Economic Growth

What Went Right in 2015

There may have been terrorism, crimes, storms, and Hillary Clinton, but 2015 was also full of good news.


Terrorism! Crime! Deadly storms! Hillary Clinton!

We reporters focus on bad news, but at year's end, let's remember what went right. 2015 was a better time to be alive than most any prior point in history.

The rich got richer. Some people think that's a problem, but why? Do rich people sit on their piles of money and cackle about how rich they are? Do they build giant houses that damage the environment? Well, they sometimes do.

But mostly they invest, hoping to get richer still. Those investments create jobs and better products and make most everyone else richer. Even if the rich leave money in banks, banks lend it to people who put it to productive use.

Sure, income inequality has grown—but so what?  The rich don't get richer at the expense of the poor. Poor people's income grew 48 percent over the past 35 years. Bernie Sanders says that "the middle class is disappearing!" But that's mainly because many middle-class people moved into the upper class. Middle class incomes grew 40 percent over the past 30 years.

This year we heard more horror stories about bad schools and students who don't learn. But take heart: Seven more states passed education choice legislation.

That means more students can opt out of bad schools and pick better ones, and over the long haul competing schools will have to get better at what they do. That will lead to a brighter future for all students—and for society, which will benefit from their improved skills.

In 2015, two more states and Washington, D.C., legalized marijuana. Authorities are always reluctant to give up control, but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.
Meanwhile, real crime—violence and thefts—continue to fall. We cover horrible mass shootings and spikes in crime in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but overall, crime is down—over the past 20 years, down by about half.

Unfortunately, terrorism has increased—mainly because of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there are far fewer deaths from war and terror than there were 30 years ago, and in America, the odds of you or your family being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to disease, accidents and a thousand more-ordinary threats.

Marriage is good for civilization. This year the Supreme Court declared that gay people may get married. Government shouldn't be in the marriage business at all, since marriage is a contract between individuals, but if it's going to wade into that issue, it's better to have one clear rule instead of ugly ongoing fights about it.

Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business and worrying about our own marriages.

In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia got to vote.

More countries elected leaders, rather than inheriting them.

The picture isn't all rosy. As I mentioned, terrorism is up. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on track to lead America into bankruptcy. We have eternal problems like hunger and disease.

But even those "eternal" problems are closer to being solved than they used to be.

Thanks to better vaccines, 6 million fewer children under the age of 5 die each year compared to 30 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty—that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. "Experts" predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.

Ten percent of the world's people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off. As Marian Tupy of puts it, "Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last."

So enjoy it. Happy New Year!


NEXT: George Pataki Is Dropping Out of the Presidential Race, if Anybody Cares

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  1. Another first!

  2. You guys are working late tonight.

  3. …but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.

    You misspelled lucrative.

  4. Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business…

    I was ready to make a sarcastic comment, then I reflected on how since Roe v. Wade I never here any more arguments over that issue, so yeah, sure John, that’s reeeeallllly gonna happen,

    1. To be fair this is more like 19th Amendment then Roe v. Wade. The termination of any life will always cause people to take sides and will probably always be fought over by each generation whether it has to do with suicide, homicide (legal or illegal) or abortion. I don’t see much arguing these days over whether women should be allowed to vote or not.

      1. Just wait til Hillary wins. Kidding aside, you may be right, however did people think letting women vote was a sin back then, or was it just the way things were done.

        1. New meme for sale… Replace “Anti-Abortion” with “Pro-BIRTH.”
          Same basic goal… somewhat different perspective…

  5. I sure could use a little good news. Every time I read the Reason website, I find more things to get upset about.

  6. Yes, I too could use a little good news– a little antidote to the “fear mongering so government has an excuse to grow” epidemic.

    Thank you John Stossel!

  7. What do you mean that things went right in 2015? Everything was terrible because we failed to grovel enough before the police. We couldn’t even manage to go to another war in the middle east. Someone shot up a DMV in California, that’s a sign that we are involved in civilisational war! We failed to respond by bombing and putting muslims in camps until we actually do get a civilisational war. And worst of all, we are still engaged in peaceful and mostly voluntary commercial relations with other countries! Its such relations are an abomination, like gay marriage that recently got legalized. If you don’t understand why this is so terrible, you must be an anarchist who pisses on the flag.


    In all seriousness, this is not far from the view of the passing scene from certain parts of our political arena.

  8. Chinese yuan officially became a world reserve currency (not Petrocurrency) on November 30, 2015

  9. Happy New New Mr Stossel!

  10. What’s there to invest in when interest rates are so rediculously low?

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