I want to expand on that point today by showing why growing the pie is more important than how it is sliced.
I’ve previously opined on why economic growth is important, showing that the United States today would be almost as poor as Mexico if our rate of economic growth since 1895 was just one-percentage point less than it actually was.
Moreover, I also showed in that 2017 column how much smaller increments of additional growth over time can mean thousands of dollars of additional income for an average household.
For today’s column, I want to expand on this point using the economic growth page from Max Roser’s great site, Our World in Data. We’ll start with this chart showing how per-capita economic output dramatically increased a few hundred years ago.
This kind of data won’t be news to regular readers. I’ve already shared great videos from Deirdre McCloskey and Don Boudreaux that make the same point about the explosion of prosperity in the modern era.
And if anyone somehow thinks this growth doesn’t matter, Roser’s page shows that there are countless ways of graphing the relationship between economic output and good outcomes, such as how long we live, child mortality, access to electricity, hunger, and literacy.
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The bottom line is that we are unimaginably rich compared to prior generations, largely thanks to the rule of law, expanded trade, and limited government.
That recipe for growth and prosperity works anywhere and everywhere it is tried. Here’s another chart showing how other parts of the world are being to prosper thanks to economic liberalization.
I want to cite two additional charts from Roser’s page.
First, here’s a chart showing productivity rates in selected nations. Why is this important? Because economic prosperity is basically driven by how much we work and how productive we are.
There are all sorts of interesting things embedded in the above chart.
- Productivity is vitally important, which is why it is so misguided to have tax systems that punish saving and investment.
- Nations such as China still way behind the western world, a point I’ve been making for a long time.
- The United States has a big income advantage over European nations, but it’s driven by hours worked rather than productivity.
Our final chart shows the importance of convergence.
Once again, there are some important observations embedded in the above chart.
- Very poor nations such as Botwsana and China can enjoy meaningful gains with partial economic liberalization.
- Western nations can enjoy more prosperity over time, but they won’t catch the United States so long as they are burdened with too much government.
- Singapore shows that full convergence is not only possible, but also that laissez-faire countries can even surpass the United States.
P.S. I can’t resist recycling my “never-answered question” in hopes of getting any of my left-leaning friends to cite a single example of their policies producing mass prosperity.