The growth of economic science

Appendix B

§1. In the eighteenth century, political-economy (“economics” for short) emerged to study new ideas such as economic freedom and a prioritization of ends (happiness) over means (wealth).

It is true that modern economics had its origin in common with other sciences at the time when the study of classic writers was reviving. But an industrial system which was based on slavery, and a philosophy which regarded manufacture and commerce with contempt, had little that was congenial to the hardy burghers who were as proud of their handicrafts and their trade as they were of their share in governing the State (page 624).

§2. The (French) Physiocrats established the foundation of modern economics not so much for their interest in agriculture and physical goods but in their advocacy of “laisser faire, laisser passer”, i.e., allowing people to do what they want (free trade) and go where they want (free movement).

§3. Adam Smith is rightly credited as the founder of “modern” economics for his defence and advocacy of free trade, his discussion of the balance between individual freedom of action and government regulation, his exposition of the interaction between supply (cost) and demand (value), and his expositions — not always correct but “working his way towards the truth” — that others built on.

§4. Of those who followed Smith, Jeremy Bentham played an important role by advocating, with relentless logic, individual freedom and innovation over collective conservation, a perspective that fit Britain’s dominant economic and political role in the early eighteenth century.

§5. Economists improved and corrected on Smith’s ideas using inductive (from life) and deductive (from logic) methods for explaining choices and behaviors. They paid attention (and collected data) on the plight of the working classes. Marshall admires Ricardo’s work and perspective but finds his “Semitic genius for abstraction” difficult to follow at some times.

§6. But these economists tended to ignore or misunderstand the differences among countries and individuals. They assumed “economic man” to be like themselves: well-to-do,  intellectual “city men”, which blinded them to the perspectives and values of the working classes. (Indeed, they blamed the poor for their poverty when it resulted from lack of education and other constraints that were loosened by unionisation, education, public health, and so on.) Marx [not mentioned by Marshall] was not so blind.

§7. During the nineteenth century, economic thought became less rigid, uniform and logical as it integrated more human complexity into understanding choices. (Economics influenced Darwin as his Origin of Species influenced economists.)

§8. Marshall then gives “shout outs” to the French, Americans and especially the Germans, who had less faith in individual freedom and trade and a greater respect for national differences and competition. He ends the chapter by cautioning that the biological view of human interactions requires ever-greater analytical effort rather than a lazy appeal to imponderable differences.


This post is part of a series in the Marshall 2020 Project, i.e., an excuse for me to read Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890 first edition/1920 eighth edition), which dominated economic thinking until Van Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (1944) and Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1946) pivoted economics from institutional induction to mathematical deduction.

Interesting stuff

  1. This article on environmental scientists suffering emotionally as the natural world shrinks under the onslaught of Mankind (and mostly men within our species) rings true with me. It’s so sad to see dying corals, burning forests, etc. 
  2. Listen: I teach liberal arts and sciences (LAS). I’m not sure if our students know how lucky they are, but these prisoners earning their LAS degrees sure do.
  3. Read: Divorce in an Indian couple is no longer unimaginable
  4. Listen: Sal Khan, the founder of Khan academy, on better education
  5. Read: Amsterdam tries to rebalance away from mass tourism
  6. Read: “Extreme weather is wreaking havoc on olive oil production” — this is the beginning of the end of food security, which will affect people in poorer countries much more than most of us.
  7. Read: Tap water in the US is more polluted than it should be (as I said a few years ago when Flint was in the news).
  8. Read: ADHD in women manifests via self-doubt and confusion
  9. Read: American drivers — unlike those in other countries — are killing more pedestrians and bikers despite driving less. Why? US road rules are designed for speed not safety. Watch this for a humorous (but exacerbating) explanation.
  10. Read: Dutch recycling: ‘we don’t know what is going on’

The growth of free industry and enterprise

Appendix A

In this Appendix, Marshall sets out a brief history of the world that is “coloured” by his English, colonial (and sometimes racist) perspective.

§1. Civilization began in warmer places where easy food and transport enabled abstract thinking and organizational complexity, but warmth also leads to laziness (the scourge of colonial administrators in Imperial India), which is why savages in warm places were conquered by invaders from cooler places.

