American Pessimism: Only 6 Percent Think the World Is Getting Better

Over the past century, the prospects and circumstances of most of humanity have spectacularly improved



Over at the invaluable American Council on Science and Health, ASCH senior biomedical fellow Alex Berezow reports the depressing news that only 6 percent of Americans believe that, all things considered, the world is getting better. The most optimistic people are the Chinese; 41 percent think that future is bright. Berezow is citing data collated by Oxford economist Max Roser and shared at recent conference of "ecomodernists" at the Breakthrough Institute. Why are so many people so pessimistic? Berezow reports that Roser suggested (1) they forget how bad things were and (2) they don't know how much progress is being made. As Berezow notes:

The fact is that bad news sells. Good news does not. Proclaiming widespread misery is how politicians get elected (and how most environmentalists get funded), and giving coverage to mass shooters is how newspapers are sold. Giving people a balanced perspective, which often includes a dose of good news, rarely excites anybody.*

Max Roser/ACSH

Last year, in my column, "The End Is Nigh," I reported similar dispiriting data from the Futures survey:

A majority of people—54 percent—surveyed in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom believe there's a risk of 50 percent or more that our way of life will end within the next 100 years. Even worse, some 25 percent of respondents in the same poll believe it that likely that we'll go extinct in the next century. Americans were the most pessimistic, giving those gloomy answers 57 percent and 30 percent of the time, respectively. And younger respondents tend to be more pessimistic about the future than older ones. …

This pervasive pessimism about the human prospect flies in the face of a plain set of facts: Over the past century, the prospects and circumstances of most of humanity have spectacularly improved. Depending on how you calculate it, world per capita GDP has increased between 5-fold and 10-fold since 1900. Average life expectancy has more than doubled in the same period, and we live in the most peaceful time in history.

I hold modern intellectuals, fellow members of the scribbling classes, responsible for the miasma of cultural pessimism that has engulfed so many rich societies. I reiterate:

In 1982, the brilliant futurist Herman Kahn published The Coming Boom, in which he pleaded for the reestablishment of "an ideology of progress." Kahn warned:

Two out of three Americans polled in recent years believe that their grandchildren will not live as well as they do, i.e., they tend to believe the vision of the future that is taught in our school system. Almost every child is told that we are running out of resources; that we are robbing future generations when we use these scarce, irreplaceable, or nonrenewable resources in silly, frivolous and wasteful ways; that we are callously polluting the environment beyond control; that we are recklessly destroying the ecology beyond repair; that we are knowingly distributing foods which give people cancer and other ailments but continue to do so in order to make a profit.

It would be hard to describe a more unhealthy, immoral, and disastrous educational context, every element of which is either largely incorrect, misleading, overstated, or just plain wrong. What the school system describes, and what so many Americans believe, is a prescription for low morale, higher prices and greater (and unnecessary) regulations.

Three decades later, large swaths of the Western intellectual classes still preach an apocalyptic anti-progress ideology. As the Futures survey shows, corrosive pessimism has clearly trickled down and is demoralizing many citizens. Such cultural gloom is a significant drag on scientific, technological and policy innovation. Overcoming that pervasive pessimism and restoring the belief in human progress is one of the most important philosophical and political projects for the 21st century.

Still true.

*Compare the sales of my realistic new book, The End of Doom, to the sales of doomster Paul Ehrlich's apocalyptic tomes. Well, I, at least, have the satisfaction of being right.

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125 responses to “American Pessimism: Only 6 Percent Think the World Is Getting Better

  1. Americans are correct to be pessimistic when things are becoming increasingly shitty for them.

    1. Yeah move to a city with economic opportunities.

      1. Economics is not the sole concern for people. Some people care about their family, their land, and their community enough to remain and make their home better rather than follow every conceivable gold rush.

        1. Materialists like libertarians and marxists cannot comprehend your point.

          1. Libertarians are not necessarily materialists. Freedom does not imply choosing only riches.

            1. Agreed, I should not have generalized. I too often conflate libertarians with randians.

        2. Even from a materialist standpoint things are getting worse for Americans. Median incomes have now sunk bellow 1990 levels.

          1. Total compensation has not, and thanks to the glories of free trade and ever advancing technology we’re getting far more wealth for our money as a % of total compensation than we used to.

            Blame our stupid medical system and inflation in household consumables for making things appear worse.

            And FDR, that motherfucker. 72 year later and he’s still fucking us.

            1. And FDR, that motherfucker. 72 year later and he’s still fucking us.

              Fucking a corpse is Necrophilia, but what’s it called when the corpse fucks you?


              2. In Soviet Russia

            2. I feel like medical (and higher education) is the only area where we have not been able to significantly decrease cost over time. Perhaps due to the fascination with extending life regardless of the quality of living.

              1. Lack of price signals is probably the largest underlying factor there. Fucking FDR.

          2. [citation needed]

            You are relying on studies by leftist professors in leftist pseudo-sciences in leftist colleges.

            A very simple way to realize how bankrupt their studies are is ask yourself if you would rather live today as it is, or time travel backwards, even with your current inflated income, and live back then.

            Life is incomparably better now for the vast majority of people. Billions are in less extreme poverty, famine is much less a problem, there is less war.

            1. I was actually thinking of some stats posted on the Mises Institute a months back, not Leftist propaganda:


              1. *few months

        3. Right, and the traditional role for the head of the family in a location without economic opportunity is to move to the city or a different country in pursuit of economic opportunity. He then sends that money back home so as to keep his land, help his family, and improve his community. Only losers sit around and bitch about how shitty things have gotten for them.

  2. I knew that the first comment would be a defense of pessimism.

    1. It could’nt get much worse, but if it could it would.

  3. Maybe they are reading stories like the one by Chapman right here at Reason today that after the election things are only going to get worse.

    Better get a copy of your book to him.

    1. Well, it depends. If science finds a cure for retardation, we might look forward to hearing something intelligent from you. I don’t think it’s likely, but the ingenuity of pharma and medical research has been impressive, so never say never.

  4. The world IS getting better, despite the best efforts of its would-be rulers.

    1. Culture is getting pretty degenerate. Statism is getting much more degenerate. Economic growth is an anemic pittance of what it could be. Political culture all across the west continues it’s long march leftwards causing the genetic heritability of intelligence to decrease across the board. Any positive steps forward for civilization are happening despite the looming clusterfucks on the horizon.

      1. Culture is getting pretty degenerate.

        Uh what? Culture is more dynamic, robust, and diverse than it has ever been in human history.

        1. Why does your opinion matter? Aren’t you a straight white male? You probably read shitlord poetry and playwrights like Shakespere in your free time. *spits*

          Check your privilege.

          1. Ah now I get it. A small number of people are saying something you disagree with so culture is broken.

            1. It’s a trend and not an insignificant one among a subset of the population that will get more important and more numerous and yes in I think it’s fair to say that the culture is in the process of breaking.

              1. Just like the Baby Boomer hippies turned America into a giant free love commune forever.

                1. It’s funny that you should bring up that example. The Baby Boomer hippies did fuck things up to no small extent. They were the vessel through which cultural Marxism and all manner of sophistry moved into the culture and they set the stage for the current crop of activist socialist millennial half wits. They’re little revolution gave us increasing divorce rates and more generally hedonism as a virtue. They gave us public accommodation laws, three strikes laws and all manner of expansions of the state since they’ve come into their own as the political class. Color me not impressed with their affect on society.

                  1. What’s wrong with increasing divorce rates? People being able to get out of bad living arrangements seems like an improvement.

                    1. Not for the kids.

                      And not when the problem being selfish and bouncing from one failed marriage to the next, without grasping the concept of simple things like “sharing.”

                      Did I say that out loud?

                    2. Of course you should be able to “get out of bad living arrangements”, but those living arrangements are the fault of the two parties involved. The outcome was a result of their own poor choices to begin with.

                      Nothing correlates more strongly for future poverty, welfare dependence, criminality, poor educational attainment and a host of other bad life outcomes than being raised by a single mom and not having a stable relationship with the biological father. Believe it or not, children benefit from having two parents and a stable family.

                    3. So people should be forced to live with bad decisions forever? I’m still not clear why being unable to dissolve a bad relationship is preferable to the freedom to try for something better.

                    4. So people should be forced to live with bad decisions forever?

                      I didn’t say that. But you know I didn’t say that. So I don’t know why I bother to reply.

                    5. No, you didn’t say that. You said that bad living arrangements are the fault of the parties involved, and the result of their poor choices.

                      I’m arguing that the ability to free yourself from the consequences of those bad decisions is a good thing, and you’re arguing…something?

