The Age of Milton Friedman:Good Time To Be Alive
Amidst all of the gloom and doom, here is some good news from a recent paper by Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer titled "The Age of Milton Friedman":
The last quarter century has witnessed remarkable progress of mankind. The world’s per capita inflation-adjusted income rose from $5,400 in 1980 to $8,500 in 2005 (see chart above). Schooling and life expectancy grew rapidly, while infant mortality and poverty fell just as fast. With the conspicuous exceptions of China and the Middle East, the world has made significant strides in democratization. Compared to 1980, many more countries in the world are democratic today.
We’ve seen remarkable declines in infant mortality in all regions, with the worldwide population-weighted average dropping from 64.5 to 37.5 per thousand births. The World Bank reports that between 1980 and 2000, the share of the world’s population living on less than $1 a day fell from 34.8 percent to 19 percent. It forecasts that the number of people living on less than $1 a day will continue to fall sharply despite population growth, and account for 10 percent of the world’s population by 2015. Billions of people in Asia have been lifted out of poverty thanks to economic growth; Sub-Saharan Africa, with little or no economic growth, is where the really poor are concentrated.
As Pete Geddes reminds us "By most measures, this appears to be a very good time to be alive."
The last quarter century also saw wide acceptance of free market policies in both rich and poor countries: from private ownership, to free trade, to responsible budgets, to lower taxes. Three important events mark the beginning of this period. In 1979, Deng Xiao Ping started market reforms in China, which over the quarter century lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. In the same year, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister in Britain, and initiated her radical reforms and a long period of growth. A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and also embraced free market policies. All three of these leaders professed inspiration from the work of Milton Friedman. It is natural, then, to refer to the last quarter century as the Age of Milton Friedman.
(HT: NCPA and Greg Mankiw)