Episode 58: The Neoliberal Optimism Industry

Citations Needed | November 28, 2018 | Transcript

Citations Needed
45 min readNov 28, 2018


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Adam: Don’t make us do the beg-athon. We’ll do it if we have to. We’ll do three hours with Terry Gross. We will do it. It’s a threat. It’s a threat.

Nima: Yeah. Don’t make us do that, but thank you so much for your support. Uh, it is amazing and we love our listeners so we’re not going to threaten you anymore with anything.

Adam: You’ve no doubt seen the headlines nonstop for the past few years. Quote, “Why The World Is Getting Better And Why Hardly Anyone Knows It,” in Forbes magazine. Quote, “The world is getting better. Why don’t we believe it?” says The Washington Post.” “Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History,” Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times one year after he wrote an article quote, “Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever”. It’s an increasingly common headline in our times, things are actually great, they only seem bad because of bad news. But how true exactly is this popular axiom? And how are the powers that be quote unquote “measuring” the improvements in society?

Nima: This week we’re going to discuss the ideological project of telling both those in the West and the Global South over and over and over again, that things are, in fact, improving if not already really great. How those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, how a techno-capitalist middle-management ethos came to replace notions of justice, and how what we’d like to call The Neoliberal Optimism Industry gaslights us into complacency and political impotence. Today, we’ll be speaking with Dr. Jason Hickel, anthropologist, author, and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He serves on the Labour Party Task Force on International Development and works as Policy Director for The Rules collective.

[Begin Clip]

Jason Hickel: So Gates is sort of the forefront of this aid narrative and the way that I see this as problematic is because it effectively ends up obscuring the real causes of the problems that are at stake. Right? So we’re all concerned about global poverty and human suffering, etcetera. But what’s really causing these problems? So the aid discourse makes it seem as though what’s needed is like little technocratic fixes here and there, some more malaria bed nets here and there, but it distracts our attention away from the fundamental structure of the international economy and you know, the rules that govern international trade and that’s really what needs to be addressed because effectively if you look into the way that that system operates, it’s effectively designed in such a way that facilitates the siphoning of wealth and cheap labor and resources from the South to the North.

[End Clip]

Nima: On Sept 22, 2011, 5 days after the start of occupy Wall Street, and 45 days after the end of the London riots, the first review for Steven Pinker’s book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” was published by the Guardian. As the unrest in cities throughout the Western world grew throughout the fall and the winter of 2011 and into 2012 glowing reviews for Pinker’s book kept pouring in. In a time of mass civil unrest, the so-called Arab Spring had been raging for months by now, Pinker’s “Better Nature of Our Angels” book provided the counter narrative: ‘don’t worry, everyone, things are actually great.’

Adam: Yeah. The general idea was that there was no point to having “days of rage,” which is what some of the protests in the Arab Spring were called, and also originally what Occupy Wall Street was called when it was first organized in August of 2011. It was billed as a day of rage. It was later called Occupy Wall Street because different groups joined in, but that there was no reason for rage. There was no reason for unrest that the consequences of inequality were not only vastly overblown, but the total opposite of reality. That global capitalism had not harmed or impoverished or indebted us, but in fact had liberated us. Since then a cottage industry has emerged parroting data and statistics telling us that the world is in fact doing very, very well.

[Begin Clip Montage]

Man #1: When you zoom out in a lot of big ways the world is getting better. People are living longer than ever.

Man #2: Despite what you hear on the news, the world is actually getting a lot better.

Man #1: Global poverty is plummeting.

Man #3: I think that the overall arc of human history is for the better.

Man #1: So many fewer people are going hungry.

Man #4: You may think the world is getting worse. It isn’t.

Man #1: And deaths from the scourge of Malaria are dropping.

Man #5: The world has made tremendous progress.

Man #1: Children are doing better too. Child mortality is dropping around the world.

Man #6: There’s undeniable empirical evidence that all these things are improving across the globe.

Man #1: Deaths from war are overall headed downward and recent decades have been historically less violent.

[End Clip Montage]

Nima: One of the things that we really wanted to explore today is this idea that the line between the racism of the the American far-right and the rah rah capitalist ideology that we see throughout society is not actually that defined. There’s not a huge difference between the two. This intersection between shooing away criticism of the richest in our society and also those that traffic in eugenics or neo-colonial attitudes is actually really robust and we thought worth a bit of examination. And nowhere is this intersection more stark than in the one percent’s number one cheerleader, Steven Pinker.

Adam: So the term Fish Hook Theory is a theory presented as a kind of ironic counter to Horseshoe Theory, which we obviously dump on a lot here on the show because we’re leftists and that’s one of the things you do as a leftist. And the Fish Hook Theory is ironic, it’s not something I would actually endorse and I don’t think Nima would endorse in earnest, but basically what it says is that it’s not a horseshoe, it’s a fish hook where you have the left and then it goes right and then the fish hook turns back around and that the far-right and the center, the extreme center and the extreme right have a lot in common.

via Reddit

Nima: Right. It like hooks around but then points at the middle of the line.

Adam: Right. And the general idea behind it, we’ll have it on our show notes, the general idea behind this concept, which I think is a, is a fair one, is that there’s this idea that somehow the far-right morphs back around and turns indistinguishable from the left is actually totally untrue. That the far-right, because the sort of bi modal gradients, descriptions of politics of right and left on a two dimensional space are actually super unappealing and that it’s way more fluid and dynamic than that. That there’s a lot in common with some of the fringes of the right and the alt-right even with what we call the extreme center. And what we want to do today when we’re talking about development discourse, which is popular, most popular or mostly internalized by what we call neoliberal, which is sort of people who embrace a kind of liberal capitalist ideology and free market solutions to what would sort of historically be viewed as something in the public sector. That neoliberalism flirts with and has a lot of overlap with some things we normally associate with the right.And this is very common with the number one advocate for this kind of optimism industry Steven Pinker. Steven Pinker has a history of associating with and advancing what are, what we’d broadly consider to be right-wing positions or alt right-y positions. But at first we want to establish the influence that Pinker has. As we discussed in the Bill Gates episode, Steven Pinker is good friends with Bill Gates. There’s a New York Times article about the “mindmeld,” the quote unquote “mindmeld” between Bill Gates and Steven Pinker. Bill Gates said his favorite book ever in 2012 was Better Angels Of Our Nature until it was replaced later by Steven Pinker’s next book, which is called Enlightenment Now. And so it’s clear that the number one influencer on the number one most important person in terms of global development is Steven Pinker. And so his politics are worth interrogating. Vox, of course, which as we discussed, has a synergistic relationship with Bill Gates, which is to say Bill Gates is a huge funder of Vox through Comcast and through the Foundation itself, runs these Steven Pinker commercials every three months or so.

