It’s challenging to be a pessimist after knowing these ten optimistic trends. While the media would have us be in a constant state of fear, anger, and discouragement, when we pull back and see what has been happening in the world, there are many positive and encouraging signs. Let’s review ten of them. (We’ll cover five this week, and this post will be updated next week with the other five.)
These are from the book Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know by Ronald Bailey and Marian L. Tupy. The book highlights these ten in the first chapter and then enumerates many others. If you’re a pessimist by nature, it would be worth your time investment to discover just how many things there are to be optimistic about.
Let’s jump in.
Optimistic Trend 1: The Great Enrichment
Over the last two hundred years, the population on planet Earth has grown about eightfold. From just over a billion people, humankind has swelled to eight billion. And how have we faired with all that growth?
The GDP of the world’s economy has grown more than one hundredfold. On average, though there are way more of us, each human alive today accounts for more than 12 times the GDP of our ancestors two centuries ago. Is that distributed equally? No (more on that in the next trend). But it’s still an achievement.
And there is no sign of slowing. The growth curve looks like a capital L that has tipped backward. The world will continue to generate greater and greater amounts of wealth, with the best businesses in the world at the forefront.
Will you participate in the generation of that growth and reap the rewards of it? Or will you be on the sidelines, fearing the next temporary decline?
2 – The End of Poverty
84% of that same population in 1820 lived in abject poverty. 84% lived on less than $2.50 per day in 2023 dollars.
Try and imagine that. Try imagining living on $2.50 per day. Or you and your spouse on $5.00 per day. $150 per month. For your whole life. I doubt a single person listening to this is doing so on a device that costs many multiples of that monthly wage. Two hundred years ago, that was the reality for 84% of the population.
Thanks to the Great Enrichment, the percentage of the population living in the condition decreased to:
- 66% by 1910,
- 55% by 1950, and
- 42% by 1981.
It took 160 years for the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty to drop by half. Then things began to take off.
By 2018, the percentage had dropped to 8.6%, and the number is still falling. About 650,000 people living in that condition in 2018, less than there were 200 years ago by absolute numbers. The percentage of people living in poverty has been reduced by 90%.
The trend line is pointed at the ground. The United Nations has set a goal to eradicate extreme poverty for everyone everywhere by 2030. It looks like it will be achievable.
3 – Are We Running Out of Resources?
Many catastrophists have warned that the “overpopulation” problem will deplete the earth’s resources.
However, an analysis of global commodity prices from 1980-2017 showed that the real prices of most commodities have decreased. While the nominal prices have increased on most, the inflation-adjusted price of all of them has decreased.
How does this relate to running out of resources? When the supply of a demanded item decreases, the price will increase—basic supply and demand.
Surely we are not demanding fewer commodities than forty years ago. We’ve added over 100 million people in the U.S. alone since then. And yet real prices are falling.
The only explanation for falling prices with rising demand is that supply is also rising.
Does this mean we will never run out? No. Does this mean we shouldn’t strive for cleaner and more abundant renewables? Of course not! Let’s keep innovating. But you are also unlikely to need a bunker in your backyard.
Optimistic Trends So Far
You can find these trends and more in the book Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know. Let’s review quickly.
- The world is getting richer.
- Poverty is ending, hopefully within this decade.
- We aren’t running out of resources as fast as some would have you believe.
We’ll be back next week with more.
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This article is educational only and is not intended to be investment, legal, or tax advice or recommendations, whether direct or incidental. Again, this is not investment advice. Consult your financial, tax, and legal professionals for specific advice related to your specific situation. Never take investment advice from someone who doesn’t know you and your specific situation. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the people expressing them. Any performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be directly invested in.