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Progress is not confined to the material and technological sphere. Liberty too has increased. First, one should keep in mind that the centuries-old evil of slavery was essentially abolished in the 19th century. The 20th century saw a dramatic increase in democratic governance. According to Freedom House, there were no nation-states that met its definition for being fully democratic in 1900. "The states with restricted democratic practices, not universal suffrage, were 25 in number and accounted for just 12.4 percent of the world's population. In 1900 monarchies and empires predominated," notes Freedom House.
In 1950, there were 22 democracies, accounting for 31 percent of the world's population, and an additional 21 states had restricted democratic practices, accounting for 11.9 percent of the globe's population. Today, 120 of the world's 192 countries are electoral democracies and constitute 62.5 percent of the world's population. At the same time liberal democracies--that is, countries which Freedom House regards as free and respectful of basic human rights and the rule of law--are 85 in number and represent 38 percent of the world's people.
MIT social critic Leo Marx once tendentiously asked, "Does Improved Technology Mean Progress?" Let's just say that the evidence of history strongly suggests that improved technology is a prerequisite for progress, both material and social. Before modern technology, poverty, tyranny, and ignorance were the lot of most people. Technology enables more and more people to pursue the humanitarian goals of justice, freedom, and self-fulfillment than ever before.