Over the recent holidays I was intrigued to hear an air of pessimism from a young relative who questioned bringing children into a world such as exists currently. This response is certainly not new throughout world history, yet each generation seems obliged to express it in early adulthood.
Johan Norberg is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of “Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future”. In the Wall Street Journal on December 28, 2019 he writes about how “the 2010s have been the best decade ever.”
He begins with the United Nations Development Report that declares, “The gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people in the world escaping poverty, hunger and disease.”
The World Bank reports “the world-wide rate of extreme poverty fell more than half, from 18.2% to 8.6% between 2008 and 2018… (and) for the first time, more than half the world’s population can be considered middle class.”
People have better access to water, sanitation, health care and vaccines than ever. “Global life expectancy increased by more than three years in the past 10 years, mostly thanks to prevention of childhood deaths.”
Norberg says even pollution has shown much needed improvement as death rates from air pollution declined by 20% world-wide and 25% in China between 2007 and 2017. Over the same period “consumption of 66 out of 72 resources tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey is now declining.”
Global warming remains a significant challenge, but he maintains “wealthy societies are well-positioned to develop clean technologies and to deal with the problems of a changing climate.” He cites “annual deaths from climate-related disasters declined by one-third between 2000-09 and 2010-15 to .35 per 100,000 people according to the International Database of Disasters—a 95% reduction since the 1960s.”
To be sure, other challenges exist in our world from geopolitical tensions, corrupt leaders, trade wars, and an unraveling of globalization. But “wherever societies have been open and markets free, scientists, innovators and businesses persisted and made greater progress than ever… (because) mankind creates faster than they can squander, and repairs more than they can destroy.”
One final note: the 2010s is the first decade in the history of the United States that passed without a recession (two quarters of contracting Gross Domestic Product). Surely another recession will occur, but equally as certain is the eventual recovery that will propel our nation to greater prosperity for all. Meanwhile, we should strive to assist others, including immigrants, so they may participate more fully in the opportunities to come. Happy New Decade!