Flowering of Civilization

by Don Boudreaux on April 20, 2010

in Cleaned by Capitalism, Complexity & Emergence, Growth, Standard of Living, The Future, Trade

The lead photograph in this New York Times report tells an interesting and humane story.  It’s of Kenyan workers moving a large cart of dying flowers to be destroyed.

The Kenyan flowers were meant for European markets, but the flight cancellations caused by the Icelandic volcano resulted in these flowers never getting to market.

That part of the story is a bit sad.  Europeans who would have enjoyed these flowers don’t get them, and the Kenyan flower-growers who would have enjoyed the income from selling their flowers don’t get that income.

But the deeper lesson is that peaceful, commercial integration between equatorial Africans and Europeans has bettered the lives of both peoples.  Europeans have better and less-expensive access to fresh flowers.  But while this improvement in the living standards of ordinary Europeans is relatively mild – I’ll bet that very few Europeans who buy fresh flowers from Kenya ever realize that their lives are made better by such commerce – the improvement in the lives of Kenyans looks to be substantial.

Look carefully at the workplace in that picture.  It’s clean, airy, uncrowded, and well-lit.  And the workers there, I’m certain, earn wages that are far above the subsistence level, and also above whatever these workers earned prior to the growth of the transcontinental trade in flowers made possible by the jet engine.

The improvement in the quality of life of ordinary Kenyans made possible today by globalization is noticeable.

Ten or eleven years ago my friend Bob Higgs visited Kenya.  He returned with pictures, of course.  Some of these showed small mud huts that were the homes of some of the Kenyans he met.  I don’t know how many Kenyans today live in such conditions, but I do know that, as long as globalization continues to spread and as long as Kenya is part of it, the day is not far off when mud huts in Kenya – like mud huts in Europe – will no longer exist.

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