Can a $40 Washing Machine Really Bring Families Out of Poverty?

Yes, yes it can.

GiraDora is a blue bucket that conceals a spinning mechanism that washes clothes and then partially dries them. It’s operated by a foot pedal, while the user sits on the lid to stabilize the rapidly churning contents. Sitting alleviates lower-back pain associated with hand-washing clothes, and frees up the washer to pursue other tasks. It’s portable, so it can be placed nearby a water source, or even inside on a rainy day. It reduces health risks like joint problems, skin irritation, and mold inhalation. Most importantly, it uses far less water and cleans clothes faster than conventional hand-washing. This equates to more free time…and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

What will they do with that time? Who knows. Possibilities include receiving microloans to buy one and provide laundry service to your neighbors who will then compensate you. When we trade we no longer have to do lots of tasks to keep going, we can trade our labor in one thing for others’ labors in other thing. It is trade that makes us richer. Self-sufficiency is poverty.

Time: that is the true measure of something’s worth. If you have to acquire it for yourself, it usually takes longer than if you get it ready-made by other people. And if you can get it made efficiently by others, then you can afford more of it. This is what prosperity is: the increase in the amount of goods or services you can earn with the same amount of work. – Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist, How Prosperity Evolves

The longer version:

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The World is Getting Richer, and That’s a Good Thing

Peter Diamandis, X-Prize founder, says the world is getting richer; and that’s a good thing for everybody, especially those living in poverty. Technology in the hands of several billion people will make those who subscribe to Paul Ehrlich‘s IPAT formula blanch. But it should mean a healthier population and a healthier planet. Take a moment and consider how blighted United States, Canada, western Europe are and then how Eden-like poorer countries such as North Korea are.

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African poverty is falling…much faster than you think

Back in April, in Happy 40th Earth Day Everyone! I noted the progress we had made worldwide. Specifically, I wrote that the percentage of the world population living on less than $1 a day (in PPP-adjusted 2000 dollars) had dropped [as in, didn’t go up] from 26.80% to 5.40%

One commenter, Hapa, did not see why we should acknowledge the drop:

$1.25/day was adopted by world bank as absolute extreme poverty indicator in 2008. obviously extreme poverty has gone down in real terms, although not real fast in terms of absolute population, and it’s good and i don’t debate it.

but you don’t stop there. you use the wrong measure, the most extreme measure, and you shout victory for a relative improvement when the real number of people living in sick mud hasn’t gone down anywhere near how it could have.

some people, dishonest people, would blame the slow progress on environmentalist backstabbing, when it’s mostly caused by corruption in rich (for wage arbitrage) and poor (for politics) countries alike. what do YOU say.

I agreed that corruption (though not by richer countries) in the poor countries probably held them back. Now, with United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline approaching, comes an analysis by two economists. They say,

[I]t is still widely believed that this growth is primarily driven by oil and natural resource prices, and that it is confined to well-connected elites in geographically advantaged countries. The popular image is that the poor majority in all African nations and many African nations as a whole are stuck in “poverty traps” created by unfortunate geography and calamitous history. For example, the prospects of meeting first Millennium Development Goal of “halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people earning an income less than $1 a day” seem to appear bleak for Africa; the UN writes in its latest Millennium Development Report that “little progress was made in reducing extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa” (UNDP 2008)…[Yet, their analysis shows, the] speed at which Africa has reduced poverty since 1995 puts it on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty relative to 1990 by 2015 on time or, at worst, a couple of years late.

Below is the analysis by Maxim Pinkovskiy Xavier Sala-i-Martin of

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