November 7, 2015

NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:

Take a Bow, Species (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON October 25, 2015, National Review)

The Princeton economist Angus Deaton, recently awarded the Nobel prize, has spent much of his career working on how we measure consumption, poverty, real standards of living, etc. It is thanks in part to his work that we can say that the global rate of "extreme poverty," currently defined as subsistence on less than the equivalent of $1.90 a day, is now the condition of less than 10 percent of the human race. In the 1980s, that number was 50 percent -- half the species -- and as late as the dawn of the 21st century, one-third of the human race lived in extreme poverty. The progress made against poverty in the past 30 years is arguably the most dramatic economic event since the Industrial Revolution. It did not happen by accident. The progress made against poverty in the past 30 years is arguably the most dramatic economic event since the Industrial Revolution. It did not happen by accident. 

Good news abroad, and good news at home: In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in New York City. That number has fallen by 85 percent. Murders are down, often dramatically, in cities across the country. The overall rate of violent crime has fallen by about half in recent decades. U.S. manufacturing output per worker trebled from 1975 to 2005, and our total manufacturing output continues to climb. Despite the no-knowthings who go around complaining that "we don't make things here anymore," the United States continues to make the very best of almost everything and, thanks to our relatively free-trading ways, to consume the best of everything, too. General-price inflation, the bane of the U.S. economy for some decades, is hardly to be seen. Flexible and effective institutions helped ensure that we weathered one of the worst financial crises of modern times with surprisingly little disruption in the wider economy. Despite politicians who would usurp our rights, our courts keep reliably saying that the First Amendment and the Second Amendment pretty much mean what they say. I just filled up my car for $1.78 a gallon. 

The Right engages in a fair amount of mood affiliation: The country must have suffered ruination, because the Obama administration, abetted by the hated "Republican establishment," can have done nothing but ruin the country. But then you visit New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago, or you drive across northern Mississippi or the Texas Panhandle and see all those splendid farms and technology companies and factories producing all the best things that mankind can dream of, and, well, it certainly doesn't look like a ruined country. In the past few years, I've been to the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and a few years further back India, Colombia, the Dominican Republic -- it doesn't look like ruined world. Of course there are unhappy corners: Haiti, Pakistan. 

Francis Fukuyama was mocked for declaring "the end of history" as the Cold War came to a close, but he wasn't really wrong. Francis Fukuyama was mocked for declaring "the end of history" as the Cold War came to a close, but he wasn't really wrong. Haiti and Pakistan, and the territories currently held by the so-called Islamic State, do not represent the emergence of a credible competitor to liberal democracy; they are only failed states, and failure is something of which there is, alas, to be no end. Even in the case of such deeply illiberal and undemocratic regimes as the one ensconced in Beijing, the drive toward free enterprise, toward higher quality in governance, and even toward accountability (implicit rather than explicit in China) is present. China's political situation isn't good; it is, however, better. And, given the institutional failures we have seen in other countries when procedural democracy emerged before effective and accountable institutions -- Haiti, again -- it may turn out that in 100 years China's path will, despite the many horrors associated with its rulers' brutality, turn out to have been something closer to the right one than the alternatives we liberal democrats in Anno Domini 2015 imagined. Even within the relatively narrow world of capitalist democracies, the old debate between the social democrats and the partisans of Anglo-American liberalism includes a great deal more consensus than it did 60 years ago.




Posted by at November 7, 2015 4:25 PM

  

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