Poverty Is the Natural State of Mankind

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Today, rapper and actor Common quoted Representative Ayanna Pressley as saying: “Poverty is not naturally occurring; it is a policy choice.”

Pressley is wrong. Poverty is the natural state of humanity. Well, poverty and violence. Lots and lots of violence. Until the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of human beings lived in generational destitution. Really, most humans lived in conditions that make modern poverty look downright luxurious. In 200,000 years of human existence, we can safely say that 200 of them haven’t featured interminable hardship for the vast majority of people. It was only thanks to the rise of capitalism, industrialization, fossil fuels, and liberalism that some of us could escape it. Today, the average American is wealthier than John Rockefeller (though I can’t speak for their souls).

For many decades, collectivist ideologies retarded this growth for millions of people around the world. But that, too, is being rectified. Global extreme poverty has been in decline for the past 30 years. Now, I understand that Pressley is a politician and that this is hyperbole, but, increasingly, Americans seem to be convincing themselves that they are living in the worst moment in history, when, even with this pandemic, they live in the most peaceful, safest, and prosperous decade of human existence. We can always do better, of course. But the United States doesn’t keep people poor. It does the opposite.

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