Poverty today is truly miraculous

Leon Louw
The Daily Telegraph
1 September 2002 E-Mail this page to a friend

Mud oozed between the village woman's toes, as she made her way between the shanty houses. Not plain mud, but mud containing rotting garbage, human and animal faeces, urine, and years of decaying vegetation. She milked an emaciated cow.

The stench in this small village in north India was appalling. A gaunt man vomited from the window of a dilapidated bus. Children sat in wet dung and urine making dung pats to dry for fuel; a man rummaged in a garbage heap, like the pig and goat nearby, for whatever might be edible.

This sort of poverty is miraculous. Ghastly, but miraculous, and perhaps the most extraordinary accomplishment of modern governments. Poor countries are the world's true "economic miracles", not post-war Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Botswana or Mauritius.

Prosperity ... is no "miracle". It is the natural outcome of relative economic freedom.
Prosperity in such countries is no "miracle". It is the natural outcome of relative economic freedom. If there are "economic miracles", they are backward countries, where governments have succeeded in preventing prosperity. India is a nation of manifestly energetic and enterprising people. If left alone, they would prosper. This was clearly demonstrated when India implemented modest pro-market reforms and the country was rewarded with one of the world's highest growth rates.

However, India's flirtation with prosperity may be short-lived. It has formidable enemies, including most first-world governments, leading academics and scientists, wealthy foundations, thousands of non-governmental officers, influential journalists, passionate activists, and countless other powerful interests.

These forces constitute a new kind of colonialism, which we might call eco-imperialism. As a delegate at the World Summit in Johannesburg, I have seen that it has been vigourously represented here. It is more insidious, pervasive and potentially more devastating than traditional imperialism.

As I was driven through the squalor of urban and rural poverty on my visit to India, the newspapers of the day carried reports of esoteric and costly new environmental, health and safety laws, promoted by vocal opponents of spontaneous development because it is supposedly "unsustainable".

These people are seductive protagonists of the "precautionary principle" in response to exaggerated or imaginary environmental risks. They are enemies of globalisation, which would enable poor countries to attract foreign investment, import cheap goods, and export competitively to rich countries.

These latter-day imperialists are neo-Luddites who place elitist environmental whims and nebulous fears of "resource depletion" above the needs of the world's destitute billions.

People in developing countries should no longer be influenced by neo-imperial agendas...
They seek to impose first-world conceptions of environmentalism and human development on developing countries. They do not want poor countries to follow the path that made the prosperity of their own countries possible. Advanced countries became advanced by mining minerals, harvesting timber, converting jungles (rain-forests) and swamps (wetlands) into cities and farms and domesticating and commercialising their wildlife.

People in developing countries should no longer be influenced by neo-imperial agendas but agree on one simple principle: that the most urgent priority is to achieve maximal growth and development. The unknowable needs of future generations and the virtues of a low-risk environment must, by any caring calculus, be secondary.

For all the strident prophecies of doom by the anti-development anti-trade brigade, not much is known with certainty about most global and environmental concerns. Almost all pessimistic predictions about the environment, scarcity of resources and over-population have been 180 degrees wrong for more than a generation.

They can no longer be taken seriously. Exaggerations and lies in the litany of scare stories about the state of the planet have been exposed repeatedly by a growing number of realists. Most importantly, whether or not things are as bad as we are told, the simple fact is that superior conditions, however measured, arise in countries with freer economies.

These are countries where governments do more for their people by doing less. Their poorest communities are wealthy by global standards. Their poorest citizens enjoy the world's highest living standards, literacy, life expectancy and incomes; they have more housing, safe water, food, leisure, welfare, security, democracy and human rights than most people in the world.

These countries also have the least unemployment, pollution, corruption, disease and resource scarcity; and the best services, technology, health care, education, telecommunications and transport. No matter how one measures welfare, there's more of it where governments refrain from causing poverty by curtailing markets.

"Sustainable development" theory is voodoo science at its worst; pure gobbledygook.
"It's not that simple," developing country leaders are warned. Rapid growth and development for suffering people is in some mysterious sense "unsustainable", as if the word has coherent meaning in this context. It has none. "Sustainable development" theory is voodoo science at its worst; pure gobbledygook.

Sustainable for how long: 10, 100, 1000, a million or a billion years? For whom? Advanced people with unknowable future technology and resources? What must be sustainable? Utilisation of "non-renewables"? Why not consume them? They are resources only if used. For how long must we conserve them? Must our decendants, by the same twisted logic, do likewise? Forever?

The best we can do for future generations is generate maximal wealth to let them live better lives. Even radical greens now admit that basic resources are so plentiful as to be essentially limitless. If anything is unsustainable it is the alternatives to development: stagnation and regression.

World leaders have to be bold and wise if the developing countries are to enjoy liberation from poverty. They need Third World policies for Third World countries. This means they must resist unsustainable neo-colonial babble and do what rich countries did to become rich, not what they do now. They will then find that people will improve the quality of their lives rapidly. They will exchange the "miracle of poverty" for the non-miracle of spontaneous prosperity, and the scenes I witnessed will disappear from the world.

The author is director of the Free Market Foundation of South Africa

Previous Visitor Comments

Name Email Subject Location
If inmarfotion were soccer, this would be a goooooal!
can india eradicate poverty - when 60 million people do not able toget one sqare meal a day

Willie Wonkaeateateat@morefood.comLet's not forget....
Associations that oppose genetically engineered foods from entering certain countries.

Ayoade Adegbitesaveandserve@earthling.netPoverty alleviation
Poverty is a terrible things.It destroy all thing it come in contact with. It is so corrosive .In Nigeria politics ,it is a word that is common.But most of the fund the so called poverty alleviation programme enter in private individuals pockets. Lets the poor one are informed and trainning for sustainbility.Their lives will improved

here is an article, luv ya and miss ya Eradication
The fact that people are poverty stricken because they are illiterate has little bearing. People must be provided with necessary training prior to the actual implemetaion of the project. Those who are cable of sponsoring and participate must ensure that these projects are self relient. to be concise, produce what is demanded in the market (Guidence by National and Global market forces which are supply and demand. I am optimistic that sustainability will not more be a pie on the sky. The Author by proffession is a Researcher Academic: Masters students in Development Studies.

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