Stossel: Life Is Better Than Ever

Don't believe news reports—we're healthier, richer, and safer than ever before.


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News reports often give the impression that human beings have wrecked the earth, the middle class is disappearing, and the world is getting more dangerous.

"We are destroying the planet," Michael Moore says on CNN. MSNBC says that "the middle class is disappearing." The media warn us about things like a "deadly Ebola outbreak."

This negativity comes from the way humans are wired by evolution, says Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward.

She tells John Stossel: "If you are a caveman who hears a little rustling in the weeds, and you say, 'Oh, it's probably fine,' the other guy who says, 'It's probably a tiger,' that's the guy who lives. That guy was our ancestors."

But our instincts are wrong, she says. We needn't be so scared.

The cover of the August/September 2019 issue of Reason features a glass that's completely full. Inside the magazine, you'll read about how there is less war and more food. And we're healthier, while working safer and more fulfilling jobs.

Mangu-Ward points out that today we have medical breakthroughs that would've once been called miracles. Deaf children receive cochlear implants that allow them to hear for the first time. Artificial limbs "allow the lame to walk."

"These are things that, in another era, would have caused the founding of an entire religion!" says Mangu-Ward.

Stossel pushes back: "What about this constant complaint from the media?…The middle class is shrinking."

"Mostly it's because people are getting richer," Mangu-Ward responds.

She's right. A graph in Reason shows that about 50 years ago, 53 percent of people were middle-income, making between $35,000 and $100,000 per year. Although that statistic has since fallen to 42 percent, the reason is that many people moved into upper-income brackets. The share making more than $100,000 rose from 8 percent to almost 28 percent. (These numbers are inflation-adjusted.)

"Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death are All on the Decline," was the subtitle of another article in the issue.

"You wouldn't know that watching news programs," Stossel said.

"That's right, and yet it's absolutely true," added Mangu-Ward.

Even with the rise in terrorism, she notes, "There are fewer wars and fewer people die in those wars than has ever been true in the past."

Stossel pushes back again: "Lately, life expectancy dropped a bit." 

"Overall, that is the tiniest blip," Mangu-Ward replies. The long-term trend is still up.

An article titled "How Work Got Good"argues that people are more fulfilled in modern jobs.

"A couple hundred years ago, work was dangerous," Mangu-Ward adds. "It was very easy to die at work…work was extremely boring, even for people that had good jobs. Jobs are pretty interesting now, and they mostly don't kill you, and we should be grateful for that."

But there are problems, and Reason's editors understand that. The back half of the magazine is filled with the bad news: misery in Venezuela, threats to an open internet, the new popularity of socialism. 

"Everything that's bad is politics, everything that's good is the market." Mangu-Ward argues. "Life gets better. We have the opportunity to look to a future where those trends will continue—if we can just manage to keep politicians from screwing it up."

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

NEXT: Abortion Bans Failed in the 19th Century. They'll Also Fail in the 21st.

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  1. This is exactly the wrong message. We Koch / Reason libertarians need to emphasize the ways in which Drumpf is ruining the country. Here are just a few examples:

    Concentration camps in which people are literally forced to drink from toilets.
    A massive spike in hate crimes (the SPLC will confirm this).
    A terrible economy in which unemployment is only low because everyone has 2 or 3 jobs.
    Charles Koch’s net worth stuck below $60 billion.

    1. More good thinking from OBL.
      Instead, America should have open borders so we can welcome criminals, terrorists and people with communicable diseases into our communities.
      More gun confiscation so law abiding citizens will be at the mercy of violent criminals and government goons (and you will need a program to tell the difference).
      Higher taxes so our economy will end up the old Soviet Union’s did.
      Medicare for all so the bankruptcy of America can accelerate even faster.
      I can’t wait for OBL to tell us how she’s going to cure cancer.

    2. Caraeful, that HUGE lump in yuor right cheek from yuor tongue pressing on the inside just might grow there….

      Nice bucket of extreme sarcasm there…..

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  2. Air pollution increased for 150 straight years until 2006. Every year for 150 years the air got dirtier than the year before. And then a change happened – more and more natural gas fired power plants came online, and our air is getting measurably cleaner every year. What a tremendous thing to have happen! Get our your White Claw and throw a parade! But if you listen to the Democrats, natural gas is evil and we must stop extracting it. They’d rather have migratory bird cuisinarts for all.

