Economics

2020 Did Bring Some Good News

"Be a little bit grateful for what we have."

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Was 2020 the worst year ever? The media keep saying that.

We did have the pandemic, a bitter election, unemployment, riots, and a soaring national debt.

But wait, look at the good news, says historian Johan Norberg. His new book, Open: The Story of Human Progress, points out how life keeps getting better, even if people just don't realize it.

2020 was "the best year in human history to face a pandemic," he says.

Had the pandemic happened in 2005, "You wouldn't have the technology to create mRNA vaccines."

"In 1990," he continues, "we wouldn't have a worldwide web. If we had had this pandemic in 1976, we wouldn't have been able to read the genome of the virus. And…in 1950, we wouldn't have had a single ventilator."

These last 20 years, adds Norberg, have been especially good. "Mankind has attained more wealth than ever."

I push back: "There's more to life than wealth! And lot of this money went to the top 1 percent. Ordinary people think they're doing worse."

"If you look at specifics like global poverty, child mortality, chronic undernourishment, and illiteracy," Norberg replies, "they all declined faster than ever."

Those things are pretty good measures of quality of life.

"Literacy might be the most important skill," says Norberg. "It's the skill that makes it possible to acquire other skills. We've never seen literacy at these high levels ever before. [Even] in the most problematic countries around the world, it's better than it was in the richest countries 50, 60 years ago. That's most important for those who have the least."

Of course, there were bad trends in 2020. Murder rose in the United States. Social media algorithms divided us further. "Suicide is up," I tell Norberg.

"I can definitely see the problems," he replies, "but once upon a time, if you ended up in the wrong school or neighborhood, you had nowhere to go—no other community available to you. Now there is, and that opens up a world of opportunity. Some awful things as well, but some beautiful things."

That meant that even during this pandemic, people found new ways to help others.

Volunteers used the internet to find better ways to donate their time. Young people brought food to the elderly.

Zoom and Slack taught us that not being in the office sometimes works as well, or better.

Businesses had new tools with which to adapt.

Restaurants moved to takeout and delivery, aided by apps like UberEats and Grubhub.

Such healthy adaptation rarely makes news, because reporters seek out problems.

Many worry loudly about climate change. Some claim the environment keeps getting worse. A dismayed CBS correspondent mourned, "Biodiversity is reportedly declining faster than any time!"

Even if that were true, says Norberg, "We have never made this much progress against pollution. The six leading pollutants, the ones that used to pollute our lungs and forests and rivers, they've declined by some 70 percent!"

In January of this year, when President Trump announced the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, "World War III" trended on Twitter. The Selective Service website crashed for fear there would be a draft.

"People think there's more war," I say to Norberg.

"But we've forgotten the wars that we had in the past! When I grew up in the 1980s, there were more wars, and battle death rates were four times higher."

Less war is one reason people keep living longer. After COVID-19, that trend will continue.

"We have this tendency, for good reasons, to focus on problems, because that's our way of solving problems," says Norberg. "But then there's the risk that we'll just despair and think it's hopeless and we give up. That's not the solution to our problems.

"Just cheer up and be happy?" I ask.

He answers, "Be a little bit grateful for what we have."

COPYRIGHT 2020 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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  1. 2020 was “the best year in human history to face a pandemic,”

    Fuck NO!

    As bad as 1968 was as a year (and it wasn’t as bad as Historians lead you to believe) we were much better off dealing with the pandemic.

    1. Derp that’s because nobody knew there was one. I was around then and nobody talked about it not like they are today. And we got by just fine.

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        1. 2020 Did Bring Some Good News
          “Be a little bit grateful for what we have.”

          Well – let Jacob Sullem know. And tell him to pull Biden’s cock out of his mouth and wipe his chin off.

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      2. Yup, if Covid happened in the 1970s, it would have just been “another bad flu”. Probably wouldn’t have even known it was a different virus without gene sequencing technologies, and nobody would have dreamed of lockdowns since it would have been seen to kill mostly older people and sick people, so they would have been the ones advised to stay home.

