Friday, November 11, 2016

Bad news bearers

My favorite theme is human progress.  Many of us are blessed to be living in a time and place where it is so apparent. But this does not mean that it is apparent to all of our friends and neighbors.

There are so many good books on progress that it is hard to say where to start. The names Deaton,    Lomborg, Maddison, McCloskey, Mokyr, Phelps, Radelet, Pinker, Ridley, Simon, and Shermer are good places to start. There are many others.

Among the clearest and most concise is Johan Norberg's Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.  I am not trained in psychiatry so I can only speculate why young people are taught more about the bad news than about all the good news.

Here is one snippet from Norberg (page 161):  "After winning the Second World War against the Nazis' brutal form of racism, the Allied democracies showed how many problems still remained among themselves. When General de Gaulle wanted French troops to lead the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, American and British commanders accepted it on the condition that no black colonial forces were included, even though they made up two thirds of the Free French forces." The author includes other snippets like this, all guaranteed to hit you over the head.

They hit you over the head because they are so crazy from today's vantage point. Like Norberg, some of us celebrate how far we have come in a short space of time. Yes, there is never a time to simply stop and be smug.

I mention all this because, in spite of progress, so many among us prefer to look at the election results as simply the result of racism. No. Barack Obama was elected two times by large margins. And his popularity rating remains amazingly high for an incumbent at the end of his second term.

Those who cannot accept progress, but instead like to dwell on the past, cannot accept the idea that the Obama policies and mode of governance, not to speak of all the Clinton detritus, were the real problems.

I say this as someone whose side (divided government) lost. May our side prevail soon.