Sunday, December 12, 2004

Brooks: Good News About Poverty

Developing countries are seeing their economies expand by 6.1 percent this year - an unprecedented rate - and, even if you take China, India and Russia out of the equation, developing world growth is still around 5 percent.

In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.

What explains all this good news? The short answer is this thing we call globalization. The poor nations that opened themselves up to trade, investment and those evil multinational corporations saw the sharpest poverty declines. Write this on your forehead: Free trade reduces world suffering.
While I think there could still be a good debate over free trade vs. fair trade, I agree with his basic point. There have been many articles condemning the call centers in India taking jobs away from the US. But these are exactly the kind of jobs we want India to create. These jobs don't ruin the environment, they require a good education and are using people's brains rather than their manual labor. In the US we lose one crappy paying job, in India they create a good paying job that is estimated to create 3 other jobs in the economy. I see no better way to reduce Indian poverty then to continue the outsourcing. I see no better way to alleviate world poverty than to continue the outsourcing.
Economists have been arguing furiously about whether inequality is increasing or decreasing. But it now seems likely that while inequality has grown within particular nations, it is shrinking among individuals worldwide. The Catalan economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin looked at eight measures of global inequality and found they told the same story: after remaining constant during the 70's, inequality among individuals has since declined.
Another interesting point. For all that we hear about American inequality going up, maybe what is happening is that globalization is causing localized inequality while promoting global equality. I had previously writen that we should not ask if Wal-Mart is good for the US, we should ask if it is good for the world. Same thing here. The question is not whether economic inequality is decreasing in the US, but whether if it is decreasing in the world.

via New York Times

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