    1. I’m curious what metrics you’re using for “air pollution”, Conch. Because the majority of charts that I read show air pollution getting steadily better since the 1970s on almost every dimension. Yes, they also got better in 2006 – but that’s just part of the same trend.

  3. I’ve said it many times – if you’ve got a paper cut and a splinter and a stubbed toe and a hangnail and a grizzly bear gnawing your leg off you really only have one problem. Get rid of the grizzly bear and now you’ve got 4 problems. Obviously, getting rid of the grizzly bear made you 4 times worse off than you were before.

    What we need is a good plague to decimate the population and recalibrate the problem meter.

    1. I’m reminded of the Chris Rock bit about being astounded by the number of people in America with food allergies. Go over to Africa some time and see how many people have food allergies – starving people ain’t allergic to shit.

      Try whining about your inability to find a decent organic fair-trade soy latte in your neighborhood to somebody who has to worry about the warlord from two villages over showing up and chopping off his feet with a machete. I’m sure he’ll be totally sympathetic to your plight.

      1. Feed me dairy and you’ll see a whole lot of shit. Shooting out my ass. Air propelled.

        I suppose it’s better than starving.

      2. Go over to Africa some time and see how many people have food allergies – starving people ain’t allergic to shit.

        That’s just utter bullshit.

        Around the world, people are more allergic to foods that their ancestors didn’t eat than to foods that their ancestors have eaten for centuries. IOW – it is a ‘globalized’ diet in combo with a genetically-based immune response that is the root of most allergic reactions. Africa (esp rural) is not part of that globalized food system and to the degree it is it has food allergies.

        Obviously a mild allergic reaction is insignificant when you have a ton of bigger life problems that you’re dealing with. That fits into ‘no fucking duh’ and you have made us all stupider for having pointed that out. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock) have higher death rates in Africa than here – AND are underdiagnosed even post-mortem cuz Africa doesn’t have those medical specialists (eg there are prob a couple dozen allergists in SAfrica w 40+ million peeps) – but are more bee/insect/reptile related than food so those causes get the attention (as they should).

        And even in those instances where Africans are eating ‘highly allergic’ food types – eg milk, peanuts – they are actually eating something from a different species – eg zebu cattle or sheep/goats milk not taurine cattle milk – that is indigenous to that area and that their ancestors have eaten since forever. eg sudan prob has 2/3 of the milk consumption we do – but everywhere else in Africa that is prob closer to 25% and in Sudan its that different breed of cattle.

        1. Yes and no. But mostly no. Yes, there is a genetic component to allergies. But from everything we know, it is a tendency to be susceptible to allergies, not a heritability of individual allergen reactions. I, for example, am violently allergic to tree nuts but can eat peanuts all day. My son can eat tree nuts but reacts violently to peanuts. Tree nuts, by the way, are a common food in all the environments from which my family tree draws.

          I think you are confusing food allergies with food intolerances. And in fairness, most people do confuse those maladies. Nevertheless, allergies and intolerances follow very different biological pathways. Some, like lactose intolerance, have been directly linked to specific genetic mutations which exist differently across populations. That’s why adults of European descent can drink milk without worry but is almost unheard of in East Asian diets. Exposing East Asians to cows milk won’t change their intolerance no matter how long they try to drink it – until they luck into the same genetic mutation, that is.

          That said, I will very much agree with you that deaths from true allergies are badly underreported in third-world areas. I’ll also posit that the death rates for allergies are probably higher than in first-world countries. However, I think that’s an artifact of treatment (or lack thereof), not necessarily evidence of a difference in the rate of allergies themselves. (Though there is some compelling evidence in favor of the “hygiene hypothesis” for allergies. And if the hygiene hypothesis is true, you would expect lower base allergy rates in Africa, though not for any reasons related to food globalization.)

  4. Have you noticed how those who scream the loudest about the world going to hell in a handbasket are the same folks who are clamoring for greater power over the unwashed?

    1. And those who are Pollyanna about everything are the ones who advocate leaving that great power over the unwashed in the hands of those who currently have great power over the unwashed.

      1. If only we had statistics to let us know who was right.

        1. We do. Unfortunately, stats also require honesty if one is using them to make some case. And honesty is always what is lacking in ideologues of all stripes

  5. Bill Maher said it best about Americans – “All our poor people are fat”.

    That the Dotard hasn’t fucked up the economy is testimony to our system.

