American Elephants

One of the Most Remarkable Achievements in Human History by The Elephant's Child


Here is a chart of one of the most remarkable achievements in  human history: the 80% reduction in world poverty in only 36 years. In 1970,  26.5% of the world’s population were living on $1 or less (in 1987 dollars) to only 5.4% in 2006 — led by the 97% reduction in the poverty rate in East Asia (excluding Japan and Hong Kong) from 58.8% to  1.7% over that time period.  (Mark Perry: AEI)

It’s the greatest achievement in human history, and you never hear about it.

80 percent of the world’s worst poverty has been eradicated in less than 40 years. That has never, ever happened before.

So what did that? What accounts for that? United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.

It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.

I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented.
(Arthur Brooks, President, AEI)


3 Comments so far
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I’d agree wholeheartedly that free enterprise is responsible for much of this success but I’d disagree that this phenomenon was in any way new. I’ve been reading about medieval Coventry and, in miniature, the people played out the East, West divide. One side was owned by absentee Lords and the other was under the ‘care’ of the church. In exchange for man power the Lords gave their people land and other rights we now consider essential eg right to trial by our peers. Apart from sending a percentage to the Lord of the day, the people were allowed to benefit from their hard word. At the other end of the city, the workers for the church had to hand over the fruits of their labour so that the abbots could return to them what they needed and store any spare for the poor and for times of famine. Guess which side flourished?


Comment by TinyCO2

You are misunderstanding. Private property, as you said, made a terrific difference. Even today, countries where there is no real idea of private property, suffer enormously. See the work of Hernando de Soto in South America. An excellent book on “Private Property and Freedom” by Richard Pipes is worth your time. What Arthur Brooks extolls today is globalization, free trade and international entrepreneurship.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

[…] illustration of “One of the Most Remarkable Achievements in Human History.”Some good news to be celebrated. The Decliners are sure that there is more poverty, more […]


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