Cheer Up!

17 reasons it's a great time to be alive

Cheer Up!Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Thinkstock
“The world has never been a better place to live in,” says science writer Matt Ridley, “and it will keep on getting better.” Today, in a world gripped by global economic crisis and afflicted with poverty, disease, and war, them’s fightin’ words in some quarters. Ridley’s critics have called him a “denialist” and “shameful” and have accused him of “playing fast and loose with the truth” for his views on climate change and the free market.

Yet Ridley, 54, author most recently of The Rational Optimist, sticks to his guns. “It is not insane to believe in a happy future for people and the planet,” he says. Ridley, who’s been a foreign correspondent, a zoologist, an economist, and a financier, brings a broad perspective to his sunny outlook. “People say I’m bonkers to claim the world will go on getting better, yet I can’t stop myself,” he says. Read on to see how Ridley makes his case. Brilliant or bonkers? You decide.

1. We’re better off now

Compared with 50 years ago, when I was just four years old, the average human now earns nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), eats one third more calories, buries two thirds fewer children, and can expect to live one third longer. In fact, it’s hard to find any region of the world that’s worse off now than it was then, even though the global population has more than doubled over that period.

2. Urban living is a good thing

City dwellers take up less space, use less energy, and have less impact on natural ecosystems than country dwellers. The world’s cities now contain over half its people, but they occupy less than 3 percent of its land area. Urban growth may disgust environmentalists, but living in the country is not the best way to care for the earth. The best thing we can do for the planet is build more skyscrapers.

3. Poverty is nose-diving

The rich get richer, but the poor do even better. Between 1980 and 2000, the poor doubled their consumption. The Chinese are ten times richer and live about 25 years longer than they did 50 years ago. Nigerians are twice as rich and live nine more years. The percentage of the world’s people living in absolute poverty has dropped by over half. The United Nations estimates that poverty was reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500.

4. The important stuff costs less

One reason we are richer, healthier, taller, cleverer, longer-lived, and freer than ever before is that the four most basic human needs—food, clothing, fuel, and shelter—have grown markedly cheaper. Take one example: In 1800, a candle providing one hour’s light cost six hours’ work. In the 1880s, the same light from a kerosene lamp took 15 minutes’ work to pay for. In 1950, it was eight seconds. Today, it’s half a second. In these terms, we are 43,200 times better off than in 1800.

5. The environment is better than you think

In the United States, rivers, lakes, seas, and air are getting cleaner all the time. A car today emits less pollution traveling at full speed than a parked car did from leaks in 1970.

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101 thoughts on “Cheer Up!

  1.  Dear Mr. Ridley,

    Almost all the 17 reasons you mentioned in your article do
    not seem to be real and are in blatant contradiction with the third world
    societies situations. Circumstances in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, for
    instance, are worsened day after day. In addition, the condition of a society
    is not only measured materialistically. If the idea “the world is a better
    place to live in now” is going to be proven, peoples beliefs should also be
    compared with old beliefs. I, personally, would rather living with few money
    and be happy than living wealthy but unhappily. How about you?

  2. About Matt Ridley’s “Cheer Up” #16. He said, “All sorts of new products and industries were born during the Depression.” both in the US and Germany. Well, that’s true. Unfortunately much of the new products and industry was war based. I can’t believe that the run up to WWII should be viewed as a reason to “Cheer UP”.

  3. Although what you have mentioned seems quite fascinating, I believe the quality of life cannot be measured by merely materialistic aspects. There’s more to life than how much one earns, or where someone lives. I strongly believe that the true happiness lies within, and not without. So if we should see whether this is a great time to be alive or not, we need to compare people’s beliefs and ideologies of life, humanity, and peace!

  4. I LOVE this article!  It all is very logical and every statement has research backing it up….love that.  But, the last paragraph is missing a point.  I think that it’s actually the pessimist that drives people to improve the world.  If everyone had an optimistic view, we may be sitting back and relaxing instead of saying, “OH NO!  Something bad is going to happen! We need to invent/develop something to prevent it!”  So, as annoying as pessimism is, I dare say it is necessary. 

