YouGov poll found that just 5 per cent of Britons think that the world, all things considered, is getting better. More Americans believe in astrology and reincarnation than in progress.
Most people in Britain in the early 1800s lived in what is now regarded as extreme poverty. Life was nasty (people still threw their waste out of the window), brutish (corpses were still displayed on gibbets) and short (30 years on average).
Karl Marx thought that capitalism inevitably made the rich richer and the poor poorer. By the time Marx died, however, the average Englishman was three times richer than at the time of his birth 65 years earlier — never before had the population experienced anything like it.
ln the early 1980s, almost nine in ten Chinese lived in extreme poverty; now just one in ten do. Then, just half of the world’s population had access to safe water. Now, 91 per cent do.
During the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, global economic wealth — or GDP per capita — has increased almost as much as it did during the preceding 25,000 years. Since the Cold War ended, extreme poverty has decreased from 37 per cent to 9.6 per cent — in single digits for the first time in history.
"The enrichment [of the modern world] came mainly from bourgeois liberty and creativity unbridled, not from piling up constraints on voluntary deals or from redistributing what income we get from the deals. Wages and working conditions, after such shocking enrichment, are in fact determined largely by supply and demand, not by regulations passed by Congress or by struggles on the picket line. All boats do rise. Professors and artists and child-care workers, whose productivity has not increased for millennia, benefit from being substitutes in the long run for farmers and truck drivers and medical doctors, whose productivity during the Great Enrichment has risen enormously. A professor with an antique technology of chalk-and-talk could have instead entered farming or medicine, which means that she must earn, roughly at least, what such utterly transformed jobs earn."--McCloskey
But we will always have a gloomy take on our lives. The cultural historian Arthur Freeman observed that ‘virtually every culture, past or present, has believed that men and women are not up to the standards of their parents and forebears’.
And there will never be another heavyweight like Joe Lewis or a quarterback like Bart Starr.