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Poverty and inequality

Vasquez, director of the Project on Global Economic Liberty at the Cato Institute, 2001 [Ian, Ending Mass Poverty, September, Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/research/articles/vas-0109.html]

Economic growth is the "only path to end mass poverty," says economist Ian Vásquez, who argues that redistribution or traditional poverty reduction programs have done little to relieve poverty. Vásquez writes that the higher the degree of economic freedom -- which consists of personal choice, protection of private property, and freedom of exchange -- the greater the reduction in poverty. Extending the system of property rights protection to include the property of poor people would be one of the most important poverty reduction strategies a nation could take, he says.

The historical record is clear: the single, most effective way to reduce world poverty is economic growth. Western countries began discovering this around 1820 when they broke with the historical norm of low growth and initiated an era of dramatic advances in material well-being. Living standards tripled in Europe and quadrupled in the United States in that century, improving at an even faster pace in the next 100 years. Economic growth thus eliminated mass poverty in what is today considered the developed world. Taking the long view, growth has also reduced poverty in other parts of the world: in 1820, about 75 percent of humanity lived on less than a dollar per day; today about 20 percent live under that amount.

Even a short-term view confirms that the recent acceleration of growth in many developing countries has reduced poverty, measured the same way. In the past 10 years, the percentage of poor people in the developing world fell from 29 to 24 percent. Despite that progress, however, the number of poor people has remained stubbornly high at around 1,200 million. And geographically, reductions in poverty have been uneven.

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