Plenty of Americans are worried about the direction of our country, and not without reason; but in several key respects, life is better now than it’s ever been, and getting better. Excerpt:
My Cato colleague, Johan Norberg, has just published his latest book, called Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. I first came across Norberg’s thoughtful writing in 2003, when, in response to the Battle of Seattle and other anti-globalization protests, he published In Defense of Global Capitalism. The book made a persuasive case in favor of global trade. Thirteen years later, as the current U.S. presidential campaign shows, the book, and the arguments it contains, continue to be relevant.
But back to Progress. The book, as the title suggests, documents progress that humanity has made in ten crucial areas: food supply, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the environment, literacy, freedom, equality and the next generation (i.e., child labor). It has been favorably reviewed in The Economist, The (British) Spectator and, mirabile dictu, The Guardian.
I am glad to report that Cato has organized a book forum for Norberg on October 12, with Reason’s science correspondent Ronald Bailey as commentator. The books by both authors (Bailey published his own tribute to human progress entitled The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century in 2015) will be on sale.
In any case, the release of Norberg’s book allows me, once again, to pitch the wealth of data on a variety of subjects that is made available, free of charge, at HumanProgress.org. The website is aimed at journalists, students, lecturers, as well as the public in general, who are interested in data concerning the state of humanity. Below, I include ten graphs pertinent to each chapter in Norberg’s book.
By all means read the whole things, and examine the graphs. People in the Western world today eat better, are healthier, live longer and safer than at any time in our history.
The genesis of all this, of course, is simple; free minds and free markets. Granted our economy isn’t nearly as free as it was just a few short decades ago, but a nation’s got a lot of ruin in it, and the U.S. is still enjoying a lifestyle made possible by the boom years of the 1980s. People are at their most creative when their creativity pays off, and it is only free markets that make free minds profitable.
It’s popular in some circulars to wax eloquent about the “good old days.” I encourage such folks to talk to the Old Man, who was a boy during the Depression and a young adult in WW2; one of his earliest memories is of the night his brother Lee died of pneumonia when he was three and the Old Man was five, which would have made that in 1928.
Today Lee would have been a little down for a few days but probably in no real danger. Back then, he died. The good old days mostly sucked; these days are better in almost every way.
This seems appropriate: