It’s not easy bein’ an American worker these days. There’s a lot of pressure coming from around the world; folks wantin’ our jobs, willing to work for less money than we’re workin’ for.
It’s hard being an America sometimes.
But there’s an upside. For the folks who care about such things, the world’s poorest people, people living a life exactly like their parents, grandparents and ancestors have lived for generations, are finally emerging from poverty. Perhaps for the first time ever, families are leaving the shackles of poverty and rising towards the hope of a middle class, perhaps dare I say, even more.
There is a lot of hand wringing, by both sides – conservatives and liberals – over the fact that we’re losing jobs overseas. And I have to agree, we’ve seen lot and lots of work head down that road. And slowly, as the nation finds itself having access to less expensive sources of labor, the natural order of things is to create an environment where some of our labor, American labor, is less expensive too.
However, the upside is that we have access to a far greater menu of goods at prices that are the envy of the ages. We have blueberries from Chili in February for $2.50 a pint. Swiss chocolate next to French wines. We have sausages made from every where next to mustards made no where near the sausages.
Scientific calculators capable of being programed now sell for less than $20. When I was 11, calculators that could add, subtract, multiple and divide were $110.
And you know what else is good news?
The best estimates for global poverty come from the World Bank’s Development Research Group, which has just updated from 2005 its figures for those living in absolute poverty (not be confused with the relative measure commonly used in rich countries). The new estimates show that in 2008, the first year of the finance-and-food crisis, both the number and share of the population living on less than $1.25 a day (at 2005 prices, the most commonly accepted poverty line) was falling in every part of the world. This was the first instance of declines across the board since the bank started collecting the figures in 1981 (see chart).
The estimates for 2010 are partial but, says the bank, they show global poverty that year was half its 1990 level. The world reached the UN’s “millennium development goal” of halving world poverty between 1990 and 2015 five years early. This implies that the long-term rate of poverty reduction—slightly over one percentage point a year—continued unabated in 2008-10, despite the dual crisis.
And where has most of this progress been seen?
A lot of the credit goes to China. Half the long-term rate of decline is attributable to that country alone, which has taken 660m people out of poverty since 1981.
660,000,000 people have escaped bone CRUSHING poverty in the last 30 years. That’s 22,000,000 per year. That’s just about 2,000,000 people a month!
We’re richer because we get great and awesome things that cost much less. THEY are richer because they are richer. And THAT is a great story about how capitalism reduces poverty. Don’t ever forget, where man has been more wealthy in the history of the world is when he has been most free, free to trade, to create to innovate. In all of time, man is better off when he can sell what he owns.