We reporters focus on bad news, but at year’s end, let’s remember what went right. 2015 was a better time to be alive than most any prior point in history.
The rich got richer. Some people think that’s a problem, but why? Do rich people sit on their piles of money and cackle about how rich they are? Do they build giant houses that damage the environment? Well, they sometimes do.
But mostly they invest, hoping to get richer still. Those investments create jobs and better products and make most everyone else richer. Even if the rich leave money in banks, banks lend it to people who put it to productive use.
Sure, income inequality has grown – but so what? The rich don’t get richer at the expense of the poor. Poor people’s income grew 48 percent over the past 35 years. Bernie Sanders says that “the middle class is disappearing!” But that’s mainly because many middle-class people moved into the upper class. Middle-class incomes grew 40 percent over the past 30 years.
This year we heard more horror stories about bad schools and students who don’t learn. But take heart: Seven more states passed education choice legislation.
That means more students can opt out of bad schools and pick better ones, and over the long haul competing schools will have to get better at what they do. That will lead to a brighter future for all students – and for society, which will benefit from their improved skills.
In 2015, two more states and Washington, D.C., legalized marijuana. Authorities are always reluctant to give up control, but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.
Meanwhile, real crime – violence and thefts – continues to fall. We cover horrible mass shootings and spikes in crime in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but overall, crime is down – over the past 20 years, down by about half.
Unfortunately, terrorism has increased – mainly because of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there are far fewer deaths from war and terror than there were 30 years ago, and in America, the odds of you or your family being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to disease, accidents and a thousand more-ordinary threats.
Marriage is good for civilization. This year the Supreme Court declared that gay people may get married. Government shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all, since marriage is a contract between individuals, but if it’s going to wade into that issue, it’s better to have one clear rule instead of ugly ongoing fights about it.
Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business and worrying about our own marriages.
In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia got to vote.
More countries elected leaders, rather than inheriting them.
The picture isn’t all rosy. As I mentioned, terrorism is up. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on track to lead America into bankruptcy. We have eternal problems like hunger and disease.
But even those “eternal” problems are closer to being solved than they used to be.
Thanks to better vaccines, 6 million fewer children under the age of 5 die each year compared to 30 years ago.
Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty – that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. “Experts” predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.
Ten percent of the world’s people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off. As Marian Tupy of HumanProgress.org puts it, “Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last.”
So enjoy it. Happy New Year!