February 15, 2016


Is Humanity Getting Better? (LEIF WENAR  FEBRUARY 15, 2016, NY Times)

[T]his has also been the most prosperous time in human history by far. And by a long way the time with the greatest increase in democracy around the world. It has also been the most peaceful era in recorded human history. What Hegel called the slaughter-bench of history is becoming less bloody.

That thesis about "the most peaceful era in history" is naturally the hardest to believe, yet it's true. As Joshua Goldstein puts it in "Winning the War on War," "We have avoided nuclear wars, left behind world war, nearly extinguished interstate war, and reduced civil wars to fewer countries with fewer casualties." Goldstein continues:

In the first half of the twentieth century, world wars killed tens of millions and left whole continents in ruins. In the second half of that century, during the Cold War, proxy wars killed millions, and the world feared a nuclear war that could have wiped out our species. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the worst wars, such as Iraq, kill hundreds of thousands. We fear terrorist attacks that could destroy a city, but not life on the planet. The fatalities still represent a large number and the impacts of wars are still catastrophic for those caught in them, but overall, war has diminished dramatically.

The percentage of states perpetrating mass killings of civilians is also well down since 1945, and fatalities from armed assaults on civilians (and from genocide) are down since reliable records have been kept. And while the numbers on deaths from terrorism vary according to the definition of that word, all agree that the numbers of terrorism deaths are quite small compared with those caused by (increasingly rare) wars.

These statistics definitely do not prove that animus or madness has ended. No decent person would deny that violence is still much too high everywhere. And there is no guarantee that any of these positive trends will continue.

Still, the big picture of postwar history shows significant improvements in nearly all indicators of lived human experience. The average life span of humans is today longer than it has ever been. A smaller proportion of women die in childbirth than ever before. Child malnutrition is at its lowest level ever, while literacy rates worldwide have never been higher. Most impressive has been the recent reduction in severe poverty -- the reduction in the percentage of humans living each day on what a tall Starbucks coffee costs in America. During a recent 20-year stretch the mainstream estimate is that the percentage of the developing world living in such extreme poverty shrank by more than half, from 43 to 21 percent.

Nothing has served humanity better than forcing conformity to our ideals--democracy/capitalism/protestantism.
Posted by at February 15, 2016 11:32 AM