§2. People in smaller settlements needed to cooperate within their interdependency, which led to customs of sharing and non-exploitation but also a reluctance to innovate in ways that give advantages to individuals.

§3. The Greeks added freedom and innovation to the Semitic foundations of knowledge and commerce while [waving hands around] their slaves kept them fed and clothed. But even cooling sea winds could not keep the Greeks from settling into comfort and indifference.

§4. The Romans were more disciplined than the Greeks in war, conquest and organisation, even if they were indifferent to business (except with respect to money). They brought Stoic ideas of law and rights into circulation.

§5. The Teutons (Germans) were strong but limited by their customs and ignorance. The Saracens (Arabs) learned from those they conquered but their “sensual religion” (Islam) led to moral decay.

§6. Representative democracy worked better in towns and cities than in countries, due to the difficulty of communicating with all citizens. Easier transport and communication combined with literacy to facilitate self-governance.

§7. Cities in the Middle Ages were full of progress, innovation, self-rule and enlightenment, but they were conquered by larger, stronger neighbours, so their progress was sometimes diverted or lost.

§8. Feudal lords practiced chivalry with each other while dominating the lower classes. The Church was more meritocratic about advancing the best without regard to caste but facilitated feudal oppression. Revolution overturned this stable but stifling regime:

Within a very short period came the invention of printing, the Revival of Learning, the Reformation, and the discovery of the ocean routes to the New World and to India. Any one of these events alone would have been sufficient to make an epoch in history; but coming together as they did, and working all in the same direction, they effected a complete revolution.

Thought became comparatively free, and knowledge ceased to be altogether inaccessible to the people. The free temper of the Greeks revived; the strong self-determining spirits gained new strength, and were able to extend their influence over others. And a new continent suggested new problems to the thoughtful, at the same time that it offered a new scope to the enterprise of bold adventurers. pp612-3

§9. Spain and Portugal took, then lost, an early lead to the Dutch, whose industry and innovation allowed them to escape Spanish domination before they were conquered by the English and French. France fell apart with Revolution, leaving the English as the most powerful nation.

§10. The English were not as good at trading as the Armenians, Greeks, Italians and  Jews. Nor were they as sophisticated as the Latin nations. But a good location and internal communcations enabled many farmers and artisans to work and prosper.

§11. England benefitted from the cultures of “strong Northern” settlers, just as it benefitted from the assertive and varied beliefs of many religious believers.

§12. England’s openness to migrants and challenging climate encouraged hard work, diversification and innovation in the lower classes (even as the upper classes played frivolous games).

§13. England’s economy grew as workers specialised in trades, regions in products and “undertakers” (entrepreneurs) in management. Good ideas were copied, transformed and implemented widely.

§14. As labor was freed of parish borders, workers were able to find better jobs, but ruthless competition also brought social ills. The 19th century was good and bad for workers and society, in a two-steps forward, one-back sense of progress.

§15. Workers were caught between the old system of limits and comforts and a new system of freedom and exploitation. A new class of undertakers were as ruthless as they were successful. Children worked “in Satan’s mills” and labor went hungry as the rich and powerful protected their interests. Life was hard but it would have been worse under French rule (Napoleon as a modern Roman emperor).

§16. It has been left for our own generation to perceive all the evils which arose from the suddenness of this increase of economic freedom. Now first are we getting to understand the extent to which the capitalist employer, untrained to his new duties, was tempted to subordinate the wellbeing of his workpeople to his own desire for gain; now first are we learning the importance of insisting that the rich have duties as well as rights in their individual and in their collective capacity; now first is the economic problem of the new age showing itself to us as it really is. This is partly due to a wider knowledge and a growing earnestness. But however wise and virtuous our grandfathers had been, they could not have seen things as we do; for they were hurried along by urgent necessities and terrible disasters.

[snip] …increased prosperity has made us rich and strong enough to impose new restraints on free enterprise; some temporary material loss being submitted to for the sake of a higher and ultimate greater gain. But these new restraints are different from the old. They are imposed not as a means of class domination; but with the purpose of defending the weak, and especially children and the mothers of children, in matters in which they are not able to use the forces of competition in their own defence.

