PURCHASE, N.Y. – Though the economy in the United States is hurting, people still have more of a chance to live comfortably compared to their ancestors. As part of the ninth annual Economic Freedom Institute (EFI) lecture series at Manhattanville College, journalist and author Sylvia Nasar spoke about conditions people used to live in and how we got to where we are today.
Nasar, who is most known for writing “A Beautiful Mind,” which was later made into an Oscar-winning motion picture, focused on the economy in England and how it changed from what it was in the 1800s to how it developed up to World War II.
“No one questioned in those days (1800s) that the bottom 90 percent of the population was condemned to poverty and painful toil for the rest of their lives,” Nasar said.
Nasar pointed out that during that time in history, the average Englishman lived no better than the average Roman slave more than a millennium earlier.
But by 1913, English citizens were living twice as well as they were in 1848. Nasar said that this was when the notion of a “modern welfare state” came about; noting that taxing the rich to help the poor was first floated around during this time period.
“Economies are successful not because of how much land and resources they have but how those resources are used,” Nasar said. “This was helped by entrepreneurship.”
Nasar pointed out that after World War I, the global economy was “wrecked” and many revolutions occurred during the era. She added that the war shook people’s faith in both democracy and free markets.
According to Director of the EFI at Manhattanville College Anna Gandolfi, the lecture was meant to show students how economic thinkers have changed the world.
“Sylvia Nasar attracts more than just economics and finance major students,” Gandolfi said. “We see a lot of students from other majors here as well.”