Nima: So in June of 2015, Vox published an article entitled, “Steven Pinker explains how capitalism is killing war.” In September of 2016, they published an article, “You may think the world is falling apart. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it isn’t.” They followed that up three months later with effectively the same article entitled, “It may have seemed like the world fell apart in 2016. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it didn’t.” And then in 2018 they published, “The case for optimism: The world is better than ever before. And Harvard’s Steven Pinker can prove it.”

Adam: Yeah, and the thing about Pinker is that he’s the number one person that’s cited. Obama has cited Pinker. Bill Gates has cited Pinker. He’s sort the ideological godfather of this new kind of Neoliberal Optimism Industry, but like we said he has, he has sort of a history of problematic views. The first thing he did is race science was always sort of in the subtext of a lot of centrist media, especially with The New Republic under Andrew Sullivan. Race science was pretty popular, but it kind of went out of fashion in the nineties and then it came back in the mid two thousands. Slate published pro-race science stuff they later had to backtrack on. Some others did as well. And the person who sort of brought it back into vogue with Steven Pinker, who in June of 2006 wrote an article about Ashkenazi Jews having superior genes that were sort of basically bred for intelligence. Uh, this kind of was a little bit of a trial balloon. And like I said, others kind of followed, but this, this idea that there’s differences in the races is something he continues to double down on. It’s something he clearly believes but kind of avoids for political reasons. Now when he talks about the differences in races genetically and he sort of buys the kind of Charles Murray racial difference theory, he’s always quick to point out like, ‘this doesn’t justify racism.’

Nima: Yeah. His language really echoes what you would kind of see in far uglier corners of the Internet and yet he gets published in The Times and then, you know, he’s praised everywhere. He’s praised in the, in The New Republic and The Atlantic, etcetera, as we’ve been saying. But in 2013 for example, he posted a tweet that had a link to a New York Times article with the headline, “East Asian Physical Traits Linked to 35,000-Year-Old Mutation.” And he tweeted that article out with this comment, “Every geneticist knows that the [quote] ‘Race doesn’t exist’ [end quote] dogma is a convenient PC 1/4 truth.”

Adam: Yeah, and this is something that he, he uses terms like “politically correct”-

Nima: Really disparagingly. Always.

Adam: Yeah. So as a sort of pejorative, he talks a lot about the differences in genders and race in a way that, there was a Google engineer by the name of James Damore who a couple of years ago was fired because he sent out a memo saying that one of the reasons there wasn’t women in software engineering was due to innate genetic differences between men and women. Now, Pinker took time out on several different occasions to defend this position.

Nima: Basically endorsed that theory.

Adam: Which we can listen to right here.

[Begin Clip]

Steven Pinker: I’d like to express some respectful disagreement with, with Governor Dean over the, uh, the Google memo because Jamie Damore did not say that women were biologically inferior, only a madman could say that. And Jamie Damore was a smart guy. What he did say was that if, since we don’t know that men and women are indistinguishable in every psychological aspect and which ability was actually not even highlighted in the memo, he talked about differences in life priorities, differences in values. That as long as there could be differences between the sexes and we can’t use differences in representation, that is something short of exact 50/50 as proof of discrimination and that it is unfair to hold Google employees under a implicit accusation of sexism simply because the ratio isn’t 50/50. Now, Damore is correct. That is a logically impeccable argument. It is unexceptional among labor economists that you cannot establish discrimination by a statistical distribution that differs from that of the population because there’s so many ways in which groups of people can differ from one another. Moreover, the studies that he cited about, mainly about differences in variance, not about differences in mean, were actually a pretty good reflection of the literature. One could, as with any academic subject in the social sciences there can be controversy in different readings of the evidence, but he certainly, everything that he said in the memo was at the very least defensible, had been said by academics in peer reviewed journals and by no means was it a, a sexist or a, uh, uh, an outrageous document.

[End Clip]

Adam: So this is someone who wrote for and worked with Jeffrey Epstein. Jeffrey Epstein was someone who funded some of the work that Steven Pinker did, which before he was arrested, I guess you could say, fair enough, but even after Jeffrey Epstein was arrested. Jeffrey Epstein was arrested and convicted for trafficking under age girls between the ages of 14 and 17 for the purposes I guess of prostitution, basically trafficked, raped young children. Even after this, Steven Pinker still associates and has dinner with Jeffrey Epstein. He hasn’t really been asked about it. Now, you know, I think we’re going over all this to say that this speaks to a larger disposition from Pinker that he clearly believes that the elite, who Jeffrey Epstein was, he was a billionaire, a huge funder of democratic politicians-

Nima: Yeah, friend of Alan Dershowitz and Bill Clinton.

Adam: Right. That these people are the leaders of the world for a reason and they’re sort of beyond reproach. And this dovetails with his overarching thesis, right? That things are great, don’t complain, and that the extent to which there are differences, one would assume given that he believes in the genetic disposition of the races, that there are genetic motivations for that and that hand wringing about inequality or the exploitation of the Global South probably isn’t working. Now, I want to be fair. I want to be generous here and say that every time Pinker talks about the differences of the races, he’s very quick to follow up to say, ‘this doesn’t mean we should endorse racist policy,’ but this seems like a bit of a, as he would say, a PC qualifier.

Nima: It speaks to a larger idea of white paternalism, which we’ve seen through literature, through culture, through politics for centuries of course. For instance, Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, in his early short story entitled Youth had what later became his frequent protagonist, Charles Marlow, note during the story that quote, “Racial difference…shapes the fate of nations.” End quote.

Adam: And so the modern iteration of this is something we generally call Development Shaming, which is where the poorest of poor in the Middle East especially, this is popular, or in Africa, not due to any kind of exploitation both historically and presently, but because of some moral failing on the part of the people who live there.

