Thomas Sowell

"China is lifting a million people a month out of poverty."

It is just one statement in an interesting new book titled "The Undercover Economist" by Tim Harford. But it has huge implications.

I haven't checked out the statistics but they sound reasonable. If so, this is something worth everyone's attention.

People on the political left make a lot of noise about poverty and advocate all sorts of programs and policies to reduce it but they show incredibly little interest in how poverty has actually been reduced, whether in China or anywhere else.

You can bet the rent money that the left will show little or no interest in how Chinese by the millions are rising out of poverty every year. The left showed far more interest in China back when it was run by Mao in far left fashion -- and when millions of Chinese were starving.

Those of us who are not on the left ought to take a closer look at today's Chinese rising out of poverty.

First of all, what does it even mean to say that "China is lifting a million people a month out of poverty"? Where would the Chinese government get the money to do that?

The only people the Chinese government can tax are mainly the people in China. A country can't lift itself up by its own bootstraps that way. Nor has there ever been enough foreign aid to lift a million people a month out of poverty.

If the Chinese government hasn't done it, then who has? The Chinese people. They did not rise out of poverty by receiving largess from anybody.

The only thing that can cure poverty is wealth. The Chinese acquired wealth the old-fashioned way: They created it.

After the death of Mao, government controls over the market began to be relaxed -- first tentatively, in selected places and for selected industries. Then, as those places and those industries began to prosper dramatically, similar relaxations of government control took place elsewhere, with similar results.

Even foreigners were allowed to come in and invest in China and sell their goods in China. But this was not just a transfer of wealth.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate