Common Error No. 90


90. "The results of globalization and free markets can be seen in the shanty towns of third world countries."

shanty townThere's an important sense in which this is true. Were it not for the economy of the modern world, the people in the shanty towns would not exist at all. In primitive economies large families are the norm because the children contribute to the family's earning power, and support the parents when they are too old to care for themselves. People live on subsistence farms, suffering malnutrition and even starvation when harvests fail or floods destroy crops.

When their country begins economic growth and trade, jobs become available in towns and cities, and people are attracted there by better wages and living standards. Often they send money home. Many live in slum shanty towns while they advance themselves. Conditions are indeed poor, but afford many a chance to survive whereas they faced death in the countryside. So the population increases as they gain access to the rudiments of modern medicine and to a better and more secure diet than they had before.

Population expansion does settle down as the economy advances; the shanty town dwellers are the intermediate stage on the way up. In previous ages they would have died in childbirth, or of disease or malnutrition. Now, poor though they are, their country's economic advances have made it possible to keep them alive. Their equivalent was roughly the slum tenement housing that characterized many of the cities of England's early industrialization. Conditions improved as society prospered.

As society becomes more wealthy, large families become less necessary because children are no longer an economic necessity. Some campaigners suppose that societies must limit their population in order to become wealthy, but it is the other way round: wealthy societies limit their populations. These changes break with subsistence poverty and bring opportunities to climb with their expanding economy into a better life.