[snip] Thus gradually we may attain to an order of social life, in which the common good overrules individual caprice, even more than it did in the early ages before the sway of individualism had begun. But unselfishness then will be the offspring of deliberate will; and, though aided by instinct, individual freedom will then develop itself in collective freedom:—a happy contrast to the old order of life, in which individual slavery to custom caused collective slavery and stagnation, broken only by the caprice of despotism or the caprice of revolution.

§17. England is not alone. America has advantages of scale and will probably lead the world. Australia and Canada have the advantage of racial homogeneity. Germany is learning from England’s mistakes as it industrialises…

And Germany contains a larger number than any other country of the most cultivated members of that wonderful race who have been leaders of the world in intensity of religious feeling and in keenness of business speculation. In every country, but especially in Germany, much of what is most brilliant and suggestive in economic practice and in economic thought is of Jewish origin. And in particular to German Jews we owe many daring speculations as to the conflict of interests between the individual and society, and as to their ultimate economic causes and their possible socialistic remedies. (page 623).


This post is part of a series in the Marshall 2020 Project, i.e., an excuse for me to read Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890 first edition/1920 eighth edition), which dominated economic thinking until Van Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (1944) and Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1946) pivoted economics from institutional induction to mathematical deduction.

Interesting stuff

  1. Read: Stronger storms and waves have doubled the number of shipping containers “lost” at sea from cargo vessels. Another cut into our quality of life.
  2. Read: Inside Israel’s lucrative (and occasionally evil) cyber security industry
  3. Read: A look at the business model of influencers
  4. Read: Some German festival organisers (think Burning Man) have decided to take (health) matters into their own hands, in defense of culture. Bravo.
  5. Listen: Archaeology from space
  6. Try? “We build desirable, open source, privacy-enabled smartphone operating systems” — basically “de-googled” android systems
  7. Listen: Climate change is entering business models and (very interesting!) negative real interest rates are raising the cost of inaction
  8. Watch: The best NFT description I’ve seen (via SNL 😉
  9. Watch: How to (properly) compare COVID vaccines
  10. Read: Don’t say media has no impact. “Birth of a Nation” (1915), formerly called “The Klansmen” spurred racist violence:  

Interesting stuff

    1. Read: The right and wrong way to assess students (by one of our alumni)
    2. Read: How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire (fueled by social media) and (related) how Facebook (mis)uses AI
    3. Listen: The business of making a new pasta shape
    4. Listen: A nice look into crypto, NFTs and innovation 
    5. Read: California mulls over plans to buy houses that will be flooded by rising seas, as that will be cheaper than fighting with millionaires who want “government” to protect their houses.
    6. Read: Private schools are not facing their hypocrisy of perpetuating class divides
    7. Read: Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, and how they get into each other’s way
    8. Read: Wanna thrive? “Start by scheduling more varied activities into your days, weeks, and months and removing variety from your hours and minutes.”
    9. Read: Email broke the office: “This convergence of factors has made the last two decades of office work like standing in an increasingly crowded and rowdy bar. Offices might be silent while everyone communicates through their screens, but inside our minds, things have gotten noisier and noisier without anyone stopping to ask why—and when communication about work never ceases, it leaves little time to actually execute the work.”
    10. The State of the Nation(al hypocrisy):

H/T to DPG

Interesting stuff

  1. Listen: A biophysicist explains Aristotelian ethics and a life well lived
  2. Read: In many countries (not the US or NL), there is a “human right to a healthy environment”. Surprisingly (?), it seems to have an effect!
  3. An interesting look at utilities, regulators and “regulatory capture” (corruption) that misses the (very common) problem of poorly performing municipal utilities.
  4. Read: “GME, Doge, Supreme: How Getting Rich Went Full Internet
  5. Listen: A really great discussion on group cohesion, belonging, and relationships with Robin Dunbar (of the Dunbar number)
  6. Read about innocent people executed for crimes they did not commit: “If I were to be murdered,” wrote Prejean, “I would not want my murderer executed. I would not want my death avenged—especially by government—which can’t be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill.”
  7. Read: “Sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. Following the trajectory we are on, sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans.

H/T to CD

Progress in relation to standards of life

Book 6, Chapter 13

This is the last chapter of the book!

§1. So what’s the point of it all?

