David R. Henderson  

Tyler Hits a Home Run

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This piece by Tyler Cowen is a beautiful combination of clarity and passion. I knew that Tyler is a very good writer: I had no idea that he is a great writer. This is great writing.

One highlight:

In this movie, the causes of poverty are oppression and oppression alone. There is no recognition that poverty is the natural or default state of mankind and that a special set of conditions must come together for wealth to be produced. There is no discussion of what this formula for wealth might be. There is no recognition that the wealth of the West lies upon any foundations other than those of theft, exploitation and the oppression of literal or virtual colonies.


From the movie, you would never know that the Bolivian region of Santa Cruz is relatively prosperous, that it seeks greater trade and contact with the outside world, and that perhaps it will be oppressed or taxed into submission by the rest of the country, including some of the politicians interviewed on screen.

And one more:

It is never mentioned that in the 1920s Argentina was about as rich as Canada, mostly because of trade.

I was disappointed to see that one of the organizations that embraces the film is Amnesty International. I'm glad I let my membership in that organization lapse, although on different grounds. (AI started pushing for U.S. military intervention in Darfur.)

I have one disagreement. Tyler writes:

Take Barbados and Jamaica, for example: They have similar histories as well as similar lingual, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Yet Barbados is much wealthier than Jamaica; why might that be? Stock ideological theories of both Left and Right don't readily help us understand the reasons.

I actually addressed that on this blog.

H/T to Dan Klein.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Tom Church writes:


Have you written on your disagreement with pushing for US military intervention in Darfur? I'd like to read an explanation.

Can anyone else point me to his thoughts on this?


David R. Henderson writes:

Dear Tom,

Yes. Here it is:



Billy writes:

I love the coup de grace:

Given the obvious intent that The End of Poverty should be a film version of a propaganda poster and a recruiting device for a new era of anti-capitalist protest, it verges on embarrassing that, when all is said and done, this film does exactly what it complains about: It exploits and markets poor individuals from the South for the purposes of wealthier people, in this case Western moviemakers, commentators and intellectuals.
The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

Thanks for linking to the review. I very much enjoyed it.

1. "Never mentioned is the fact that these so-called natural economies were themselves based on prior conquest and oppression."

I finally saw Apocalypto about a week ago. After watching the atrocities to which the Mayans subjected their captives, I can't say that I felt a great deal of sympathy for the two Mayans (they were chasing Jaguar's Paw) who, at the end of the film, were the first to lay eyes upon the Conquistadors landing on the beach. The following phrase came to mind:

"What goes around, comes around".

2. "I’m willing to state that those sweatshop jobs are better than the “natural economy” jobs they displaced,"

So many people complain about Capitalism that from now on I have decided to ask people what they think our current situation would be if there had been no industrial revolution and division of labor. I guarantee that those who believe we would be enjoying a simpler life by living off the land are the same ones who can't bear to look at a blade of crabgrass without calling their landscaper in a panic. :)

Isaac K. writes:

I'm sorry I missed the comment date on the jamaica/barbados articles, but the GDP increase of Jamaica was twice that of Barbados over the past year.
Also, .8% vs. 2.2% grown over a 40+ year timespan? ultimately it's statistically irrelevant. Comparing them to each other without comparing them to the mean global growth in GDP/PC is statistically misleading.

Just saying.

Isaac K. writes:

I looked up what data I could in terms of census and GDP.

Jamaica is about 10 times the population and has experienced over 2.5 times the growth of Barbados (38.83% vs 15.42%).

I was only able to get international GDP data backing up to 1962, but Jamaica has had a much higher growth of GDP (63.47%) than Barbados. (55.68%) from 69-02.

Since their GDP growth rate wasn't proportional to their population growth rate, of course their per capita GDP growth was lower. This happens all the time in countries. The Bahamas faired even worse than Jamaica did over this time period.
The UAE experienced a DECLINE of over 70% in GDP per capita, simply because so many people emigrated there from other arab states. And this was BECAUSE it had more economic freedom than it's surrounding countries.

Sorry, this particular bit of vitriol against government doesn't work for me. Because here, it isn't true.

Isaac K. writes:

I meant I could only get data back to 1962, but the fact still stands, the intervening 7 years wouldn't have been so significant.

Isaac K. writes:

I meant I could only get data back to 1969, but the fact still stands, the intervening 7 years wouldn't have been so significant.

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