One of the things that seems to bug people these days is expressions of how the world is getting better, wealthier, and happier. My recent comments on the glories of global capitalism flushed out some pretty stubborn adherents of fixed-wealth, mercantilist economics. Much of the attitudes I encountered in the comments are based on a profound pessimism about the ability of people to adapt to change, or even enjoy the challenges of change. Even so, in these gloomy times, it is good to have a clear statement about how good many developments now are. Allister Heath has noted that optimism is almost a taboo an attitude these days as admitting in Victorian times that one enjoyed sex. Anyway, pessimists be damned, read this by Allister:
For billions of people around the world, these are the best of times to be alive. From Beijing to Bratislava, more of us are living longer, healthier and more comfortable lives than at any time in history; fewer of us are suffering from poverty, hunger or illiteracy. Pestilence, famine, death and even war, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are in retreat, thanks to the liberating forces of capitalism and technology.
If you believe that such apparently outlandish claims cannot possibly be true, think again. In a book which will trigger intense controversy when it is published later this month, the acclaimed American economist Indur Goklany, former US delegate to the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change, demonstrates that on every objective measure of the human condition – be it life expectancy, food availability, access to clean water, infant mortality, literacy rates or child labour – well-being and quality of life are improving around the world.
A remarkable compendium of information at odds with the present fashionable pessimism, Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, published by the Cato Institute, reveals that, contrary to popular belief, it is the poorest who are enjoying the most dramatic rise in living standards. Refuting a central premise of the modern green movement, it also demonstrates that as countries become richer, they also become cleaner, healthier and more environmentally conscious
I love articles like this. It must drive the gloomongers nuts. And driving such people nuts is not just a pleasure, but a public duty.
Hope has become a commodity in short supply in the West. Even though more progress will always be required, our victories over famine and extreme poverty during the past two centuries are civilisation’s greatest achievement. It is time we took a well-deserved break from worrying about terrorism, rising crime, social dislocation and all our other problems to celebrate what we have actually got right.