Monday, January 13, 2014

Because some people don't learn from history

There's a piece in Mises on how the early capitalists saved Europe from starvation:

In eighteenth-century England, the land could support only six million people at a very low standard of living. Today more than fifty million people enjoy a much higher standard of living than even the rich enjoyed during the eighteenth-century. [...] And all the talk about the so-called unspeakable horror of early capitalism can be refuted by a single statistic: precisely in these years in which British capitalism developed, precisely in the age called the Industrial Revolution in England, in the years from 1760 to 1830, precisely in those years the population of England doubled, which means that hundreds or thousands of children-who would have died in preceding times-survived and grew to become men and women.

There is no doubt that the conditions of the preceding times were very unsatisfactory. It was capitalist business that improved them. It was precisely those early factories that provided for the needs of their workers, either directly or indirectly by exporting products and importing food and raw materials from other countries. Again and again, the early historians of capitalism have-one can hardly use a milder word-falsified history.
Yet, when it comes to trying to eliminate hunger, India is pursuing a somewhat different tact (Time):
In an unprecedented experiment, the central government is now legally bound to provide each of over 800 million people — just shy of the combined populations of the U.S. and the European Union — 5 kg of subsidized food grains every month. (The poorest receive more, and states also run their own food-subsidy programs.)

[...] But in 2005 the government estimated that nearly 60% of its grain did not reach beneficiaries because of theft, corruption and difficulties identifying the needy. More recent studies show that has improved somewhat, but over 17% of Indians are still undernourished, according to the 2013 Global Hunger Index.

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