    1. I would call that an observation rather than a quote. I’ve been saying that for over ten years.

    2. Uhhhhhhh, what are you talking about? As Paul Krugman predicted, Drumpf’s victory immediately caused a global recession, with no end in sight.

      1. How would refusing to raise taxes, or maybe even cut them, and reducing regulatory burden scare investors causing a recession, rather than enhearten them that they’d have a few years of stability without worring about nosebleeds from future government punches?

        This guy is an economist, you say?

        1. It’s almost as if he’s a political hack making things up to justify tax increases for the glory of government programs and regulation increases, completely separate issues.

  6. The glass on the front cover is full, and the socialist glass on the back cover is empty? I SEE WHAT’S GOING ON HERE.


  7. As a very cynical guy, I’m still pretty optimistic that the American capitalist experiment will survive. Looking at history and see how the huge problems the human race had have been alleviated. Most of the whining now is over things that are miniscule but have organized groups of bleeding hearts working to get more money from the taxpayers to “solve.” The only reason these are even issues is because America and the developed world is rich enough to worry about things that impact tiny numbers of people.

    1. ” The only reason these are even issues is because America and the developed world is rich enough to worry about things that impact tiny numbers of people.”

      Debt is an issue that impacts both rich and poor nations. It doesn’t affect only tiny numbers of people, but all of us and our grandchildren.

      1. Debt is a huge issue, but I don’t hear many people – GOP or Dems – whining about it. And those seeking more money for their causes don’t care about it at all.

        1. “but I don’t hear many people – GOP or Dems – whining about it”

          Why should they whine? They know as well as anyone that an indebted nation is a compliant nation. As someone pointed out earlier, if you are clamoring for more power over people, lend them money.

    2. But I heard it’s an existential crisis if the climate gets a little bit warmer.
      Even though people have been moving to warmer climates my whole life.


    1. Yes, the glass is full, but it’s only water.

      1. LOL….. yeah. A glass of bourbon would be nice right about now….

  9. Any photo from crowds in the 1950s vs crowds today clearly show Americans are NOT healthier today. WTF is wrong with you reason. Your TDS is causing derangement.

    1. 1953: life expectancy (men and women) — 66 years.
      2017: life expectancy (men and women) — 78.6 years.

      I don’t know what photo from crowd you are looking at, but maybe the lack of “older” people makes the crowd look better?

      If that is the case, I bet such a photo taken prior to 1800 would look even better, since few people lived past forty.

      Or, it just occurred to me, did you forget to use your sarcasm font?

      1. 1953: life expectancy (men and women) — 66 years.
        2017: life expectancy (men and women) — 78.6 years.

        That change is almost entirely a combo of a)childhood vaccines and b)income-based life extension among the elderly.

        No question childhood vaccines and antibiotics are the medical wonders of the world. Many tens of billions of life-years have been saved by those two. But those really don’t fit a modern libertarian narrative – childhood vaccines were only distributed widely via govt subsidy and all antibiotics arose as a direct result of both non-patenting of penicillin and the govt grant to all of the NCAUR lab fermentation technology.

        The second is not a generic ‘life is better for everyone’ but is a ‘life is better for those people who you’d expect life to be better for’. Looking at life expectancy at age 50 (ie to eliminate the effects of childhood vaccines and the young adult sorts of deaths):
        For the 1930 cohort (ie turned 50 in 1980):
        bottom income quartile – remaining life expectancy 26.6 years
        2nd income quartile – remaining life expectancy 27.2 years
        top income quartile – remaining life expectancy 31.7 years

        for the 1960 cohort (ie turned 50 in 2010):
        bottom income quartile – remaining life expectancy 26.1 years
        2nd income quartile – remaining life expectancy 28.3 years
        top income quartile – remaining life expectancy 38.8 years.

        IOW – for the bottom 2 quartiles, there has been little change in life expectancy for 30+ years (and I think the study also did 1910 cohort but can’t find it). The top three quartiles have improved – but obviously the ‘extra years of life’ are years in their 80’s – and that is clearly a government-paid-for (Medicare) change that is benefiting the higher income. Not exactly the libertarian narrative.

        1. No, it’s better nutrition and abundant food throughout our lives, thanks to inorganic farming, and a reduction in smoking.
          Income-based life extension only buys you a miserable year or two extra at the end.

    2. This is a pretty strange comment. A piece talking about how things are pretty good right now is evidence of TDS? How does that work?

