What’s With All the Pies?

There has already been lots of coverage of the debate between Bill Ayers and Dinesh D’Souza, but perhaps the most central conflict of the debate has largely been ignored. That is, in the “pie” of economic prosperity and wealth, is it more important to make sure the pie is divided equitably according to “social justice”, or to make sure the pie is as large as possible? Earlier this month, it was announced that the worlds 85 richest people have a combined wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion people on earth. This statistic recieved lots of media attention and criticism, with a Time.com article calling it “One stat to destroy your faith in humanity.” Many have taken this statistic and used it to excoriate the world’s elite  for not caring more about the unequal distribution of wealth. However, last Thursday’s debate, and all the talk of pies, prompts and interesting question- sure, the rich are growing their wealth faster than the poor- but is everyone still growing?

According to Bill Gates, they are.

In his 2014 annual letter, Gates addresses the three myths about global poverity that he feels are most inhibiting global development and the rise from poverty. The first myth he addresses is one that poor countries are doomed to stay poor, while rich countries will only grow richer. Gates plainly refutes this. In fact, incomes and other measures of human development are rising globally. As the chart below shows, while it is true that the number of people earning large sums of money has indeed increased, focusing on this one fact obscures a much more comforting reality: the number of people living in extreme poverty has dramatically decreased, and for the most part, everyone in the world is economically better off.

pies

So going back to the article on time magazine’s website, one can look at that so called “disturbing” fact in a couple of ways. One can choose to focus on the disparity, and paint the global system of capitalism in an intensely negative light, or one can look at the facts a little more closely. Sure, 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion- or roughly the bottom 49% of the world. But what many people will fail to mention is that unequivocably, the bottom 49% of the world today is far and away better than they were 50 years ago.

 

– Sam Hatcher