as much the problem as the solution? You’ll get hauled over the coals by the usual sad baying mob for saying it but several years in Africa it’s all too true I know.

      • Richard

        Ethiopia responded to the huge drives to give them food in the 1980s by trebling their population. Hunger remains.

        • Todd Unctious

          You exaggerate. It doubled between 1988 and 2013. Not trebled. 100% out.

          • Richard

            So that’s fine, is it? We don’t even know the real size of their population, because many are illiterate and surveys are incomplete.

    • Mary Ann

      The best way to cut the birth rate is to educate girls and stop babies dying.

      • Gilbert White

        Lots of white aid workers are teaching the young african school girls the tongue work necessary in the stimulation of the male member, Mary. Learnt skills like these will be useful when the UN peacekeepers arrive and thrust the local economy forward.

        • BritishPatriot

          You forgot to terminate your comment with a question mark?

          • Chas Grant

            I don’t like to see you trolling someone as pathetic as Gilbert?

      • JabbaPapa

        So — the “best” way to stop babies dying is to kill them before they’re born ?

        Charming.

        • rbw152

          No, she means that families have fewer children in wealthier economies. Not abortion.

      • Richard

        Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Ever lived in Africa, rather than just thinking or writing about it? All that’s happened with educating girls and stopping infant mortality is that Ethiopia’s population has trebled in thirty years.

        • Todd Unctious

          Richard. The Band Aid song may be appropriate here. Do you know its Xmas time at all? Today is Xmas day in Ethiopia which follows the Orthodox calendar. By the way Ethiopias population is just approaching 100 million, it was a third of that in 1973, so 43 years ago.

      • Todd Unctious

        The best way to make any form of progress is educate girls and offer cheap diahorrea pills to schoolkids.

        • Bonkim

          Who will make that happen in disorganized, illiterate, and corrupt societies?

          • Zhang Wei

            You shouldn’t talk about Jockistan like that.

    • Mongo

      the elephant in the room is that black Africans are incapable of running a functioning country due to no work ethic, laziness and ingrained corruption/criminality.

      just look at what’s happened to South Africa since the whites lost power, or what’s happened to Jamaica since the colonialists left

      • Richard

        It’s only an elephant in the room to Leftie Europe and UK, who can only live on a diet of dissembling and lies. Have you seen this graph of wheat imports, for instance? http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=za&commodity=wheat&graph=imports

        • JabbaPapa

          Meanwhile, back in reality :

          http://agritrade.cta.int/Agriculture/Commodities/General/Changing-patterns-of-African-agro-food-exports-and-challenges-of-integration-into-global-value-chains

          Between 2005 and 2011 African agricultural trade grew at 14% per annum in value terms. By 2012, “intra-African agricultural trade amounted to US$13 billion, or 23.5% of the total, up 4% from 2005”. Asia received 21.7% of Africa’s agricultural exports (some US$12 billion), up from 16.7% in 2005. However, nearly half of African agricultural exports (US$26 billion) were destined for European markets, where they accounted for 3.9% of Europe’s agricultural imports (up from 2.7% in 2005). The AEO report maintains that a “strategic leap in South–South and intra-African trade” is now under way.

          • Richard

            Must be why they are having to import food in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

            • JabbaPapa

              I doubt that there is a single country in the world that doesn’t have food imports.

              Half of all food production ends up in the rubbish. This is ***hardly*** a problem created by Africa.

              • Richard

                Really? So massive falls in food production in, say, South Africa and Zimbabwe are “normal” in the scheme of things?

                • JabbaPapa

                  Point me to perfection in a country’s economics, and you’ll have shown me the economy of the land of Utopia.

                • Richard

                  Sleep tight.

    • MathMan

      Like Richard I have also lived in Africa and agree with all the points he makes. For anyone not having first-hand experience of Sub-Saharan Africa I can recommend Tim Butcher’s book, Blood River. In it he travels overland the length of the Congo River following the in the footsteps of H M Stanley a century before. A cracking read with many examples of how and why the country has gone backwards since the white man left after independence. The same story applies to anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.

