Re: Long term sustainability
From: Oliveau (
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2007 08:30:37 -0700 (PDT)
Hey Racheli,
    Thanks for your comments.  I looked it up and  I stand corrected.  You 
are right.  The number of people living in  poverty as hovered around 1.2 
billion.  In 1987 it was 1.18 billion, in  1990's it was 1.3 billion, and it 
recently declined to 1.2 billion.  So  in absolute numbers poverty has not 
declined recently.
    But as a percentage we have made great  progress.  In the 1950's half of 
the global population lived in  poverty.  Today it's down to a quarter.  All 
this in the midst of a  continued population growth.  We've moved 3.4 billion 
people out of  poverty.  That's an amazing result.
    I'm not saying we shouldn't continue to try and  help the poor.  We 
should.  We should be investing in education for  the poor, which will benefit 
global society tremendously.  We should be  thinking of new ways to help the 
poor, like mico-lending.  The World Bank  and IMF are trying to help these 
countries.  They may have mistaken ideas  which are outdated.  And they 
by nations which have political  bais.  It's easy to criticize, but much 
tough to come up with an  alternative which works.  Aiding the developing world 
a hard  problem.
    And the countries which liberalized and invited in  those evil 
multi-nationals back in the 1970's, like Taiwan, Korea, Singapore,  Thailand, 
have much happier healthier and well educated people  today.  The ones which 
talked about autonomy and the evils of global  capitalism have not.  As China 
and India have "liberalized" their  economies, they have tapped into a huge 
reserve of productive human capital  which as transformed them from starvation 
prone areas to economic  miracles.
    Cancer death rates go up as people  age.  Up to age 25, cancer deaths are 
4 in 100,000.  Every 10 years  after that the death rate triples until it's 
400/100,000 at age 50.  By age  70 its 1,350/100,000.  If you adjust for age, 
the death rate is flat in the  US, with a recent downward trend as people have 
quit smoking.  If you  eliminate cancers attributable to smoking, the death 
rate has been declining in  the US since 1950.
    We've gotten better at detecting cancers and  detecting them early (when 
they can better be treated).  This results in a  slight increase of incidence 
of cancer, but a decrease in the death rate from  cancer.
    I agree with you that income inequality has been  increasing.  It's not 
that the poor are getting poorer, rather, the  difference between the richest 
and the poorest person is getting larger.  I  don't like inequality, but if 
that helps the most people the fastest, I'm  willing to live with a tamed form 
Global Capitalism.  But capitalism  needs to be watched, regulated, and 
controlled.  Otherwise we end up  living in a Charles Dickens novel :-) 
    I do worry about the US and the decrease in  mobility between the rich 
and the poor.  It's getting harder to move up in  US society.  That tells me 
that we aren't creating enough opportunity for  the poor and we're making it 
easy for untalented rich to stay rich.   Just look at our current President 
for a primary example :-)
    I accept your points about Israel.  I  don't have your experience with 
Israeli society.  I can  imagine Israel has paid a terrible price for the high 
level of militarization  and the frequency of its wars with it's neighbors.  
The tragedy of the  Middle East is that people who are insecure don't care 
democracy, or human  rights, or equality, or even economic opportunity.  And 
it's easy for a  small minority to create an unsafe climate for everyone else.
Thanks for your attention,
In a message dated 7/8/2007 9:38:27 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
racheli [at] writes:

Hi  Kevin,
You wrote (in part) :

Second, the  condition of humanity has been getting  steadily better 
the  last century, by almost any measure you care to look  at.   Wealth,
education, calorie consumption, and life expectancy for the   whole 
planet have all
been going up, both as a percentage and in  absolute  numbers.  The 
number of
people living in poverty,  or without healthcare, or  without enough 
food has been
going  down, both as a percentage and in absolute  numbers.  Cancer  
(after adjusting for longer life) are going   down.

As I understand it, this is false in a number of ways.

Let  me address a few points:
Some people are getting much wealthier, while many  get poorer and 
poorer.  So, yes,
for a tiny fraction of the  population things are getting "better".
There are about 1 billion people  (this isn't the exact number) who are 
chronically  hungry/
malnourished.  More than at any other time in history in  absolute 
numbers.  My impression
is that the number of people  living in poverty is growing, not 
diminishing - including in
the US, as  jobs are shipped elsewhere (and the people who do those jobs 
overseas or  across
the border aren't paid a living wage, to put it mildly).
Many  many countries, under the pressure to "liberalize" exerted upon 
them by  the IMF and the  World
Bank (read: by the US) have gone back on  providing affordable health 
care, on subsidizing essential
food items  etc.
I'll give you as an example a country which on the surface is a great  
recipient of US largesse: Israel.
When I was growing up there, everyone  had health insurance for 
pittance, there was a serious safety
net in  place to keep people from going hungry, and the gap between the 
poorest  and the richest was
not so big.  It was hardly a wonderful place -  discrimination against 
Palestinian citizens, against
Mizrahi Jews (Jews  who came from the Middle East and North Africa), 
etc. was serious, but on  the
whole the culture and social mores strongly supported an economic  
safety net.
With liberalization, things have gone downhill.  There  are people who 
don't have enough to eat,
about fifth of the children  live in poverty, many elderly are in dire 
straights, and so on.
And  this is a country which gets about 3 billion dollars a year from 
the US  govt. (mostly
earmarked for military purposes), not to mention the help US  Jews and 
others provide in addition!
Things are much worse in other  places.

I disagree with your assessment of healthcare and health.   My 
impression is that there is much
more cancer - including among  children, and younger people because of 
growing pollution.
This is  before we come to the AIDS epidemic; chronic ailments which are 
rampant,  etc.

Education?  I suppose you mean "formal education", Western  style.  I 
have serious questions
regarding how educational it  really is, and concerns regarding 
traditional appropriate  knowledge
which is disappearing in many places, as subsistence living gets  
destroyed to make room for
corporate agriculture and industry.   (Again - Vandana Shiva's writings 
are especially useful
in this  respect).

All of those are, of course, huge subjects which I barely  touched on.



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