The term the standard of life is here taken to mean the standard of activities adjusted to wants. Thus a rise in the standard of life implies an increase of intelligence and energy and self-respect; leading to more care and judgment in expenditure, and to an avoidance of food and drink that gratify the appetite but afford no strength, and of ways of living that are unwholesome physically and morally. A rise in the standard of life for the whole population will much increase the national dividend, and the share of it which accrues to each grade and to each trade. A rise in the standard of life for any one trade or grade will raise their efficiency and therefore their own real wages: it will increase the national dividend a little; and it will enable others to obtain their assistance at a cost somewhat less in proportion to its efficiency.

§2. Some short-term methods of raising one’s standard of living exist (e.g., abusing market power or buying cheaper imported goods), but higher productivity is the only long-term method of doing so.

§3. Although tired workers should work fewer hours when they are losing productivity, lower hours increases the cost of labor vis-a-vis capital, which can mean lower wages. (Marshall assumes free markets. Union-supporters would say that they can keep wages high while reducing hours, but that claim relies on them being able to protect jobs from cheaper labor, capital and imports!)

§4. Marshall adds that less but more expensive labor means less output for the rest of society, which can lower the social standard of living (fewer but more costly goods) or productivity (industry cannot correct the labor/capital balance).

§5. Higher wages and lower capital earnings encourages capital, entrepreneurs and companies to leave in search of better living standards and profitable opportunities. Such brain drains don’t just hit “statist” countries like the USSR, Cuba, China and Venezuela. They also hit corrupt countries like Argentina, Italy, Greece, Mexico, India and others. The US and most EU countries are not as bad, but too much intervention (or redistribution to politically important groups) can kill the geese laying golden eggs!

§6. A short-run rise in wages might be justified by competitive, market conditions, but those conditions are not universal or eternal — limiting the value of ideas like “$15 minimum wage for all”.

§7. Unions raise the profile of workers and their pride in working together. Unions can also fight for wage increases, but those increases cannot undermine businesses.

§8. Productivity-based wages do not harm average workers, but they will displace less-productive workers.

§9. Unions that press for the same wages for all workers or wages based on older (less-efficient) practices are likely to harm their least-efficient members, who will not be employed for long if their wages exceed their productivity.

§10. If one branch of industry should lose its market, productivity and employment, then other branches will suffer loses of demand (for goods) and supply (for inputs), thereby creating an unhelpful feedback that can only be reversed by a (slow) return of confidence. These dynamics underlay much of the crippling impacts of the Great Depression that began a decade after Marshall’s book.

§11. Marshall cautions against large-scale or rapid alterations in labor-capital relations, perhaps in response to the Russian Revolution of 1917:

There is therefore strong primâ facie cause for fearing that the collective ownership of the means of production would deaden the energies of mankind, and arrest economic progress; unless before its introduction the whole people had acquired a power of unselfish devotion to the public good which is now relatively rare. And, though this matter cannot be entered upon here, it might probably destroy much that is most beautiful and joyful in the private and domestic relations of life. These are the main reasons which cause patient students of economics generally to anticipate little good and much evil from schemes for sudden and violent reorganization of the economic, social and political conditions of life. p 593

After saying this, Marshall advocates taxing the rich to reduce inequality as it’s better to allow (and then tax) productivity than redistribute the means of production to those less able to produce.

§12. Freedom helps productive, educated, healthy workers, but the “less prepared” might need “German-style” social programs. Marshall doesn’t mind those programs if they are also aimed at helping the children of poorer families escape poverty. (These ideas are still hotly debated, but it’s interesting to see Marshall departing from his earlier eugenic pronouncements (“Nature”) in favor of Nurture.)

§13. Marshall criticises speculators, calling for more “economic chivalry” in which the rich finance the advancement of other citizens (and their children). I am not sure if he favours the rich paying higher taxes or donating to help others. The former is about 50x more effective, in my opinion.

§14. The next generation will not learn much if their parents are struggling. Shorter hours and leisure are essential for rest, flourishing and innovation.

§15. Natura non facit saltum:

Now, as always, noble and eager schemers for the reorganization of society have painted beautiful pictures of life, as it might be under institutions which their imagination constructs easily. But it is an irresponsible imagination, in that it proceeds on the suppressed assumption that human nature will, under the new institutions, quickly undergo changes such as cannot reasonably be expected in the course of a century, even under favourable conditions. If human nature could be thus ideally transformed, economic chivalry would dominate life even under the existing institutions of private property. And private property, the necessity for which doubtless reaches no deeper than the qualities of human nature, would become harmless at the same time that it became unnecessary.

