Cheap Labor Turns Your Country to Shit

From Robert C. Allen:

Bare-bones subsistence has further implications for social wellbeing and economic progress. First, people living on the bare-bones diet are short. The average height of Italians who enlisted in the Habsburg army fell from 167 cm to 162 cm as their diet shifted from bread to polenta. In contrast, English soldiers in the 18th century averaged 172 cm due to their better nutrition. (Today, the average man is 176–8 cm tall in the USA, UK, and Italy, while the Dutch are 184 cm tall.) When people’s heights are stunted for lack of food, their life expectation is also cut, and their health in general declines. Second, people living at subsistence are less well educated. Sir Frederick Eden, who surveyed labourers’ incomes and spending patterns in England in the 1790s, described a London gardener who spent 6 pence per week sending two of his children to school. The family bought wheat bread, meat, beer, sugar, and tea, and his earnings (£37.75 per year) were about four times subsistence (just under £10). If their income were suddenly cut to subsistence, vast economies would have had to be made, and who can doubt that the children would have been removed from school? High wages contributed to economic growth by sustaining good health and supporting widespread education. Finally, and most paradoxically, bare-bones subsistence removes the economic motivation for a country to develop economically. The need for more output from a day’s work is great, but labour is so cheap that businesses have no incentive to invent or adopt machinery to raise productivity. Bare-bones subsistence is a poverty trap.

Allen, Robert C. , Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction [boldface mine]

–And crap diet, low wages, and superabundant labor are exactly what the current Captains Of Finance and Do-Gooderism wish to inflict upon all the Western world.  A poverty trap:  “think of the children”!

[With the Industrial Revolution, B]usinesses in England found it profitable to use technology that saved on expensive labour by increasing the use of cheap energy and capital. With more capital and energy at their disposal, British workers became more productive – the secret of economic growth. In Asia and Africa, the cheapness of labour led to the opposite result.

ibid. (p. 32); boldface mine

–So let’s have less capital and less energy, and a swarm of ineducable, unproductive labor– the secret of economic poverty.  And, though I don’t think Allen quite understands this point in full, moral and spiritual poverty too, I would add.

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2 comments

  1. Eric · · Reply

    Enough said:

    1. Now what are we going to say about the Lady Seals? lzlzlolz

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