Things are bad? Think again

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Ge­orge B. Reed Jr.

Ac­cord­ing to “You-KnowWho,” things are pretty bad right now. The coun­try is go­ing to Hell in a hand­bas­ket. But I think both the Prez and his fol­low­ers are dead wrong. De­spite per­sis­tent trou­bles in the Mid­dle East and Africa, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the long­est pe­riod in mod­ern his­tory with­out a war among some of the ma­jor pow­ers. This is prob­a­bly due as much to the cer­tainty of mu­tu­allyas­sured de­struc­tion as to any peace-lov­ing trans­for­ma­tion. Nev­er­the­less, there have been no new deaths from nu­clear weapons since 1945.

I think the big­gest ex­is­ten­tial threat to the world’s se­cu­rity to­day is the cur­rent rash of right-wing pop­ulism such as Bri­tain’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU, the U.S. elec­tion of Don­ald Trump and the sud­den pop­u­lar­ity of right-wing alarmist can­di­dates in some Euro­pean democ­ra­cies. In some re­spects this trend re­minds us of the post-World War I era and the emer­gence of Nazi, Fas­cist and Com­mu­nist move­ments. We even see oc­ca­sional reap­pear­ances of an­ti­semitism.

Trump’s prom­ise to make Amer­ica great again ob­vi­ously as­sumes we have lost our way; that our gov­ern­ment, econ­omy and so­cial fab­ric are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. With the ex­cep­tion of the sorry state of our in­fra­struc­ture, that as­sump­tion doesn’t hold wa­ter.

Hu­mankind has made more progress eco­nom­i­cally, so­cially and health-wise over the last 100 years than in the last 100,000. To­day’s naysay­ers long for the “good old days.” But con­sid­er­ing ev­ery­thing, to­day’s life and times are the best by far in hu­man his­tory. On a world­wide scale hu­mankind has never had it so good. But maybe that’s the prob­lem. Some of us seem to deal with ad­ver­sity bet­ter than suc­cess.

For Amer­i­cans life ex­pectancy has more than dou­bled in the last two cen­turies, mainly due to innovations in san­i­ta­tion and health care. The 1918 flu pan­demic killed over 100 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide. To­day we can avoid the flu al­to­gether with a $15 in­jec­tion at the lo­cal phar­macy. Amer­i­cans now re­tire at an aver­age age of 62. A cen­tury ago they died at an aver­age age of 51. In 1952 38,000 Amer­i­cans con­tracted po­lio. In 2012 there were only 300 re­ported po­lio cases world­wide. And the main rea­son So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care are un­der­funded is one of peo­ple liv­ing longer; a nice prob­lem to have, by the way.

Other than drug traf­fick­ing, most types of crime are in de­cline to­day. Rob­beries have dropped by al­most half as have rapes. There were nearly 4 mil­lion fewer prop­erty crimes in 2010 than there were in 1991 and there were three times fewer rob­beries dur­ing the same pe­riod. And rates for al­most ev­ery type of vi­o­lent crime are down.

Rel­a­tive to hourly wages the cost of new au­tos has fallen four­fold since 1915. The aver­age Amer­i­can’s work week has been al­most halved since 1850. And the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency pre­dicts the U.S. will soon again be the world’s largest pro­ducer of pe­tro­leum. In 1975 Amer­i­can cars av­er­aged 13 miles per gal­lon. To­day that fig­ure has dou­bled to 26.

In 1900 45 per­cent of African Amer­i­cans were il­lit­er­ate. To­day’s rate is prac­ti­cally zero. Amer­i­can blacks have ad­vanced far­ther in less time than any eth­nic group in hu­man his­tory, from slav­ery to the pres­i­dency of their coun­try in 150 short years. Is that phe­nom­e­nal progress or what?

Un­for­tu­nately, only 4% of hu­mans get to live in Amer­ica. Be thank­ful you are one of them.

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­

Rossville res­i­dent

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