Daniel Hannan is a thinker, and an eloquent speaker.
He has challenged Nelson Mandela’s thinking on poverty and explains why Mandela was wrong.
âLike slavery and apartheid,â Nelson Mandela told 20,000 people in Trafalgar Square ten years ago, âpoverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.â
They were inspiring words, and the crowd duly went wild. But the old man was talking utter, unadulterated bilge. Poverty is not âman-madeâ: it is the primordial condition of all living organisms, including humans. It is wealth that is âman-madeâ.
As usual Hannan is straight into it without hesitation.
Perhaps 100,000 years ago, our distant fathers hit on the idea that, instead of having to do everything themselves, they could specialise and exchange. If Ug is particularly deft at making flint weapons, let him stay behind and concentrate on what heâs good at while the rest of the tribe hunts and brings him a share of the meat. While weâre about it, Og from the neighbouring clan has a rare gift for making fishhooks: why not trade some of them for Ugâs flints?
From that simple discovery came, in due course, wheels and printing presses and spinning jennies and skyscrapers and antibiotics and the Internet. The greater the number of people drawn into a commercial nexus, the more each individual can concentrate on improving his or her particular mĂ©tier. The hours which we need to work in order to support ourselves fall, giving us more free time â both to employ in leisure pursuits and to come up with yet more ingenious inventions. People became longer-lived, more literate, more comfortable, better-fed, taller, more numerate and more numerous. They also, incidentally, become more peaceable: far from being ruthless or selfish, capitalism joins men and women together in a cats-cradle of mutual dependency. That, in a nutshell is the history of homo sapiens.