                    6. That the declining marriage rates and increasing divorce rates are a product of cultural changes that aren’t all around a good thing. I get that you have trouble following along, but seriously the whole basis of this exchange has been about cultural changes and if you all of a sudden need to be reminded of that, I think it’s pretty clear that I have been wasting my time on you.

                      Heck you’ve been wasting your time too. Maybe you should move along to find someone who will just roll with it when you slay some strawman arguments, or maybe find someone to call a racist or a sexist or something as you are wont to do.

                    7. The divorce rate has been declining for about 30 years. It peaked in the late 70s early 80s.

                1. That is the social justice stuff. The entire history of western civilization is categorized as immoral and the repudiation of it has a become a virtue signal that is to be rewarded.

                  1. No, it’s not entirely. It also has its roots in a globalized economy, shallow, ignorant modern nationalism and a cultural mindset that obsesses over the now, or some vague hypothetical future.

                    I’ve met plenty of conservatives who seem to know absolutely nothing about their political beliefs pre-Reagan besides some general talking points (they’ll scream about FDR but only have the vaguest hints of what he did). Talk to a gamergater and see how well they can successfully articulate Western cultural history. The answer for most is that they can’t.

                    1. I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out what the GamerGate thing was.

                      Could not penetrate teh feelz.

                      Gave up.

                    2. Gamergaters, if by that you mean the alt-right are hugely more mindful and appreciative of western history. They’re one of the few groups you can regularly see defending it against the lefty culture warriors. Defending and honoring to some extent that history is directly in their wheelhouse, if for no other reason than as a reaction to the repudiation of it by the cultural marxists.

                    3. Most are the intellectual equivalent of attack dogs. They’re fully capable of understanding the extremely negative worldview of social justice causes and are willing to stand up against it. But they lack the cultural knowledge to defend their alternatives successfully and are extremely prone to emotional, rather than rational arguments. And that’s not a product of social justice, that’s a product of Romanticism.

                    4. gamergaters are whiny little crybabies.

              2. They will NOT become more important, for the incredibly simple and obvious reason that they are such ninny crybabies that they will never amount to anything. They are far too self-centered and gullible and naive to do anything but be happy victims.

                1. And yet one day everyone older than them will be retired or dead and everyone younger than them will essentially be in theirs to fuck over. They will inherit the earth and all of it’s institutions no matter how intelligent, virtuous or utterly immoral and stupid they happen to be.

        2. if you compare “high entertainment” in the 1600s as going out to the local hanging or evisceration, vs today with the obsession with reality tv and watching public failures/trainwrecks… I’m not sure who wins.

        3. Culture is getting pretty degenerate.

          Is this supposed to be a bad thing?

          Crusty, can I get a ruling here?

      2. “culture is getting pretty degenerate.”

        More degenerate than lynchings, slavery, public executions and torture as entertainment, killing animals as entertainment, glorified war, wife beating, anf child beating? um no I think not.

    2. More specifically, lives are getting better for some (probably more than 50% of the population) but worse for some (not an insignificant percentage of the population).

      For the US, we could look at the evolution of median income by quartile.

      1. I: Why not by deciles? looks somewhat different then.

  5. To a starving man a loaf of bread means the world. Once he has a loaf of bread though, he wishes he had some bologna, a little mayo, a little mustard, maybe a nice pickle, some chips, a Coke would be nice…….He only wanted one thing but once he gets that he’s worse off because now there’s ten things he ain’t got. If you meet a starving man the best thing you can give him is a loaf of bread and a good kick in the nuts so he’ll appreciate the gift but wish he had been given less.

    If you have nothing, a little means a lot. If you have a little, a lot looks better. If you have a lot, well, now there’s an infinite amount of shit that’s just out of your reach. Just wait until those Chinese so optimistic about the future start getting rich enough to see all the shit they’re not quite rich enough to afford and then they’ll be whining and complaining just like the rest of us.

    1. That’s true for our material wants. Not so much for other desires. E Europeans freed from the Commies are very appreciative and protective of freedom (generally). Not too demanding of more freedom.

    2. You micro-aggressing cisfuck!

      There are minorities of color which still have to deal with perceived racism every moment of their day! People are still expected to think and fend for themselves! We’re expected to feed, clothe and house ourselves, without govt. assistance! The rich harvest our organs for pet food and then throw away the pets! What kind of sick, twisted world do you live in?

