Market antipathies and neo-Malthusian doomsday talk are widespread and go hand-in-hand. There is much that they miss. Deirdre McCloskey celebrated the Great Fact. And the world now knows that Nobelist Angus Deaton celebrated The Great Escape. Deaton notes in his Preface that, “The Great Escape is a movie about men escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp in WW II. The Great Escape in this book is the story of mankind’s escape from deprivation and early death, how people have managed to make their lives better and led the way for others to follow.” (p. ix) Read the book.
Note Deaton's last phrase. One can say that there is “good inequality and “bad inequality.” The former refers to earned success and is enlightening; the latter refers to entrenched and sclerotic rent-seeking, the bread and butter of our political class.
Back to Facts and Escapes. Steven Landsburg put it this way:
“Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing. There were wars, political intrigue, the invention or agriculture – but none of that stuff had much effect on the quality of people’s lives. Almost everyone lived on the modern equivalent of $400 to $600 a year, just above the subsistence level. True there were always aristocracies who lived far better, but numerically, they were quite insignificant …” Steven Landsburg (WSJ, 2007)
William Baumol and his colleagues wrote:
“The most astonishing thing about the extraordinary growth and innovation that the U.S. and other economies have achieved over the past two centuries is that it does not astonish us.” (W.J. Baumol, R.E. Litan and C.J. Schramm, Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth andProsperity, 2007)
There is more shouting from many rooftops left to do. Great that the relevant Nobel Committee is on the case.