The Poor Benefit Most
Deirdre McCloskey’s Great Fact is the leaps and bounds that human well-being has made over the last 200 years. The improvement is a factor of at least 16 in monetary terms, and as much as 100-fold when accounting for the improved quality of goods. Think of the difference between a CD and an iPod. Not 16 or 100 percent; 16 or 100-fold. That’s huge.
The improvement is so huge that she believes the Great Fact is the most important event in human history since the Agricultural Revolution asserted itself around 10,000 years ago. And the best news about the Great Fact should bring cheer to anyone who holds a place in their heart for the poor:
In statistics and in substance the very poorest have benefitted the most. Robert Fogel, a careful student of such matters, notes that “the average real income of the bottom fifth of the [American] population has multiplied by some twentyfold since 1890, several times more than the gain realized by the rest of the population.” The bottom 10 percent have moved from undernutrition to overnutrition, and from crowded slum housing to uncrowded slum housing, and from broken-down buses to broken-down automobiles.
Deirdre McCloskey, Bourgeouis Dignity, p. 72.
There’s still a ways to go, obviously. So let’s keep it going. But anyone who denies the significance of the massive gains already made contributes nothing towards the noble cause of eradicating global poverty, and in fact poisons the project.