Nima: Thomas Friedman just a couple months ago published an article in The New York Times with the headline “Crazy Poor Middle Easterners” with the subhead “The Middle East could prosper if it would put its past behind it.” And the entire article is talking about how unlike what Friedman refers to as the “Far East,” Asian countries, the Middle East, more Arab or also Iran is included in there, they can’t get themselves to be developed the same way because they hold grudges against, I don’t know, Israel and the United States and against their own dictators and on and on and on that they are a tribalist society who can’t get over themselves and therefore they’re not advancing the way that high-tech Japan and super-corporatized Communist China is. And yet the stark reality is so different from what Friedman posits there.

Adam: Yeah. So there’s this idea that there is some moral failing and then he talks about, of course he’s being topical, I guess he saw Crazy Rich Asians, and he uses them as a sort of counter example of how the minorities and the poor and the Global South can actually do a good job. And he says, quote, “Most of Asia became prosperous not by discovering natural resources but by tapping its human resources — men and women — and giving them the tools to realize their potential. It got me thinking that if someone were to do a similar movie about the Middle East it could be called ‘Crazy Poor Middle Easterners.’ Because, with a few exceptions, this region has never been a bigger mess, had more people fighting over who owns which olive tree, had more cities turned to rubble by rival sects and missed its potential so vastly.” Wow.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: This is someone who, of course, has advocated for every single bombing in the Middle East up to and including Beirut in 2006, uh, Iraq 2003, presumably the rubble did not just come from sectarian violence but came from other places as well.

Nima: Exactly. So this is Thomas Friedman who on the May 30, 2003 episode of the Charlie Rose show was referring to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and said this:

[Begin Clip]

Thomas Friedman: And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying, which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy we’re just going to let it grow? Well suck on this. Okay. That Charlie was what this war was about.

[End Clip]

Adam: Yeah and Bret Stephens has trafficked in this before when he shames Haiti, Sudan and uh, the Ivory Coast. When he says quote, “perhaps we need a new kind of colonialism.” Bret Stephens constantly does this. Poor people are poor because they haven’t set up institutions or have enough transparency or that they are too tribal. So again, there’s this, there’s this idea that the massive inequalities that exist between the Global South and the West exist not because of any kind of injustice that’s been visited upon the Global South, but because they just have this collective failing. It’s a cultural failure.

Nima: Right. So Stephens, just like Friedman, traffics in this notion of ‘these people need to get over it.’ So in this article that, Adam, you just referenced from The Wall Street Journal when Stephens was still there, this is from 2011, is headlined, “Haiti, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire: Who Cares?And in it he repeats something else that is often brought up in these kind of articles, which is that the West has done enough to pay for the brutal past, for its previously bad actions. It has now made up for that tenfold. And so this is what Stephens writes in this article quote, “It means that we’ve come full circle. It means that colonialism, for which the West has spent the past five decades in nonstop atonement, was far from the worst thing to befall much of the colonized world. It means, also, that some new version of colonialism may be the best thing that could happen to at least some countries in the postcolonial world.” End quote. And so this is Stephens doing full on white man’s burden signaling, who is doing his own version of Trump’s “shithole countries” just years earlier, who declares in this piece quote, “Haiti has run out of excuses for its failures.” Before pointing to quote, “the depravity of the locals,” end quote, as the reason for Haiti not being the developed nation that Stephens wishes it were.

Adam: And you see this a lot with Paul Romer, who is someone Steven Pinker cites all the time. Steven Pinker’s usual influences, influenced by Romer’s work. Romer’s a very express neocolonialist who literally believes that developing countries should turn over their most economically productive cities to be governed by Western governments and corporations in what he calls charter cities. Now, Pinkers never expressly endorsed this idea, but they exist in us in a similar worldview, which says that Western corporate interest in governments are inherently better than the, those sort of poor, ignorant people in the Global South, and that they know what’s best for them. Now there’s ways of kind of framing this in a way that doesn’t sound so sinister, but you sort of get the general idea, which is that colonialism such that it was, is vastly overrated, but speaking of which, we need a new kind of colonialism that’s benevolent and quote unquote “lifts” people up from poverty. So there’s two sides of the coin. There’s the Steven Pinker optimism porn, the Vox kind of ‘rah, rah, go one percent.’ And then there’s the other side of the coin, which is development shaming, which is that when things don’t turn out well, when countries like Haiti or large parts of Africa remain poor, that it’s not that the one percent failed them or that they’ve been exploited by the rich in the West, but it’s actually their fault.

Nima: Yeah. It’s always the natives fault.

Adam: Yeah. And, and of course they can’t say it’s genetic problem, although they’ll say that in some ways, so what they do is they use it, kind of, ersatz genetic, which is sort of a politically correct variation on genetic arguments, which is a cultural problem, right? You see this with David Brooks a lot, that the problem with New Orleans and the reason why we need to rebuild the entire city to look very white after Katrina is because they have bad culture. They need to move to the suburbs and learn what he calls middle class values.

Nima: Yeah. Which is just being racist.

Adam: But it’s a sort of politically correct way you do racism, right? Because you can’t say it’s genetic because that starts to like spring up notions of eugenics.

Nima: Unless of course, let me just point out, unless you’re Bret Stephens and you write an article about the disease of the Arab mind. Um.

Adam: Yes.

Nima: You could just do that.

Adam: I think he would say he was being metaphorical, but yes, he was not. They do this kind of proxy cultural criticism. This is what Thomas Friedman was doing with the Middle East, right? That the problem in the Middle East isn’t due to the US bombing seven countries in the Middle East, it’s not due to the regime change wars, the CIA backing people, extracting resources, setting up different corporations there to extract the resources over the years, conspiring with the British to extract all their oil in the fifties and sixties. No, it was not that or it’s not teaming up with Saudi Arabia to fund and arm sectarianism and to fund a sectarian mosque and sectarian gyms in Lebanon. It’s not that. It’s, there’s some collective failing. Right? And those two things, this optimism porn and this development shaming work in tandem together.

Nima: So for more on this, we’re going to speak with Dr. Jason Hickel, anthropologist, author and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Stay with us.


Nima: Joining us now from London is Dr. Jason Hickel. Jason, thank you so much for talking to us today on Citations Needed.

Jason Hickel: Yeah, thanks for having me.