There is then need to guard against the temptation to overstate the economic evils of our own age, and to ignore the existence of similar and worse evils in earlier ages; even though some exaggeration may for the time stimulate others, as well as ourselves, to a more intense resolve that the present evils shall no longer be allowed to exist. But it is not less wrong, and generally it is much more foolish, to palter with truth for a good than for a selfish cause. And the pessimist descriptions of our own age, combined with romantic exaggerations of the happiness of past ages, must tend to the setting aside of methods of progress, the work of which if slow is yet solid; and to the hasty adoption of others of greater promise, but which resemble the potent medicines of a charlatan, and while quickly effecting a little good, sow the seeds of widespread and lasting decay. 

…and that, my friends, is the end of the main book. There are still 13 appendices that I may read (or not). Update next week!


This post is part of a series in the Marshall 2020 Project, i.e., an excuse for me to read Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890 first edition/1920 eighth edition), which dominated economic thinking until Van Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (1944) and Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1946) pivoted economics from institutional induction to mathematical deduction.

Interesting stuff

  1. Read: Sasha Baron Cohen took off his Borat mask to ask real questions about how social media is fomenting hate and attacks on others
  2. Read: 100 years ago, we knew about airborne viruses, then we forgot.
  3. Read: When will the Pandemic be over for society (for you)?
  4. Read: “Email is making us miserable” — just as “randomised win/lose” social media.
  5. Read: Persuading the unpersuadable (quite insightful)
  6. Listen: How the Russians used asymmetric methods to take over Crimea — and how that method will be used again in … Taiwan? Bulgaria? Where next?
  7. Read: Paul Krugman on MMT (wtf), bitcoin (bubble), and deficits (not relevant?)
  8. Listen: “Should universities be the leaders in educating people how to be more sustainable?” (I’m one of 2 guests.)
  9. Read: Stockholm’s basic income experiment has good results
  10. Read: “In Peterson’s view, the bill exposed the larger agenda of postmodernism, which he portrayed as an ideology that, in denying the existence of objective truth, “leaves its practitioners without an ethic.” (This is not how theorists of postmodernism define it, and if you have a few hours to spare, do ask one of them to explain.)”

General influences of economic progress

Book 6, Chapter 12

§1. The chapter begins with:

The field of employment which any place offers for labour and capital depends, firstly, on its natural resources; secondly, on the power of turning them to good account, derived from its progress of knowledge and of social and industrial organization; and thirdly, on the access that it has to markets in which it can sell those things of which it has a superfluity. The importance of this last condition is often underrated; but it stands out prominently when we look at the history of new countries.

…and from here, Marshall looks at capital and wages in ex-colonies such as the US and Australia. These places have abundant resources but lack capital and market access. Wages there are high due to tough conditions, and they fall as development brings economies of scale (further increasing wages) and migration (reducing wages). High capital returns for Old World money in the New World also fall as markets develop.

§2. Eighteenth century England’s economy grew as industrialisation multiplied output and trade (often forced, via colonialism) opened new markets. Faster communication and shipping increased competition, thereby lowering prices.

§3. Increased productivity and high trade volumes lowered the cost of manufactured products to English workers, but expensive domestic food sources reduced that surplus. Growing trade in food (e.g., imported US wheat) displaced domestic production (allowing poor soils to be left for pasture) and lowered food prices. (The 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws also matters.)

§4. Profits fell as protectionism hindered trade and cheaper transport, energy, etc. spurred competition, thereby slowing the increase in English prosperity.

§5. Looking back from 1900/1920, Marshall observes that the costs of food, housing, and heating have been “stable” even as quality has increased and that technological innovation (coal, electricity, machines) have brought clean water, meat, heat, light and other “luxuries” to the working classes, opening the possibility of an entire country — rather than just a city (Venice, Athens) — of well-off people.

§6. Although increased trade and repeal of the Corn Laws pushed down the (rental) value of English land, rents rose as land use shifted to higher value crops or trade-advantaged production. Net net, rents doubled over the nineteenth century.