      • Richard

        Leftie Britain gave up on thinking rationally a long, long time ago. They are in the main ideologues, who have to be permitted to hold opinions by their ideological fuehrers, or celebrities. It is amazing to see just how naive and dense they really are. But, of course, though such mechanisms civilisations fall. This one is certainly tumbling down.

    • sidor

      Thanks for supporting my point expressed below: a simple way to stop the population growth Is to stop food export. Globally. This is the main source of the problem. Population has always been regulated by the amount of available food. This is the way of regulation we have to use nowadays.

      • JabbaPapa

        So starve people to death, shoot them if they attempt to get into Europe, brainwash as many people as possible to make systematic use of contraception, kill anyone in the womb who’s not been successfully prevented from existing, carry on reading the Daily Mail, voting BNP, repressing religion, doing one’s best to eradicate it, and angrily denounce anyone who points out that all of this simply amounts to contemporary N@zi politics without the jackboots ?

        What a great plan !!

        • sidor

          There is no need to starve them to death: it would be enough to starve them to the state of reduced reproduction. They existed in that state for many centuries until the West provided them with food abundance.

          • JabbaPapa

            There is no need to starve them to death

            How noble of you.

            These atheist principles of yours are so **wonderful**, aren’t they.

            • sidor

              And what does atheism have to do with frequency of sexual intercourse?

              • JabbaPapa

                I have NO IDEA — but then you’re the one who’s promoting population reduction and race-based eugenicism, not me.

                • sidor

                  If you have no idea, avoid writing.

                • JabbaPapa

                  If only you followed your own advice, your contributions in here would be refreshingly absent.

              • Passing Through

                Well there is a lot less shouting ‘Oh God,Oh God,Oh God’.

                • sidor

                  How does it affect the fertility rate?

                • Passing Through

                  Is your question How does atheism affect the fertility rate?
                  Wouldn’t have thought it did, obviously some religions have views on contraception and abortion that don’t help birth rates but you are planning to starve those people so it doesn’t matter really.

          • Todd Unctious

            “They”.

            • sidor

              Correct grammatical remark. The population growth in the Northern Europe was due to potato.

        • Richard

          Or we can keep feeding them so that there are so many of them that they all die of thirst. What is your solution? Why should others pick up the pieces for people who are too stupid to plan anything? I for one am not prepared to. I have lived in Africa for thirty years, and it never gets any better, it just gets more crowded, and more loony Lefties from Europe make sure there are more and more of them. Do you know why? Because loony Leftie Europeans are only interested in looking good in front of their mates, wearing dreadlocks, and various colours of bracelets. They can bop to ethno-beat music, and pretend that they’re all with their black brothers, whilst secretly thanking God they live among white people. I understand the fake, hypocritical and disgusting mentality that makes such people tick.

          • JabbaPapa

            Oh goody, so then let’s enforce a trading blockade of all third world countries then, and institute strict economic protectionism.

            Of course, to achieve this goal we’ll need a large conscripted army, so wouldn’t the first step be to forbid the sale and fabrication of any form of contraceptives, and outlaw abortion ? In fact, hadn’t we better start imitating the policies of North Korea as our principal ideological guideline ?

            Of course, once this blockade starts, it’ll go in both directions, so we’d better start stockpiling tea, coffee, chocolate, and get used to the taste of tiny bananas grown in Belgium. Better get that new computer and smartphone and plasma TV ASAP too, as several of the rare elements that they use in their electronics might suddenly become unavailable.

            Of course, if we’re really seriuous about this project of starving them all, it won’t be enough just to stop our own trade with them, we’ll have to make sure nobody else trades with them either — so we’d better start planning World War III today, unless your plan is to simply destroy Moscow and Beijing using nuclear weaponry ? That might be the more sensible method, after all nuclear warfare would be a good way to achieve population reduction quite swiftly.

            • Richard

              So you get blockades from what I wrote? Protectionism? Cessation of sale of contraceptives? And you want out-of-control birthrates that despoil the environment, cause the extinction of wildlife, and spell unimaginable global catastrophe? All rain forests chopped down to make way for farming? I think a visit to a logician (note I didn’t say psychiatrist) is in order.

              Europe and the UK are full of people who have no experience of anything other than sitting in a comfortable armchair and pontificating. Try actually living among Africans for a few decades, and then see if you get a better understanding. Unless, of course, it’s just another Leftie power tactic.

              • JabbaPapa

                I did not realise that anyone who disagreed with this extremist eugenicist programme of forced depopulation measures that are founded upon a hard racist agenda was automatically a “lefty”.

                So you get blockades from what I wrote? Protectionism? Cessation of sale of contraceptives?

                It’s rather difficult to imagine any other measures than these for the implementation of the sorts of policies that you seem to be in favour of.

                How exactly do you plan on turning Africa into a giant concentration camp without recourse to a totalitarian military world dictatorship with a massive standing army ?

  • Tamerlane

    You can’t have capitalism saving the developing world when left wing inadequates still need it to blame for their vacuous lives. Simple as that – doesn’t fit the self pitying pat.

  • sidor

    The advances in technology make people more prosperous, but there are two factors which offset this effect and sustain poverty: rapid growth of population in the third world, and growing inequality of the incom in the developed countries. Indeed, let’s assume that the population of Africa remained on the same level as 30 years ago: they would have now enjoyed a twice hire GDP per capita. The poverty in the developed world is even more irrational: most of that notorious 1% are absolutely useless in terms of their contribution to GDP, and redistribution of the income could have significantly improve the general quality of life and increased GDP by stimulating consumption and production.

    The population growth in the world can be controlled by a simple measure: blocking agricultural export.

    • Mongo

      global population growth is the world’s biggest problem but I’m not sure if the solution is that simple. Having many children is a cultural and religious thing in Africa and Asia, combined with little access to contraception and a rather callous attitude to infant mortality

      I think the 21st century will see starvations, wars for resources and mass die-offs in the third world on a scale hitherto unseen, and no amount of band-aid charity singles will change that

      • rbw152

        Malthus has never been right. Nor have all the other doomsayers such as Paul Ehrlich.

        We have got better at producing more of everything. Nothing has run out or is even in any danger of running out. Not oil, not food or anything essential.

        Progress has always found a way of making more with less and there are no signs of that stopping any time soon.

        • sidor

          How did you “get better” from the fact that the population of Africa tripled in the last decades, thanks to the food import from the developed countries? What was your benefit from the massive immigration from Africa?

          • rbw152

            The whole point is that Afica’s increasing imports are being driven by it’s economic success:

            “This demand is being driven by population growth, urbanization, as well as from a growing female work force who prefer wheat products, like bread or pasta, because they are faster and easier to prepare than traditional foods.”

            Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

            So they on their way to solving the problem. It is a temporary situation and their own production will catch up as their economies improve.

            Other countries who have gone through this process have experienced similar situations but eventually their birth rate slows and they stand on their own.

            What’t the alternative? Leave them as they are?

            • sidor

              “This demand is being driven by population growth, urbanization, as well as from a growing female work force who prefer wheat products, like bread or pasta, because they are faster and easier to prepare than traditional foods.”

              Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

              ==========
              Does this imply that 100 years ago the Africans didn’t like to eat that much wheat and avoided to multiply by sexual intercourse? Another illustration to the fact that the economists are a bunch of useless charlatans producing unintelligible rubbish.

            • Richard

              So the fact that they need more food aid because there are more of them means they are successfully resolving their problems? Is that a real comment from you?

              • rbw152

                First, there are many articles around by charities etc. which show how food aid actually harms African economies. So increasing food aid may be more to do with well-meaning intention than need.

                Second, it’s pretty obvious to most people that if a country’s economy improves it will be less dependent on aid. So, if free market economies are allowed to thrive in Africa it’s need for aid will decline.

        • Mongo

          geological reality means that oil and fossil fuels will run out. When exactly is debatable, but they will. No amount of cornucopian wishful thinking will change that reality

          the world may be prepared for it, we may not. Fossil fuels underpin everything – our entire way of life. The idea that we can instanly replace them with renewables or other as yet undiscovered forms of energy and then carry on as normal is a dangerous fantasy

          • rbw152

            With respect but that is utter rubbish. The world is awash with fossil fuels, mainly due to technological progress such as fracking.

            We’re not going to run out any time soon and certainly not before another technological innovation which perhaps replaces the need to fossil fuels, of which there are quite a few just around the corner.

            Don’t but believe me, check it out yourself. Although I am puzzled as to why you don’t know this, especially since the world glut in oil and gas has been well publicised recently.

      • sidor

        The solution is as simple as suggested. Indeed, there couldn’t be more people in a country than the country can feed. The main reason for the population growth in the third world was food import. A most spectacular example – Haiti that is entirely dependent on the US food supply for its rapidly growing population. Therefore, banning the food export is necessary and sufficient to stop the population growth.

        • Mongo

          but won’t go down well with the bleeding heart brigade/charities/leftists…

          • sidor

            Forget about the lefties. The problem is the EU agricultural lobby. The same is in the US, Canada and Australia. Try to suggest them to reduce production. You won’t be alive the same day.

    • balance_and_reason

      yes we tried that in the seventies, France tried it in the last 5 years; both failed…why oh why do we have to teach upstart leninist dough brains the same lessons over and over again; has public education failed so badly?

      • sidor

        I don’t think your knowledge of history is sufficient to discuss this point. Here is what Shang Yang wrote 2400 years ago:

        “…If the poor are encouraged by rewards, they will become rich, and if penalties are applied to the rich, they will become poor. When in administrating a country one succeeds in making the poor rich and the rich poor, then the country will have much strength, and this being the case, it will attain supremacy.”

        One can arrive to the same conclusion by studying statistical mechanics. Update your education.

        • Richard

          IQ is not evenly distributed around the world, much like athletic ability. Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the lowest general IQ distributions in the world at around 70. China is a couple of standard deviations above that, and South Korea perhaps even more. Look at Africa, and look at China, which were both poor in 1950, or look at South Korea and Africa. Then, if you can, put Leftist ideology aside for a moment, with which we have all been propagandised, and draw a conclusion.

          • sidor

            500 years ago China was the richest country in terms of per capita GDP. And people in Europe couldn’t count until Fibonacci brought arithmetics from the Arabs in the 13th century.

            • Richard

              Precisely. Their average IQ level is higher than that in the West, therefore you would expect them to be more advanced, all things being equal. Ever wondered how a small group like Jews have managed so well, apart from a few existential hiccoughs? Ever wondered why sub-Saharan Africa is so backward, and why North Africa is relatively more advanced than Africa to the south? Intelligence is largely genetic, and there is nothing, short of genetic engineering, we can do to make ethnic groups equal to one another in the brain department.

    • tomandersen

      The earth is already at 70% or so of max population. 10 billion +- 1 billion is the top, and thats in 50 years. Checkout http://www.gapminder.org/world

      • EUROJESUS

        Don’t believe the hype, Tom.

      • rbw152

        And after that the UN predicts it will start to decline. Population is not going to be a problem. Food production has increased so much over the years that we have a world surplus.

      • Todd Unctious

        Dorling has max at 9.2 billion in 2065.

  • UnionPacificRX

    I completely disagree. The subcontinent at 1 billion 700 people (Pakistan 185 million, India 1.3 billion, Bangladesh 160 million) is more poor than Africa (at 1.013 billion). 3 thousand children die EACH DAY in India due to starvation. Millions go into poverty, in India, just to meet medical bills since most of her 1.3 billion people do not have medical insurance
    A good deal of the developing world do not have access
    to electricity
    clean water
    proper housing
    proper medical care
    high malnutrition
    access to toilets. (Open defecation is rampant with India leading among all nations).
    I have a laundry list that disputes this article but I will sum this up with one more fact. India’s population is growing at 29 babies per minute, most of them at the bottom rung of her economy. At the same time world food production is at an all time high. while 3 thousand Indian children die of starvation each day, India wastes around 21 million tons of wheat per year. That is equal to the total output of Australia per year. India is the world’s largest waster of fruit and vegetables.

    • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

      You are right: water and toilets is still a major issue.

