Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
Consider Norman Borlaug, for instance, whose efforts to revolutionize wheat farming and thereby save untold millions in Latin America, South Asia, and India from starvation were nearly halted by “right-thinking people.”
Borlaug recalled afterward, without rancor, the maddening obstacles to the development and introduction of high-yield plant varieties: “Bureaucratic chaos, resistance from local seed breeders, and centuries of farmers’ customs, habits, and superstitions.” About his experience in India (in the early 1960’s), he said:
When I asked about the need to modernize agriculture, both scientists and administrators typically replied, “Poverty is the farmers’ lot; they are used to it.”
I was informed that the farmers were proud of their lowly status, and was assured that they wanted no change. After my own experiences in Iowa and Mexico, I didn’t believe a word of it.
In Pakistan and Egypt, government research directors actually sabotaged trials of Borlaug’s seeds in order to discredit his work. As a result, people starved; as Borlaug recalled: “In Bombay during those terrible days I saw miserable homeless kids clustered around hotels pleading not for money but for scraps of bread. Each morning trucks circled the streets, picking up corpses.” Surely, those bureaucrats were guilty of what our judicial system would call “reckless disregard for human life.”