Discover more from Risk+Progress
From Poverty to Progress
A book by Michael Magoon
As much as I enjoy writing, reading books is, for me at least, a chore. Perhaps I become bored or I am easily distracted. It is rare that a book holds my attention and keeps the “flow” going. So rare, in fact, that it deserves recognition. So for today’s essay, I will be doing a very quick book review of From Poverty to Progress by Michael Magoon.
From Poverty to Progress
In From Poverty to Progress, Michael Magoon takes us through a brief history of human progress. It’s a story of how we rose from impoverished hunter-gatherers to living in homes with running water, electricity, and access to all of humanity’s knowledge at our fingertips.
Magoon explains why, despite the media’s ceaseless focus on the negative events of the day, we have never been more prosperous than we are right now. In 1800, 90 percent of the human population lived in extreme poverty, today this figure is inverted. That same year, 60 countries still had legal slavery, today none do. Since 1990, the HDI for all 145 nations for which we have data has risen, with the only exception being war-torn Syria. Famine and war, once a part of life, are now the exception rather than the norm.
But what I really enjoyed about From Poverty to Progress, and what sets this work apart from other books on this topic, is how Magoon breaks down and categorizes the factors of progress, what he calls the “five keys of progress.” I’ll address the five keys in a future essay. According to Magoon, the five keys are:
An efficient food production and distribution system.
Trade-based cities with large numbers of free citizens.
Decentralized political and economic structures.
At least one value-added export industry.
Widespread use of fossil fuels.
Magoon explains how many civilizations, at some point or another in their history, have unlocked some of these five keys. But for true progress to take hold in a sustainable way, all five must be unlocked. Once this happens, economic growth, technological advancement, and improved living standards follow. The five keys enable the near-limitless human capability for invention, advancement, and betterment.
From Poverty to Progress is written in an approachable way that is information-dense but doesn’t overwhelm the reader with endless facts that disrupt or disturb the flow of reading. It’s a thoughtfully researched work for those seeking to expand the breadth and depth of their “progress studies” knowledge and get a better understanding of how far humanity has come from the days of gathering berries.
From Poverty to Progress is an antidote to today's glum headlines. Magoon offers us hope that the future of humanity is bright and prosperous. But that prediction comes with a warning; that stirring global trends, if unchecked, may upend that progress. This is a view, a warning, that colors my work here at Risk+Progress.
From Poverty to Progress is available for discounted purchase here.