Monday, May 07, 2007

Party like the poor?

Good news for the world's poor, the Economist reports, erm, last week... Here in the developed world, I only get mail service three days a week and so my magazines don't arrive until Thursdays. Is that the good news? Mail service in Sub-Saraha Africa is at least as good as it is in certain G8 countries? Nah.

It's this: according to new World Bank figures, for the first time since economists began calculating the global poverty index, less than 1 billion of the world's poor live under the highly symbolic $1-per-day measure. Never mind that this measure is exceedingly difficult to accurately measure. It represents some serious progress.

What struck me about this article is this one incredible insight into human behavior: as strapped as they are, the poor reliably budget for the big 3 vices -- booze, cigarettes and parties -- even if it means going without food. From the article:

... the typical poor household in Udaipur could spend up to 30% more on food than it does, if only it stopped devoting money to alcohol, tobacco and festivals

Think about that. The poor in places like Udaipur, a real party town, evidentally, spend nearly a third of their income on vices. The way I figure it, not one of my hard-partying friends or family members comes anywhere near such partying proportions (my brother Doug being the possible exception). Even in my single London years, I might have been maxing out at 20%, maybe 25%. I want to party with these people!

All kidding aside, what is it about the human need to party? Perhaps more so than the existence of logic and problem solving skills and the fact we bury our dead, it is this basic human need to party that separates us from the animals.

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