Sunday, January 20, 2008

It makes ze vorld go round

The average life expectancy in the poorest countries at the end of the twentieth century was fifteen years longer than the average life expectancy in the richest country in the world — Britain — at the start of that century.
-- claims Peter Saunders in Why Capitalism is Good for the Soul. He argues that "while capitalism may not be a sufficient condition of human freedom, it is almost certainly a necessary one", and "recognising that consumption does not always bring contentment does not mean we have to give up on capitalism."

Some things to mull over here, but the essay has important gaps, and one might want a copy of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, Stiglitz on globalization, Mike Davis on slums and much else to hand as well.

P.S. A quick search seems to raise some questions with regard to Saunders's claims about life expectancy. According to one source, UK life expectancy in 1900 (both sexes) was 49.2 (table 12A here). A BBC report from Sierra Leone in 2000 put the figure there at 25.9 years. The CIA factbook for 2007 gives, for example, 49.21 for Burkina Faso 53.29 for Congo and 42.98 for Malawi.

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