Adam: First off, I really enjoyed your writings. I’ve been pouring over them the last week or so. You write a lot about the trap of growth as something that’s per se good. Now a lot of people listening to this would say growing economies is a good thing. Growth obviously has a very positive connotation, especially for those we would think of that are historically poor countries. What in your view is wrong with this word ‘growth’ and how much heavy lifting is done when we talk about growth as something that’s per se positive?

Jason Hickel: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, if you think about sort of cultural hegemony in our world today, I would say that probably the one ideology that has by far the most hegemonic power across left and right, you know, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, is growth. I mean virtually everybody is in favor of it. It’s very rarely questioned. It’s just sort of assumed to be a good thing that we have to have in order to have a functioning economy and to improve people’s lives and so on. But the reason I question this is because, because growth is very tightly coupled with ecological degradation. And so my argument is that it’s kind of a primary driver of ecological breakdown right now and climate change, mass extinction and so on. And so we have to think about the possibility of a world without growth. I mean, we’ve already dramatically overshot planetary boundaries and all sorts of key dimensions. And the only way to bring that under control is with technological innovation for sure, but that will only really begin to catch and bite and have an effect if we’re not exponentially growing the economy, you know, increasing production and consumption year on year. So I think we have to think about, you know, who needs to grow? What countries need to grow? What countries already have plenty to take care of their social needs? And so on.

Nima: Can you dig a little deeper into, based on your work Jason, how the terms “development” and “growth” are really, not only misunderstood, but often deliberately misrepresented both in a political context and also throughout the media, like who do these misperceptions benefit?

Jason Hickel: So I think that there’s a narrative out there that poor countries are basically effectively catching up to rich countries, right? Because we know that, there’s China and they’re becoming a powerful player in the world stage and so on. And we’re seeing people lift out of poverty in China and India also, you know, a booming tech industry and whatnot. So clearly, you know, the gap between the rich and the poor on the global stage is shrinking. This is the dominant narrative we have. And unfortunately it’s simply not true. There are, in fact, was a period when that gap was shrinking, in the immediate postcolonial decades in the 1960s and the 1970s when newly independent governments were rolling out progressive economic reforms using Keynesian policy, protecting their economies with tariffs, using subsidies to promote infant industry developments, etcetera, etcetera. But, you know, and using land reform and labor laws to improve wages and so on. But these policies turned out to be a threat to Global North investors. Which, during the colonial years had enjoyed really easy access to cheap labor and raw materials and so on in those countries. And that was being cut off. And so they responded during the 1980s and 1990s by rolling back those progressive policies through structural adjustments imposed by the World Bank and the IMF, right? Which basically forced Global South countries to privatize public assets, to get rid of tariff barriers and subsidies, to cut spending on education and healthcare. Like all of the crucial elements necessary for real developments were basically denied to Global South countries. The vast majority of them at least. So that’s not true of East Asia and in China, and as a consequence, that region of the world did remarkably well, but what we see in the rest of the world is that the per capita income gap between the Global North and the Global South has tripled since 1960 in real terms and shows no sign of slowing down. I mean, there’s basically been, on per capita level, virtually stagnation in the Global South since the 1980s. And that’s, you know, that’s really not part of our narrative and that’s something that is a structural consequence of the way that the economy was organized during those decades.

Nima: Yeah. I think that actually leads into something that I’ve been so fascinated about while reading your work, which is that the conception that wealthy countries, countries that have historically colonized most of the world are now in a position to give back, right? To, to help out through aid or debt relief or whatever poorer countries in the Global South. So can you tell us how that view of things, that colonialism is a thing of the past that there’s no more extraction or exploitation, but now rather resources are flowing North to South from rich to poor, can you tell us how that might not exactly be true?

Jason Hickel: The dominant narrative development is that rich countries became rich kind of by their own hard work, their good institutions, their scientific inventions and so on, and poor countries are poor and remain poor because they have whatever bad governance or corruption, or maybe they’re lazy or have backwards cultural values in the more racist sense of the narrative, etcetera. But the idea is that rich countries, because they have this surplus, they’re able to sort of reach across the divide and give generously of their surplus to help poor countries up the development ladder. What I argue is that this narrative gets virtually everything about the story wrong, right? First of all, the determinants of success and failure in various countries around the world can’t be entirely attributed to only internal conditions, right? We live in a global economic system. We have done since at least the past 500 years since the onset of colonialism, and so we have to think about how the rules of that economy, of that global economic system affect the outcomes that we see around the world, right?You know, of course, that’s very easy to see during the colonial period, during the structural adjustment period in the 1980s and 1990s as well. And we can see it very clearly now in the way that capital flows around the world, right? And so if we look at total flows of money around the world right now, between the Global North and the Global South, we see something quite remarkable. This is using 2012 data, which is the last data that we have on this. But in 2012, developing countries received a total of $2 trillion US dollars in total inflows from the Global North, right? That includes aid, foreign investments, loans, remittances, everything, every bit of money, which is a lot, but in the same year, some $5 trillion flowed the other direction from South to North. So in that year there were $3 trillion in net outflows from South to North, so the South is in fact a net creditor to the North rather than the other way around. So we might be able to say that it’s, in fact, the Global South that’s developing the North rather than the North developing the South. And that really does flip the aid narrative on its head. And if we compare those outflows to aid, what we see is that for every dollar of aid that the South receives from the North, they lose $24 in net outflows, which is a tremendous reversal of the way we normally think about the situation. There’s lots of ways we can see this kind of reverse flow happening that are important to pay attention to. So one of course is the most obvious one, which is, you know, interest payments on exportable debts, which in and of itself outstrips the global aid budget, you know, almost twice over. But then we also have profit repatriation for multinational companies from host countries back to where they’re listed, which is about $500 billion per year. Sometimes even outstrips foreign direct investment flows themselves, but probably the biggest single cause of this in that outflow situation is illicit financial flows, which are largely through, you know, for the sake of tax evasion by multinational companies who are using basically tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions which are almost entirely in Global North countries controlled by Global North governments in order to secret money out of developing countries into Western bank accounts.

Nima: Oh, okay. So, so you’re saying that wealthy people in nations in the Global North might not be completely honest or treating the Global South fairly?

Jason Hickel: (Laughs.) Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a, you know, it’s a narrative problem really.

