As we bid farewell to 2014 and tell it not to let the door hit it in the ass, I’ll post some year-end summaries, polls and articles for your reading pleasure. 2014 was a year with a lot of dumbassery — missing airliners, Obama’s foreign policy, zero tolerance idiocy, Obama’s economic policy, runaway Ebola nurses, Obama’s budget policy, etc.. But here’s an important reminder that, over the long term, things are pretty damn good:
Take war, for example – our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species. Archaeologists believe that 15 per cent of early mankind met a violent death, a ratio not even matched by the last two world wars. Since they ended, wars have become rarer and less deadly. More British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme than in every post-1945 conflict put together.
We have recently been celebrating a quarter-century since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which kicked off a period of global calm. The Canadian academic Steven Pinker has called this era the “New Peace”, noting that conflicts of all kinds – genocide, autocracy and even terrorism – went on to decline sharply the world over. Pinker came up with the phrase four years ago, but only now can we see the full extent of its dividends.
I would call it the Pax Americana myself, but whatevs.
With peace comes trade and, ergo, prosperity. Global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could.
A study in the current issue of The Lancet shows what all of this means. Global life expectancy now stands at a new high of 71.5 years, up six years since 1990. In India, life expectancy is up seven years for men, and 10 for women. It’s rising faster in the impoverished east of Africa than anywhere else on the planet. In Rwanda and Ethiopia, life expectancy has risen by 15 years.
The Ebola crisis has led to 7,000 deaths, each one a tragedy. But far more lives have been saved by the progress against malaria, HIV and diarrhoea. The World Bank’s rate of extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) has more than halved since 1990, mainly thanks to China – where economic growth and the assault on poverty are being unwittingly supported by any parent who put a plastic toy under the tree yesterday.
But surely we are destroying the planet with all this prosperity. Nope. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen in most of the Western world along with every other pollutant imaginable. We are feeding more people on less land these days and genetic engineering is bringing us miracles like the golden rice which could prevent millions of cases of blindness.
There has been no better time to be human than right now. And, if we don’t get too stupid, we’ll be able to keep saying that for a long time.
Happy New Year.
Be sure to read Dave Barry’s Year in Review:
In politics, the big story is the looming midterm elections, which have President Obama crisscrossing the nation at a hectic pace in a last-ditch effort to find a Democratic candidate willing to appear in public with him.
Be sure to vote for Popehat’s Censorious Asshat of the Year.
A good year-end post at Reason summarizes the Year in Neo-Victorianism. What’s striking is that the push for prudery and censorship is coming from the Left, not the Right. The Left’s illiberalism is one of the defining traits of modern politics.
Update: Radley Balko summarizes the year in civil liberties. This is an area where things are getting worse each year. All of our rights are being slowly chipped away by the government.