This is our first post of 2021 and we are starting out on a positive note. Most people believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Recent polls show only 6% of Americans think the world is getting better. Many tacitly assume that for humanity to be better off, everything must be getting better for everyone everywhere. Reality never works that way; some unfavorable trends coexist with many more positive ones. Moreover, many people tend to measure progress against utopia rather than the past.
Humans are hard wired to be pessimistic as we evolved from risk-averse ancestors. When our Paleolithic forebears heard a noise in the bushes, it could be caused by either the wind or a predator. Those who assumed it was the wind did not live to be our ancestors. We therefore are descended from people who tended to worry a lot.
We worry about, inter alia, the Covid pandemic, climate change, politics, civil unrest, the environment, crime and terrorism. Following are some key megatrends showing that Homo sapiens, far from perdition, really is getting better and better all the time. Note: much of the data used herein are from a Cato Institute book: Ten Global Trends.
Eradication of extreme poverty: In the past 200 years the world economy grew 100 fold, while population grew only 18 fold. If the same growth rate is maintained, the economy will grow 10 fold by 2100, while population will be about the same as today.
Natural resources are plentiful and becoming more so: Over the last 40 years, out of 50 commodities studied, 45 of them are less expensive (adjusted for inflation) meaning they are more plentiful relative to demand for them. The average price for all 50 commodities fell 35%, while during that same period wages grew 80%. We have never run out, or are in any danger of running out, of any nonrenewable resource!
Population soon will peak and then decline: Several demographic studies agree that human population will peak soon after mid century and then begin to decline such that in 2100 population will be close to its present level and continue to decrease thereafter. This should go a very long way toward a solution for climate change.
Abundance of food with less land: The world food supply is now 3,000 calories per day per person, an increase of 36% in 60 years despite a burgeoning population. This level exceeds the USDA’s recommended daily caloric intake. Except in war zones, famines are ancient history. More and more land (1 million square miles) has been reclaimed for nature due to use of GMOs and more efficient farming practices.
End of wars between countries: In the past 50 years, wars between nations have been rare and those that did occur resulted in much fewer casualties; this is true even though we went from 50 countries in 1946 to about 200 today. This trend is attributable to increases in democracy, greater wealth and intertwined trading patterns.
All around better world: In recent years democracies increased from 31% to 49%, while autocracies fell from 39% to 11%. In the past 100 years the chances of someone dying from a natural disaster have declined by 99%. Virtually every metric extant evidences that we live in a far safer world and it is getting better all the time.
– – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
As this year progresses, MLLG will address many of the problems America and the world face. It is wise however to begin 2021 with some perspective, so that our problems do not cause us to lose sight of the big picture, i.e. the enormous progress humanity has made and continues to make – contrary to the beliefs of 94% of Americans. Whenever you hear a rustling in the bushes, it is not always a lion.
Our January 24th post deals with the integrity of elections in the USA.