Psst. Things are good. Pass it on.
In a world were geriatric actor Kirk Douglas can say to “America’s young people”:
“THE WORLD IS IN A MESS and you are inheriting it…Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, Aids, and suicide bombers to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable.”
It is nice to be reminded, politically unacceptable though it might be, that THE WORLD IS A LOT LESS MESSIER NOW THAN EVER BEFORE. Long-time friend of CEI Dr. Indur Goklany has written a book that shouts this from the rooftops. Here’s what Allister Heath of the UK’s Spectator magazine has to say about it:
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.
Needless to say, Goklany has already been accused of naive Panglossianism by the doom and gloom merchants, to whom all must always be for the worst in the worst of all possible worlds. This is deeply unfair to Goklany: like the rest of us, he is concerned at the shameful deprivation, disease and misery that continue to affect hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, North Korea and all the rest of the world’s horror spots. But he argues convincingly that to recognise their horrific plight should not prevent us from also acknowledging our progress in liberating even larger numbers of people from extreme poverty.
Heath goes on:
Famine and declining life expectancy are problems now limited to the small number of countries unfortunate enough to continue to suffer from horrendous misgovernment by kleptocratic elites or which persist in rejecting capitalism and globalisation. There is only one way to ensure that the most deprived in the poorest countries are fed and clothed: their governments must embrace the market economy, strong property rights, sound money, free trade and technological progress. That is the only road to higher economic growth; and increased wealth is the prerequisite to better living standards.
Quite right. Heath concludes:
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.
Hear, hear. The legend of Pandora’s Box was that, after all the miseries were released, Hope was left to mankind as its saving grace. With hope and the optimism that goes with it, we can use our ingenuity and labor to conquer the evils of the world. Without hope, we shall be overcome by those evils.
P.S. See also David Boaz at The Guardian and marvel at the opprobrium dumped on him by the commenters for daring to say these things.