  5. In 1939 Germany, millions of Jews and other groups were already turning up missing – Germany was invading surrounding nations – and this guy wants to talk about their economy being better in 1939 than in 1930? Of course it was! And not for a good reason! 

    Every single one of this points holds at least a bit of bunk; with a tiny bit of truth thrown in just to throw everyone off. 

    I’m not a pessimist, but I am NOT going to take this guy seriously when he can’t even get his context straight! 

  6. In 1939 Germany, millions of Jews and other groups were already turning up missing – Germany was invading surrounding nations – and this guy wants to talk about their economy being better in 1939 than in 1930? Of course it was! And not for a good reason! 

    Every single one of this points holds at least a bit of bunk; with a tiny bit of truth thrown in just to throw everyone off. 

    I’m not a pessimist, but I am NOT going to take this guy seriously when he can’t even get his context straight! 

  7. Bravo Matt Ridley!  Your article is Brilliant! I’ve always called myself a born optimist and it is refreshing to read this positive article.

  8. Bravo Matt Ridley!  Your article is Brilliant! I’ve always called myself a born optimist and it is refreshing to read this positive article.

  9. no matter what will happen in the future,to be positive is always better than perssimism

  10. I read your column, Matt Ridley,  in the 2012-April and was blown away. I asked myself, How stupid could this person be for writing a column like this? I then looked at the cover of the Reader’s Digest and then realized that it was an April Fool’s article. Thanks for the jokes! I do hope that the rest of the world realizes that you did nothing but try to make them laugh. I hope the rest of the world realizes that you DO NOT know anything about reality! It’s too bad that the world will end with stupid people like you keep saying that everying is ok!

    Oscar / rac_so@hotmail.com

  11. Great article!  Have one difference of opinion.  You said this is the greatest generation & I disagree.  I am 85 years old & I think my generation was the greatest.  We have lost so many rights in the last few years. We had so much more honesty in my day.  We didn’t have to lock our doors or our cars.  We didn’t have to fight to keep God in our lives.  We didn’t have so many people who contributed nothing & took lots as there are today.  We had more respect for our flag and our government. I could go on & on.  There is a lot we didn’t have, but gosh we did just fine. Just pray what good there is continues. 

  12. Optimism is healthy but not to the point where you believe everything you read. Are you really from this planet?

  13. Too much negativity in the world today – at least where I live in the USA.  Everything on the media has to be so negative!  I shall dare to be an optimist and be as positive a person as I can be! w00-ho0!!:-)

  14. Statistical intent an optimistic point of view
    ergo millions such good reason not to mention  a bad few
    Where geometric  circles drawn,  in nature can’t be found
    Though reductio ad infinitum  tautology  bound
    Defenestrate the apostate, to clear a path straight through
    To  cheer up freed no reason hath where many to Cheer down

  15. Statistical intent an optimistic point of view
    ergo millions such good reason not to mention  a bad few
    Where geometric  circles drawn,  in nature can’t be found
    Though reductio ad infinitum  tautology  bound
    Defenestrate the apostate, to clear a path straight through
    To  cheer up freed no reason hath where many to Cheer down

  16. Um you can still be an optimist without being blissfully iignorant to the problems that we do have…

  17. Um you can still be an optimist without being blissfully iignorant to the problems that we do have…

  18. Things cost less;where?  Use to get 2 gal.s of milk for $5.00;now it’s 3.78 for one;$ 5.00 to fill up car when I got my licence;6 X’s as much now,ect.

  19. Dear Matt, I truly enjoyed your piece entitled Cheer Up! I, too, am filled with positive energy and happiness. I teach school and come in contact with far too many people who spread gloom and doom via their negative attitudes. I think we positive people must boost each other to help change the world for the better. Depressed people rarely make good leaders. Sunshine to you, Dr. G.

  20. In response to number seven; I take it you’ve never heard of United Fruit Company.  From the Wikipedia entry: “It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political
    development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused
    it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the banana republics (a term coined by O. Henry).”

    Also, it’s insulting to compare self-sufficiency to poverty when so blatantly overlooking the negative impact global trade has had on the lives of billions.  Yes, WE (in western cultures) prosper, but at the expense of many.  Those negatively affected by global trade have a tangible grasp on poverty and destitution.

  21. Thank you so much for this article!  I have been preaching optimism for several years now, after realizing that the advances in medicine alone are reason to celebrate this age.  It’s wonderful to know I’m not alone in a sea of self-absorbed, self-induced misery.  CHEER UP EVERYONE!!  :D

  22. It was nice to read something positive about the planet, for a change. Well done! I’m with you =)

  23. To
    a point what you say is true.  However,
    you must keep in mind that many of these technological improvements sprang from
    American ingenuity made possible by our free enterprise capitalism.  Alas, our government is becoming more
    oppressive, passing multitudinous regulations to discourage development, and
    taxing people and businesses into oblivion. 
    There is less interest in development because regulations prohibit
    creativity.  Imagine what would happen
    today if Thomas Edison had to deal with government intrusion into his
    inventiveness – he’d certainly have been in deep trouble with the EPA over his
    experimentation with different filaments in the electric light bulb.

    Perhaps
    we are better off than we were 50 years ago, but we are better off now than we
    will be in the next 50 years.

  24. The world will be fine, along with humanity.

    Some parts of the world will be negatively effected though.  The US is near the top of that list.

  25. Thank you for this article!  I’m an optimist and it’s very draining to stay that way with all of the negative around me.  This just fueled me up for a good long while.

  26. I’m curious – when is it (as promised in the print article and in the link to this web page) that Matt is going to respond to our comments and questions?

  27. If it weren’t for people like me pointing out the human-made catastrophes and crimes and stupidities, and taking action, everything would be worse.  It’s because of us that things are as good as they are.  The more of you who become activists, the better.

    1.  R i c h M i  n g l e ,C-O M  —- Meet wealthy men and beautiful women on the rich club .

  28. Thinking that what we have is better than crying for what we don’t have. That’s the key to happiness.

    1. As Kirk said in the original Star Trek tv series, maybe humans are not cut out for happiness, maybe we’re fated to continually claw our way up.  Momentary contentedness should not get in the way of restless striving to improve things.

  29. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  30. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  31. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  32. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  33. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  34. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  35. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  36. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  37. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

  38. Sober up a bit, Matt!  Or did nuclear weapons suddenly disappear so we can’t wipe out everything living thing on this planet in 30 minutes?  As far as freedom, did fundamentalists (including both Christian and Muslim) suddenly give up the desire to impose their limited gestalts upon us all, by force if necessary?  And have governments, hackers, and Google now forsworn using the internet to lessen our privacy – in the name of security, mischief, and marketing?  Are there no more overfished oceans, leaching landfills, inflation, obesity, or AIDS/SARS/MRSA/bird flu?

    And you might want to go easy on your lower birthrate argument, unless you’re willing to concede that China’s restrictive one-child policy was a major contributor.  Now that’s problem-solving!  Similarly, do you really want to use Germany as one of your shining examples for success in the 1930’s?  I mean, yeah, they had full employment within two decades of being devastated by WWI, but to what end?

    1. The article is comparing where we are now to years, decades, centruries ago.  You are looking at our excistance anecdotaly.  The point is, you can dwell on the negative of life, as you are doing, or you can look at the bigger picture and appreciate all of the (dare I say) blessing that you have.

      1. Wrong.  My comments were intended to address the theme of Ridley’s article from his first sentence – “and it will keep on getting better.”  Optimism may be psychologically satisfying for individuals, but realism is more effective in approaching both the challenges and opportunities of the future.  The risk of blitheness as he proposes is that we will bury our heads in the sand.

  39. well i just finished reading the rest if that one section on, More farm production = more wilderness. i hope they do stop destroying our wilderness.

  40. At a young 73 years of age I generally agree with all of this, except the storms.  We get a lot more violent weather and weather disasters than when I was growing up.

  41. The one that says More farm production = more wilderness, i say yeah right. they are so wrong. that just gives them an excuse to keep cutting down our wilderness and then say “its for a good cause”. i call BS on them. it also doesnt give them the right to be cutting down the Rain Forest either. They r also claiming that cutting it down will help out. thats also BS, cuz they r destroying plants and animals that u cant find any where else on this planet. it needs to stop.

  42. If you are alive, just be thankful and enjoy it. You won’t be here forever so why waste time making yourself miserable. No matter what your conditions they can always get better with a better attitude.

    “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  43. The danger in your article is that it might lead people to believe that continued improvement is possible without good science and solid political decisions. The biggest problem is point #9 and the forces that believe that the progress that’s been made is bad. There are strong forces today that desire only retrograde motion.

  44. Wonderful. The good news is the bad news is wrong. That was a book back in the 1980’s by Ben Wattenberg. (sp?)  I was in my dentist office waiting my turn and read this article, and it was sort of vindication for all my optomism I get in prayer about America, or more specifically the good ole U.S.A.

    :-)

    Thanks for making my day.

  45. Wonderful. The good news is the bad news is wrong. That was a book back in the 1980’s by Ben Wattenberg. (sp?)  I was in my dentist office waiting my turn and read this article, and it was sort of vindication for all my optomism I get in prayer about America, or more specifically the good ole U.S.A.

    :-)

    Thanks for making my day.

  46. Wonderful. The good news is the bad news is wrong. That was a book back in the 1980’s by Ben Wattenberg. (sp?)  I was in my dentist office waiting my turn and read this article, and it was sort of vindication for all my optomism I get in prayer about America, or more specifically the good ole U.S.A.

    :-)

    Thanks for making my day.

  47. I’m really dumbfounded by some of the comments here. There have been three wars in my lifetime, I’m only counting U.S. Involvement, yet Ridley says we’ve had more peace? I would say technology has made massive and very positive strides, otherwise I think the world has fallen into a horrible Secular Progressive Miasma. Oh, As far as nostalgia goes, no one reminisces on the Dark Ages, we’re talking about when your word meant something and class still was valued, just watch T.V. to see how crass everyone is now. 

  48. Mr. Ridley, thank you for writing this article. It is inspiring & encouraging!

  49. This write-up is the best article i have ever read from Readers Digest. Keep it up. The world is getting better ever second. People live longer. Be optimist. Hurray we shall all make heaven if we all believe.

  50. This write-up is the best article i have ever read from Readers Digest. Keep it up. The world is getting better ever second. People live longer. Be optimist. Hurray we shall all make heaven if we all believe.

  51. This write-up is the best article i have ever read from Readers Digest. Keep it up. The world is getting better ever second. People live longer. Be optimist. Hurray we shall all make heaven if we all believe.

  52. Thank you for taking me out of my own depression and providing a broader view of life.

  53. Ridley is correct.  Particularly someone who lives in a First World country is living in what people 100 years ago would have considered Paradise.  Even people living in Third and Fourth World countries are better off than they were.  While we are helping those less fortunate we should give thanks on our knees that we have the resources to do so and the transportation network to get those resources where they are needed.

  54.  It is a matter of attitude towards life.Pleasure and pain,rise and fall,success and failure,achievement and deprivation,hope and despair are all part of live and have to be taken in one’s life sportingly as a matter of course.You are happy and enjoy living when you develop a positive and healthy attitude towards life.Materially we are much better now. On world level people are incomparably comfortable on all counts,The world has witnessed an unprecedented progress in every field of human activities.What we ought to look at is the”pleasure” not the “pain” which has been far outweighed even at the advent of the last century.
     However,as ‘man cannot live on bread alone’ we have to ensure the moral and spiritual aspects of life and living too.Have we made similar stride in this area? I would have been happy if the answer was ‘Yes’.Despite all religious preachings and illustrative acts of great persons the present world is not free of injustice,oppression,aggression,domination,inequality,deprivation,poverty,moral degradation of the rich and affluent.Let us pay attention to this aspect of our life. 

  55. I have been getting and reading one way or another for the past 46 years. Oh how I anticipated that magazine. In the past maybe 8 years, ever since you went liberal your stories have absolutely gone sooo boring. Your 17 reasons its a great time to be alive. My god help us. Poverty is nose diving. Yea go ahead listen to your wonderful president we will all be poor in a few years. I do not the words to tell you how disappointed in readers digest. Of course I realize liberals will not even let these types of thoughts into their oh so brilliant brains. So I do not expect any response from anyone. Just a terible shame.  

  56. I have been getting and reading one way or another for the past 46 years. Oh how I anticipated that magazine. In the past maybe 8 years, ever since you went liberal your stories have absolutely gone sooo boring. Your 17 reasons its a great time to be alive. My god help us. Poverty is nose diving. Yea go ahead listen to your wonderful president we will all be poor in a few years. I do not the words to tell you how disappointed in readers digest. Of course I realize liberals will not even let these types of thoughts into their oh so brilliant brains. So I do not expect any response from anyone. Just a terible shame.  

  57. I couldn’t agree with him more! Every one of his categories is correct. Bravo! I wish more people thought as he did. We’d have happier days and nights! I’m a Holocaust survivor and I’ve had good luck all of my life. I’m now 82 and in excellent health – with a goodly number of my brain cells still operating. Here’s to an even better future for us all!

  58. “No charity ever raised money by saying things are getting better.”
    That one statement has affected my attitude (for the better).

    kudos for the article.

  59. Amen!  Often viewed as Pollyannish, for 25 years, I’ve been calling myself a “Realistic Optimist”. Frankly, I don’t think there has been a single day in mankind’s existence where we have been as safe as today. Growing up in the 50’s, I gave us a 5% chance of making it to 1970 without a nuclear war. That was seen asa realistic estimate.
     
    In the 50’s and 60’s, how many alcohol-related traffic deaths did we have. Last year, despite many, many more vehicles and millions more driving miles, we had the lowest number of such deaths since 1949!!! Amazing!
     
    Anyone who believes that politics has gotten rough has no sense of history. Just look back at what Thomas Jefferson hired to be writen about his “dear friend”, John Adams. Or, what Lincoln was called . . or, what FDR was called . . or, LBJ’s campaign against Goldwater. . . etc. Today’s stuff is truly innocent, by comparison. Although we have our rough moments, bit by bit . . , we’re getting better.
     
    Working through school on freighters in the early 60’s, I’d find myself in jungle ports, or other 3rd world countries . . No matter where, there was always Coca-Cola, Kodak and VW. I loved the international composition of industry. Big business does not want to have their own country bomb their plants in these foreign lands. . .The way to peace and stabilty is sometimes through greed . . or, more charitably, through commerce.

  60. 9. The good old days weren’t,

    If this is true, why do all the politicians today want to take the country back? Why is that mystical and mythical past that never was glorified? 

    Although my own personal life has been stricken by a personal tragedy, I do agree with you: Life,
    especially for the younger generations, has never been better.

    Nevertheless, I repeat the two questions at the top of my comment: How do today’s politicians,
    notably the right-wing presidential candidates, get away with stuff they’re trying to sell the American electorate?

    bill blando

  61. 9. The good old days weren’t,

    If this is true, why do all the politicians today want to take the country back? Why is that mystical and mythical past that never was glorified? 

    Although my own personal life has been stricken by a personal tragedy, I do agree with you: Life,
    especially for the younger generations, has never been better.

    Nevertheless, I repeat the two questions at the top of my comment: How do today’s politicians,
    notably the right-wing presidential candidates, get away with stuff they’re trying to sell the American electorate?

    bill blando

    1. WHERE IN HELL DO YOU GET THE IDEA THAT LIFE IS BETTER FOR THE YOUNGER. INSTEAD OF FIST FIGHTS THEY HAVE GUN FIGHTS, INSTEAD OF FREINDS THEY HAVE GANG MEMBERS. INSTEAD OF COLD BEER THEY HAVE HOT DRUGS. THEY HAVE NO RESPECT OR DICIPLINE, NO CHORES, AND HAVE NO COMMON SENSE. WITHOUT A COMPUTOR OR CELL PHONE THEY ARE DEAD WEIGHT. A DOWN PAYMENT ON A CAR OR A HOUSE OR MONTHLY PAYMENT IS SO HIGH THEY WILL NEVER BE ABLE  TO AFFORD EITHER. WITHOUT WELFARE A BABY IS 10,000. ARE YOU BLIND OR ARE YOU AS DUMB AS THE WRITER OF THESE 17 FANTASIES. I EARNED MY RETIREMENT THE HARD WAY BY ACTUALLY WORKING.

  62.  Who ever wrote these 17 humorus fairy tells is a QUACK. Sure we make more money now, but for every 10 cents more we make everything FROM UTILITIES,GAS, FOOD, MEDICINE, EDUCATION, ETC.goes up 20 cents The country has gone to crap and anyone would rather go back to the good old days where door locks were not needed. You are an IDIOT.

                                                                         A 65 YEAR OLD CITIZEN

    1. And you sound like a grouchy old codger.  Just because you didn’t plan well for your future, doesn’t mean that the country has gone to crap, it just means that you were expecting a free ride.

      43 year old citizen who is planning for her future and resents footing the bill for generation 65 who didn’t plan ahead.

  63. I’m happy with my life with all the convenience of food ect. However I miss the years growing
    up with less crime and violence. People would speak to you on the street or stores and we
    never locked our doors and windows with bars.I,m happy being alive period.

  64. Mr. Ridley,  Thank you for spreading the message.  There are many of us who agree with you but maybe we can help uplift others who don’t feel as we do.  For those who still don’t have jobs or are having difficulties of all kinds I hope they know that we have them in our prayers and ask that they be given the opportunities they need to enable them to move on to better times and things.  

  65. I love your article.  I have an office mate who is very pessimistic about EVERYTHING!  I ask him where he thinks abundance goes.  He doesn’t know.  I tell him you don’t loose abundance by sharing it, you actually magnify the abundance.  He is always denegrating folks from foreign countries who want to come to the USA.. If I lived in their countries I would want to come here too!  If they come here, they really can’t hurt me or our country.  All they can do is improve themselves and improve our country too.  Why don’t people get it.  I also see so many movies and TV programs that shout doomsday.  Where do they think all the healthy, thinking, doing people will go ?  Why will only criminals, deadbeats and deviants be left in a disaster?  Our history doesn’t give them clues that this will happen.  It’s just some erroenous sniveling.  Thanks again for your article!

  66. fuel is cheaper?  Where the heck does he live.  Where I live the price has gone up 20 cents – close to $5.00 a gallon.  How’s that better?

    1. You are complaining about paying $5 to get 30 miles?  Try paying for a horse and carriage and see how far $5 will get you.

  67. Bravo! I have always been an optimist at heart and in action. And, yes, the world is a better place to live in, and day by day it gets better. Not that there are no problems or negatives. I feel that the one negative that keeps us from becoming even better as individuals and and as a society of individuals is our present day outlook in general. Outcomes are determined mainly by attitude and direction of thought which is then hopefully followed by positive action. Sooooo, be greatful for all that has happened to us, focus on the positives, and get on with the ride. Enjoy, enjoy……………..

  68. Bravo! I have always been an optimist at heart and in action. And, yes, the world is a better place to live in, and day by day it gets better. Not that there are no problems or negatives. I feel that the one negative that keeps us from becoming even better as individuals and and as a society of individuals is our present day outlook in general. Outcomes are determined mainly by attitude and direction of thought which is then hopefully followed by positive action. Sooooo, be greatful for all that has happened to us, focus on the positives, and get on with the ride. Enjoy, enjoy……………..

  69. This is such a great article. Very Clear to the point and TRUE.
    I have emailed it to quite a few friends. We need more authors and articles like this in this time of Financial Crisis that is going to pass.
    So many people go through depression because they loose in the mind’s game. They stop seeing possitive in anything eventhough they are living in the best of times.

  70. Dear Mr. Ridley,I appreciate your optimism and agree that you make valid points; howver, you didn’t really address the fact that the world is becoming morally bankrupt. We are forgetting about God and His Word.
    There’s nothing optimistic about that.
    Dottie B.

    1. People have always been morally bankrupt; otherwise we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.  God is just as capable today as he was 2000 years ago; there’s nothing we can do to mess that up.

    2. That is actually not true … unless you believe that morality and spirituality is the sole property of conservative Christians!