Nima: I mean imagine that. Right? Does that have any historical precedent?

Jason Hickel: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s funny and you know for people on the left, maybe this is something that would seem obvious even if they don’t know the data set they might assume this is the case, but if you think about the, you know, the dominant narrative that is out there it’s definitely that rich countries are sort of blameless and benevolent, you know, I mean, sure, they might militarily intervene in the odd country here and there, right? But the idea is basically truly the Global North must be giving much more to the Global South then they receive and that’s just not, it’s just not the case.

Adam: It would be fair to say that the most popular avatar for this ideology is probably Bill Gates, setting aside your kind of editorial board, the kind of general undercurrent of videology that exists in a lot of, you know, economics reporting, but just in terms of like one person would probably be Bill Gates. Second to that would probably be Steven Pinker, obviously Steven Pinker, his life’s mission is to let everyone know that the richest of the rich are doing a really swell job and that if you disagree, it’s just because you’re getting bad information. You’re watching too much bad news. Just this week we’re recording this he complained people are focusing too much on the bombs that were sent to high profile democrats and not enough to presumably what he wants us to focus on, which is like Malaria reduction. Um, can you talk about what this sort of cottage industry, the, the sort of Gates/Pinker/Ezra Klein nexus of sort of constantly telling us that things are really swell? To what extent do you think that has merit and to what extent do you think that’s sort of disingenuous?

Jason Hickel: So Gates is sort of, you know, as he points out, sort of the forefront of this aid narrative and the way that I see this as problematic is because it effectively ends up obscuring the real causes of the problems that are at stake. Right? So we’re all concerned about global poverty and human suffering, etcetera. But what’s really causing these problems? So the aid discourse makes it seem as though what’s needed is like little technocratic fixes here and there, some more malaria bed nets here and there, but it distracts our attention away from the fundamental structure of the international economy and you know, the rules that govern international trade, wages, finance flows and so on. And that’s really what needs to be addressed because effectively if you look into the way that that system operates, it’s effectively designed in such a way that facilitates the siphoning of wealth and cheap labor and resources from the South to the North. You know this is something that economists in the Global South have recognized for a very long time and they’ve longed demanded, right? Like, ‘we don’t need aid actually, what we need is a fair international economic system.’ And we could start by say, you know, democratizing the institutions of global governance, take the World Bank and the IMF, where the US has veto power over all major decisions. The Global South, which has 85 percent of the world’s population, has less than 50 percent of the vote. Even if the majority of the world got together to try to change the rules of how the international economic system operates, they would be unable to because it was effectively a sort of global apartheid that sits right at the center of international economic governance that nobody ever really cares to address in the North. And so Gates, you know, I think this aid narrative really obscures all of those more important structural drivers and it’s anti-intellectual, right? It directs our attention away from, from the problems we really need to be addressing. But the other piece of the Gates narrative, which is closely linked to the Pinker narrative, is that things are basically working okay, and getting a lot better. Right? So, you know, the dominant discourse is that poverty has been reducing really dramatically over the past few decades and will soon be eradicated they hope by 2030 because of the SDGs and so on. And so both of these men have been big proponents of this view. And the underlying narrative there is that free market globalization has been great for the world’s poor. And so even if it’s causing inequality in countries like the US and the UK, we should keep doing it because if we care about the poor, then that’s what we’ll do.

Nima: Right.

Jason Hickel: But you know, this is a problematic narrative because it relies on an extremely low poverty line of $1.25 a day. And so it’s true that we do see a dramatic, well at least some decrease, in the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day in the world. But there’s problems with that narrative because virtually all of those gains come from one place, and that’s China, which was not forcibly liberalized like the rest of the Global South was during the eighties and nineties, which was able to liberalize on its own terms but remains, at least a state capitalist regime that doesn’t use the same kind of Washington consensus policies that everybody else was forced to use. But furthermore, if we use even a slightly higher poverty line, right? Like $5 a day, which is what scholars agree is, you know, the minimum necessary for achieving normal human life expectancy of 70 years, having a decent shot at reducing infant mortality, having access to basic nutrition and so on. A much more reasonable poverty line.

Nima: $5 a day! Still only $5 a day.

Jason Hickel: Pathetically low. And, and remember, this is the amount of money that is equivalent to what $5 a day could purchase in the US in 2005. Right? So that’s what people are supposed to be living on as the poverty line and it’s clearly not possible to live on that. So, but if we use that line, we see something dramatic. We see that since 1980, the number of people living in poverty under that line has increased, not decreased on a global scale. And today about 4.3 billion people live below that line, uh, which is about 60 plus percent of humanity and that, that completely disrupts the story of ‘everything is going to be fine.’

Nima: Right.

Jason Hickel: Because of globalization.

Adam: Sorry, just to be clear, that you mean there’s more poor people both in terms of percentage in absolute terms, something you also write a lot about that sort of both are important.

Jason Hickel: Yeah. So the reason that I focused on absolute numbers is because that is, it’s the politically relevant measure because that’s what the world’s governments decided to focus on in 1996 during the Rome Declaration when they pledged to cut the number of people in poverty and half by 2015. Now the Millennium Development Goals which are brought in by the United Nations after 2000 actually changed the metric from absolute numbers to proportions because they realized that it would be much easier to achieve, uh, having the number of, the proportion of people in poverty rather than the absolute number of people in poverty. So a lot of the narrative does hinge on this use of proportions and I reject that because again, it’s, you know, absolute numbers are a politically relevant category, but also the morally relevant category because a personal suffering is not relieved by the fact that there are other people who are not suffering. And I think that moral philosophers are very clear that’s what matters here is the number of people that are, that are in poverty.

Nima: Yeah. Except that if you read Vox, you’ll hear that Steven Pinker has fifteen charts that will prove that now we’re all happier and living better and longer and everything is just great. So in moral terms, that Steven Pinker equation doesn’t really come into effect.

