Just three decades ago, billions of people around the world were stuck in a trap. Faced with low incomes on the one hand and exploitative loan sharks the other, they could neither save for the future nor purchase the capital required to generate a living. This changed with the pioneering work of Mohammad Yunus in Bangladesh, and with the establishment of the Grameen Bank in 1983, microfinance was born.
The past two and a half centuries have witnessed the largest and most spectacular increase in human wellbeing in history. Economies accounting for the majority of the world’s population have grown exponentially, supporting rapid population expansions while raising material living standards. At the same time, life expectancy in most parts of the world has soared. A child born in sub-Saharan Africa today is more likely to live to the age of five than a child born in the UK just a century ago.
Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton, gives a broad overview of both of these dimensions of progress, telling the intertwined stories of the economic and medical progress that have shaped the modern world. His thesis is largely positive: mankind has made significant progress raising its wellbeing.