Recently Bill Gates tweeted an infographic which showed how the world has gotten better over the past 200 years.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 19, 2019
Now according to Why Evolution is True, this wasn’t taken well by certain quarters of the left.
I think this is a mistake.
This data is taken as support for the glory of the free market and globalism. The thing is – if we’re talking over the past 200 years, we’ve had varying economic paradigms over that period.
A lot of the real success story I see in these figures happened under the welfare state era, rather than the free market era that followed the 1980s. I mean it is slight, but there is a curve there.
I don’t see anything particularly for or against free markets here, instead I see something else/
During the abolition debate over slavery, there were stern warnings about how abolition would have dire economic consequences.
Well, Britain abolished slavery in 1833, France in 1848, the US in 1865 and… extreme poverty fell through the 1800s.
When the fight for women’s right to vote was going on, you had posters like “America when feminised” which warned about how this would lead to society being decadent.
Well, if decadence means higher basic literacy rates, lower infant mortality, lower rates of extreme poverty, well call me Bacchus because I’m all aboard this decadence train.
In 1964, George Wallace slammed the Civil Rights bill, saying:
I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that will destroy our free enterprise system.
Well, look at those graphs, does that look like the destruction of this “free enterprise” system he was so keen on – didn’t exactly make things worse.
I could go on with more examples like this and so when I look at the data, this what I see as a message for today.
When we argue against income inequality and for a more equitable distribution of the economy, we hear that it will destroy the economy.
Well, the New Deal was all about reducing income inequality and having a more equitable distribution of the economy, it had a top marginal tax rate of 90%, with an effective top tax rate of 72%. Was the economy destroyed?
We hear about the dangers of feminising society – pretty much the exact same schpiel as we see in that poster arguing against abolition and – has society been destroyed?
And we can extend this to other issues. Addressing climate change we hear will cut world GDP and lead to poverty, and it is anti human and all of that and…
We’ve heard this song and dance before haven’t we? It is the same song and dance we hear every time that something clearly has to done to solve some problem somewhere, and it never seems to pan out that way.
The far left tend to put forward this idea that if we acknowledge that things are getting better – that means we rest on our laurels and things don’t change.
The net result however is that we look at the so-called progressives, and hear them essentially claim that their efforts have been futile, that all of that hard work was for naught.
It becomes an attitude where one may as well not bother – because all of that bothering people did before didn’t seem to do all that much.
And the data doesn’t support that. The data shows us that if we work to make things better, things can get better.
I call this the hyggeligt of the world, hygge is the Danish concept of snuggling up to a cat, hot chocolate in hand. It is, at its core, a philosophy of comfort which the Danes have achieved to some extent because, even though they pay high taxes, they know if it all goes wrong the state will step in to help them out.
We in South Africa identify the left by the ANC, the EFF, and a general malaise of corruption, incompetence and sheer laziness, where nothing is done unless the bribes are in place, and when it is done the work is shabby.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The world shows us that we can have better, we can achieve that state of hygge if we refuse to accept the status quo as our destiny and instead work to improve it.
Often I hear people claim that denying there is some sort of divine plan, meaning or purpose is hopeless nihilism, but I see it as the reverse. We do not have hope, we have an evidence based hypothesis that things can get better through our actions, that if we unclasp our hands from prayer and put them to work, the work gets done.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was always my favourite president, because the lesson I see in the data really is that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, that our greatest failing is not in action, but inaction, that we must push forward and make our mistakes so that we can learn from them.
I am without hope and yet I am not in despair, for the truth is that history shows us that we can achieve better, and it is up to us to come together as a nation to set aside the fears and resentments that keep us from achieving better.