  6. Such cultural gloom is a significant drag on scientific, technological and policy innovation.

    The rule of law died in the last week. What kind of fucking bubble do you and 1/2 this fucking echo chamber live in?

    1. No shit. Somehow self driving cars, tranny bathrooms, pot and endless porn don’t really make up for that. Ron just can’t understand why we are all so glum.

      1. But we have graphs to prove that things are getting better in every way, every day. Why do you hate Science?

      2. I understand it perfectly. People love to complain. It is a basic drive like the desire for sex or shelter.

        But that doesn’t mean we aren’t better off in almost every sense compared to our ancestors. Or do you wish that we still had horse shit in the roads and doctors who dont wash their hands before operating?

        Or perhaps you’d prefer a time when running water was scarce and toilet paper a luxury?

        It is easy to make fun of material advances, but I guarantee that if you could deprive people of even a handful of modern conveniences they would instantly discover that life can suck way more than it does now. I mean, not just annoyance, but full blown can’t-think-about-anything-else levels of misery.

        And the rule of law has been much weaker at many times and in many places. Anyone who imagines the current era of US history to be a uniquely horrible Hobbesian clusterfuck is either ignorant or irrationally pessimistic.

        I mean, I hate Hillary too. But its not like she is going to have warlords wandering the wastelands taking people’s children to make palace eunuchs or Universal Soldiers.

        1. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t better off in almost every sense compared to our ancestors. Or do you wish that we still had horse shit in the roads and doctors who dont wash their hands before operating?

          Thanks to the market outperforming the degenerative effects of various aspects of statism. Though there’s little reason to take that for granted. The fact that it takes two householders to support a household despite this not being the case for our relatively poorer grandparents says a lot. Combined with the welfare state, this cause the numbers of productive to dwindle while they’re busy paying for the reproduction of lower intelligence and unproductive people.

          In a great many respects things are better for our generation than they were for prior generations, but the trends are what they are and they don’t exactly spell out a guaranteed perpetual increase in human well-being for our children and grand children.

          1. We are better off because we simply lock up so many people. And the right ones, usually.

            /sarc – because some wouldn’t get it

          2. Of course you shouldn’t ignore the bad trends. And nothing is ever guaranteed. Even with all the freedom we would like to see, some terrible thing could happen that would set us back significantly.

            But it’s also foolish to only focus on the bad things. The world will probably always be a struggle between conflicting trends. We are never going to see Libertopia and the world will always have tons of assholes who want to control other people. You need to fight those people as you can, but you also need to make the most of the good things.

            1. And in case it’s not obvious, I’m not disagreeing, just commenting.

            2. I’m with you. If I weren’t an optimist, I wouldn’t bother giving a fuck enough to argue with dumb people. Things will get worse before they can get better however.

          3. Free Society, an average family could probably afford to live on one income if they are willing to live like their grandparents. That would include giving up cable, cell phones, internet access, going out to eat once a month, and only having at most one car. Those expenses could easily shave several hundred dollars a month from a household budget.

            1. That’s the material well-being I alluded to at the beginning of my spiel. Those grandparents were living the good life for their time, just as their grandparents before them lived well for their time. The good life today is as expensive as it is because of statism. Don’t forget these increases in material well being historically increased productivity to a point where your household would be working the same number of hours or fewer, to attain the amenities of contemporary living. The associated increases in productivity of today have not kept pace with the costs of contemporary living. It’s not like cell phones got invented and everyone decided to take another job so they could pay for them. We’ve had an explosion of productivity and thanks to interference from the state in form of taxes, central banks and regulations, that productivity has not benefited the whole of society like it otherwise would.

              1. Living the good life for their time? WTF are you talking about? When my grandparents were born before the Great Depression the poverty rate was near 80%. Most people lived a hard life working long hours on farms or in factories. Then they lived through the Depression and the outrageous tax rates following it. Hell the poverty rate in the supposedly prosperous 50s was still in the 35% range. Take off you rose colored nostalgia glasses.

          4. The entire notion that households were supported solely by the income of the men is a ridiculous fiction. I am pretty sure it is because of the attitude poll where about 80% of respondents before WWII said that a woman should not work outside the home. But the reality is that the women worked inside the home and that didn’t just mean doing her family’s laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Except for the well off, wives would have done work inside the house that would turn a profit. So you had cottage industries where wives would sell baked goods, canned goods, take in laundry, iron shirts, tailor, child care, etc for profit and to contribute to the household. But it wasn’t working outside the home.

