In relative terms, the poorest people in the developed economies and billions in the poor countries have been the biggest beneficiaries. The rich became richer, true. But the poor have gas heating, cars, smallpox vaccinations, indoor plumbing, cheap travel, rights for women, low child mortality, adequate nutrition, taller bodies, doubled life expectancy, schooling for their kids, newspapers, a vote, a shot at university and respect.
Never had anything similar happened, not in the glory of Greece or the grandeur of Rome, not in ancient Egypt or medieval China. What I call The Great Enrichment is the main fact and finding of economic history.
Yet you will have heard that our big problem is inequality, and that we must make men and women all equal. No, we should not—at least, not if we want to lift up the poor.
(Note: I disagree with a point that Deirdre makes elsewhere in her excellent op-ed – namely, Deirdre’s endorsement of heavy inheritance taxation as a desirable policy. I’m sure that Deirdre seldom encounters people who are less trusting than she is of exercises of government power, but I am indeed one of those rare people. [On the question of heavy inheritance taxation – a policy also favored by my late colleague Jim Buchanan – see Gary Anderson’s and Pamela Brown’s splendid 1985 paper, “Heir Pollution.”])
Speaking of Todd, he’s one of the authors of this new book, from Oxford University Press, on consumer credit (which I’ve just ordered).