September 13, 2016

Looking forward to the future

By Marian L. Tupy
My Cato colleague, Johan Norberg, has just published his latest book, called Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. I first came across Norberg's thoughtful writing in 2003, when, in response to the Battle of Seattle and other anti-globalization protests, he published In Defense of Global Capitalism. The book made a persuasive case in favor of global trade. Thirteen years later, as the current U.S. presidential campaign shows, the book, and the arguments it contains, continue to be relevant.

But back to Progress. The book, as the title suggests, documents progress that humanity has made in ten crucial areas: food supply, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the environment, literacy, freedom, equality and the next generation (i.e., child labor). It has been favorably reviewed in The EconomistThe (British) Spectator and, mirabile dictu, The Guardian

I am glad to report that Cato has organized a book forum for Norberg on October 12, with Reason's science correspondent Ronald Bailey as commentator. The books by both authors (Bailey published his own tribute to human progress entitled The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century in 2015) will be on sale.

In any case, the release of Norberg's book allows me, once again, to pitch the wealth of data on a variety of subjects that is made available, free of charge, at HumanProgress.org. The website is aimed at journalists, students, lecturers, as well as the public in general, who are interested in data concerning the state of humanity. Below, I include ten graphs pertinent to each chapter in Norberg's book.

1. Globally, food supply is at an all-time high. Even in Africa, people consume well in excess of the USDA-recommended 2,000 calories per person per day.2. Globally, some 75 percent of people have access to improved sanitation (e.g., flush toilets, septic tanks, sewers, etc.), which is important, because unhygienic disposal of human excreta has been a leading source of illness in the developing world.3. Life expectancy, as previously reported at Reason, is at an all-time high.4. The share of people living in absolute poverty, the Brookings Institution researchers believe, has never been smaller.5. Wars have become rarer, and so have homicides—at home and abroad.6. There are also good signs for the environment, as we pollute less in spite of a growing population and larger economic output.
7. Literacy, once a preserve of the few, is now widespread.
8. Economic freedom and democracy are not retreating.9. The gender pay gap is declining in rich countries, gay equality is increasing in the developed world andsegregationist attitudes have almost disappeared.

This article originally appeared in Reason.