            1. and it didn’t count in labor statistics

        2. I mean, I hate Hillary too. But its not like she is going to have warlords wandering the wastelands taking people’s children to make palace eunuchs or Universal Soldiers.

          No, that’s Trump (I keed, I keed). Hillary’s a corrupt hack and a thief. /sarc

        3. Even if we’re better off now, pessimism is about the future. People in the past seemed to have a vision of a better future. Right now, it seems like the only options are to embrace or fight decline.

      3. There is also increasing life-spans, worldwide declines in absolute poverty, amazing advancements in medicine and genetic engineering and the efficient use of resources, to name just a few things.

        I don’t know if that makes up for the bad stuff, but there is a lot more good going on than just the cosmo-fag cocktail party stuff you mention.

        1. There is also increasing life-spans, worldwide declines in absolute poverty, amazing advancements in medicine and genetic engineering and the efficient use of resources, to name just a few things.

          There’s also increasing borrowing against the tax liability of the unborn to pay for those longer lives, increases of reliance on the state in general, a multiplicity of new statutes and a degenerate clusterfuck of insurance law and welfare policies to pay for an unnecessarily resource hungry medical industry.

          Believe it or not I am an optimist, I just don’t take genuine future advancement as a given.

        2. Ask Venezuela how easily all of that can vanish once a corrupt leftist gets his hooks into the institutions of power and uses them to turn his country into a personal piggy bank.

    2. The rule of law hasn’t been a thing in the United States probably in my lifetime, definitely in the past two decades. So um it might not be the rest of us who are in a bubble brah.

      1. The rule of law has never been a thing anywhere. It’s just an illusion that appears when laws are mostly reasonable and society is reasonably stable.

        1. Yeah that’s my sense as well. I’m just making the weaker claim that I can back up with concrete examples.

  7. The fact that the Saudis come in at #3 is irritating. Who wants to be that’s because Islamic fucktards think they’re winning?

  8. Depression is often a description of people who can’t stop ruminating about the past.

    Anxiety is often a description of people who can’t stop obsessing about the future. That anxiety isn’t necessarily about what’s happening in their lives at the moment. It may just be that their success in the future isn’t as secure as it used to be. Maybe their wife left and took the kids. Maybe they lost a job. Make they were diagnosed with a chronic medical condition.

    All kinds of things can make the future seem less bright than it used to be. Maybe one of the reasons Americans are less optimistic about the future is because their futures aren’t as bright as they used to be, but I think a lot of people are conflicted about the desirability of success in the future, as well. People think that to be successful, these days, means you had to exploit someone or that you had to devastate the environment somehow.

    Maybe we need an American Deng Xaioping to say, “To get rich is glorious”. If buying the car you want would kill the polar bears, then wanting that car is evil. If the world is overpopulated, then wanting children is evil. If prosperity is equated with exploitation and environmental devastation, then prosperity is evil. Only self-sacrifice is seen as genuinely good in that worldview, and since when has self-sacrifice in and of itself made anyone feel like things are getting better?

    1. And are we likely to get more free?

      1. Without liberty, the rest is bullshit.

        And I suspect that measure of value is moving in the wrong direction, at least over the short term (last 200 years?).

  9. When most people are looking at the choice between a felon and a blow-hard, what do you expect?

    1. Ecstasy!

      1. Quaaludes.

        1. Well, it is a downer…

  10. Clinton forecast with chance of Trump: Who wouldn’t be doomy?

  11. Let’s ask Tim Egan what we should think.

  12. It is true that the vast majority of people I encounter could stand to read The End of Doom. They continue to be convinced that the world population will keep expanding, even as we run out of resources including energy, food, and water. It’s like they are all stuck in the 70s and Ehrlich haunts their dreams, Kreuger-like.

    And yet, many of these same people tend to be optimistic about government — at least as long as the right TOP MEN get in and stay in — and seem to believe government is the best answer for reversing, or at least slowing down, the problems they perceive.

    And yet, as optimistic as I am on a technological basis, I am the opposite when it comes to government. Not just in the U.S. but overall. Around the world, you have more and more governments imposing ever-dumber and more restrictive regulations, as well as taxing the beejezus out of everyone in order to promise more and more “free” shit to groups of people.

