AdamSmithWorks Teaching Resources
“The gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people in the world escaping poverty, hunger and disease.”
This is the finding from the UN Development Report in hailing the marked drop in extreme poverty from 18.2% in 2008 to 8.6% in 2018. As global poverty falls and hundreds of millions earn rising incomes, global income inequality is also reduced.
To quote Deirdre McCloskey*, “the poorest since 1800 have been the greatest beneficiaries of commercially tested betterment.” The average poor person in the United States today lives better than any rich person of the 18th century as capitalism (or innovism, as McCloskey prefers) enriched the equality of access to life-changing goods, services, methods of production, healthcare, daily comforts and more.
Poor Compared to Whom?
But what about the news of wage stagnation and particular demographic poverty in rich countries including rising homelessness in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco? How do we compare absolute poverty statistics of people living on $2 a day in Cameroon to the relative poverty within the U.S. at various income levels? Nearly one in six U.S. children live in poverty today. After multiple iterations of anti-poverty programs, education and healthcare initiatives, food insecurity and tenuous housing circumstances plague many poor families.
As free and responsible global citizens, how should we consider our role toward the poor throughout the world? Should they be less of a concern to us than our domestic poor, or the poorest in our own communities? The UN Sustainability Goal of extreme poverty eradication by the year 2030 may be unrealistically ambitious. How would you prioritize this goal among domestic and global concerns that compete for scarce resources?
Stay tuned for next month’s topic! We hope to enhance your classroom discussions with more collections of Smith -related resources in this New Year! Thanks for joining us and for sending us suggestions.
~ The AdamSmithWorks Educational Resource Team
* Our sister site Econlib recently hosted their first VRG focused on McCloskey's new book, Why Liberalism Works. As with some of ours, participants were invited to pose questions to McCloskey, which our own Amy Willis posed to her in this AMA (Ask Me Anything). Enjoy!