I was reminded of Steven Pinker’s book, “Enlightenment Now,” in reading Nicholas Kristof’s piece, “Why 2018 Was The Best Year In Human History!”
Each day on average, about another 295,000 people around the world gained access to electricity for the first time, according to Max Roser of Oxford University and his Our World in Data website. Every day, another 305,000 were able to access clean drinking water for the first time. And each day an additional 620,000 people were able to get online for the first time.
Never before has such a large portion of humanity been literate, enjoyed a middle-class cushion, lived such long lives, had access to family planning or been confident that their children would survive. Let’s hit pause on our fears and frustrations and share a nanosecond of celebration at this backdrop of progress….
One reason for this column is that journalism is supposed to inform people about the world, and it turns out that most Americans (and citizens of other countries, too) are spectacularly misinformed.
For example, nine out of 10 Americans say in polls that global poverty is worsening or staying the same, when in fact the most important trend in the world is arguably a huge reduction in poverty. Until about the 1950s, a majority of humans had always lived in “extreme poverty,” defined as less than about $2 a person per day. When I was a university student in the early 1980s, 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty.
Now, fewer than 10 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, as adjusted for inflation.
Likewise, Americans estimate that 35 percent of the world’s children have been vaccinated. In fact, 86 percent of all 1-year-olds have been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.