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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vastly Underappreciated

As I emphasized in this post, innovation and adaptation are keys to good long term economic performance. Reuven Brenner described this as the commercialization of novelty.
To conclude, the broadest historical evidence suggests that prosperity would be
hindered less if governments just created the institutions that make it possible for entrepreneurship and financial markets to flourish. We can be confident that the idea that governments can frequently do more than that is a consequence of government-subsidized myth creation.
One of the great contributors to his fellow man, much to the chagrin of apocaholics, is Norman Borlaug. See here and here:

The reversal of the Mexican crop disaster was an early tiding of the Green Revolution. Over the next 30 years, Dr. Borlaug devoted himself to the undeveloped world, undoing crop failure in India and Pakistan, and rescuing rice in the Philippines, Indonesia and China. He has arguably saved more lives than anyone in history. Maybe one billion.

Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, yet his name remains largely unknown. Today, at age 93, he receives the Congressional Gold Medal. Perhaps it will secure the fame he merits but never pursued. Then again, perhaps not. While Dr. Borlaug was expanding human possibility, his critics -- who held humanity to be profligate and the Earth's resources finite -- were receiving all the attention. They still are.

As anti-development environmentalists preach the gospel of limits and state coercion, here is a question worth asking: How many millions of people might have perished had Norman Borlaug heeded their teachings?

As a reader at Instapundit points out:

Gregg Easterbrook has it half right about why Norman Borlaug is ignored by the press. It's not because he spent his life serving the poor, per se. Press accounts are filled with stories about those who serve the poor. It's that Mr. Borlaug didn't serve the poor by giving away other people's money, or by demanding that other people give away their money. He served the poor by DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY, which in the view of the press is just as evil as making money, if for no other reason than someone makes money from the developed technology.

You won't see any accolades afforded all the brilliant researchers at GE Medical Systems, Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo, Medtronic, or you name it, for precisely the same reason.

Not standing in the way is very helpful. Appreciating the great benefits to the masses rather than bemoaning such innovation is even better.

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