    Where that is not happening, you instead have brutal secular dictators being replaced by even more brutal religious dictators. And right in our neck of the woods, you have a career criminal soon to be out a career clown. Meanwhile the rational alternative is limping along at under 10 percent in the polls, talking appeasement of his main rival, and seems bent on sabotaging his chances to get into the debates.

    So, no, I’m not all that optimistic. Technology can only do so much in the absence of freedom.

    1. Exactly!!! Our tech advances give cover to our legal/moral/political decline.

      1. “Our tech advances give cover..”

        They do more than that. They make possible the surveillance that is going on all the time over everyone.

        “even as we run out of resources including energy, food, and water”

        You forgot to mention coastline. At least we won’t soon run out of refugees.

  13. running water was scarce and toilet paper a luxury

    Are we talking about Venezuela again? Listen, it’s all the fault of speculators in the oil market driving down prices. Everybody knows that.

    1. it’s all the fault of speculators in the oil market driving down prices

      Fracking is an imperialist plot to break the Venezuelan workers’ will.

      1. It strikes me as ironic that the same very left-wing celebs like Sean Penn and Danny Glover who support the shitty socialist regime in Venezuela, are also typically among the most vocally against the continuing use of fossil fuels.

        It’s as if they don’t realize that the only thing that could potentially keep the money flowing through the massively incompetent and corrupt fingers of a Chavez/Maduro regime would be a wholesale re-embracing and ratcheting up of petroleum usage across the world.

        Since oil show no signs of a price recovery, and technological progress in spite of bureaucratic hurdles, seems geared toward continuing to moderate any expansions in demand for it, the system in Venezuelan will continue to lurch toward its end.

    2. Wrong! It is the fault of Global Warming. Even Hillary is the fault of Global Warming. In fact, everything is the fault of Global Warming…

    3. Wrong! It is the fault of Global Warming. Even Hillary is the fault of Global Warming. In fact, everything is the fault of Global Warming…

      1. Even repeating comments is the fault of Global Warming…

  14. You know Ron, perhaps the pessimism is due to people valuing things other than material improvement to their lives.

    1. Exactly. Saudi Arabia has made great strides in the material improvement of it’s citizen’s lives, but who in the fuck would actually want to move there? Who would want to live under a similar government? Under a similar culture? Not the kind of people I would want to live among.

    2. What things other than material improvement are you talking about?

  15. *Compare the sales of my realistic new book, The End of Doom, to the sales of doomster Paul Ehrlich’s apocalyptic tomes. Well, I, at least, have the satisfaction of being right.

    You should’ve written another book titled “The Bringer of Doom”. A detailed guide on how to bring about the apocalypse. This way you don’t have to predict the future, you can make it.

    1. You mean plagiarize The Road to Serfdom?

  16. I tend to be a pretty pessimistic person too, but the reason for my pessimism is that so many others are pessimistic, and out of their pessimism tend to push for more government control, less freedom, and generally spew stupid economically illiterate horseshit that results in things getting worse for everyone. It then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that things will get worse. At which point people push for more government control and less freedom, which makes thing even worse, and cause people to push for more government control and less freedom, which makes thing even worse…

    1. “out of their pessimism tend to push for more government control”

      Not true. It’s not pessimism, but fear and insecurity that push people for more control. Feelings of fear and insecurity also nullify whatever freedoms people do possess, unlike pessimism.

  17. “Three decades later, large swaths of the Western intellectual classes still preach an apocalyptic anti-progress ideology.”

    Not true. The Western elites are still in thrall to the ideology of progress. It is one thing that unites both the left and the right. They both see economic growth as a solution to the problems we face. It’s true for Clinton, Trump or Johnson.

    1. The intellectual classes aren’t the same as the political elites.

      1. What is important is that they both are in thrall to this ideology of progress. One tell tale sign is hand-wringing over providing more jobs. You find it both on the left and the right. You’ll find very few who disagree.

  18. Do they send men with guns after you for more things than they did 30 years ago?

  19. “corrosive pessimism has clearly trickled down and is demoralizing many citizens.”

    When our science correspondent tells us that corrosive pessimism has trickled down, we gotta take him serially.

  20. Booooring. People always want to think the sorld is ending. Imagine how historic it would be if we were the last humans ever to be alive.

