The Blue Dots of Outrage

As I pointed out recently, we have just lived through the best decade ever. So why don’t we believe it?

First, for those who don’t believe it, let me briefly recap the evidence. Matt Ridley recently proclaimed the 2010s to be the “best decade in human history.”

We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history. Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 per cent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 per cent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline.

Similarly, over at HumanProgress.org, Johan Norberg lays out the case.

The evidence is overwhelming. Start with the United Nations Development Report. Framed as a warning about inequality, it plays down the good news: “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 that the world-wide rate of extreme poverty fell more than half, from 18.2% to 8.6%, between 2008 and 2018. Last year the World Data Lab calculated that for the first time, more than half the world’s population can be considered “middle class.”…

Global life expectancy increased by more than three years in the past 10 years, mostly thanks to prevention of childhood deaths. According to the UN, the global mortality rate for children under 5 declined from 5.6% in 2008 to 3.9% in 2018. A longer perspective shows how far we’ve come. Since 1950, Chad has reduced the child mortality rate by 56%, and it’s the¬†worst-performing country in the world. South Korea reduced it by 98%.

Those figures are for the world, but the US itself is wealthier, healthier, less violent, and more technologically advanced than it used to be. On the whole, we’ve gone from being rich and safe to being richer and safer.

If you’re still grumbling “but what about…,” Ridley has a good answer for you: “bad things happen while the world still gets better.” There will always be people and places that backslide, and you can always look for anecdotes of tragedy and suffering. But if you look at the data, you will find that those stories are not representative of the big picture, and they are becoming less representative all the time.

If you’re still not convinced, spend some time surfing around at HumanProgress.org, which compiles endless amounts of data on the improving state of humanity. Keep reading until it sinks in.

So why do most people act as if none of this is happening?

Read the rest at The Bulwark.

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