- - Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Summer approaches, and a gloomy pall, some of it manufactured and some of it real, casts a shadow over the land of the free. The heartland is wrapped in real sorrow as tornadoes and floods threaten hearth, factory and field. An ill wind blows through the nation’s capital, as political warfare most bloody threatens a duly elected president. Nevertheless, shutting out the woes of a troubled era, a different perspective comes into view. In the larger view, things have never been better.

The modern age supplies the human race in mind and body with the ingredients of achievement, some of it spectacular indeed. Well-seasoned adults can vouch for the stunning progress over their lifetimes. Financial resources have long been the bulwark that keeps the wolf from the door, and the growth of earning power has exploded. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has expanded 2.5 times over since 1990, according the World Bank. Across a globe where unfettered economic opportunity is more the exception than the rule, wealth has nearly tripled between 1960 and 2017. Even war-wracked Afghanistan has seen its GDP more than double since 2002.

Prosperity is an effective prescription for better health, and access to a proper diet has taken a bite out of global hunger. Since 1966, the average daily calorie intake per person worldwide has risen 27 percent, from 2,200 to 2,800 calories. In fact, a riot of riches has put akilter the scale of optimal nutrition. The World Health Organization calculates that more people now die from the effects of obesity than from malnutrition.


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Human Progress, a project of the free-market Cato Institute, catalogs the mounting prosperity that piles up despite the reports of calamities that suffuse the morning newspaper. Changes in the cost of commodities essential for civilization measure whether human enterprise is gaining ground. The numbers, happily, point upward, and not just a little.

Between 1980 and 2017, the time required to earn the money to buy a basket of 50 basic commodities — such as chicken and bananas, earth resources like oil and zinc, manufacturing materials such as plywood and rubber — fell by 64.7 percent, according to the project’s research. The money spent on basic goods nearly four decades ago can purchase nearly three times as much now. By any measure, that’s progress.



Knowledge is power, and knowledge is no longer locked away on the shelves of libraries, information is pouring into public view at an breathtaking rate. Twenty years ago, 3 percent of the world’s population had access to the riches (and the dross) of the Internet. Currently, 56 percent of the world’s peoples and 81 percent of the developed world are online, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Smart phones are much more than telephones — they’re sophisticated mobile computing devices enabling users to carry unlimited information in their pockets. There are an estimated 250 million of the miraculous instruments among a population of 329 million Americans, according to Statista Digital Market Outlook. With smart phone market penetration of more than 75 percent, only toddlers and flip-phone owners are not counted among the smart set, and odds are toddlers won’t be phone-free for long.

The upward curve of progress is not impervious to the misfortunes of the moment. Federal weather analysts say the month of May spun up as many as 500 tornadoes, a near-record number, more than 900 so far this year. Fortunately not all are deadly, but all are frightening. The same unstable weather has contributed to floods that have inundated parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and, most recently, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Wind and water damage from spring’s savage weather could push this year’s price tag beyond the annual average of $54 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It’s more difficult to quantify the severity of the disease afflicting the national body politic as Democrats continue to try to unseat a president they consider a pebble in their shoes on their march toward Utopia. As he rode off into the sunset last week, Robert Mueller pointed Congress toward doing what he, try as he might, couldn’t. The Marine in the Vietnam War demonstrated he hasn’t forgotten the fine art of fragging.

Fortunately, the engine of human progress is not powered by blowhards, but those men and women who can actually do it, motivated by their abiding passion for the human race.

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