At Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple takes on the idea of economics as a zero-sum game:
There is one sense in which I may by definition increase poverty if I grow richer. Suppose my wealth increases faster than that of most of the people in the society in which I live. The people in that society are poorer, relative to me, than they were before, even if, in absolute terms, they are all richer than they were before. This is not the same as active impoverishment. But since poverty is now usually defined in relative and not absolute terms, poverty can increase even where no one, not a single person, is the poorer. By the same token, a society can grow richer as everyone in it becomes poorer. This is absurd.
Dalrymple deals well with the moral issues surrounding this report, but there are issues with how the statistics should be interpreted too. The total wealth of a person in this report is calculated by subtracting his debt from his credit, so that the poorest person in the world is not a Bangladeshi farmer who can’t afford a bicycle, for example- someone who would have very little wealth, but also no debt- but more likely a relatively rich Westerner living beyond his means, who has a decent income, but has accrued debt to improve his lifestyle still further. This is ably explained in the short podcast below: