Feb 9, 2014

McCloskey's "The Great Enrichment"

It was a hot afternoon in Jérémie, western Haiti, I was writing a post on the telecommunications industry and Internet access in that Caribbean country. It was amazing to realize that wireless Internet was widespread in Haiti, and that contrasted with the scene across the patio: on a paved street countless children were carrying plastic buckets full of water on their heads. "Will Haiti ever catch up?" Based on this beautiful essay by Deirdre McCloskey, I thought the answer is obvious, at least to me. Yes, Haiti will. 
So it’s not deep “culture.” It’s sociology, rhetoric, ethics, how people talk about each other [that explains the great enrichment.]
McCloskey reminds us that we easily get distracted by theory and forget history. 
By 2017 the once-hopeless China will no longer be eligible for World Bank loans, because it will have entered, on average across its unequal breadth, the “high income group,” at about a third of the present level of U.S. income. India leads the world in computer services, and will lead in medical tourism and perhaps even in chains of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotels. (p. 14)
For almost all of us recently it’s been getting better and better, and doing so in more and more places. Within a couple of generations almost all the world’s poor will have lifted themselves up, building a house for Mr. Biswas. (p. 14)
Thanks to McCloskey, besides institutions, geography, culture, and other explanations for prosperity, we have rhetoric, and that is refreshing. I hope the Nobel Committee sooner than later considers her for a Nobel Prize in Economics. A Nobel Prize for humanomics.  

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