      “Sanitation is more important than independence.” Mahatma Ghandi

      today about 1 in 6 people worldwide defecate in the open (i.e. no toilet, no bucket…)

      • UnionPacificRX

        Not only that 80% of India’s surface water is highly polluted, making it toxic for consumption and for agriculture.
        Just building toilets will not do. they are not working in India. like a baby a person has to be “Potty trained’ and learn how to maintain this toilet. India also suffers from severe droughts in many parts of her nation. then toilets become a burden.
        Open defecation from around 850 million people means millions of tons of human feces dries up and becomes part of the smog of Indian cities. they carry pathogens with them One can get infected by simply breathing in particles of feces suspended in the air. Keep in mind that is around 1600 million pounds of human feces per day. The list is too long for a comment.

      • Gilbert White

        Strangers are bringing this habit to Europe with your government’s blessing. The awful third world diseases are on the land?

    • The Masked Marvel

      You do realise you’re more condemning how India functions more than disputing Fraser’s main point, right?

      • UnionPacificRX

        I pointing how wrong Fraser is by pointing to the most densely populated region of the world and the most poorest. The subcontinent is more poor than Africa. that was my opening line and took the emphasis from Africa where Fraser placed it and put it on the subcontinent where Fraser should have analysed.

      • Headstrong

        That is his point. UnionPacificRX is actually a hate monger called Mr Bernard Wijeyasingha. He’s a 58 year old Sri Lankan who immigrated to the US in the 70s, and holds a pathological hatred for India and Indians which is as yet unexplained. He’s infamous on Asian and Indian sites for spewing hate and filth – even on articles unconnected with India. In fact, he is a regular on Indian sites, where he deliberately posts really provocative and vile stuff. The final straw was when he wrote comments urging ISIS to blow up children, babies and women in India, and how he couldn’t wait for that to happen. Finally, he got called out and all his comments have been deleted – but I have taken some snapshots of his more obnoxious ones. He has also been banned from Asia Times – so he’s opened a new account.On this very site, when called out, some others tut-tutted, whereupon he showed his true colours spewing filth here as well.
        Note his comments to another commented SunnyD on http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2015/12/the-more-we-bomb-isis-the-stronger-they-become/
        Also, note his new user name and the username he changed to on that article 🙂

        • The Masked Marvel

          In that case, never mind.

    • balance_and_reason

      still substantially richer than it was 20 years ago.

      • UnionPacificRX

        Not really. India has the world’s greatest disparity of wealth. 1% of her 1.3 billion population control 36% of her 2 trillion dollar economy. a few million more control most of the rest. a population the size of San Francisco (around 600 thousand) are the ultra rich. they, like in the US, are not bound by borders., they own villas in Italy, chateaus in Franc, penthouses in New York and bank accounts in Switzerland. the rest of India’s continental sized population are dirt poor. India is home to Asia’s largest slums, and one of the world’s largest pavement dwellers who have lived on the pavements for generations, born and died on the pavements for they are not “rich” enough to afford a room in a slum that has no amenities at all.
        To compare India’s population alone it is greater in number than all the people from the tip of Argentina to the tip of Alaska. That San Francisco sized population then controls a population greater than the new world. Europe alone is only 770 million. India in comparison is 1.3 billion. She will be 1.6 billion by 2030. most of them at the bottom of the rung and that is if the world economy stays the same without getting worse.
        If it does get worse the bottom half of India’s middle class will fall right back to abysmal poverty.

        • balance_and_reason

          Thanks for reeling off a long spiel of facts that were already known; and still the country is, top to bottom, getting wealthier, healthier, more educated, more rights; sure it is still medieval in parts but so it was in larger parts before…it is in a way like Georgian England…super vibrant and moving…especially since it threw off the socialist burden….as the education, wealth and health improves the birth rate will decline, as everywhere else has shown……..you old school socialist miserablists gotta find a new job.

          • UnionPacificRX

            You have proved yourself to be foolish, compassionless, superficial, and rather stupid to the reality of life.

            • Headstrong

              That’s right Bernie. You can always kill off the debate by insulting your opponent. Well done 🙂

              • UnionPacificRX

                Moderator I am asking you again to help me stop Headstrong. He is labeling me as some other person and accusing me of things that are ugly and out of context.

