A good piece in the Post:

“Those of us who live in the world of poverty research and rigorous measurement have watched many global indicators improve consistently for the past few decades. Between 1990 and 2013 (the last year for which there is good data), the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half, from 1.85 billion to 770 million. As the University of Oxford’s Max Roser recently put it, the top headline every day for the past two decades should have been: “Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 130,000 since yesterday.” At the same time, child mortality has dropped by nearly half, while literacy, vaccinations and the number of people living in democracy have all increased.”

This is the part of globalization that is tough for people like me who are concerned about rising inequality and stagnant incomes.  If all I cared about was the United States or the developed world as whole I would be right to be worried. In point of fact I am RIGHT to be worried.

But as I saw in China, it is a simple fact that globalization has helped the majority of mankind. Ironically on a GLOBAL basis one can argue inequality is actually decreasing   The best measure of inequality, GINI, actually declined marginally between 1988 and 2008, though the subject is complicated, and some dispute the measurement.

Of course there is little question life expectancy is increasing on a global basis:

Life expectancy across the globe has increased by five years since 2000, the fastest rise in lifespans since the 1960s, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Less noticed is the global decline in violence – a truth that to any watcher of TV news would find incomprehensible.  But globally the number dying in battles is at near lows , and on percentage basis fewer are being killed than at any time in human history.

Beyond the decline in deaths from wars there is of course the decline in crime in the US – by most measures near century lows.  This is another case where people simply don’t believe it – but that doesn’t make it any less true. This is not just a US phenomenon, globally murder rates have dropped. The data on mass killings is pretty clear as well – it has declined significantly over the last 30 years.

This period of history is not “uniquely dangerous”.  Certainly it is far less dangerous than it was during the Cold War.  

What I think is striking is how most people would react to this news.  One of the biggest challenges developed economies face is from automation.  Grim reports exist about the loss of jobs.

But even here there is irony.  If a robot can do a boring task isn’t it in the grand scheme of things positive?  The failure is rather in our ability to figure out how to make sure everyone benefits.

The problem with all of this happy talk is the environment – and there I have no happy story to tell.  In fact, when you attempt to actually look at reality (as opposed to applying some preconceived notion of it) this is surely the single biggest problem we face. And here I have no happy talk to share with Trump coming into office.

It is a simple truth – perhaps it is part of the nature of our species – that fear governs so much of our perception of the world.  But that fear distorts.  It is not the truth that in general the world is going to hell in hand basket.  It is not true that for most people on this planet life is getting worse.  A global war is is less likely than it was 35 years ago.

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