Are Things Getting Better?

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” -Confucius

The other day I was asked if the world is becoming a better place to live. Sure, the question is open-ended, but I think, in general, the answer is yes. Certainly if you’re an American whose home was foreclosed on last year or any number of “uncontacted people” who were contacted and then died of disease or Moammar Gaddafi, no your life isn’t better. I would argue, however, that for the vast majority of people, their lives are better now than they were 50 years ago and will be even better in another 50 years.

Steven Pinker’s Book The Better Angles Of Our Nature discusses the decrease in violence, especially among Western nations. The idea of a war like World War II is pretty much inconceivable among most Americans and Western Europeans of my generation. The current crisis facing Europe is, while very serious, minor when compared with the wars and dictators of the previous century.

And life hasn’t just improved for those of us fortunate enough to live in a Western country. The World Bank reports that the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) has declined. The World Health Organization has met its sanitary water goal ahead of schedule. Compare even the current atrocities in Syria. The current conflict started in January 2011 and has killed an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 people. While horrendous, this is much less violent than the conflict which occurred in the country in 1982. The Hama massacre saw somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 people killed in a single month.

Despite the recent controversy surrounding women’s reproductive health, life for women in the US is better than it was 30 years ago. And for the LGBT community. And people of color. Are things perfect? No. But thing have improved.

And, I think, they will keep improving.

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