              • UnionPacificRX

                Moderator headstrong does not even comment on this article. i do not know what his problem is but he is following me with false accusations and labeling me with a false name. Please stop him.

          • Headstrong

            You have to understand this guy – till recently, he used the user name Mr Bernard Wijeyasingha. He’s a 58 year old Sri Lankan who immigrated to the US in the 70s, and holds a pathological hatred for India and Indians which is as yet unexplained. He’s infamous on Asian and Indian sites for spewing hate and filth – even on articles unconnected with India. In fact, he is a regular on Indian sites, where he deliberately posts really provocative and vile stuff. The final straw was when he wrote comments urging ISIS to blow up children, babies and women in India, and how he couldn’t wait for that to happen. Finally, he got called out and all his comments have been deleted – but I have taken some snapshots of his more obnoxious ones. He has also been banned from Asia Times – so he’s opened a new account.
            On this very site, when called out, some others tut-tutted, whereupon he showed his true colours spewing filth here as well.
            Note his comments to another commented SunnyD on http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2015/12/the-more-we-bomb-isis-the-stronger-they-become/

            Also, note his new user name 🙂

      • UnionPacificRX

        As for India opening her economy in 1991 she did that because she was forced to do that. She was going broke and had no choice. China opened her economy in 79, mainly due to Nixon. from 1947 to 1991 India had a closed door socialist economy that beggared her. She refused to copy other Democracies such as Western Europe, Japan, US, Canada, Australia who catapulted in wealth during that time.

    • tomandersen

      All that could be true, and yet people in India are better off today than even a decade ago. There are 6 billion active cell phones on the planet for 7 billion people. Communication is power. http://www.gapminder.org/world

      • UnionPacificRX

        Okay if you consider owning a cell phone has improved their lives then 3 thousand Indian children should not be dying each day from starvation. that is over a million per year. In 6 years the number of Indian children who have died from starvation equals the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. I find that deplorable when India is a major food exporter and food waster.
        Considering India grows at 29 babies per minute and most of them are at the bottom rung and taking into account India’s pop will reach 1.6 billion before it even starts to level off the number of children who starve to death per day will increase. How can a cell phone be an improvement in that condition?

      • UnionPacificRX

        6 billion cell phones in a population of 7 billion also has to take into account that in wealthier nations people own many cell phones.

      • UnionPacificRX

        I have a joke for you. An Indian child dying from starvation calls the nearest cremation place to have a spot ready for him since he will be dead in a few hours from lack of basic food. isn’t that a great improvement? after all without that cell phone he would just be dead on some god foresaken street.

    • rbw152

      But as India’s economy improves, so will their birthrate decline. It has happened in every country where economies have been allowed to thrive.

      Richer people have less children.

      • Richard

        They even have fewer children.

      • UnionPacificRX

        29 babies are born in India every minute 28 of them are at the bottom of the rung. the world economy is crashing right now. did you even bother to read the 550 billion loss in stock money just this Monday?: 5 trillion has been lost since China has lost her growth rate.
        You sound clueless and living in some la la land.

        • rbw152

          No I stand by what I said. Anyway, it’s not e saying it, I’m only telling what is already known as fact so ‘clueless’ is a bit harsh. Check it out for yourself:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic-economic_paradox

          • UnionPacificRX

            If you Googled everything I commented since my first comment you would have found out that the world is getting poorer not wealthier. and the subcontinent is in a crisis. Just since last Monday China’s stock market almost crashed. It would have if not for their “circuit breakers”. 550 billion dollars were lost. Since China’s economy started to shrink 5 trillion dollars has been lost. Anyway I guess we have to agree that we do not agree. Nothing harsh meant.

        • Headstrong

          That’s right Bernie. You can always resort to ad hominem attacks when someone doesn’t agree with you.
          Btw, your solution to the excess population in India is out of the box, alright! Weren’t you urging ISIS to blow up babies, children and women in India just a couple of months ago?

          • UnionPacificRX

            Moderator PLEASE stop Headstrong in accusing me of ugly comments and referring to me as if I am someone else. Headstrong is following me from forum to forum calling me “bernie” when my user name is not. Now is personally accusing me of comments I have never made

  • King Kibbutz

    Super.
    When it’s done with the world, can it come and collapse poverty in my wallet?