Jason Hickel: Yeah. And the other thing that really concerns me about Pinker’s narrative of ‘everything is getting better’ is, is that he basically doesn’t take account of climate change, right? He devotes very little of his work to climate change. And when he does, he kind of dismisses it as, as a serious problem by saying, ‘don’t worry, technology is going to kind of sort it out, we’re going to have mass geoengineering of the planets,’ and so on. And most of the propositions that he’s put forward, like solar radiation management and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage on a mass scale have been ridiculed by scientists as extremely dangerous or not tenable, you know, given the resources that we have at our disposal. So I think that, you know, there’s, there’s clearly been a dark side to industrialization and we’re seeing that, you know, very obviously now in the, in the shape of ecological breakdown and mass extinction and Pinker is just not serious about that. It doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense to sort of celebrate the gains that industrialization has granted the world while not being cognizant of, of the dangers and it’s posed as well.

Adam: I don’t want to be too glib here, but I guess people who are listening would probably be curious of this, you know, this all seems rather convenient, right? That the people who are in charge are in fact doing a really good job. There seems like there’s a sort of structural conflict of interest, right? That people, you know, Gates obviously is a huge investor in Comcast, which owns Vox, which runs Gates commercials. Gates has influence in a lot of media, he sort of has really good PR and that there’s a sort of, for someone as powerful as he is, even like Jeff Bezos occasionally gets criticism, Gates sort of has this really remarkable ability to sort of be bipartisanly banal. To what extent is it just ‘okay I can get twelve economists and put them in, you know, a think tank and pay two hundred grand a year and put them in a room and tell them I want to get something and they can torture data to come out with it.’ Again, I don’t want to be too glib here, but to what extent is there just sort of a buyer’s market for, for data that says the rich are doing a really swell job?

Jason Hickel: (Chuckles.) Yeah, that’s a good question. Most of the data that people like Pinker and Bill Gates rely on for their projections of how the world is getting better are World Bank reports and that’s fine. I mean those are widely used, but again we have to understand sort of the like the, the underlying data behind these claims and that’s what my work focuses on. Right? So interestingly, the World Bank doesn’t only use the $1.25 a day line, you know, it also uses the $5 a day line and says that it’s actually more accurate, right? Even in its own communications. And we can use that very data to illustrate that the story is much more complicated than people like Gates and Pinker let on. But also to say that, you know, there’s clearly a conflict of interest that Gates does have that’s at stake here. And that’s this, you know, look, if you look at one of the main problems that the Global South faces right now is that they have a lot of difficulty paying the patent licensing fees that they need on sort of basic medicines and technology including for renewable energy access. And one of the reasons for that is because of the TRIPS agreements, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which is an agreement that came into force under the World Trade Organization in 1994, which basically massively extends corporate patents law around the world. And Gates has benefited singularly from that because that’s where the vast majority of his profits come from and what funds the Gates Foundation is rent effectively on intellectual property.

Adam: Yeah. That’s his big pet project is intellectual property for people who follow him. He’s obsessed with intellectual property.

Jason Hickel: Exactly. Yeah, and if you look at the consequences of these intellectual property laws around the world, they’ve been absolutely devastating. I mean the AIDS crisis that devastated my home country of Swaziland during the 1990s was, was entirely due to the fact that people were unable to access generic medicines when they needed them, even though those medicines were available. Right? Because a TRIPS effectively prevented them from doing so. It’s bizarre to me because Gates goes around the world, you know, lauding his credentials as someone who’s really focused on global public health. And it’s just clear that he’s not. I mean he’s benefited from a regime that has caused some of the major public health crises that the world has seen in history.

Nima: Yes, absolutely. And then you have Thomas the-world-is-flat Friedman wondering why can’t the Middle East and the Global South be more like East Asia and this speaks exactly to what you’re saying that this narrative is just completely, completely skewed.

Jason Hickel: Yeah. I’m really astonished by that, by that claim that Friedman frequently makes. It’s as though he doesn’t understand the history of the Global South before the year 2000. Right? I mean it’s just, it’s just simply racist to suggest that there’s something, you know, which he frequently does, there’s something sort of intrinsically culturally messed up about places like the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa, etcetera. ‘They just can’t get their act together.’

Nima: Right.

Jason Hickel: But the point is they’ve been forcibly structurally adjusted in ways that have been absolutely counter to their interests in terms of development and, you know, real human development and that’s just not taken into account.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, Thomas Friedman, in the buildup to Iraq, would constantly make the argument that, you know, the Arab world only understands violence. This is a very recurring theme of his. So I assume that there’s, there’s also some corollary racism with regard to development. You write a lot about, you touched on this earlier, about how this sort of rah rah capitalist or I guess ‘North developing the South’ narrative takes credit a lot for China. That China is sort of the bulk of these numbers, but of course China wasn’t really, like you said, developed in a WTO style and many of the antecedents of its growth, rested in what was a communist country both in terms of education, educating women, the things that developed in communist countries that we don’t talk a lot about. You know, granted it came at a certain cost, but it is true that those developments did not take place under a kind of capitalist liberal order. Now obviously that’s changed to a large extent. To what extent do you think that there’s a bit of sleight of hand here where capitalism get credit for every development ever even if it’s not really technically really capitalism in any meaningful way.

Jason Hickel: Right. Yeah. I think that’s very true. In the case of China it’s really important that we distinguish between different types of capitalism I think. So if you look at the kind of capitalism that the Western countries used to consolidate their economic power during the industrial revolution, I mean it was highly protectionist, right? I mean the US and the UK with some of the most protected economies in the world and yet those are precisely the kinds of policies that they prevented Global South countries from using in order to manage their own development. So there’s a real double standard at play here historically. And I think it’s really important to distinguish between countries that were structurally adjusted and China on the other hand. I mean, of course China’s capitalist, there’s no question, of course, even the USSR was capitalist, a kind of state capitalism. It was also focused on exploitation and growth. But the crucial difference between China and the rest of the South is that China has the power to direct investment within its country effectively. And you know, that’s not something that most other countries have. You know, for example, if my home country of Swaziland were to suddenly raise wages for women working in the textile sweatshop sector then more or less immediately foreign investors would pull out of that sector and go somewhere cheaper and like to Bangladesh or something like that, which they do every time there’s an improvement in labor laws. And so the vast majority of Global South countries are sort of subject to this, what Chomsky calls a “virtual senate” of international investors floating up there in the air somewhere that are directing capital around the world in a way that punishes Global South countries for trying to improve worker standards, environmental standards, trying to build their own domestic industries and so on. And that’s a major obstacle to meaningful development in the South today.

Nima: Yeah. You never really hear in terms of Pinker or all those articles in Vox, which are really just kind of summaries of Pinker and other people, arguing that things are getting better because labor has more rights because there are more unions and wages are better and worker safety is enhanced. That’s never the argument because they can’t really use those arguments because it’s not really true.

Jason Hickel: Right. Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think that’s an important point that often gets missed, is that the gains that have been achieved over the past century had been achieved through social struggle, right? Through labor unions and um, they’ve always been fought for and never handed down from above by capital.

Adam: Speaking of Bill Gates and Vox, there was a bit of a dustup a few weeks ago where Vox sent out a tweet that said, quote, “One of the biggest problems the world is facing: rapid population growth in Africa. @BillGates explains why — and what and what it’ll take to turn it around — on Monday’s episode of the #EzraKleinShow.” Now they later deleted the tweet and retweeted a sort of summarized version, but if you actually read what Bill Gates talks about, he does sort of hint at the idea that population growth in Africa is sort of bad in and of itself. Now, obviously this has a lot of baggage, right? In terms of eugenics and population growth has a very dodgy history. Can we talk about the sort of frustration I think on some, especially people who are African or in Africa, with this idea that in terms of the waterfall of responsibility you sorta start at the top, work your way down, that it does seem like, at least from my perspective, that Africa, the poorest of the poor are sort of always asked to sacrifice first in the kind of a waterfall of responsibility in a way that strikes some people as unfair because of course when it comes to things like consumption and global greenhouse emissions, the West and the United States in particular is, is the most egregious offender?

Jason Hickel: Yeah. No, very important point. So I think the discourse about, you know, the population bomb in Africa is really problematic. First of all, the important thing to understand here is that what’s the most effective way of reducing the rate of population growth? It’s clearly through education and particularly women’s education. Now, what’s interesting here is that the structural adjustment period that I mentioned before, in the eighties and nineties, eviscerated funding for education across the continents during those decades and it only really began to recover in the early two thousands. And, you know, that’s a legacy we have to pay attention to which doesn’t feature in our discourse about why population growth is, is a thing in Sub Saharan Africa, but, you know, but the other crucial issue here is precisely what you mentioned, which is that the material footprints of people in Sub Saharan Africa is extremely low. It’s about two tons of material stuff per year. By contrast the average across high income nations in the West is 28 material tons of stuff per year, which is 14 times higher than the average in Sub Saharan Africa.

Nima: Yeah. Wow.

Jason Hickel: And there’s no question that it’s precisely these high income nations that are driving virtually all of global ecological overshoot. And so really if anybody is overpopulated, you know, we have to talk about the West because they have too many people for, for the consumption standards they demand. Um, and so if we’re to be honest about, you know, what’s wrong with population growth, it’s the pressure that it puts on our ecosystems and if that’s, if that’s our standard, then we have to point to the West. Of course, I’m no advocate of forcibly reducing population. I do believe that we need to move in the West to a kind of postnatal-ism, if you will, where like right now we have a situation where it’s sort of, it’s hegemonic. It’s sort of culturally required that you have children and if you don’t then you have to, you have to somehow explain that decision. I think the opposite should be the case. Where you should also have to explain why you’re having children rather than there just being an expectation that this is the only path to a fulfilled life. I think that’s um, we need to be much more enlightened about that. But okay, so there’s that. But crucially, the bigger issue here is that we have, you know, a massive problem with excess consumption in the West and it doesn’t improve our lives, right? Like happiness and wellbeing indicators have been stagnant since the 1970s, despite a dramatic increase in per capita income. And of course, but crucially, this is not just because people are greedy. This is because we live in an economic system that requires for its very existence perpetual increases in extraction, production and consumption, right? I mean, that’s the very logic of capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t exist in a zero growth economy and this is precisely what I argue is absolutely necessary for us to confront an errant ecological breakdown is we need to shift to a post growth economy. We need to change the rules of our economic system so that it no longer requires this exponential growth. The scale effect of which is a, is driving us into, uh, into deep trouble.

Nima: Yeah. Something you’ve written about is the overarching concept of poor countries don’t need charity, they need justice. I think your work, Jason really speaks to not only the values that are required to make that possible, but also the actual actions that can be taken and that frankly are already within our reach. This isn’t, this isn’t a pipe dream. Can you tell us about some of the things you’re working on maybe with The Rules or in some other capacity that we can be paying attention to and that will hopefully, you know, win the day eventually?

Jason Hickel: Yeah. So in terms of justice for the South, I’m going to think that some of them are probably obvious to some of your listeners and maybe others are more interesting and new, but the first place I would start is with quite widespread debt cancellation. And the reason I say that is because it’s the debt relationship between the North and the South, that not only, you know, siphons a good deal of Global South countries budgets to bags from the West, but also more importantly constraints their policy space because creditors basically get to determine economic policy. Right? And so, which is deeply undemocratic. So instead of policy decisions being made by parliaments in the Global South they are effectively dictated from on high by creditors. Um, so that’s one crucial intervention towards democratizing the international economy. And the other would be, as I mentioned before, democratizing the World Bank and the IMF. The WTO is technically a one country, one vote system, but in reality countries that have the biggest bargaining power, I mean the biggest economies have the most marketing power. And so what that does effectively is it inscribes old colonial inequalities into the existing contemporary international economic system. So that countries that grew rich during colonialism have much more power than those that were plundered during it. And that perpetuates inequality today. I think that, you know, another crucial intervention would be to focus on tax justice. I mean, right now the international tax haven system siphons around $1 trillion US dollars out of the South each year in illicit financial flows and tax evasion, which is, you know, I mean, that outstrips the international aid budget by a factor of ten. It’s a huge detriment to the possibility of development in the South. It can be fixed easily by rendering secrecy jurisdictions transparent, by closing down tax havens or by doing something like introducing a universal minimum corporate tax that would eliminate the incentive for corporations to kind of seek low tax jurisdictions for where to claim their profits. But we might also talk about something like a global minimum wage. Right? And this is something that Global South scholars have been arguing for for a long time. As long as we have an international economy where capital is globalized and where workers are contributing to an export system that is international, then we should be receiving equal pay for equal work and some calculations suggest that the Global South would be receiving on the order of $2.5, $2.6 trillion more per year in export revenues if their workers were paid fair wages on the global stage. One easy step towards that would be to introduce a global minimum wage where there would be pegged to sort of each country’s median wage. So 50% of the median, for example. So it would fluctuate up and down. There would be no loss of comparative advantage at the introduction of such a system, and so on. But I think we also have to talk about climate reparations, right? We know that Global North countries have contributed, you know, something like 70 plus percent of all historical emissions that are driving climate change right now. And the Global South of course is where the vast majority of the negative effects happen. Like we’re aware of the storms that hit the Eastern coast of the US and so on but the South loses in the region of $500 billion dollars per year in costs associated with climate change, which again, outstrips the aid budget. The aid budget, you know, is paltry in comparison and it’s just, it’s fundamentally unjust for, for poor countries to suffer those losses without some kind of reparations or compensation from the people who are, who are effectively from the countries that are effectively causing it. And of course you’re going to say like, right, you know, China is a major contributor to global emissions. And that’s definitely true. But on a per capita basis China actually contributes relatively little compared to say the US or Germany or the UK, which, you know, on a per capita basis are vastly worse offenders in terms of carbon emissions than any country in the South.

