The End of Poverty — Revisited

To a previous piece , “The End of Poverty“, my friend Indradeep added a few thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. I take him seriously since he’s a fellow member of my tribe (namely, economists). In the following, I will do my best to address the points that he has raised. But first, here’s what I wrote in summary in my piece:

Technology is advancing at an exponential pace. Therefore the cost of energy will continue to drop. Therefore the cost of production of stuff will monotonically decrease, until a point that it will be practically close to zero. Therefore all the basics of life will be available for consumption at zero price. Therefore extreme poverty will be solved. This will happen in about 15 years.

I reproduce Indradeep’s comment here for reference:

Hard to argue with the idea that technology will reduce cost to near-zero levels. But the rest of it borders on wishful thinking. Especially, the expectation that some system of distribution will magically appear, sounds almost as sanguine as the familiar and now roundly discredited argument advanced by free-market fanatics that free trade is surely beneficial and the matter of how the winners compensate the losers is only a minor wrinkle that we do not need to worry about. Political economy, voice, agency – these things are nowhere in the picture. Does not a system of representation of voice have to precede the appearance of a system of distribution? If the rich have no intrinsic interest in alleviating poverty, how will that first system come into existence?

Let’s examine the “now roundly discredited argument advanced by free-market fanatics that free trade is surely beneficial”. Continue reading “The End of Poverty — Revisited”

The Growth of Inequality

In the context of exponential technological growth (a topic that I explored in the piece “The End of Poverty“), Akshar asked in his comment, “Don’t you think the gap between a poor person in India and a poor person in say USA would only increase ?”

Yes, I think that the gap will only increase with time. But that is just part of a broader trend of increasing inequality in numerous dimensions — within and between nations. In technical terms, the Gini coefficients (a measure of inequality, where 1 means perfect inequality and 0 means perfect equality) will continually increase.  Continue reading “The Growth of Inequality”