    1. As far as I know the world does end when I die.

  21. The West is kinda dying and our leaders have become suicidal.

    Enjoy some gloomy Pat Buchanan.…..e-century/

  22. Does the “world have to end” to be pessimistic? Or just an understanding of history? Sure the world will go on if millions are stuffed into boxcars and destroyed. Sure the world will go on if millions are allowed to starve. Sure the world will go on if thousands have their head guillotined off. Russia still exists after purges. Germany carried on after Night of the Long Knives. What are you getting so upset about? Sure we have 24/7 surveillance that would have made the Gestapo or KGB cum in their pants. So what if we have clearly shoved in our face that we live under an oligarchy? Who cares if you can have your property confiscated under bureaucratic thievery? So what if a 2 day IRS audit 20 years ago now takes 2 years, so that the process is the punishment? Who cares that bureaucratic requirements on the average business has tripled in the last 15-20 years? Who cares that the middle class, with two income workers get to pay ~50% of their income and taxes, and even the Republicans licking their chops that “it’s a good start”?

    1. cont.

      As a CPA, working as a controller for a mid-sized business, who is a materialist/humanist/monist/individualist, for whom the ability to ADD and see an accrual basis debt that approximates individually held wealth, or more likely vastly exceeds it, sees the seeds for some very wicked times ahead of us VERY SOON. The kind of times that has people shoved into boxcars. The kind that has people getting the ultimate crew-cut. The kind that brings about massive instability. The mere fact that we have a “choice” between Hillary or Trump SCREAMS that things are falling off the rails.

      But I can dial up an episode of Gomer Pyle on youtube or order a pizza with an app on my phone, so the future’s as bright as can be. That seed corn we’ve been eating the last 30 years sure has been yummy!

      1. That seed corn we’ve been eating the last 30 years sure has been yummy!

        Best analogy in the thread.

        1. Awesome rant, toolkien. Sums up my shitty mood very nicely.

  23. For all of the constant advances I’m hearing about in medical care, one of the supposed bright spots being pushed along by our centrally planned technotopia, medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the US. Most of the breakthrough advances in medicine that we learn about are 20+ years out from being viable therapies and another 10+ years out after that for regulatory approval. And the marginal return on these therapies is diminishing. We’re talking about staving off cancer deaths by a few months, not some Kurzweilian nanobot-driven eternal life. That’s fine as far as it goes, but knowing that therapies I will never be able to access or afford might, possibly, conceivably, be able to extend my life for a few months when I’m grinding out a terminal illness isn’t exactly worth throwing a parade over either. It’s easy to understand why something like, say, a polio vaccine or the discovery of antibiotics or the synthesis of insulin might have been a more significant source of encouragement and optimism to the people who lived during those periods. The pace of advancement is starting to plateau after a fairly substantial period of seeming as if it never would (see also: the death of Moore’s law).

  24. medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the US

    That could be bad, because medical errors are happening way too much. Or it could be good because other causes of death are on the decline and more people have access to medical treatment in the first place.

  25. If 94% of voters think the world is getting worse . . . then they obviously don’t understand the causes.

  26. I love the fact that mortal ideological enemies are getting together on the “DOOM IS NIGH” bandwagon.

    Its like the same body odor, only in one case it’s mixed with Old Spice, and in the other it’s mixed with patchouli.


  27. I’m almost always, if not naively so, optimistic in that I agree with many comments here that things have gotten better in many areas and they continue to do so globally. This is spurred on mostly through technological innovations, more advanced healthcare, and the like, but also includes less racism, sexism, etc.

    As others have stated though, just because this is happening doesn’t mean it will continue, nor does it mean we’re actually able to take full advantage of any improvements.

    And I think a deeper look says there are reasons to be pessimistic due to very bad thinking.

    And so long as bad thinking is allowed to be used as the basis for any improvements or solutions to societies ills, the end result will be bad.

    We now have daily proof that the average thought process has been corrupted to the point where name calling is a winning debate tactic and stopping people from speaking is victory.

    We’re to the point now where actively breaking the law as SoS gets no media traction and no legal recourse, even as those same politicians use the same law they’re breaking against others.

    So long as rational and objective debate continue to be destroyed, how exactly will this get better?

  28. Hans Rosling ran similar surveys in various countries, asking multiple-choice questions such as what is the worldwide extreme poverty rate, or the worldwide literacy rate.
    The results he found is that even educated people do worse than chance. It’s not that we’re ignorant and answering randomly, it is that most people’s knowledge is just plain wrong or at least out-of-date.

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