Is the World Getting Better and, if so, Why?


From a reader of my blog:

I admire your efforts to discuss issues. However, it seems your worldview is to defend the “status quo”, to say “things are pretty good”, to denigrate the critics, to downplay the negative. Perhaps this is one of the characteristics of a “conservative”.  I, and many others, on the other hand, look at the world and our country, and see many problems, much injustice, much that needs changed. … In addition, the “free market” is largely a myth. Finally, to the extent our country has many positive attributes, who do you think was responsible—those satisfied with the status quo or those who worked and struggled and protested and brought about change?

The above statement is an intelligent criticism of the point of view expressed on this blog. I will respond to it by more fully describing where I’m coming from.
First of all, I am a non-ideological (i.e. registered independent) fiscal conservative and social moderate. Furthermore, I have had much good fortune in my life. I am a citizen of a free and prosperous democratic country. I come from a loving and supportive family. I have received a good education and, in fact, have been a long time tenured university professor (now retired).
Secondly, perhaps as a result of my own good fortune, I tend to be optimistic. I believe that the world is getting better. Not in a straight line, of course, but slowly and surely, even if there are many twists and turns.
There is much objective evidence for overall optimism as I have previously demonstrated, see here and here.
To briefly summarize:

  • The good old days are now, referring to global wealth rising steeply from about 1800.
  • Freedom. In 1950 31% of the world lived in democracies. Today it is 64%.
  • Equality. Minority rights, women’s rights and gay rights have all increased enormously in the last 100 years.

Conclusion. I am not Panglossian (i.e. this is not the “best of all possible worlds”) nor do I believe that progress just occurs on its own. But progress is relentless, nevertheless. Stay tuned!

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