What a Wonderful World!, by David Henderson

October 2, 2017
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Around the world, nutrition is rising and hunger is falling. Norberg quotes an estimate from the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization that in the last 25 years, about 2 billion people have been freed from hunger. And the rate of progress over that time has grown. Also, the frequency and severity of famines have diminished.

This is from David R. Henderson, “What a Wonderful World,” one of the Econlib Feature Articles for October. It’s my review of Johan Norberg, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, 2016.

A couple of other paragraphs that put modern violence, including last night’s horrible murders in Las Vegas, in perspective:

One of the factors in higher life expectancy is reduced violence, a topic to which Norberg devotes a whole chapter. Drawing heavily on the aforementioned The Better Angels of our Nature by Pinker, Norberg shows that one-on-one violence and violence by governments against people in other countries has declined considerably over the centuries. One striking statistic is the annual European homicide rate, which fell from a whopping 19 per 100,000 people in the 16th century to 3.2 in the 18th century to about one today.

Norberg leads the chapter on violence with an 1875 quote from the famous legal scholar Sir Henry Maine: “War appears to be as old as humanity, but peace is a modern invention.” The data back that up. In the 16th and 17th centuries, some of the largest and most powerful countries were at war over 75 percent of the time. Since 1950, there has been only one such war–between the United States and China in Korea–and, bloody as it was, it lasted only three years.

When I read books to review, I carefully note the highlights on a blank page at the front of the book. After only 15 pages of this 246-page book, I quit. That’s not because there were so few highlights but because over half the pages had highlights. I highly recommend the book.

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