Thomas Sowell

Bauer likewise rejected "overpopulation" as a cause of Third World poverty, even though that was also one of the key dogmas of development economics. Like so much else that derived from the liberal-left vision of the world, "overpopulation" theories served as justifications for running other people's lives.

Peter Bauer pointed out that many Third World countries were much more thinly populated than such prosperous industrial nations as Japan, which had 10 times the population density of sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, some Third World countries had ample fertile land, much of it lying unused, and often also had valuable natural resources, such as were lacking in Japan.

The later research of Hernando de Soto, published in his book "The Mystery of Capital," added still more evidence that supported Peter Bauer's thesis that Third World people were capable of creating wealth, even if their governments followed economically counterproductive policies that held them back.

For decades on end, Peter Bauer stood virtually alone in opposing the prevailing dogmas of development economists. They in turn dismissed him as someone far outside the mainstream. But, with the passing years and the repeated and catastrophic failures of policies and programs based on the theories of development economics, the orthodoxy began to erode and finally to collapse.

At the end of his life, Peter Bauer was in the mainstream -- not because he had moved but because the mainstream now moved over to where he had been all along. It is a painful reflection on those who award Nobel prizes that Gunnar Myrdal received one and Peter Bauer did not. Yet, on the eve of his death, Lord Bauer was awarded the Milton Friedman prize, worth half a million dollars, for his work.

Peter Bauer's career should be an inspiration to all those who fight an uphill battle against prevailing orthodoxies.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate