About meaningless and worthless graphs
The progress controversy
In the last few days, we have seen a nasty debate on Twitter about assessing global poverty reduction. The criticism of Jason Hickel and Max Roser’s reaction to his post has awakened a large wave of hate against Hickel, blamed for being a dishonest fanatical marxist. He was accused of denying the reduction of poverty or rejecting the reconstruction of historical GDP data. I have never read these statements from him. What I read is that you can have a relative reduction of poverty and, at the same time, an increase in the absolute numbers of poor people due to the demographic growth.
Similarly, his other argument is that GDP data is not a proper tool to assess the reduction of global poverty: how do you account for the slave trade in the reduction of global poverty? Was the Free State of Congo a success in reducing poverty in Congo? Well, there was a boom in GDP and ten million lesser people, so it should have boosted the GDP per capita.
Globalists are also believers
Maybe the degrowthers are believers, but globalists are also believers. They have even a sacred book: The end of poverty of Jeffrey Sachs. They have a mission: save the world thanks to their knowledge of economics to pursue the ultimate good of reducing extreme poverty. They are members of a superior community, the experts with elitist credentials, who know how to manage the world to reach the best economic output for everybody. They do not have personal or national interest. They are scholars, the priests of liberal society, and they pursue a moral good. They have their arcane books, journals and magic powers to foresee the future.
Even more, they have even their eschatology: rural and preindustrial societies are evil because they can not buy a Big Mac and do not share our core of universal and liberal values. Well, it is easy to understand why anthropologists or historians hate your work, dudes. We have even penitence: the destruction of the western middle classes to improve developing countries’ living conditions as a necessary evil. We will transit the valley of tears through work and sacrifice until we reach the promised land of higher and fairer incomes to everybody.
The reduction of global poverty as the ultimate good
It sounds lovely, but a goal demands an actor who tries to reach his aim, especially if you want accountability and improvement. There is no world government trying to achieve this goal. We have international organizations devoted to this goal. We have many professionals living for reaching this goal and lobbying states. We have a lot of good purposes, but the states are national, have national interests, and act in their limited sphere of influence.
If you want to look for some causality in global actions that provoke global outcomes, you need to figure out globalization as a Deux ex machina. So, maybe globalization is some God for these believers. It is the Lippmann obsession with index numbers, an easy indicator to check the performance of the company. Sorry, the world is not a company, workers in the country X does not feel compelled to sacrifice their lives in favour of workers in the country Y. Maybe, you, as a scholar, feel it profoundly fair and necessary, you feel engaged with all humanity and you are true samaritan. However, while you are advocating for all humanity’s rights, the losers of globalization see that you have a job, recognition and a life with meaning, plus a lot of condescendence and parental cheap talk.
Talking about global numbers in this issue only could meaning talking about the success of globalization. If you want a serious discussion, you need to focus your arguments on regions and countries and take into the picture many different questions, the majority of them related to political controversies without technical solutions. In the end, we can end poverty and enslave all these new workers for the welfare of humanity as the Englithment dreamed it.
The globalization is over
The earth is not flat. Historians attempted to warn you, but you are too self-righteous guys that you can never hear others. Now, you can not try to assume that there is something like a Deux ex machina globalization out there. We can discuss hours and hours about how “we” reduce global poverty, but the fact is that the Chinese Communist Party has reduced this “global” poverty.
There is no more an international consensus in favour of unlimited free trade and globalization. There are no international treaties that guarantee a global liberal order. It depends on the will of great powers. The global democracy was wishful thinking. We see an aseptic genocide in China when you promised a multi-party system or regime concerned with civil rights. In theory, it is proscribed by all the international treaties and could not happen. Similarly, the UNCLOS is a mess, and the South China Sea is a powder keg.
Globalization has worked because China made it working. It was not your wisdom, knowledge, training in advanced maths courses… and it was not a humanitarian crusade. It was a national and selfish crusade, as the USA’s role in the world or even your good wishes. Now, we are in the damage control room, hoping that militarism and imperialism would not be again the solutions for the following conflicts.
And Hickel and other ecologists are trying to push in the right direction. The question that we don’t know yet is in which direction you, young globalists, will push once you realize that there are no more prospects of personal promotion defending a death free trade world.