Some Folk Are Never Satisfied
Time passed, a handful of small poor countries in Asia became not-poor countries through market processes—further from laissez-faire than I would have recommended, but further still from the prescriptions of the conventional wisdom—and it was noticed that the Soviet Union, despite all its forced sacrifices, was still, for most of its population, a third world country. India and China got the message, shifted away from centralized planning in the direction of markets, and began to get less poor.
Problem solved? Not exactly.
As poor and hungry people get less poor, they get less hungry. With enough food to survive no longer a problem, some of them get fat. Voila—the growth of global obesity. It was brought to my attention by a radio interview with an expert who attributed the problem to increased consumption of vegetable oils and sugars. For some reason he didn't mention the obvious relation between increasing real income and increasing consumption, or that some of the increased calories whose consumption he deplored were being consumed by people who needed them.
Nor is that the only problem. As the Chinese get richer they, naturally enough, want more stuff—consume more raw materials, oil, power. Voila—new worries for those who are afraid we are about to run out of everything, either just before or just after we roast or drown. I have not yet heard any of them wishing aloud that the Chinese and Indians would go back to poverty and starvation, but that seems at least a muted subtext to the complaints.
Some of the concern may be legitimate, although it requires a serious effort to see the problems of too much food as comparable to those of too little. More can be attributed to ideological hostility to capitalism—people unwilling to recognize its striking success in dealing with old problems and so eager to focus on new problems created by that success.
And some is just the human taste for gloom.