Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Need for Historical Perspective on Poverty

Sir Ronald Cohen posts: “The invisible hand and the invisible heart” in Principles of People-Centred Economics HERE 
Today, Sir Ronald talks of replacing "the invisible hand" with "the invisible heart " reflecting what was said almost two decades earlier, in a proposed alternative to traditional capitalism [video] and in 2004 it was a message he brought to the UK with a business plan:
3. Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand' does not mean 'non-existent', or detached.  It means what it says: invisible.  That is, not observable. …
Back in 1996, P-CED's founder Terry Hallman drew attention in his seminal paper to both the moral and strategic case for tacking the problem of poverty.”
The text is somewhat disjointed and I am not sure what either Sir Ronald Cohen or Terry Hallman are on about.  It seems to be another blueprint to save the world from the only phenomenon called ‘capitalism' that has raised millions from poverty to standards of living beyond anything achieved in previous millennia, including the frightful poverty experiences of Soviet-style communism. 
Much of the ancient curse of poverty persists in large geographical spaces of the world affecting billions of people, though the total numbers living on $1 a day has diminished at an historical high also by a billion or so since the 1960s.   The poor in the richer countries have lower standards than the very rich, but those poor are incomparably richer than the richest minority living in the millennia before the change from agriculture and primitive commercial markets, including the richest Emperors, Kings, War Lords and Conquerors. 
It would help if those who seek to “tackle the problem of poverty” for the very best of humanitarian reasons, like Terry Hallman and Sir Ronald Cohen, and many others, would get some historical perspectives on the relative scale of human poverty over the last 1,000 years.
Recently the fastest growing economies in the world are found on the African continent, let alone India, China and Southeast Asia.  This welcome successful change is largely due to the market economies of these countries, not always thanks to their governments, too many of which suffer from endemic corruption, political factionalism and the deathly destruction caused by insurgency and its counters.
I doubt if anything positive will arise from empty distinctions drawn from “invisible hands” or “invisible hearts”.


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