Commentary Magazine

The Global Poverty Paradox

For a brief, glorious, and unforgettable moment 20 years ago, it seemed as if a great and terrible question that had been perennially stalking humanity had finally been answered. That profound question was as old as human hope itself: could ordinary men and women, regardless of their location on this earth or their station in this life, hope that deliberate social arrangements could provide them—and their descendants thereafter—with permanent and universal protection against the grinding poverty and material misery that had been the human lot ever since memory began? For those exhilarating few years back in the 1990s, it seemed to many of us that the 20th century had indeed answered this age-old question: decisively, successfully, and conclusively.

Brute facts, after all, had demonstrated beyond controversy that human beings the world over could now indeed create sustained explosions of mass prosperity—rather than temporary and transient windfalls—that would utterly transform the human material condition, relegating the traditional conception of desperate want from a daily personal concern to an almost abstract textbook curiosity.

According to estimates by the late economic historian Angus Maddison, the world’s average per capita output quadrupled between 1900 and 1989/91, with even greater income surges registered in the collectivity of Western societies where the process of modern economic growth had commenced.1 Membership in this “Western” club, though, manifestly did not require European background or heritage, for the Asian nations of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan had come to embrace political and economic arrangements similar to those pioneered in Western Europe and its overseas offshoots, and had in fact enjoyed some of the century’s fastest rates of long-term income growth.

The formula for generating steady improvements in living standards for a diversity of human populations, in short, had been solidly established. The matter at hand was now to extend that formula to the reaches of the earth where it could not yet be exercised—most obviously at that time for political reasons, given the fact that nearly a third of the world’s peoples were still living under Communist regimes in the late 1980s.

By the early 1990s, with the final failure of the Soviet project and the widely heralded idea of the “End of History,” it suddenly seemed as if the liberal political ideals that promoted the spread of the Western growth formula would no longer encounter much organized global resistance. It now seemed only a matter of time until every part of the world could join in a newly possible economic race to the top. Prosperity for all—everywhere—no longer sounded like merely a prayer. Quite the contrary: the end of global poverty was increasingly taken to be something much more like a feasible long-term-action agenda.

Alas, in the years since, new brute facts have asserted themselves, while other awkward facts of somewhat older vintage have reasserted themselves, demanding renewed attention. All too many contemporary locales have managed to “achieve” records of long-term economic failure in our modern era. The plain and unavoidable truth is that countries with hundreds of millions of inhabitants today are not simply falling behind in a global march toward ever-greater prosperity: they are positively heading in the wrong direction, spiraling down on their own distinct, but commonly dismal, paths of severe, prolonged, and tragic retrogression.

Haiti is a particularly awful case in point.


The Case of Haiti

Conditions of life in Haiti, wretched for most Haitians even in the best of times, took a sharp turn for the worse earlier this year, when an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck not far from the capital of Port-au-Prince. The resultant carnage was heartrending; the chaos, stomach-churning. At this writing, the official estimate of the death toll from the disaster has risen above 200,000—although it is a telling sign of Haiti’s sheer underdevelopment that an exact death count from the earthquake and its aftermath is regarded by foreign relief workers on the scene as an utterly unrealistic proposition.

Yet there was absolutely nothing “natural” about the human cost of this natural disaster. Massive earthquakes do not always unfold as calamities of biblical proportions, even when they are visited on major urban population centers. In October 1989, a massive earthquake suddenly struck the Bay Area of California. In sheer magnitude, that earthquake was almost as violent as Haiti’s (6.9 vs. 7.0); its epicenter was roughly as far from downtown San Jose as Haiti’s was from central Port-au-Prince. The final death toll in the Bay Area tragedy: 63 lives.

At first glance, such wildly disparate death counts in the face of arguably comparable natural calamities may seem to serve as a grim metaphor for the seemingly perennial yawning gap that separates life chances in rich and poor regions today. In reality, however, the backstory is still sadder than these raw numbers might of themselves suggest: for the awful fact of the matter is that the United States and Haiti are societies whose capabilities for meeting human needs (and protecting human beings) have been moving in fundamentally different directions for decades.

A society’s material capabilities for meeting human needs are very broadly indicated by its levels and trends in per capita output (GDP). America is not one of the modern world’s most rapidly growing economies—over the past century, in fact, per capita growth has averaged a little under 2 percent a year—but thanks to the power of compound interest, such a tempo of growth brings dramatic and salutary transformations over time, if it can be sustained. In the roughly six decades between 1950 and 2008, indeed, America’s per capita output more than tripled. But over that same half century or so, by Maddison’s reckoning, per capita output in Haiti actually declined—by more than a third.

Thanks to its prolonged economic retrogression, Haiti today is not simply immiserated; it is in fact substantially poorer than it was half a century ago. By the hardly insignificant yardstick of income levels, the country appears to be less developed now than it was two generations before. (Appalling death tolls in the face of earthquakes, tropical storms, and other forces of nature are merely one manifestation of the more general deterioration in material capabilities for meeting human needs that are implied by such trends.)

Haiti, moreover, is only one of many countries in the modern world to have been heading down—not up—in economic terms for decades on end. Summary statistics from the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) outline the dimensions of this global problem.

By the World Bank’s calculations, nearly two dozen countries suffered negative per capita economic growth over the course of the quarter century from 1980 to 2005. And the World Bank does not even attempt to estimate economic trends for a number of national problem cases—Kim Jong-il’s North Korea and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe among them—where pronounced and prolonged economic decline have almost certainly taken place. When one tallies up the global totals, it would appear that close to half a billion people today live in such countries—societies beset not merely by long-term stagnation but also by a quarter century or more of absolute deterioration in income levels.

At the same time, WTO numbers point to a jarring drop in the long-term export performance of many contemporary societies. Adjusting for inflation, these WTO data suggest that more than 30 countries were actually earning in real terms less from merchandise exports in 2006 than they did in 1980, over a quarter century earlier. The picture is still worse when we take intervening population growth into account. Real per capita export revenue, measured in U.S. dollars, looks to have been lower in more than 50 countries in 2007 (the last year before the current worldwide economic crisis) than in 1980. In all, such places today account for roughly three quarters of a billion of the world’s 6.8 billion current inhabitants—about a ninth of the globe’s total population.

Thus, it is not just that an appreciable swath of humanity today lives in countries that have not yet managed to customize, and apply, the global formula for sustained growth that has been propelling the rest of the world out of poverty and into material security, or even affluence. No—hundreds of millions of people in the modern world live in places where the development process is manifestly stuck in reverse.

For these hapless societies, pronounced and relentless economic failure is not an awful aberration but rather the seemingly “natural” way of things: the only way things have ever been in living memory for most locals, and most international observers. After all, the median age of the world’s present population is less than 30 years; this means that most people today can recall only long-term economic failure for these dozens of countries.

National examples of prolonged economic failure dot the modern global map: in the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti); in Latin America (Paraguay, Venezuela); even in dynamic East Asia (North Korea). But the epicenter of prolonged economic failure is sub-Saharan Africa.


The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa comprises an extraordinary diversity of peoples, and the economic records of each of the region’s 50-plus countries is separate and distinct. Yet taken together, their overall development record in the post-colonial period has been utterly dismal.

Some improvement in the region’s economic performance has been registered since the mid-1990s. Even so, according to estimates by both Angus Maddison and the World Bank, per capita income for the region as a whole was slightly lower in 2006 than it was in 1974. Much the same holds true for real per capita export earnings. According to the WTO’s numbers,Africa’s overall per capita merchandise export revenues, adjusted for inflation, showed absolutely no improvement between 1974 and 2006—and after the global economic crisis, they appear to have been around 10 percent lower in 2009 than they were in 1974.

This is very bad news for a very large number of people: as of last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, sub-Saharan Africa’s population was well over 800 million people, roughly one-eighth of all human beings on earth today.

The sub-Sahara is not simply an epicenter of economic failure; it is also the epicenter of a pervasive failure in what might be called human development. Poorer countries, of course, tend to suffer from poor health and education as well, and sub-Saharan Africa is by far the poorest region of the planet today. But it is not just that Africa’s health and educational profiles are much worse than for any other major region of the world; they are also markedly worse than would be predicted on the basis of the region’s woeful economic performance alone.

Consider life expectancy at birth—the single best summary measure of a population’s overall health conditions. Sub-Saharan life spans today are on average roughly 10 years lower than in other countries with comparable starting points in health four decades ago and comparable income levels today. This awful result has much to do with the HIV/AIDS tragedy, which to date has been concentrated in Africa and has sent life expectancy in some sub-Saharan societies plummeting.

But analogous patterns are evident for educational attainment in the sub-Sahara—trends that cannot be traced so easily to the unpredictable outbreak of communicable pandemics. Through painstaking effort, Robert J. Barro of Harvard and Jong-Wha Lee of Korea University have compiled a database detailing changes in adult educational levels in more than 100 countries for the years 1960 to 2000.2 For the world as a whole, average years of schooling for a country’s adult population as of the year 2000 can be pretty accurately predicted by the country’s level of adult education 40 years earlier and its income level at the end of the intervening period.

Here again, sub-Saharan educational profiles in 2000 were even more modest than the region’s very low income levels would have of themselves predicted: to go by World Bank data, this “sub-Sahara effect” amounted to an average of 1.2 years of schooling forgone for each and every person 15 years of age and older. In a region where adult men and women had an average of just 3.5 years of schooling as of 2000, this would have been a far from trivial loss; on the contrary, it suggests that sub-Saharan Africans would have enjoyed fully one third more years of adult education, its low income levels notwithstanding, if only they had been living in a place more like other regions of the Third World.


A Poor-Friendly Era

The problem of sustained socioeconomic retrogression is all the more dismaying, and puzzling, when one bears in mind the phenomenal explosion of prosperity that has transformed the world as a whole in the modern era—and the potentialities for material advance that are afforded even the poorest societies.

In the half century between 1955 and 2005, by Maddison’s reckoning, the planet’s per capita income levels nearly tripled, growing at an average tempo of more than 2 percent per year, despite the unprecedented pace of population increase in the Third World over those same years. The expansion of international trade—and thus by definition, of markets for export produce—was even more dramatic: on a worldwide basis, real per capita demand for international merchandise and commodities jumped almost tenfold during those same years.

Scientific and technical advances have immensely improved life prospects in the planet’s poorest and least scientifically proficient reaches. Thanks largely to progress in life sciences and public-health know-how and the concomitant spread of basic education, longer lives are now possible worldwide at ever lower national-income levels. No country on earth registered a female life expectancy at birth of 65 years before the end of World War I; the first society to breach that threshold was apparently New Zealand, somewhere around 1920. Today average female life expectancy at birth for poor countries as a whole is well above 65 years. Even places like Nepal are thought to have reached this once-impossible level of life expectancy—and Nepal does this today on less than a fifth of New Zealand’s income level circa 1920.

There should be no doubt whatsoever that the health revolution facilitated by the postwar era’s knowledge explosion, and all that has accompanied it, has been fundamentally “poor-friendly.” In the early 1950s, by the estimates of the UN Population Division, life expectancy at birth was 25 years higher in the more developed regions than in the less developed regions; 50 years later—despite the AIDS catastrophe—that differential had been cut in half. By this most basic measure of all, inequality between rich and poor has by no means increased; rather, during our era of modern global economic development, it has been shrinking, progressively and dramatically.

The worldwide surge in prosperity over the past two generations has been nothing like the winner-take-all race that some insinuate it to be. The plain fact is that countries at every income level have benefited tremendously from the global economic updrafts of our modern age. World Bank estimates underscore this point. If we take high-income economies completely out of the picture, average real per capita output for the rest of the world more than tripled between 1960 and 2006. (By Maddison’s calculations, incidentally, per capita incomes in Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey are higher than they were in Scandinavia and the Netherlands in the early 1950s.)

For the “low middle income economies” (countries including China, Egypt, India, and the Philippines), estimated per capita incomes rose more than fivefold. And even for the “low income economies” as a whole—the 1.3 billion people in the world’s poorest contemporary societies—per capita output is thought to have risen by almost 150 percent over those same years.

