… is from pages 1-2 of the 2016 second edition of Thomas Sowell’s excellent volume Wealth, Poverty and Politics (footnote excluded; link added):
Even in a country long recognized as one of the most prosperous on earth, the United States of America, at the beginning of the twentieth century only ten percent of American homes had flush toilets and only 3 percent had electric lights. There is nothing automatic about prosperity. Standards of living that we take for granted today have been achieved only within a very minute fraction of the history of the human race, and are by no means the norm among most of the people of the world today. Standards of living far below what we would consider to be poverty have been the norm for untold thousands of years. It is not the origins of poverty which need to be explained, since the human species began in poverty. What requires explaining are the things that created and sustained higher standards of living.
DBx: Yes. A million times yes. Yet this point is as incessantly ignored as it is undeniably correct.
I emphasize to all of my students that the full title of Adam Smith’s 1776 book is An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Adam Smith understood that wealth, not poverty, has causes.