The benefits can be political as well. One survey of 100 countries found that educating girls encouraged a more participatory society, and hence made these places more receptive to democratic reform. And countries that become wealthier, safer, more stable and civically active don't offer much of a future for the medieval Islamist throwbacks who set out this week to kill Yousafzai. So we shouldn't be surprised that she topped their target list. For the Taliban, an outspoken, freethinking 14-year-old girl is the beginning of the end.
Dobson is Slate's politics and foreign affairs editor and the author of "The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy."