We need to get this right about what the Millennium Development Goals have achieved


It's absolutely and gloriously true that these recent decades have seen the largest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species. But we need to work out why this is so, so that we can go and do more of that lovely stuff that reduces absolute poverty. And this isn't the answer:

The millennium development goals (MDGs) have driven “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history” and brought more than a billion people out of extreme penury, but their achievements have been mixed and the world remains deeply riven by inequality, the UN’s final report on the goals has concluded.

This is not true. This is to confuse correlation with causality. The MDGs have been around for a time, yes, and they correlate with some of that reduction in poverty. But the actual decline in poverty, the one of those MGD's that was achieved ahead of target, has not been driven by the MDGs. In fact, far from varied chuntering on at the UN being responsible for the reduction in poverty it's been the ignoring of said chuntering that has.

The two things that have led to this vast, and highly welcome, reduction in poverty are the economic development of China and the Washington Consensus. Both, really, being governments getting out of the way and allowing the natural propensity to truck and barter to assert itself. We can in fact prove this in two ways.

The first being that the reduction in poverty hasn't been happening where the UN has been dipping its greasy mitts, it's been in those places that have been taking part in globalisation. Secondly, the reduction in poverty started before, predates, even the consideration of those MDGs let alone their adoption and anyone doing anything directly about them.

This matters because of course, given the success they are crowing about here, they want to make another set of goals. And the correct goal should be to do more of what worked last time, not whatever comes about as a result of the chuntering of the bureaucrats.

What did work last time is that the rich world finally started buying things made by poor people in poor countries. Thus we should do more of this: more globalisation in short. And given that the bureaucrats, the UN, and their targets had almost nothing to do with it all the best thing we should set them as targets is that they should shut up, go home, and let the rest of us get on with making our fellow humans richer.

As we have been and as we'll all continue to do as long as no one interferes.