Paths to More Progress


Despite what the drug industry and some segments of the media want you to believe, Paul McCartney was right. In almost every way, “it’s getting better all the time.”

On the Tonight Show, President Barack Obama told Jimmy Fallon: “Despite the news, despite all the rancor, the truth is if you had to be born at any time in human history and you didn’t know who you were going to be ahead of time…you would choose now. Because the world is actually healthier, wealthier, better educated, more tolerant, less violent than it has ever been.”

In March, 2015, Dylan Matthews of made a list of ways the world is getting much, much better:

  1. Extreme poverty has fallen
  2. Hunger is falling
  3. Child labor is on the decline
  4. People in developed countries have more leisure time
  5. The share of income spent on food in the US has plummeted
  6. Life expectancy is rising
  7. Child mortality is down
  8. Death in childbirth is rarer
  9. People are getting taller
  10. More people have access to malaria bednets
  11. Guinea worm is almost eradicated
  12. Teen births in the US are down
  13. Smoking in the US is down
  14. War is on the decline
  15. Homicide rates in Europe are falling
  16. Homicide rates in the US are falling
  17. Violent crime in the US is going down
  18. The supply of nuclear weapons has been rapidly reduced
  19. More and more countries are democracies
  20. More people are going to school for longer
  21. Literacy is up
  22. The number of unsheltered homeless in the US is down nearly 32 percent since 2007
  23. Moore’s law is still going
  24. Access to the internet is increasing
  25. Solar power is getting cheaper

Leif Wenar, chair of philosophy and law at King’s College London, asked in the New York Times in February, 2016, “Is Humanity Getting Better?” He contended that the 70-year period since World War II has been the most prosperous, most democratic and most peaceful era in recorded human history.

Wenar conceded that, “No decent person would deny that violence is still much too high everywhere. And there is no guarantee that any of these positive trends will continue.” But, he insisted, “batting away the positive facts is lazy, and requires only a lower form of intelligence” and to dwell entirely on what remains lacking blinds us to our capacity for continued progress.

“The real trick to understanding our world,” he said, “is to see it with both eyes at once. The world now is a thoroughly awful place—compared with what it should be. But not compared with what it was. Keeping both eyes open gives depth to our perception of our own time in history, and makes us better able to see where paths to more progress may be open.”


1 Comment

Filed under History, Lifestyle, Policy

One response to “Paths to More Progress

  1. Wise advice from an old friend.

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