Salutary political changes—including what the late Samuel Huntington termed “waves of democratization”—have swept through the less developed regions over the past two generations. But First World levels of institutional and administrative acumen are by no means necessary for sustained economic growth in poor countries today. In fact, the political and policy prerequisites for eliciting enormous improvements in local incomes may be less exacting in our modern era than ever before.

A few examples will suffice to make this point. Take Bangladesh, a country widely written off as a hopeless basket case at its independence in 1971.Political stability has not exactly been Bangladesh’s métier: over the past four decades, the country has experienced dozens of attempted political coups, three of which overturned the seated government. Bangladesh still does not qualify as an open society or a full-fledged democracy; Freedom House, for example, rated the country as only “partly free” earlier this year. Yet despite all this, per capita output in Bangladesh has roughly doubled since the early 1970s, according to both Maddison and the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (WDI).

The case of the Dominican Republic may be even more instructive. In 1961, the country’s longtime dictator, Rafael Trujillo, was assassinated. A period of political instability ensued; in 1965, U.S. troops had to occupy that country for a year to restore order. In the decades that followed, the country’s “economic climate” might at best be described as mediocre: the country ranked 99th on the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, and 100th on the Fraser Institute’s 2009 Index of Economic Freedom. Yet over the four decades between 1965 and 2005, per capita income in the Dominican Republic more than tripled, increasing over these years at an average pace of almost 3 percent per annum. Between the early 1960s and the early 2000s, moreover, overall life expectancy in the Dominican Republic jumped by nearly two decades: today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it stands at 74 years—just four years behind that found in the United States.

The Dominican Republic’s progress in economic development is noteworthy in its own right—but it is all the more striking when juxtaposed against the gruesome and prolonged developmental failure still underway in Haiti. The two countries, of course, share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

So, given the pervasive scope and scale of worldwide economic advance in our age—and the apparently increasing ease of achieving sustained economic progress, even for populations at the lowest levels of material attainment—how are we to explain, and deal with, the phenomenon of persisting socioeconomic failure in Haiti and dozens of other contemporary societies? How have these places managed to avoid self-enrichment, given the apparently increasing worldwide odds against such an outcome? And what can be done to end the syndrome of developmental decline on the lands that have been subject to it?

One diagnosis, insistently tendered in some parts of the academy and the international community, pegs the problem as a sheer insufficiency of foreign aid; the correlative prescription from these quarters—a lot more of it. Currently, the most vocal and articulate advocates of this point of view are Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) project. The MDG project avers that the primary impediment to more rapid progress against poverty in low-income countries nowadays is the lack of funding for practical, tested programs, and policy measures that would reliably and predictably raise living standards in the world where they are lowest today. Sachs and the UN’s MDG apparatus consequently urge an immediate doubling of official Western-aid transfers to low-income areas and offer a detailed array of plans for absorbing these proposed additional flows (which are envisioned at almost $190 billion a year above “baseline” levels by the year 2015).3

The trouble with this narrative is that foreign aid is not exactly an untested remedy for global poverty in our day and age. To go by figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, total flows of development assistance to recipient countries since 1960, after adjusting for inflation, by now add up to something like $3 trillion.

Now, in some places and times, international aid appears not only to have enhanced material advance but also to have promoted the transition to self-sustaining growth (i.e., growth without aid). Aid transfers seem to have been most productive in the hands of governments that supported economically productive policies and practices. But foreign aid quite clearly is neither necessary nor sufficient to elicit growth and development in our modern era—nor is it even capable of preventing long-term economic retrogression in recipient states. In today’s dollars, Haiti has received more than $10 billion since 1960 in official development assistance alone (and vastly more if private aid, humanitarian assistance, and security assistance are taken into account). On a per capita basis, this works out to more than four times as much assistance per capita as Western European populations received during the Marshall Plan era. Yet Haiti’s per capita income, according to Maddison, was less than two-thirds as high in 2008 as it had been in 1960.

Similarly, since 1970, sub-Saharan African states have taken in the current equivalent of more than $600 billion of official development assistance—over three times as much aid on a per capita basis as Marshall Plan states received. As we know all too well, these subventions neither forestalled long-term economic decline for the region as a whole nor prevented the rise of poverty in many “beneficiary” states in the sub-Sahara.

How does one account for these inconvenient facts? Evidently, by ignoring them. To make their case for aid as the necessary remedy for contemporary global poverty, proponents of the Sachs-MDG plan are willing to undertake breathtaking, even patently absurd, intellectual contortions. Thus the plan’s overview document asserts, without any hint of irony, that “many well-governed countries [today] are too poor to help themselves.”4 Social-science and policy-research literature, to be sure, has committed a fair share of howlers during the past century, but this may be the single most empirically challenged sentence of the new millennium.

The too-little-aid theory in essence attempts to explain—or blame—the prolonged economic failure of large portions of the modern world on external factors (in this case, the stinginess of affluent Western populations). A much more plausible explanation, however, relates to domestic factors within the countries and societies in question. Perhaps most important, these concern the deep, complex, historically rooted, and interconnected issues of “culture” on the one hand and what is now called “governance” on the other.


Culture and Governance

The proposition that a local population’s viewpoints, values, and dispositions might have some bearing on local economic performance would hardly seem to be controversial. Decades ago, the great development economist Peter Bauer wrote that “economic achievement depends upon a people’s attributes, attitudes, mores and political arrangements.” The observation was offered as a simple and irrefutable statement of fact, and it would still be unobjectionable today to most readers who have not been tutored in contemporary “development theory.” But for development specialists, discussion of “culture”—much less its relationship to such things as work, thrift, savings, entrepreneurship, innovation, educational attainment, and other qualities that influence prospects for material advance—is increasingly off-limits.

In the erudite reaches of development policy, indeed, discussion of such matters at all is often regarded as poor form at best—and at worst is taken to smack of condescension, paternalism, or even latent prejudice. Paul Collier’s bestselling 2007 exposition, The Bottom Billion, is a case in point.5 Remarkably, Collier manages to complete his opus without ever referring to cultural impediments to economic progress in the world’s poorest and most economically stagnant societies. In fact, he utters the world culture only once—and that once as a reference to the contending worldviews and approaches of various parties involved in international-aid negotiations.

To be sure, the record of historical efforts to predict and explain economic performance on the basis of cultural attributes is, let us say, checkered. Up through the 1950s and even into the early 1960s, for example, researchers and self-styled experts were offering confident and detailed explanations of why “Confucian values” constituted a serious obstacle to economic development in East Asia. A decade or so later—after the huge boom all around the East Asian rim was well underway—the profession was still united in the consensus that the Confucian ethos mattered greatly in economic performance, but they had quietly shifted their estimate of that impact from negative to positive.

This gets us to the crucial issue of governance—which is shaped by, and in turn independently shapes, local attitudes, expectations, and motivations. Throughout the reaches of the world characterized by long-term economic failure, governance has generally been abysmal. Violent political instability and predatory, arbitrary, or plainly destructive state practices have shaken, or sometimes altogether destroyed, the institutions and legal rules upon which purposeful individual and collective efforts for economic betterment depend. In a few spots on the map—such as North Korea—pronounced economic failure is due to “strong states”: monster regimes that starve their subjects as a matter of principle or ideology, given their own twisted official logic. For many more of today’s failed economies, the trouble instead is that governance has been the charge of “weak” states or even “failed states”: polities with extremely fragile capabilities, sometimes lacking the ability to maintain order or guarantee their subjects’ physical security at all (think Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia).

In these wretched locales, economic failure and continuing developmental decline are unlikely to be arrested absent some serious successes in state-building. But how, exactly, does one proceed with that task? As Francis Fukuyama, who was studied the history of state-building, has cautioned, even under the best of circumstances, the quest to forge sturdy, competent, and trusted state apparatuses promises to be difficult, risky, and time-consuming ventures in these places—and expensive to boot.6 Yet state-building is still hardly even on the agenda of the international-aid community, where moving Western “development” money to stricken regions assumes a much higher administrative priority. Scarcely less important, the challenges of state-building today are compounded by the burdens of history. In South Korea, state-building, from today’s perspective, looks to have been a relatively undemanding mission, difficult as it was: Korea was a nation with a tradition of self-rule under a fairly sophisticated indigenous administrative system for a people with a long civilization and their own written language. In sub-Saharan Africa today, apart from South Africa, the only country that can be similarly characterized is perhaps Ethiopia. But even self-rule is no guarantee that state-building will be easy. Haiti, for example, has enjoyed more than two centuries of formal political independence.

If state-building is the precondition for any real hope of ending the prolonged economic failure and enduring poverty of the hundreds of millions of people currently condemned to this fate in the modern world, the precondition to state-building looks, quite unavoidably, to be foreign intervention—and quite possibly, sustained foreign intervention.

Unfortunately, in the wake of America’s unpopular and in many ways bungled intervention in Iraq, such a prospect is if anything even less palatable for the Western governments that might undertake it than it would have been before the Iraq war. Given sensitivities about their own past colonial activities, postwar voters in Japan and most of Europe have always been reluctant to send troops abroad on indefinite latter-day “civilizing missions.” For example, public support in those countries for the existing, arguably modest, state-building mission currently underway in Afghanistan is tenuous, and any broader commitment to such an international objective simply is not in the cards, now or in the foreseeable future. A number of development economists who recognize the imperative of state-building (not that they would call it by that name) have proposed intriguing schemes for promoting security in poor regions through outside interventions. Collier, much to his credit, flatly states that “external military intervention has an important place in helping the societies of the bottom billion” and argues that “these countries’ military forces are more often part of the problem than a substitute for external forces.” In fact, he devotes the better part of a chapter of his tome to hypothesizing just how the European Union could be encouraged to provide “credible guarantees of external military intervention” to prevent coups in democratically elected Third World governments.7 Paul Romer, the father of modern economics’ “new growth theory,” floats the idea of “charter cities” protected by international security arrangements to which impoverished inhabitants in violent and lawless environments could migrate to enjoy the protections of person, property, and pragmatic rule. Such ideas, unfortunately, are only thought experiments—with little chance of moving off the shelf of theory and into practice, barring a tremendous change in the norms by which international relations are today conducted.

So where does this leave us?

On the one hand, the formula for achieving sustained long-term economic growth on a national basis has pretty clearly been developed, if not perfected—and applying this formula looks to be easier than ever before in human history. Most people, moreover, live in countries that have accepted the arrangements to undergird this growth formula—some by deliberately and enthusiastically embracing them, others by more inadvertently stumbling upon them. Barring global catastrophe—some unforeseen worldwide conflagration or environmental debacle—these populations in general can expect their descendants to enjoy higher incomes and greater affluence than they themselves have ever known. Moreover, thanks to what the economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron described as “the advantages of backwardness,” untapped technological and economic potentialities provide the poorer populations in this group with the possibilities of even more rapid growth than those facing the richer world.

On the other hand, many hundreds of millions of people—a fraction of humanity that may rise, not fall, in the years immediately ahead—cannot avail themselves of the basic political arrangements that set the global growth formula into action. For now, and for the foreseeable future, these miserables can look forward only to relative economic decline—or even further absolute decline, difficult as that may be to imagine.

Nearly half a century ago, Peter Bauer warned presciently that “if attitudes, mores and institutions uncongenial to material progress have prevailed for long historical periods, with corresponding effects on material advance, it may be difficult to reverse their effects except after long periods.” We are living in the world Bauer prophesied. Global prosperity for all is not yet at hand—and, painful and indeed shocking as this may be to recognize, the day in which all humanity can expect to be included in the march toward ever greater affluence cannot be foreseen with any confidence.


1 Angus Maddison, “Statistics on World Population, GDP and per Capita GDP, 1-2008 AD” (March 2010), available electronically at

2 Robert J. Barro and Jong-Wha Lee, “International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications” (Harvard Center for International Development Working Paper No. 42, April 2000)—Appendix Data Tables, available electronically at

3 Investing in development: a practical plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals/UN Millennium Project, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director (New York: United Nations Development Programme, 2005).

4 Sachs, p. 17.

5 Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford, 2007), p. 124.

6 Francis Fukuyama, State Building: Governance and World ­Order in the 21st Century (Ithaca: Cornell, 2004).

7 See, for example, Paul Romer, “For Richer, for Poorer,” Prospect (London), no. 167, February 2010, available electronically at

About the Author

Nicholas Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute. His first article in COMMENTARY appeared in 1980.