As scholars have noted, historically speaking, grinding poverty was the norm for most ordinary people. Even in the most economically advanced parts of the world, life used to be miserable. To give one example, at the end of the 18th century, ten million of France’s twenty-three million people relied on some sort of public or private charity to survive and three million were full-time beggars.
Thanks to industrial revolution and trade, economic growth in the West accelerated to historically unprecedented levels. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, real incomes in the West increased fifteen-fold. But the chasm that opened up as a result of the Western take-off is now closing.
The rise of the non-Western world is, unambiguously, a result of economic growth spurred by the abandonment of central-planning and integration of many non-Western countries into the global economy. After economic liberalization in China in 1978, to give one example, real incomes rose thirteen-fold.
As Princeton University Professor Angus Deaton notes in his book The Great Escape, “[T]he rapid growth of average incomes, particularly in China and India, and particularly after 1975, did much to reduce extreme poverty in the world. In China most of all, but also in India, the escape of hundreds of millions from traditional and long established poverty qualifies as the greatest escape of all.”
Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing, and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. His articles have been published in the Financial Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The U.K. Spectator, Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Reason magazine, and various other outlets both in the United States and overseas. Tupy has appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN International, BBC World, CNBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and other channels. He has worked on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Commission on Angola, testified before the U.S. Congress on the economic situation in Zimbabwe, and briefed the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department on political developments in Central Europe. Tupy received his B.A. in international relations and classics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain.
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