George Monbiot begins a banker-bashing article in the Guardian with these words,
If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
Inevitable result? That is a lot to ask, in Africa or anywhere.
If in most of Africa in the last half-century the probable, or, Dear God, the permitted, result of the hard work and enterprise of women – or men – had been a modest increase in wealth, and not, as it mostly was, the expropriation of whatever you had gained and a chance to be murdered as a hoarder or class enemy by whatever Derg or other bunch of socialist thugs was calling itself the government that week, why, then Africa might have thrown off poverty the way Taiwan and South Korea did.
As Adam Smith said, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Let us remember those who died in avoidable famines because that “little else” was too much to ask from Africa’s leaders, and from their Guardian reading admirers.
Even Africa is now slowly but surely getting richer, now that the worst of the folly has been thrown off. Inevitable wealth as the result of enterprise and hard work was not necessary to bring about this result. Just a half-decent chance at it.