Societies, on a global scale, are now more wealthy than they have ever been. Today, only 9% of the global population lives in extreme poverty, defined as making less than $2 per day. This is up from 50% in 1966, and a devastating 85% in 1800. The US is among the most wealthy and powerful countries of all. With a poverty rate of just 10.5% in 2019, compared to 22.4% in 1959. The median household net worth in the US is $121,700 and the GDP per capita is $64,041.
Today, the average American has more than one car, has air conditioning, and eats out several times a week. There’s no doubt that, on average, Americans are far better off than we’ve ever been due to implementing the building blocks for a thriving economy into our society. These building blocks include secure property rights, government honesty and political stability, a dependable legal system, and competitive markets.
The Bourgeois Deal
All of this makes up what’s known as the “bourgeois deal”, which is the idea that anyone can innovate, regardless of their societal status. The bourgeois are the middle class, which has historically included innovators, shopkeepers, and merchants. Oddly enough, the middle class, or bourgeois, were once considered the dregs of moral society. They were untrusted by aristocrats, who maintained their wealth by control and demand for cheap labor. The bourgeois, on the other hand, sought to destroy the aristocratic hold by accepting and encouraging competition and believing that the whole of society would be better off by a free market.
The bourgeois were ultimately able to overturn aristocratic control through the 5 R’s: revolution, revolt, reading, reformation, and reevaluation. These ideas and actions were the building blocks for destroying the aristocratic hierarchies in England and France, for paving the road to societal equality, for spreading new ideas without censorship, for changing societal viewpoints for equality, and political order, and for creating a path for free market innovation. All of this led to a more connected, free, and prosperous population.
We Need to Step Up our Efforts to End Poverty
Today the free market is still what keeps the wealth moving, but it isn’t the complete answer. Maintaining a wealthy society also requires us to maintain an ethical society in which we hold liberty, dignity, and equality in high regard. It requires a high standard of justice and an embracing of virtues like love, hope, and courage. Respecting all of these ideas will keep our world moving in the right direction to eliminate poverty all together.