I know, everywhere you look or listen, the message is grim—even if you skip everything out of Washington. It seemed to have been the motivation for Americans to elect Donald Trump—if we need to make America great again, is it really broken? Is the world going to hell?
I don’t agree entirely. But that means I take a longer and broader look at what’s going on. Most of what we hear is the immediate situation. Alone, it can be troubling. But if you take a different view, things look much better.
One of the reasons I feel this way is because of a new book by Johan Norberg called, Progress, Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. He certainly doesn’t think the world is going to hell. When I said to think longer in time and broader, Norberg fits because his book explores world progress, not just the United States—but he shows how this global progress helps us, too. Norberg is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington. https://www.amazon.com/Progress-Reasons-Look-Forward-Future-ebook/dp/B01C9O36UK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494952286&sr=1-1&keywords=johan+norberg
He studied different problem areas for people the world over. Things like: food, life expectancy, poverty, freedom, and the environment. Norberg gives a history of each of these human calamities. and then shares the research he, and others, have done about them. The results are surprising. If you were to draw a graph of the progress of humans from thousands of years ago, the line showing improvement would rise so slowly you could hardly recognize any growth. That is, until about thirty years ago. The graph shoots up sharply and is still going—showing massive improvement in all of these human problems. Showing the world is not going to hell.
Let’s look at violence and crime. War used to be the normal, constant state of people. Torture and public executions were common. Husbands beat wives and kids because, well just because that’s the way things were. The homicide rate in Europe peaked in 1400 at about 42/100,000. Today, it’s 1/100,000 in comparison. The FBI statistics for violent crime in the U.S. have fallen to the lowest level in over 40 years.
Was this accidental? No, Norberg says. It happened because of many reasons:
- Governments became organized and set up judicial review of crime
- Religious thinking changed, making the individual responsible for his own actions and to the community
- Humanitarian thinking
So, why do we still think the world is going to hell?
For one thing, we tend to focus on what’s close to us and close in time. We forget some of the wars that killed big chunks of our population. We think our time is particularly dangerous, even if it isn’t in comparison. We also have a huge world population—so more crime will occur but not as a percentage of the population. That’s what has dropped.
Of course, I see the problems we face and know how serious they are. But with a slightly different viewpoint, things don’t look quite so bad. and the world isn’t going to hell.