      1. Morality and spirituality are not the sole property of conservative Christians. However, every sort of spirituality is not beneficial for mankind, and not everyone defines morality in the same way.  It is notable that almost all the “common sense” morality that provides the underpinnings for the modern world (e.g. the value of human life, human liberty/equality, dignity of women, etc.) Was not in fact common sense in a pre-Christian past.  It was committed Christians who worked to abolish: infanticide and the gladiatorial games in Rome, Who labored to end slavery and the slave trade in Western Europe and the US, Who fought widow burning in India… 

        1. Morality pre-dates Christianity. In fact, it is hardwired into our brains. And societies that are more secular are less violent and better developed than religious ones.

          As for Christianity being the root of societal change? Well, Christianity also was used to support slavery in the United States. While Christians were suppressing knowledge in the Dark Ages, scholars were traveling to Islamic countries to study medicine and science.

          As for the “morality” in the Bible? Highly debatable.

      2. Richard, maybe i am a conservative Christian [i’m not exactly sure what that means] – but i took Rascal’s comment to mean that God is in control – and nothing can change that!   There are things we can All do to make our earth a better place to live, but you surely would agree it’s no Garden of Eden!! 

      3. Good point Richard, it is certainly not the sole property of conservative Christians although I would challenge you to find a better moral framework than that outlined in the teachings of Jesus Christ. 

        1.  Moral frameworks in Judaism and Islam are pretty much the same as Christianity. And seeing that more secular societies are more peaceful, better educated, healthier and more egalitarian than religious once, that really puts a dent in the Jesus Christ argument.

    3. Dottie – The world is much less morally bankrupt than it was 2000 years ago.  In the year 100AD there were over 360 non-Christians for every Christian.  With the spread of global Christianity there are now only 7 non-Christians in the world for every Christian.  By almost every meaningful metric, global morality and spirituality (yes of the biblical type) have increased.  We  do see some decline in pockets (The US for instance).  The greatest single moralizing factor has been the Bible and Christianity.  This is in spite of the glaring moral failures of certain professing Christians. I would suggest that this the the back-story for optimism! 

    4. Dottie – The world is much less morally bankrupt than it was 2000 years ago.  In the year 100AD there were over 360 non-Christians for every Christian.  With the spread of global Christianity there are now only 7 non-Christians in the world for every Christian.  By almost every meaningful metric, global morality and spirituality (yes of the biblical type) have increased.  We  do see some decline in pockets (The US for instance).  The greatest single moralizing factor has been the Bible and Christianity.  This is in spite of the glaring moral failures of certain professing Christians. I would suggest that this the the back-story for optimism! 

      1.  Actually, it is the secular societies than are advancing. They are economically richer, more egalitarian, healthier, better educated, less violent and happier than religious ones.

        Secularism is growing fast, right behind Christianity and Islam. In the United States alone, Christianity loses 2 million members a year.

    5. Dear Dottie B., yes this old world is not a moral place, but it hasn’t been since Adam and Eve.  For my own personal happiness I have to agree with Mr. Ridley.   Just for fun during your next Bible study jot down the positives and the neg.   the Garden of  Eden shows us the life God wanted for his children in the beginning – but he wants us to want him and that’s where free will comes in – once we accept the Perfect Sacrifice, our Precious LORD we lookN to the new heaven abd the new earth  
          

    6.  Countries that are ditching Christianity and embracing reality are the better for it.

    7.  I completely agree. The REALLY important things…freedom, justice, opportunity, purpose for life, security, morality are all in serious decline.  At least in the US and Europe.  Some of the communist/socialist countries may be getting better.  But from a very low starting point. Faith and the morals that go with it are being emasculated by those who ridicule God.  I am afraid that includes much of US government…Charlie  K.

  71. 100% I subscribe to this good philosophy of rare optimism…as long as I breathe, there will always positive thing that will happen to me…it’s always a mind’s game…life has always offer two choices…two sides in everything…two angles, you choose to see it….the CHOICE is yours…good or bad…it is what seems the best for you…can a negative thought improve your present situation? NOT at all, you lose even you have not yet started or lifted your finger…so why dwell on the negatives… keep thinking POSITIVELY…

  72. I have always believed that it’s a great time to live despite all the bad news everybody has been saying. Maybe it’s because I’m just optimistic but all I know is I live in a third world country but I get to eat more than three meals a day, I got to school, we have a computer and I can speak passable English

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