An Economist Breaks Down a Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Cause of Poverty in Poor Countries

Ha-Joon Chang in Literary Hub:

If the coconut symbolizes the natural bounty of the tropical zone in many people’s minds, it is often used to “explain” the human poverty frequently found in the zone. A common assumption in rich countries is that poor countries are poor because their people do not work hard. And given that most, if not all, poor countries are in the tropics, they often attribute the lack of work ethic of the people in poor countries to the easy living that they supposedly get thanks to the bounty of the tropics. In the tropics, it is said, food grows everywhere (bananas, coconuts, mangoes—the usual imagery goes), while the high temperature means that people don’t need sturdy shelter or much clothing.

As a result, people in tropical countries don’t have to work hard to survive and consequently become less industrious. This idea is often expressed—mostly in private, given the offensive nature of the argument—using coconut.

More here.