NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Truths Johannesburg Should Remember

August 30, 2002

The anti-globalization contingent attending the U.N. Earth Summit on "sustainable development" in Johannesburg is convinced the world is in trouble.

But observers say they might want to keep the following in mind:

  • The average resident of a poor nation lives nearly twice as long as his 19th-century counterpart -- and most of humanity enjoys better health and longevity than the richest people in the richest countries did just 100 years ago.
  • Thanks primarily to U.S. medical researchers almost all the major killer diseases prior to 1900 -- tuberculosis, typhoid, smallpox, whooping cough, polio and malaria -- have been nearly eradicated, and child death rates in just the last 20 years have been halved in India, Egypt, Indonesia and scores of other nations.
  • Worldwide, fewer people in absolute numbers died of famine in the 20th century than in the 19th century -- even though the world population is some four times larger today that it was 100 years ago.
  • Illiteracy has fallen by more than two-thirds in the U.S. and by an even greater percentage in many poor nations.

Pollution is a favorite topic among the anti-growth crowd. But U.S. smog levels have declined by about 40 percent, and carbon monoxide is down nearly one-third since the 1960s -- even though we now have nearly twice as many cars.

By any measure, natural resources have become more abundant and cheaper, and life has improved thanks to free market capitalism, observers say. If only the intellectual elite in South Africa would deregulate their economies and cut tax rates and government regulation, poverty could be alleviated in a generation or two.

Source: Stephen Moore (Club for Growth), "Surer Way to Sustain the Planet," Washington Times, August 30, 2002.


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