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Leftists Are Trying to Muddy the Waters on Falling Global Poverty

August 24, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

World Bank data show the number and proportion of people in dire
poverty worldwide has plummeted over the past two decades. In 1990,
35.5pc of the world’s population (1.9bn people) lived below
the equivalent of $1.90 (£1.47) per day. By 2013, this had fallen
to 10.9pc, or just 782m. That’s the most rapid fall in
poverty in global history.

Viewed from our lofty opulence, it’s easy to downplay this
statistic as indicative of a different poverty — that of
ambition. Yet viewed in isolation it is surely good news.

Unless, of course, you are a left-wing academic keen to decry
the effects of globalisation and capitalism. Numerous commentators
and intellectuals with precisely these ambitions are trying to
muddy the waters and confuse the public on this unadulterated
positive development.

Whatever line you set,
the direction of travel is clear: the proportion of the global
population in poverty is falling significantly.

In an interview aired earlier this week, Al Jazeera journalist
Mehdi Hasan challenged Harvard University psychologist Steven
Pinker (author of Enlightenment Now) on using the statistic as
evidence the world is getting richer. “But surely you know
…,” Mr Hasan claimed, “that there are numerous
studies and a number of scholars who dispute that poverty measure
as arbitrary, as inaccurate, and that in reality … about four
billion remain in poverty today.”

Hasan credits his line of questioning to research from Dr Jason
Hickel, an anthropologist and fellow at the Royal Society of Arts.
Dr Hickel has made a name for himself by throwing the kitchen sink
at what he perceives as Panglossian takes about global poverty
reduction, even going as far as an article title he authored
labelling it a “lie”.

Faced with the evidence of large proportionate declines in
global poverty, Dr Hickel prefers looking at absolute numbers of
the world’s poor — largely reflective of population
growth — to claim progress is slower than suggested.

He is particularly critical of the UN Millennium Development
Goal poverty target, which he says was revised from numbers of
people to a proportion, limited to apply to developing countries
rather than the whole world, reset to different base years, and
arbitrarily backdated to 1990, all in aid of telling this dramatic
story of poverty reduction.

To ram home his point that lived poverty is worse than it seems,
he also makes the miraculous discovery that setting a much higher
poverty threshold implies there is more poverty. He concludes that
the Millennium Development Goals themselves have been a
failure.

Hickel may well have a point that the poverty reduction we have
seen has little or nothing to do with the UN, aid or these …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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