In my last column, I argued – as I have for years – that this nation and the world are in far better shape than most folks realize.
Multiple data points – from human life spans to living standards to incidents of war and violent crime – reveal that long-term trends in human health and welfare are strongly positive.
People today are living longer, healthier, safer, richer, freer lives than ever before.
This is the very inverse of the distorted state of the world that the mainstream media delivers on a daily basis.
Seeing the true picture won’t just sharpen your perspective. It will also make you a much more successful investor.
Consider the economy…
Our capitalist system is the greatest wealth creator – and anti-poverty program – ever devised.
We count on corporations – large and small – to provide us with virtually all our wants and needs… the cars we drive, the planes we fly, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the medicines that heal us, the computers and smartphones that make our lives so much easier and more productive.
Investing in these companies not only fuels innovation and efficiency but also allows us to reach our financial goals.
Yet I regularly talk to men and women who don’t own equities, largely because of profound (and unjustified) anti-business attitudes.
Many can hardly utter the phrase “corporate profits” without a bit of spittle flying.
According to an April 20 New York Times article, “A 2016 survey of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 16% identified as socialists, while 33% supported socialism. Only 42% supported capitalism, while a majority – 51% – said they did not.”
Why? Many said they don’t want to pay for college. They don’t want to pay for health insurance either.
And retirement? Most are too young to have given it much thought. But some polls show they view retirement as their employers’ or the government’s responsibility.
These “free” goods and services may sound good in theory, especially if you’re young and historically illiterate.
But millennials might look south to see how cradle-to-grave socialism is panning out in the workers’ paradise of Venezuela.
Or take energy…
Abundant, affordable and reliable energy is vital to human flourishing.
It powered the industrialization that slashed poverty, fed billions, improved education and helped liberate women from traditional roles.
Yet I regularly hear folks claim that the earth is running out of oil and gas and that our fossil-fueled civilization is “unsustainable.”
If we are running out of oil and gas, why are they far cheaper than they were a few years ago?
(These folks seem entirely unaware that technological innovations like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have greatly increased the supply.)
As for the environmental impact, there is good news on this front too, despite hysterical claims in the mainstream media.
Seaborne oil transport has become vastly safer. (The annual number of oil spills is down from more than a hundred in 1973 to five in 2016.) And this is true, even though vastly more oil is shipped today.
Thanks to habitat protection and conservation efforts, many species – including eagles, manatees, condors, pandas, rhinos and tigers – have been pulled back from the brink of extinction. (Some species remain in a precarious state but, according to ecologist Stuart Pimm, the overall rate of extinctions has been reduced by 75%.)
Thanks to gains in efficiency and emission control, the modern world is also decarbonizing.
Western countries have learned how to get the most energy with the least emission of greenhouse gases.
As we climbed the energy ladder from wood to coal to oil to gas, the ratio of carbon to hydrogen in our energy sources fell steadily.
As a result, fewer cities are now shrouded in a smoggy haze.
Urban waterways that had been left for dead – Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Boston Harbor, Lake Erie and many others – have been recolonized by birds, fish, marine mammals and intrepid swimmers.
As Harvard professor Steven Pinker writes in Enlightenment Now, “The world’s progress can be tracked in a report card called the Environmental Performance Index, a composite of indicators of the quality of air, water, forests, fisheries, farms and natural habitats. Out of 180 countries that have been tracked for a decade or more, all but two show an improvement.”
For decades, ecologists have told us that environmental protection requires smaller populations, slower economic growth and lower living standards.
Turns out that just the opposite is true. The wealthiest countries have the cleanest environments.
And as the poor ones get wealthier, they get cleaner too.
Now that’s reason to celebrate…
And to invest in the many companies that will deliver an even cleaner future.
Thoughts on this article? Leave a comment below.