  • newname

    I think I wrote this elsewhere, but these statistics all deal with percentages. Since the population of the world has increased from about 1 billion in 1850 to over 7 billion today, the absolute numbers living in poverty are hugely greater than they were then.

    • rbw152

      But if the percentage of people living in poverty is declining then that’s all we can hope for.

      There were probably only about a few million people in the stone age but 100% of them were living in poverty.

      If there were a trillion people in the world and only 1% of those were in poverty that would still be more than all who lived in the stone age – but it would still be only 1% of people, which we should be very pleased about.

      Obviously the goal is 0% but come on, percentages are more of a guide to progress than total population numbers.

  • EUROJESUS

    Hahaha.
    $1.90 in 2011 prices was worth how much in 1985?
    Less or more than 20p?

    • Swarm of Drones

      Gimme the exact coordinates where they create these ridiculous statistics and labels and I’ll see what we can do, soldier.

      • Tamerlane

        It obviously worked on you oh brave keyboard warrior.

    • tomandersen

      have a look at http://www.gapminder.org/world to see this data in a nice graph.

      • EUROJESUS

        Great site. I am not denying progress btw, of course there has been progress. What was your first car? An R5, a Polo I, a Morris Minor? Now, what’s your daughter’s first car? A Golf 5, an i3, a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2? Of course there has been progress fellas. So what?

  • mickey667

    “Back then, just 52 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa went to primary school. Now, it hit 82 per cent – and rising.

    Are you getting bored of the statistics yet?”

    And the reason was because IMF funding stipulated privatisation of previously public schooling. A decision that was reversed. Jesus Fraser.

    • David S

      It’s not as great as it sounds. Class sizes are often over 100, and materials are almost non-existent in many schools, particularly government ones.

      • Todd Unctious

        If poor Africans all get diahorrea 20% of the time they miss the equivalent of 3 years schooling.

        • Richard

          They urinate into their drinking water.

  • ohforheavensake
    • grutchyngfysch

      I’m by no means a global capitalism fanboy, and share the scepticism regarding Fraser’s optimism (noting that “facts” and “statistics” can tell many stories from the same data set), but the focus on inequality qua inequality seems to me to be just as strange. If I receive a pay rise of, say, £500 but my manager (already on a higher salary) receives one of £1,000, inequality between us in terms of take-home pay, and even potentially in terms of the percentile increase of our respective salaries (depending on the figures involved), has obviously grown greater. But we’re both still better off in actuality.

      Certainly, I think there’s reason to be alert to the effects of accumulating capital at the top – but inequality in and of itself is only an issue if you assert that equality of income is desirable in and of itself. One thing that is rarely included in these studies is a suggestion of what a desirable gini coefficient value looks like. The extent to which inequality is decried would suggest that it ought to be 0 – but let’s call that for what it is: it is Communism. Is that really the intention of every article published on inequality? If so, I do wish they’d have the decency to state as much.

      • balance_and_reason

        the greatest elevation out of poverty in history , when China turned right…..or was that achieved by the surbiton public works department as well?

        • grutchyngfysch

          I don’t regard Communism at all approvingly, so any movement away from it is a good thing in my book.

  • mickey667

    “Or reading that the number of sub-Saharan African children sleeping under malaria nets has risen from 2 per cent to 55 per cent since the turn of the century”

    Because of charity and activism, not capitalism.

    God you can spot an ideologue a mile off

    • King Kibbutz

      Long live charity. And the capitalism that enables so many to give.

    • Ron Todd

      Wrong read ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo. Free nets give by charity made it harder for Africans making nets to make a profit putting people out of work.

    • Tamerlane

      Those malaria nets given by Bill Gates you mean. You missed that bit. Wonder why.

      • MathMan

        Follow-up research showed that most of the malaria nets were used for fishing. In another case of US philanthropy, Oprah Winfrey started a girls’s school in South Africa. The head stole all the money and one girl brought a dead baby to school in her bag. Before anyone cries Foul, look it up on the net, It’s well covered.

        • Tamerlane

          Welcome to Africa!

