I’m going to admit something: I’ve gotten into the habit of starting a book, but never finish many of them.  For some completely insane reason, I’ve decided to start another book: Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions Enriched the World, and I’ve decided to live blog it.

At one point pretty much all of humanity was incredibly poor.  We lived hand to mouth, mostly eating a little bread or rice as our primary source of nutrition, and at most had two sets of clothes.  Many children failed to reach the age of 5, and for those that did, they could expect to live to fifty-two years, and like their parents, one-third of children could be expected to die.  A good harvest might bring a little more prosperity, but it was always short-lived.  Famines and plagues, which often occurred in tandem were always just around the corner.  Things like Tuberculosis were expected to occur   Prior to 1800, the average human could manage to earn and/or consume about $3 a day, or what the average person in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, or Haiti can expect to earn today.  In short, for most of our history, humans have managed to live in the most extreme levels of poverty.

In the past 200 years, however, something incredible has happened: the average income, world-wide is now that of the United States in 1941, or Brazil today.  Today, while there are still hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty, the vast majority of humanity is exponentially better off, with a wide variety of choices than ever before.  In the poorer parts of the world, it means not worrying about starving to death, and being able to read.  In India, for example, for every illiterate adult, there are seven children who can read, even if at a rudimentary level.  In the wealthier countries, it means even the poor are likely to have a roof over their heads, good life expectancy, shorter work hours for more pay, food and clothing, and unprecedented levels of dignity that surpasses even the richest of old.  Today, you can expect to make $33 dollars a day.  From $3 to $33: incredible.

Despite this, we are constantly told of impending disaster: climate change, overpopulation, cultural changes, etc are going to cause the end of humanity.  For example in 1800, there were fewer than 1 billion people in the world.  Today there are 7 billion.  Supposedly, we should have long died out, but here we are today, as strong as ever.  A huge part of this success is increases in production.  The average person can produce 70 times as much as the average person in 1800.  These larger economies means people can spend more time developing new forms of technology to clean up the air and water, and make it ever easier to live, while others can afford to spend time writing, or making music, or debating ideas.  In the wealthiest of countries, one can expect $100 per day.  Fully one-sixth of the world’s population lives in countries where $100 per day is the norm, not the exception.

What caused this?  Tune in next time time to find out!