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AOC is 100% Wrong About Inequality

by | Oct 5, 2022

…[I]n 1800 AD, 95% of the world was destitute, living in what we’d now consider extreme poverty. In 1900 AD, about 75% were.

 

Now, maybe 9% of people are, while nine out of ten people live above extreme poverty. In 1950, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan were very poor. Singer would have said we have duties to give our extra income to their citizens. In 2020, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan are very rich—indeed, the average person in Singapore is now richer than the average American. Singer today would say the Japanese, Koreans, etc.,have duties to give their extra income away. But we should ask, how did the people in these recently poor countries go from being the kinds of people Singer thinks ought to be helped to the kinds of people Singer thinks ought to give help?

 

The answer: It’s not as though Japan and Korea went from being full of people who need help to people who can help because anyone listened to Singer. Rather, they became rich precisely because people ignored Singer’s advice. Over the past 60 years, people in already rich countries bought toys, transistor radios, stereos, video game consoles, VCRs, DVD players, Blu-ray players, smartphones, automobiles, electronics, and a wide range of other morally insignificant luxury goods they didn’t need from these countries. The result wasn’t that their people starved while their economies went on making useless trinkets. The result was instead that their people were liberated from poverty and joined the ranks of the rich.

 

Today, China is starting to move toward being a middle- income country. Some parts of China are quite rich, while others remain poor. But it was only when China partly liberalized, and when Americans and others started buying so many unneeded, morally insignificant luxury goods from China, that China finally started to escape extreme poverty.

 

There are a few historical examples of countries avoiding sudden collapse or utter chaos thanks to handouts from wealthier countries, but there are no examples of countries having sustained, poverty-ending growth as a result of such handouts. Rather, all of the rich countries grew rich by participating in the world market economy, by producing things others wanted at prices they could afford to pay. Historically, the thing that eradicates extreme destitution is not throwing money at destitution, but throwing money into the very forms of commerce Singer wants to eliminate and regards as morally wrong.

 

– Jason Brennan, Ph.D., Why It’s OK to Want to Be Richp. 153-5

 

About Keith Knight

Keith Knight is Managing Editor at the Libertarian Institute, host of the Don't Tread on Anyone podcast and editor of The Voluntaryist Handbook: A Collection of Essays, Excerpts, and Quotes.

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