It is so true that the planet and all the people upon it have advanced light years in their ability to feed themselves, fuel their activities, communicate with each other, create clothing and shelter, and even settle many differences with less conflict. The average income of families around the world has increased by two thirds. Nearly everyone has a cell phone to communicate, biotechnology is increasing agricultural yields wherever it is used, absent the cruelty of environmental zealots who prefer starvation to the manipulation of nature for the benefit of mankind. Poverty across the planet, though still a huge problem, has been halved in the past 20 years.
There remains however two problems, one is very real and the other is a problem of perception. The real problem is clearly government. When the United States and Australia began their experiments with democracy and individual freedom their first great unselfish leaders warned that liberty must be continually guarded or it will be lost. Thomas Jefferson said: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."
The nature of government and those who govern is to increase their power and consequently reduce the freedom of those they govern. The nature of government is selfish, self-centred, inefficient and corrupt. As I write this essay, examples abound as nation after nation faces bankruptcy for policies that increased their power while draining the resources of their lands and their citizens.
Adding to the problems created by government are the special interests such as the anti-human green movement and crony capitalist corporations that game the strangling regulatory programs. Finally, there are thecontinuing efforts to redistribute wealth through socialism that never works without application of force, though has continued to be promoted throughout human history by those sure they can get it right this time.
The economic mess the world faces is exacerbated by the unwillingness of investors and business to invest in such uncertain times of failed economies still not on track to reasonable solutions and belt tightening. But optimistically speaking, the current economic/political hole the world's leaders have dug likely has reached its absolute bottom from which only upward movement can be achieved, in other words "it can't get any worse."
But in fact as bad as all this is, it is not the primary reason that individuals believe their lives and futures are less bright than reality would describe, and that their life is not as good as it was for their parents and grandparents which is most assuredly untrue.
Thus, the second real problem is one of perception. In a book by Gregg Easterbrook, "The Progress Paradox," we are told that a century ago only the rich lived in heated homes with indoor plumbing, travelled by motor car and ship, enjoyed theatre and art, attained higher education and excellent medical care and worked, if at all, in comfortable offices. Today this gap between rich and poor has all but disappeared as these things are available to all those in the world's growing middle class.
Differences in life span, height and other measures of health have disappeared as the extension of medical advances, nutrition, education and the elimination of excessive unimagined toil have extended throughout the western world.
Almost everything in our personal lives is getting better. Public health is improving by nearly every measure, including increased longevity and falling rates of most diseases including cancer, and of course ulcers for which Australian scientists found a cure less than two decades ago.
Doomsday claims to the contrary, environmental trends are positive, with all forms of pollution in decline, except perhaps greenhouse gases. But they are most assuredly not pollutants and make our planet liveable, though they have been the source of the greatest scam ever perpetrated on society including Australia and its wrongheaded carbon tax.
Drinking, smoking and most forms of drug use are declining, teen pregnancy is declining and welfare rolls are shrinking without an increase in poverty. The divorce rate has stopped growing, personal freedom remains high, accidental deaths have declined, as has crime throughout the western world.
Despite what evening-news carnage suggests, armed conflicts and combat deaths worldwide are in a cycle of decline. Military dictatorships and communism are on the run and each year the number of nuclear warheads in the world is reduced.
Food, housing, clothing and other essentials, cost less in real dollar terms than a generation ago, while being higher in quality. Prices of electronic goods fall steadily and become ever more amazing with smart phones and iPads arriving only recently.
We are truly now awash in inexpensive energy as long as we are not forced to develop all but useless and extremely expensive forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar, with the fear that we will one day run out of petroleum and natural gas.
The idea of peak oil, which spawned the thirst for renewables, promoted by my former colleague, friend and mentor M.King Hubbard, has proven quite incorrect. He misunderstood man's genius for improving the technology to locate and develop and refine these resources.
With the advent of shale gas found around the globe and readily available through horizontal drilling and fracking techniques, used safely in the oil fields for over half a century, we are good for 200 years. Clean burning coal fired power plants can carry us for many more centuries, while the next generation of nuclear power plant will be totally safe for which the earth offers an inexhaustible supply of fuel.
There appears to be a clear lack of positive thinking around the world, which makes little sense, as obviously negative thinking can accomplish nothing at all. One reason for the Western depression epidemic, author Easterbrook says, "may be that contemporary society, awash in media and intellectual negativism, has lost track of common-sense guidance that an optimistic outlook usually improves your prospects."
Suffering through privation, Easterbrook said, "those who came before us accumulated the knowledge that makes our lives favored; fought the battles that made our lives free; physically built much of what we rely on for our prosperity; and, most important, shaped the ideals of liberty."
Regardless of the many problems of modern society, we now live in a world our forebears would have wished for us - perhaps a better place than they could imagine. For us not to feel grateful is unreasonable and selfish.
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