Adam: Before you go, do you want to talk about what you’re working on? Where people can find your work? Let’s, let’s push some paper here.

Jason Hickel: Okay. Um, well, I keep all my work on my blog JasonHickel.org. I write regularly for The Guardian and for Foreign Policy magazine and for Al Jazeera and various other online outlets. All of my published work is also available on my blog and my book, The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions was published by Penguin last year. So that’s available for quite cheap in paperback. These days I’m working on a new book that is focused on a concept that is known as degrowth, which is basically the imperative for rich nations to find a way to to not only, you know, get off the treadmill of continuous exponential economic growth, but actually find ways to actively in a planned manner scale down economic activity in a way that actually allows us to continue to improve the lives of ordinary people while at the same time massively reducing our, our emissions and our material throughput in our economies. And that’s a really exciting idea for me. Uh, it’s, it’s by far the most effective way for us to reverse ecological breakdown and stay within 1.5 degrees Celsius. And so I think that it’s an idea that’s catching on dramatically in Europe these days. I think in the US it’s maybe less of a big deal. Um, it’s a very growth focused culture, but I’m hoping that this conversation will begin to seep over the Atlantic and we’ll see what happens to it.

Nima: Yeah, we certainly do too. This has been so great. Dr. Jason Hickel, anthropologist, author, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He serves on the Labour Party task force on international development, and also works as Policy Director for The Rules collective. Jason, thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed. It’s been great to speak with you.

Jason Hickel: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It was fun.


Adam: A lot of great data in there. This is someone who spent a long time researching and thinking about this and you know, we don’t want to just come out and make all these assertions right about how, you know, people in Europe are exploiting the Global South. There’s lots of data that reflects that. And so much of these, you know, I think people’s instinct is to say, you know, ‘Bill Gates isn’t evil.’ ‘Steven Pinker’s not evil.’ ‘They mean well.’ And that’s not really what I think I would claim per se. What I would claim is that so much of this has been laundered through ideology and the ideology that the people, there’s always going to be a huge market for people who want to say the one percent is doing a really swell job, that the super rich are really great, right? There’s always going to be a buyer’s market for that. It’s not a hard sell. You can sort of torture data all you want to kind of please these interests but, you know, this has existed in every society. No matter of the government from British Colonial England to the Soviet Union, no matter who it is I can find, you know, if, if I can find you ten people that say, ‘man, the guys in charge are doing a really great job,’ uh, which is pretty convenient.

Nima: Because there’s this fantasy that if you can sell that line, you sell the idea of striving to be that. Because if they’re doing a good job but you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job, you’re not feeling the positivity, all the wonderful things that the one percent have wrought, but they seem to be doing okay then you need to get there. And so it continuously kind of does this goalpost moving. But this, this notion of, of striving toward wealth, striving toward power while not really addressing a lot of the needs that people have on a day-to-day basis.

Adam: Yeah. Because when people see stark inequality when they see these, these, these unfathomably rich people versus the poorest. And I say, well, that person has a lot of stuff I want some of that. Even if it’s things like, you know, basic housing or healthcare, god forbid, right? But if I’m constantly saying, ‘oh, well, you can’t measure yourself to Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, uh, you have to measure yourself to some guy that lived 150 years ago.’ So you get things like Pinker saying quote, “An average person of 1910, if he or she had entered a time machine and materialized today, would be borderline retarded by our standards.” Which is just not true. But if I’m comparing myself to some person that Pinker views as being quote “borderline retarded,” of course things are always going to be swell, you know? And I really think that, I think I want to do a reality show where we get Steven Pinker who goes into sweatshops in Bangladesh where people sew wallets and say ‘you’re doing great because 50 years ago based on some metric that I pulled out from the Cato Institute against poverty or poor people or whatever that says, actually malaria was up eight percent.’ These, these concepts don’t mean a lot. And so this is why they have to obsessively tell us that actually things are great and the reason you think they’re bad is because of bad news. This is why this is something that Klein and Gates and Pinker talk a lot about. The idea of bad news and, and toxic news and partisanship, which is a sort of textbook definition of gaslighting. Like that is what gaslighting is. To say that you’re actually not suffering. Trust me. You’re just kind of, you’re just being driven insane by some, you know, evil news media that’s out to like make things look bad.

Nima: Right. I think we can wrap up with the idea that these kind of power serving narratives really need to be investigated and I’m glad that we, that we wind up doing that on this show and that we can be joined by people like Professor Hickel who kind of bring the receipts and, and are able to say not only is this horseshit, but here’s why. Even based on their, on kind of the research that is often touted as showing, you know, well, you know, now people living on two dollars a day have better days than those living on zero dollars a day 300 years ago, which somehow is supposed to make us feel good about our society. So, with that we will leave you and thank you again for listening. You can follow the show on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, support us through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. And extra special shout out as usual goes to our critic level supporters, they do so much for us. Endless thanks. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our production consultant is Josh Kross. Research assistant is Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Additional research by Ethan Corey. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks for listening everyone. We’ll catch you next week.


This episode of Citations Needed was released on Wednesday, November 28, 2018.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan. Post by Sophia Steinert-Evoy.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.