Two Myths That Keep The World Poor

By Vandana Shiva

From rock singer Bob Geldof to UK politician Gordon Brown, the world suddenly seems to be full of high-profile people with their own plans to end poverty. Jeffrey Sachs, however, is not a simply a do-gooder but one of the world’s leading economists, head of the Earth Institute and in charge of a UN panel set up to promote rapid development. So when he launched his book The End of Poverty, people everywhere took notice. Time magazine even made it into a cover story.

But, there is a problem with Sachs’ how-to-end poverty prescriptions. He simply doesn’t understand where poverty comes from. He seems to view it as the original sin. “A few generations ago, almost everybody was poor,” he writes, then adding: “The Industrial Revolution led to new riches, but much of the world was left far behind.”

This is a totally false history of poverty. The poor are not those who have been “left behind”; they are the ones who have been robbed. The wealth accumulated by Europe and North America are largely based on riches taken from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Without the destruction of India’s rich textile industry, without the takeover of the spice trade, without the genocide of the native American tribes, without African slavery, the Industrial Revolution would not have resulted in new riches for Europe or North America. It was this violent takeover of Third World resources and markets that created wealth in the North and poverty in the South.

[click here to continue reading] Reprinted in part with kind permission from The Ecologist (July/August 2005), a British monthly devoted to discussion of environmental issues, international politics and globalization. More information: The Ecologist, Unit 18 Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots Road, London, SW10 0XJ, England, theecologist@galleon.co.uk, www.theecologist.org

Originally published in October 2011. Find out more about the Post Growth Institute on our website.

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