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        2. Accidentally flagged your comment, sorry about that. Don’t know why we can’t unflag.
          No, I think we might have noticed that 15% of Americans were dying, because that is what we would have had. Maybe we would have called it the “flu from hell”, but we would not have been flippant about its killing power.
          The fact is that this disease puts 24% of people in the hospital, and their very limited technology would have meant a good chunk of those dying. And I may actually be underplaying it. There was a lot of high blood pressure because of lead in the air. And high blood pressure and Covid are a bad combination.
          Even with our ECMO machines and crazy tech initially, we were seeing something like 11% death, then cut to 7% in less than a month. In a few more months we figured out steroids and zeroed in on the best one, and it was down to 3-4%. Then we realized the dang ventilators were mostly doing more harm than good, that putting people face down in their beds and providing oxygen was better (for as long as that is viable), a few mildly effective medications, and we are down to 2.1% death. You are dreaming, if you think they would have gotten down to 2.1% death in under a year.
          And we have the tools to get this down to 0.5% and lower with new monoclonal antibodies, if we can get these things into very vulnerable patients early in the infection…which is so far proving difficult, given the time to get it in them and the observation needed…thus more of an option for the rich and famous.
          And, of course, we can vaccinate…if we can keep idiots from vandalizing the vaccine or terrifying people from taking it using neurotic conspiracy theories.
          And if they had not had face masks and other social measures, it would have spread at at least 4 times the rate. Most of the people who were going to die would have died by this point. As it is, the worst hit communities have only had around 20-30% of their people infected, so there is a huge opportunity to vaccinate and save perhaps 1 million lives. And that is just the US.
          Also with no Internet, how would old people have gotten their food, and other items they need day to day? Could they really call up the store and have them delver? No, they would have had to come in, and likely been infected.

      3. proportionally the Kunglfu is equal to the 1968 HongKong flue but no shutdowns people worked while sick. people were different

        1. Wrong. Death totals would have been far higher.

          1. Nope

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    2. So here we have another troll; one more thing to NOT be thankful for

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  3. “In 1990,” he continues, “we wouldn’t have a worldwide web. If we had had this pandemic in 1976, we wouldn’t have been able to read the genome of the virus. And…in 1950, we wouldn’t have had a single ventilator.”

    In 1990, 1976 or 1950, we wouldn’t have had mass lockdowns, either.

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    1. Before 2000, the idea of emulating the CCP or reviving Dr Fauci’s lost HIV credibility or tolerating mask mandates or overlooking the way nursing homes and Democrat governors colluded to kill off the sick behind closed doors—none of this shit would’ve been tolerated.

      Before 2000, zoom meetings and distance public school learning didn’t exist. There would’ve been an armed revolt against closing schools and businesses.

      Before 2000, Milan wasn’t overrun by Chinese. Our colleges weren’t filled with Chinese spies. Covid would’ve been stuck in China.

      Before 2000, even if covid got loose, it would have spread fast enough for herd immunity to build without mass deaths. It would’ve been a bad winter and then it would be done. Not a year+ long bullshit saga.

      1. On the other hand, if HIV were just discovered now, it would be dismissed as a conservative plot to discriminate against gay people.

    2. There is no real way to say that mass lockdowns would not have occurred had a pandemic struck in any of these years.

      1. History might lend a clue.

        Yes, we had sanitoriums for people with TB; if you had leprosy, off to Carville [LA] you went to spend your life in an actual [yet humane and medical] leper colony]. But at no point did we have a “lockdown” for an influenza, or a virus like polio.

        1. Reading on the 1918 Flue pandemic it says that mayors of large cities did close schools and banned gathering. Also we are using the term lockdowns where in many cases the older term would be quarantines.

          Again, my point is that we really can’t say that we would not have had similar calls to limit gathering spots had we faced a similar situation.

        2. In all fairness, today we have a simple antibiotic that cured 18 million persons of leprosy, a stark contrast to the Dr. Strange incantation in Leviticus 13-14, which never cured one person of leprosy.

        3. Back in the day of George Washington, when half of Philadelphia was dropping flies from smallpox, a quarrantine was deadly serious business. Anyone quarrantined was home-bound with armed guards at every portal of the dwelling. Except for the Physician, no one got in or out for the duration of the incubation period or death, whichever came first.

          As for Polio, there were closings of public swimming pools, bath-houses, and other gathering spots.

          Once, at an old-timey-themed barbecue restaurant, I seen an early 20th Century sign threatening a $50 fine for spitting in a public place, in a time when the money was worth far more than now, no doubt motivated by Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, Polio, and/or other highly communicable nasties.

          As Paul Harvey always rightly observed: “The ‘good old days’…weren’t…always…good!”

      2. 1968. Hong Kong Flu. Look it up.

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  5. Your kind-of skipping the point that VERY LITTLE was invented, created or produced in 2020 because “free money!” and “stop working!”.

