Maybe Things Aren’t All That Bad


1. When I graduated from college in 1950, world average life expectancy at birth was 47 years. Recently, according to the U.N., it’s 68 years.

2. The UN Millenium Development goal was to halve the percentage of extreme poverty by 2015. We reached that target in 2008.

3. The Millennium Development goal of halving number of people without access to clean water has been attained.

4. The U.S. should enjoy cheap energy for many years, a great economic benefit, and a politico-military one too, since we won’t need to worry as much about the Middle East.

5. There is a steady rise of countries with some degree of rule of law.

6. From late 1940s through early 2000s, annual deaths from combat are down 90%. No country has annexed another since 1975.

7. American violent crime is at a 40-year low, according to the FBI. Most European countries also have declining crime rates.

8. Fifty years ago, 40% of adult Americans smoked; today, 19%.

9. Fertility is plunging. E.g., Iran has fallen from seven children per couple to less than two, and China to something over one. (They’ve relaxed the one-child policy, but reproduction is way down anyway.)

10. One confusing figure in health statistics is simply what people die of. If you pull out violent deaths—traffic, murder and the like—America’s medical outcomes put us clearly in the #1 position. Similarly, if you back out minorities, who start with a handicap, our education system is good, and tops at the college level.

11. People are worried today by such threats as Iran, North Korea and Al Qaeda, which do theoretically have some power to hurt us, but not the way the Soviet Union might have. Iran cannot wage a conventional war that could affect us: Iraq, just Iraq, fought Iran to a draw in their war some years ago. (I visited two fronts in that war, incidentally.) China presents problems, but is a minor military power. We must respect its regional interests, but it should be a friend.

12. The advantage of cutting taxes, particularly corporate taxes, is beginning to be understood.

13. America is home to almost all of the greatest high tech companies. Also, very many of the greatest consumer companies, which will prosper as the world population prospers.

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On the other hand, since my graduation the dollar has lost 9/10ths of its value.

Since our vast national indebtedness, particularly Medicare and Social Security, cannot be paid off, we will need to welsh or inflate it away. So further loss of dollar value is likely in due course. (Our top companies, being much better run than the nation itself, are often hugely rich, though.) Our increasing sense of entitlement saps initiative, and family decay perpetuates an unprincipled underclass.

And within this century, adverse climate change may trouble many coastal areas worldwide. We will take the costly corrective measures only when public opinion demands it.

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In all this, I refer to objective conditions. The stock market, after it has gone too high, will in due course decline.