§7. Easy transport and expanding markets bring competition that lowers profits for expensive, long-lived machines. The value of rail, road and canal transit routes depends on trade methods and routes. Values fell as routes went elsewhere but rose as depots and hubs gained traffic.

§8. Marshall observes that people’s lengthening time horizons (falling discount rates) lead them to harder work now to enjoy greater savings later. He also comments that working hours are falling as over-work becomes a thing. (I guess they were way above 40 hours/week in 1920.) That said, he notes that some will work more if earning are high. For more on these topics, see my post on Keynes’s 1930 essay on productivity.

§9. Wages are rising for (the many) workers who bring more more education and skill to working with machines in agriculture and industry but falling for (the few) artisans who formerly did these jobs. For society, average wages and overall productivity (wealth) are rising, but some are losing out, relatively.

§10. The rising wages of women and children are good for them but bad for the “tradition” in which men earn the money, women tend the house, and children obey.

§11. Marshall identifies what is today called the “winner take all” economy (the return to average talents drops while returns to The Best skyrocket), which is driven by (a) great wealth and (b) communication that allows The Best to find clients everywhere. Indeed: “But so long as the number of persons who can be reached by a human voice is strictly limited, it is not very likely that any singer will make an advance on the £10,000…”

NB: “The first radio news program was broadcast August 31, 1920

§12. Marshall notes a general increase in prosperity for the working and middle classes. He notes that this prosperity can be threatened by loss of work but says such a threat is over-rated compared to the “old days” of piecemeal and sporadic work. With a new normal of year-round employment in large enterprises, workers have better overall job security. The Great Depression tested that conclusion less than a decade later.


This post is part of a series in the Marshall 2020 Project, i.e., an excuse for me to read Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890 first edition/1920 eighth edition), which dominated economic thinking until Van Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (1944) and Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1946) pivoted economics from institutional induction to mathematical deduction.

Nairobi: Too little water, too much inequality

Amina writes*

Nairobi, Kenya is one of the world’s many fast-growing cities facing severe water shortages. Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) currently serves only 72 percent [pdf] of the city’s population, forcing many residents to rely on unsafe and higher priced water from kiosks and private vendors. When it comes to water, Nairobi suffers from poor governance, underinvestment and persistent regional inequality.

Tap water in Nairobi is not always safe, but the biggest issue concerning Nairobi’s water scarcity is the way in which pricing perpetuates regional discrimination and inequality. The NCWSC uses an increased block tariff, but this does not account for the initial set-up costs that most of the cities’ poor simply cannot afford. Another reason why the city’s water network is inaccessible to the poor is the need to make monthly payments. Residents of informal settlements are often paid in daily wages, so they have a hard time paying large monthly charges.

An alternative to tap water was presented in 2015 by placing water ATMs in the cities slums, accessible to residents by using a smart card. This solution was, however, both unsustainable and unreliable. The placement of water ATM’s does not tackle the inequality of infrastructure in Nairobi nor are the tanks always full, which makes them untrustworthy in times of scarcity.

As a result, the residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements are compelled to purchase their water from private vendors. These vendors, however, charge Ksh2 – 50 (€0,015–0,38) for a (20L) jerrycan that would cost  Ksh4 (€0,03 €) from the NCWSC. Research has shown that dependence on private water vendors is positively correlated with poverty. The poor pay more to get water that’s dirtier than that consumed by the wealthier residents using NCWSC water.

Regional inequality contributes to these problems. Spatial segregation dating from colonialism means water solution providers invest in higher income neighborhoods instead of informal settlements.

Nairobi began rationing water in 2016 to cope with excess demand. In 2018, only 40% of residents had 24/7 supply. With rationing targeting 3 out of 4 quarters, inequality continues.

Yet, there might be better times ahead, as the Kenyan government has committed itself to sustainable development goal 6, ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. But how this objective will be realized when broken promises are the norm in Nairobi? The NCWSC plans to bring 80% water coverage [pdf] to Nairobi’s citizens by 2022, but they failed to meet that objective with a 2018 deadline. Water supply projects have been announced, but they lack funding and miss sustainability targets, according to experts.

Bottom Line: Water is currently continuing Nairobi’s regional inequality due to the city’s rapid growth, urban planning failings and colonial heritage.


* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