Global conditions

Let’s consider the starting position that countries find themselves in. Here’s a list of what tends to constitute a good “endowment”, which are factor inputs, or natural resources.

In 2023 India surpassed China as having the world’s biggest population and Thomas Pueyo used this map to link this fact to geographical factors. The whole Twitter thread is fascinating and uses some amazing images.

Before we look at current global conditions, I’d like you to test yourself on what you currently know. Let’s see what score you can get on this quick activity:


If people had no idea what the answers were and guessed at random, the average score would be 3. So isn’t it remarkable that even though there are really important questions; relate to issues that we care about; and don’t require any specialist knowledge, when I do this with my students the median score is 2, and the most common score is just 1. If you take the quiz again, and try to guess which is the only question that most people get right, you’ll notice something interesting – it was the only indicator that was getting worse.

It makes sense to pay more attention to bad news, and therefore constant, moderate progress isn’t newsworthy. But don’t neglect the good news! Most of the world is better off than you think:

If our focus is on Development Economics, and a set of policy prescriptions that can improve the quality of life for the world’s most desperate people, a relatively simple solution is more free migration. Economist Bryan Caplan claims that this is the quickest, simplest and easiest way to impact global living standards.

  • Marshall, T., 2015, Prisoners of Geography, Oxford University Press
  • Caplan, B., and Weinersmith, Z., 2019, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, First Second New York – a thorough and highly readable defense of open borders