Daniel Ben-Ami in Sp!ked Review of Books
“Ignore the critics of economic growth who claim that prosperity makes us unhappy. We need to win the war against scarcity once and for all, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of longer, healthier and wealthier lives.”
“Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?
But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.
There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past. And few of us, it seems, recognise the enormous benefits to humanity of escaping from it. On the contrary, there is a pervasive culture of complaint about the perils of affluence and a common tendency to romanticise the simple life.
From the 1790s onwards, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the prospect of a world without scarcity seemed like a realistic possibility (1). Humans strove for a day when they could have a guaranteed food supply at all times. It should be remembered that the famous clause in Christianity’s Lord’s Prayer – ‘give us this day our daily bread’ – was meant literally. Our ancestors struggled for a world where we could take abundant food, clean water and adequate shelter for granted. Not only have we achieved these goals, at least in the developed world, but modern technology and economic organisation have improved our lives hugely. ”