This piece by Tyler Cowen is a beautiful combination of clarity and passion. I knew that Tyler is a very good writer: I had no idea that he is a great writer. This is great writing.

One highlight:

In this movie, the causes of poverty are oppression and oppression alone. There is no recognition that poverty is the natural or default state of mankind and that a special set of conditions must come together for wealth to be produced. There is no discussion of what this formula for wealth might be. There is no recognition that the wealth of the West lies upon any foundations other than those of theft, exploitation and the oppression of literal or virtual colonies.


From the movie, you would never know that the Bolivian region of Santa Cruz is relatively prosperous, that it seeks greater trade and contact with the outside world, and that perhaps it will be oppressed or taxed into submission by the rest of the country, including some of the politicians interviewed on screen.

And one more:

It is never mentioned that in the 1920s Argentina was about as rich as Canada, mostly because of trade.

I was disappointed to see that one of the organizations that embraces the film is Amnesty International. I’m glad I let my membership in that organization lapse, although on different grounds. (AI started pushing for U.S. military intervention in Darfur.)

I have one disagreement. Tyler writes:

Take Barbados and Jamaica, for example: They have similar histories as well as similar lingual, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Yet Barbados is much wealthier than Jamaica; why might that be? Stock ideological theories of both Left and Right don’t readily help us understand the reasons.

I actually addressed that on this blog.

H/T to Dan Klein.