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  7. You’ll be happier if you just assume a Spanish accent and pretend you’re from Mallorca. Marry rich jerks twice your age.

  8. Thanks for giving us a different perspective. It will be interesting to look back in 10 years and see what things changed as a result of the pandemic.

    1. I can tell you for a fact we will be light years ahead due to the 8 years of the SleepyJoe regime.

      1. Very intuitive of you. I suspect you are correct.

        1. Nothing says freedom like restrictions and mandates.

          1. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. After Biden, we may be the freest we’ve ever been.

  9. I will be thankful for gridlock, for at least 4 years.

    I will also be thankful for decisions from a reformed federal judiciary, that hopefully will respect the document we call the Constitution.

    1. John Roberts apparently respects the will of the politicians, no matter what the constitution says. Why shouldn’t you?

      1. Well fortunately that “politician in robes” is now in a minority; so he should be fine with how the majority of his fellow jurists decide cases. Never mind things like the BOR, that are specifically meant to protect specified freedoms from the tyranny of a democratic majority.

  10. Yes, over centuries and decades most of the human condition improves, especially measured by quantity and quality of physical life. In the US, never before have people enjoyed so much for so little effort.

    But the dark lining is the people themselves. As life has gotten easier, people tend towards, well, incompetence. And complacent. And maybe even soft. Although they might think the world is going to hell, they simultaneously feel entitled to existence free of effort and risk.

    If nothing else, the pandemic revealed many Americans to be a bunch of spoiled children, demanding comfort and magic from nannies and wizards.

    1. If nothing else, the pandemic revealed many Americans to be a bunch of spoiled children, demanding comfort and magic from nannies and wizards.
      That’s why SleepyJoe was elected. He is a wizard.

  11. the internet has come with major down sides. the spread of misinformation has made ignoring of recommendations, guidelines, and common sense a serious problem. on the other side, doom scrolling and SJW culture has lead to more government overreach and overreaction than we really needed to respond to the pandemic. while our internet infrastructure has allowed unprecedented remote work and meeting options, it comes with enough bad parts that i don’t think we can objectively call it an improvement.

  12. Climate change all but disappeared as a concern for most people, once a real crisis emerged. People continue to move to warmer climates now that they can work from anywhere. Slightly nicer weather is not an existential threat.

    California wasn’t burning down because the climate suddenly got a lot hotter, it’s burning down because the forests have several decades of fuel built up from mismanagement.

    1. Vaping appears to have all but completely stopped killing people. Years of vaping products and few shoddy bootlegs have only killed a couple handfuls of people? Phbbbt! Of course, that hasn’t stopped the authoritarian Sword of Damocles from being dangled over the industry. It’d be great if we didn’t have to invent a virtual existential crisis to learn some marginal semblance of objectivity.

  13. And…in 1950, we wouldn’t have had a single ventilator.”

    Uh… only something like 20% of the people who go on ventillators will ever come off. Similar was largely true before COVID. For the majority ventillators were and are a terrible crutch that simply prolongs the inevitable. 2020 showed us that they have another use as a stalking horse for greater oppression. Hardly a reason to celebrate.

  14. didn’t need a vaccine in teh past don’t need one now.
    BTW those getting shots in LA are going to be monitored through their phone. I thought they said they wouldn’t be doing that.
    also BTW if the Vaccine will not protect you as some scientist have said why are we taking it?

  15. Getting closer to America’s inevitable bankruptcy is good. It makes it sooner we can set up a guillotine next to the reflecting pool and start tossing the heads of legislators and stupid citizens into it.

  16. Worst year of my life, 2020 can kiss my ass. My 41 year old daughter died in March, my 16.5 year old dog died in June, A close friend died in September, an Aunt died in October, another friend died in November and my son in laws father and grandmother died in December within 3 days of one another and I knew them. I don’t think I could face another 2020.

    1. All from COVID? No. If your dog died from COVID, it would have been world-wide news. Sorry for your losses, but it sounds like a bunch of random coincidences that most of us could string together if we wanted to (although resorting to the grandfather of your child’s spouse is a bit of a stretch and it is very doubtful you felt any personal loss whatsoever at that).

  17. I’m sure Mr. Stossel can count among his “Good Things in 2020” that “Just For Men” black hair and moustache coloring did not run out during the year.

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  19. Yep, in 1960s, it would have been considered a worse flu/cold season, but it would have peaked earlier and run its course in one season.

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