Saturday, 25 January 2014

The poverty curve

In Bill Gates' annual newsletter, 2014 edition he addresses 3 myths about global poverty.
  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation
All 3 sections are interesting; I have mixed thoughts about number 3, though noticed after I had read it that is was authored by Melinda Gates.

In the first section Gates has a graph on the change in individual wealth of the world over the last 50 years. Note that the x-axis is logarithmic.


This comes about through productivity and trade. Wealth is created. Some of the big drivers of productivity include rule of law, private property, and low tax which suggests that had we seen optimum conditions in the last few decades we may have seen even better improvements. Still, this is encouraging. Gates mentions several other drivers such as health and education. Not mentioned (as a cause of productivity) is energy which allows significantly more output per person. The climate change paragraph can be ignored, developing nations need cheap and reliable energy, not low carbon energy.

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