I am a natural pessimist but even I have to admit, the world is getting better. Sure we have problems, the decline of Christianity, a crazy North Korea, ISIS, an imperialist Russia, and leftists, but on balance, we are still better off than we were thirty years ago. The Soviet Union and many of their allies collapsed and communism is now a joke. Economically, the world is freer than it was before and poverty has plummeted. While there are large security threats, war is less common and fewer people are dying of it. Research is even starting to show that the next generation is going to be the most conservative generation since the end of World War Two. We have problems but we have solutions to them.
The literacy rate of fifteen-year-olds was forty-nine percent in 1975, but was up to ninety-five in 2013. The expected years of education of children at age seven rose four years in in the last thirty-two years.
We are living longer than humans have ever lived before. From 1960 to 2013, life expectancy rose from less than fifty-four years to over seventy-five years. Why are we living longer? One reason is improved health care. From 1980 to 2012 the percentage of people less than a year old vaccinated for DTP1 Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccination went from about sixty-six percent to almost ninety-four percent. In the same period, the percentage of children less than a year old with Tuberculosis vaccine went from a low of fifty-six percent to over ninety percent. Polio vaccines for children increased from forty-eight percent in 1981, to almost ninety percent in 2012.
In 1984, less than a third of children were attended by skilled healthcare staff at birth. It is eighty percent today. Caloric consumption rose by six hundred calories a day from 1962 to 2011. Access to clean water is at ninety percent, we have a greater knowledge about what causes diseases like cancer, and we are closer than ever to finding a cure.
Agricultural area in Kilohectares was 4,443,504.81 in 1961, and rose to 4,922,206.56 in 2012. Similarly, vegetable yields rose from less than 247,105 per Hectare in 1961, to 395,368 per Hectare in 2012. For almost all of humanity’s history, we struggled to grow and harvest enough food to survive. Now, using GM technology, fertilizers, mechanization, and other methods, we produce more than enough food to feed everyone. For the first time in history, the problem is not the quantity but how to distribute it.
Even the environment is doing better. Out of one hundred and eighty countries, only twenty-seven have a worse environment than they did ten years ago.
Poverty is on the decline. In 1980 the global poverty rate was fifty percent, and by 2008 it dropped to twenty-two percent. The World Bank estimated that it would go as low as five percent by 2030. We are on the verge of capitalism ending poverty.
Nuclear weapons, threats to our very existence, are going down. The number of nuclear weapons have and will continue to be on the decline. The US peaked at 31,000 warheads and Russia peaked of 40,000. Today, both countries are below 5,000 warheads. For every one less warhead, we are one warhead farther from total destruction.
Coinciding with the decline of nuclear warheads has been the decline of war. Total armed conflicts are down. There were fifty-two total armed conflicts and wars in 1991. There were only thirty-three in 2013. The number of internal conflicts declined from forty-eight in 1991 to twenty-four in 2013.
With less war, it should be no surprise that fewer soldiers are dying. In 1942, the middle of World War 2, there were one thousand and eighty-three war deaths per 100,000. In 1968 there were eleven. In 2005 there was only POINT SEVEN. We are also killing each other less off the battlefield– in 1996 there were over 160,000 intentional homicides and only 71,000 in 2011. Even hijackings have decreased. In 1970, the worst year for hijackings ever, there were seventy-seven airline hijackings and the 1980s averaged twenty-eight a year. There were only three in 2014.
We are also more globalized. For most of humanity the world has been sectionalized. Europe, Asia and Africa knew of each other but barely interacted. The “Old World” didn’t even know the “New World” existed until five hundred years ago. Today, I can go from the new world, vacation in the old world and be back home with no problem.
Since 1997, Internet has surged from two percent to forty percent. Even in the developing world, internet usage rose from almost zero to thirty-two percent. Mobile phones did not exit five decades ago. In 2012 4.12 billion people, over half the world’s population, had mobile phones. By 2018, it is expected to be 5.47 billion.
In the end, my argument can be summed up in one question. Would you rather live now or 1,000 years ago? Now or 500 years ago? Now or 100 years ago? 50? 30? 20? 10? 5? How about last year?
No matter how you measure or look at it, humanity is getting better day by day. But why is that? The largest explanation is the spread of a global regime of capitalism and free trade. In the last two decades, global economic freedom has increased by three percentage points. This may seem small but it all adds up. The only region in the world to actually decline in economic freedom is South and Central America and even then, it was only by three tenths of a point. As I laid out here, economic freedom is crucial to improving standards of living. The Czech National Bank analyzed sixty studies on the subject and found that the consensus was economic freedom was a long run stimulus to economies. We find the same results with free trade. A 2008 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that countries which did NOT liberalize their trade saw their income stagnate while those that did expand trade saw their incomes grow 20% over 15 years. The left will often peddle ridiculous memes, contrary to all evidence and logic, saying that capitalism is responsible for millions in poverty. In reality, capitalism is not only putting an end to absolute poverty, but is creating levels of wealth unimaginable just one generation ago.