Bad news makes a better headline, but Bill Watson reminds us that things have been getting steadily better for 200 years or so:
Between 1820 and 2010, GDP per capita increased 17-fold in Western Europe, 23-fold in the “Western offshoots” (Canada, the US, and Australia), 17-fold in East Asia, 12-fold in Latin American, 10-fold in the Middle East, and 13-fold for the world on average. … If you don’t like GDP, how about the dramatic increase in life expectancy? From 33.4 years in Western Europe in the 1830s to 79.7 years in the twenty-first century. For the world as a whole, life expectancy is two and a half times higher now than it was in the 1880s.
So if you don’t think life is good, keep it mind it used to be a lot worse!
The quotation comes from a book — The Inequality Trap — due out in the fall. The numbers come from the OECD. My favorite version of the same thing is Gapminder World — click on the link and press play.