Johan Norberg looks at the progress humanity has made in recent years:
- Where 150 years ago it took 25 men a whole day to harvest and thresh a ton of grain, one person with a modern combine harvester can do it in six minutes
- In 1947, 50 per cent of the world’s population was chronically malnourished. Today that’s down to 13 per cent.
- Chlorination of water led to a massive drop in infant mortality. Such benefits have now been extended to the Third World, with the result that 91 per cent of the world’s population (2.6 billion people) have clean water, as opposed to 52 per cent in 1980.
- In the 1830s, in western Europe life expectancy was still only 33. Today, average life expectancy in the world is an amazing 71.
- Homo sapiens evolved on this planet 200,000 years ago, since when there have been 8,000 generations of humans. But most of this reduction in mortality has been only in the past four generations.
- Deaths from mosquito-borne malaria have halved since 2000, and in Africa more than half the population now sleep under mosquito nets. Modern science has also turned HIV/Aids, which has killed 40 million people, into a chronic condition that can be handled.
- Major inroads have also been made with cancer treatment, and rates of cancer deaths have fallen 22 per cent in the past two decades.
- In 1981, 54 per cent of the developing world’s population lived in extreme poverty — defined as living on less than $2 a day. Last year, it was just 12 per cent.
- On May 15, 1984, the world’s major powers had managed to remain at peace with one another for the longest stretch of time since the days of the Roman Empire.
- The average war between states killed 86,000 people in the Fifties. Today, it kills slightly more than 3,000 people.
- An analysis of 457 terrorist groups active since 1968 shows not a single one of them succeeded in conquering a state, and 94 per cent of them failed to secure even one of their goals.
Two hundred years ago, only one in eight of the world’s population could read and write, and many in the European elite preferred it that way. They feared that if the poor got an education, they might stop accepting their lot in life. All that has changed. Today, only a seventh of the global adult population can’t read and write, and going to school has become the norm.
Don’t turn the clock back.