    • balance_and_reason

      microsft activism?….

  • mickey667

    “Pictures of starving Africans will always make a bigger impact than reading that six million more are alive today because of the retreat of malaria.”

    Yes, but the retreat of Malaria (like Polio) has nothing to do with capitalism. Medical science did that, human ingenuity. Capitalism (in the form of large pharmaceuticals) in fact hindered its diminishment,

    It is the case that the world advances as discovery and progress in science does, and it does this *in spite* of capitalism, which is astonishingly inefficient.

    • ohforheavensake

      Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    • King Kibbutz

      Surely sometimes capitalism helps?

      • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

        Of course it does, mickey667 is wrong.

      • Todd Unctious

        It does when you want a coke or a burger.

        • King Kibbutz

          No gherkin on yours?

    • Ron Todd

      Did the companies universities and individuals that developed modern drugs just overwhelmingly come from capitalist countries by chance?

      • Tynam

        They don’t. They come from the *successful, rich* countries. Some of these are capitalist; some are socialist.

        There are lots of dirt poor countries running on pure capitalism. Somalia is as nakedly capitalist as it gets. Not working out too well, is it?

        • Ron Todd

          I count as capitalist only countries that have rule of law or a good approximation of rule of law and secure property rights. Capitalism depends on having a market and markets only work with enforceable rules.

    • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

      This is like saying it isn’t the sun that warms us after night it’s the daytime! How do you think medial science advanced and advances? Where would many inventions and discoveries be without private patronage (more in the past but continuing) and nowadays governmental support?

      • mickey667

        Golden ages of science and discovery of the past have had nothing to do with capitalism or whether capitalism exists (being only a few hundred years old).

        From ancient mespoptamia to gallileo and da vinci, the renaissance and enlightenment, which was a break through in *thought* not profit, we have advanced as human beings because of who we are as a species.

        Don’t have such a miserable view of your fellow man. We are an amazing species that flourish and invent and discover. Nothing to do with the profit motive, but our brains slow but continuing development. Its evolution.

      • Tynam

        Doing just fine, actually. It’s the other way round: where would governments and investors be without people who are motivated by the advancement of science, instead of by money?

    • CapnZorbak

      Yes, it has nothing to do with one of the richest men in the world helping in the fight against Malaria

    • tomandersen

      So if capitalism ‘hindered its diminishment’ you would likely have a link to a reputable source on that, then?

  • jim

    Maybe poverty is collapsing elsewhere but in the west we’re going broke,our cities are being taken from us and if New year’s in Cologne is a sign of things to come we’re going to lose a lot more. Have fun. I know our afro-arab-moslem friends will.

    • douglas redmayne

      Indeed. I am hoping that the Germans have the ingenuity to find a final solution to problems like this.

  • CraigStrachan

    Suggested New Year’s resolution for Fraser: go easy on the graphs. (I know you won’t).

    • telemachus

      The graphs and histograms are a good shorthand to understand
      *
      What is missing is any understanding of the degradation felt by those in societies, including ours where the gap between the haves and have nots is widening

      • Ron Todd

        As opposed to socialist societies where only the few vanguard leaders are rich. The main gap in the old socialist countries was between those who had some security and those that always had to fear the knock on the door that would lead to the show trial, or the gulag.

        • telemachus

          You know as well as I that to achieve a fair socialist society some people will kick
          Those who have an unfair share of the resources
          It is for these that there is the gulag
          For the sake of the majority

          • Ron Todd

            n socialist countries it is not the leaders in their Zils and with dachas in the country that go to the Gulag, it is those that disagree with the leaders.

            • telemachus

              You have been reading too much right wing propaganda

              • Ron Todd

                I have read history much of it written by Russians who lived through it.

                • telemachus

                  Mostly written by emigre Russian aristocracy

                • Ron Todd

                  No by people who lived through it in Russia.

                • balance_and_reason

                  i think you are serious, the great predictor, the sage of the recent election, is an unreconstructed corbynist now….you ludicrous joke.

          • balance_and_reason

            u cannot be serious

      • The Masked Marvel

        And you ought to know all about degradation, considering your behavior and comments here.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here