Friday, April 14, 2017
Ignore the Media Hype: The World is a Better and Safer Place
As this article in the Washington Post notes, however, quite the opposite is true. While very bad things happen in the world everyday, by almost every measure, the world is actually a far better place than it has been in its history. The human race is healthier, richer and more peaceful than anytime in its history.
And here are some highlights:
But perhaps the biggest story is that despite the daily headlines about war and terrorism, the world today is actually far more peaceful than it has ever been in its history. Yes, there are conflicts across the world, but they are less intense, and far more limited than in other times in our history. Heck, even if you focus only on terrorism, your chances of being a victim of terrorism was higher in the 1970's than it is today.
If you want still more data, you can find it here, here and here.
President Obama made the observation that if you were allowed to choose which period of history you would live in, but were not told your nationality or gender, you would be crazy not to choose today.
These facts raise several important questions. First, if the world is such a better place, why do most of us feel that the world is actually a worse place. There are several explanations. First, the pace of progress has been most evident in the developing world, with many in countries like the U.S. feeling that things are getting worse and not better. To some extent this is true. Moreover, when we are bombarded by images of horrific events and acts of violence, it is hard to put these events in the broader context.
Second, even if the world is a safer place today than in the past, will this continue to be the case in the future. With a rising China, an assertive Russia, and a barbaric ISIS, can we really be assured that the trend lines will continue. This, I think, is the real question. I, however, remain an optimist. While stupid decisions by arrogant leaders can always lead to war, the trend has occurred because of a complicated set of reasons. Most fundamentally, most nations now realize that war seldom results in the achievement of political aims, international institutions restrain the use of force, and attitudes towards war have dramatically change over the years
We need to be vigilant to insure that progress will continue, but we need as well to avoid being discouraged and disheartened by the headlines. The world is a much better place than it was even 20 years ago. Our job is to make sure we continue to make progress.