Tuesday, January 24, 2017
It had never happened before - a world in which many people, from Belgium to Botswana, have pretty good food and housing and education. We've not yet achieved, God knows, an earthly paradise. A little over seven billion people inhabit the planet. One billion of them still live in nations of economic hell: a loaf of moldy bread, some curdled milk, bad schools, bad shelter, bad clothing, bad sanitation. Most people in Haiti or Afghanistan live so, as do, in richer countries, many of the very poor. God knows that too.
Until 1800, though, such a hell was what everybody except a handful of nobles and priests and merchants expected, year after terrible year. We have achieved over the past few centuries for ordinary people worldwide, materially speaking, unevenly, for the first time, a pretty good purgatory. The whole world's average income, for example, now approaches that of present day Brazil, or of the United States in 1941. Since 1800, in other words, and especially since 1900, the goods and service available to the average human being, and the scope for a full human life, have startlingly expanded. The event justifies its label, "the Great Enrichment."
-Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital Or Institutions, Enriched The World