Politics

Back On Earth, Actual 99% Doing Better Than Ever

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Catholic churches and palm trees are sure signs of economic stagnation, yet Equatorial Guinea saw its GDP quadruple over ten years.

It's clear that the Occupy protests cropping up in every city in the world will soon cover the entire planet in a War Games-style surge of expanding Ground Zeros that will transform all politics and economics, bringing a new era of social justice and income equality. 

But just in case that doesn't happen, here's some good news for the wealthy and entitled Occupiers: In the last decade nearly 2.6 billion people enjoyed dramatic expansions in wealth. It turns out the economic armacatastromeltdown has been a problem mainly for the fantastically rich, overfed, debt-happy, free-spending, spoiled, lazy, infantilized nations of the west. It's been a different story for people with experience of real rather than academic poverty. In Foreign Policy, the Center for Global Development's Charles Kenny reports that 19 economies doubled in size between 2000 and 2010: 

At the same time, the top 19 countries in the world in terms of decade-long growth saw their GDPs more than double over the ten years from 2000 to 2010. And that top 19 included some really big countries -- not least India and China -- so nearly 2.6 billion people benefited from all of that economic dynamism.

Just as significantly, Africa has been going gangbusters -- though you probably haven't noticed, since the whole region of 49 countries still has a combined economy smaller than the state of Texas. Yet within the club of economies that doubled in size were no less than eight from sub-Saharan Africa, the region traditionally written off as a hopeless economic backwater. Indeed, that region took 17 of the top 40 spots in the decade's global GDP growth rankings; its GDP is 66 percent larger than it was in 2000. Populations have expanded there, too, by around 28 percent over the decade -- but even accounting for more people, the average income in the region is about a third higher than it was 10 years ago.

Kenny notes that these excellent performances do not seem to be correlated with trade liberalizations, credit shenanigans, inter-governmental "free trade" agreements or any of the other Yanqui-mandated solutions that are supposed to bring prosperity to the developing world. In fact, Iraq, the U.S. test case for the forward strategy of freedom, came in last place in the World Bank's rankings. And many citizens of sub-Saharan African countries have not shared in this rapid growth, thanks to the lousy governments Melinda Ammann wrote about in Reason midway through this awesome and unacknowledged expansion of global wealth. 

"However weak U.S. economic performance looks in comparison," Kenny writes, "Americans should be cheering on these countries to another decade of record growth." 

Yeah, that's not gonna happen

Courtesy of Dayo Olopade.

Speaking of the 99-percent-of-the-1-percenters, there's been a lot of talk lately about who spawned the Occupy movement's central idea. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has been credited for birthing the 1 percent idea in a May article for Vanity Fair (this generation's The Masses). Deceitful Harvard Marxist Elizabeth Warren has also been trying to claim authorship. 

Well I happen to have a copy of Gore Vidal's memoir Palimpsest, which was written in 1995, before the laying of the transatlantic telegraph. And on page 221, Vidal polishes off a rant against the nouveau riche developer who had the temerity to buy his boyhood mansion in the Washington area with this odd phrase: 

If the 1 percent that own the country spend their money in this way…

Later on that page, Vidal has another comment on life in pre-Bushitler Amerikkka that will seem either prescient or commonplace depending on how long your attention span is: 

[W]e have made so many enemies all around the world that, in the name of terrorism, a quite effective police state has ever so gradually replaced the old republic. 

Good stuff, in a sporadically entertaining book.