      There are lots of ways to measure health. Life expectancy has certainly increased. Maybe by some other metrics people are less healthy than in the 50s. But I don’t think looking at some pictures of crowds is the way to determine that.

  10. Life is better than EVER!

    Unrelated: suicide rates in the “Better” part of the world are at an all-time high…

    1. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that suicide rates in the developed world are at an all-time high. Why do you suppose that is? All of the things that Stossel and Mangu-Ward said are undeniably true. So why would more people kill themselves?

      1. I wonder what country has the lowest suicide rate?
        Suicide and mental illness in general seems to be higher in developed countries. With wealth and prosperity come problems like that. When people don’t have to worry about survival, their anxiety will find another target.
        People are fucked up. I’d still rather live here and now than pretty much any other place/time .

        1. I agree with you. Not only do people have other targets for their anxiety, I wonder if many of those people in more primitive habitats (or shithole countries) tend to die earlier anyway. So when nothing else kills them, eventually they off themselves.

          1. Depression rather than anxiety is a cause of suicide. Anxiety might cause your heart to race or maybe break out in a sweat, or precipitate an adrenaline rush. These are survival mechanisms honed over millions of years to help us cope with an uncertain world.

            1. Actually the opposite is true. Depressed people talk and think about suicide but don’t carry it out. Anxious people are much more likely to commit suicide. Being male, white, and over 60 and a gun owner carries the most risk.
              It also seems that countries with low murder rates often have high suicide rates.

        2. My theory is: People NEED a problem. Life with no problems is meaningless. If I have no problems, I will fuck with shit until I do. That seems to be what westerners do. It LOOKS like self-destruction of the culture, but maybe it’s just self-destruction of some people.

        3. This is ancient knowledge. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

          You’ve way too much free time to sit about worrying.

          Oh noes! Too much free time.

      2. There is a definite link between age and suicide. “Middle-aged” and “Old” folks commit suicide at a higher rate than younger people; therefore, an “aging” population will result in a higher suicide rate. I have not investigated the stats to see if it accounts for all of it, but it is probably a major factor.

      3. Indeed, the article is undeniably true in stating facts…

        So, if it’s so much better, why are people despairing to the point of suicide at greater and greater rates? Maybe material things and availability of drugs and other substances to abuse don’t equal human happiness? Nah, that would go against the materialist principles of modernism. Must be that more people are surviving long enough to commit suicide, even as we watch rapidly rising rates among the youth of modern nations… Yup. That’s gotta be it.

        1. Life is simply no fun unless you are solving problems. Two things can keep you from solving some problems and feeling like your life matters: 1. Having no problems. 2. being really stupid. We have both of these cases in the west.

    2. According to this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/suiciderate.html?noredirect=on
      Greece has the lowest suicide rate in Europe. Does that mean that life is better there than in any other country?

      I don’t think suicide rate is terribly correlated to quality of life. South Korea seems to be a pretty successful country. Yet they have the highest rate of suicide.

      1. In fact, lets look at a few of the numbers:
        Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland all have higher suicide rates than the US. I thought they were the happiest places in the world due to socialism?!
        New Zealand has a higher suicide rate than the US.
        Meanwhile, Mexico has a remarkably low suicide rate. I guess Mexico is a much better place than the US. I don’t understand why so many of them want to move here then.

        1. “I don’t understand why so many of them want to move here then.”

          Mexicans move because they see a brighter future and aren’t prone to the depression that plagues Americans.

          1. They have problems to solve. That is, they have a reason to live. A purposeless life is a meaningless life.

      2. “South Korea seems to be a pretty successful country. ”

        If you go by the number of high schoolers leaping to certain death from apartment buildings, they are probably the most successful country on earth.

    3. re: “suicide rates in the “Better” part of the world are at an all-time high”

      No, they’re not. The rebuttals above are irrelevant because your premise is demonstrably untrue. According to the OECD, suicide rates in the US and Europe generally trended up from the 1960s thru 1980s (except Japan which fell sharply during that period), uniformly trended down from the 1980s to mid 2000s, then began trending up again. However, in none of the countries for which they reported data are suicide rates “at an all-time high”.

      1. “However, in none of the countries for which they reported data are suicide rates “at an all-time high”

        That should give our youngsters something to shoot for.

        1. Then there’s cutting, a new trend, as a relief valve for despair.

  11. “”We are destroying the planet,” Michael Moore says on CNN.”

    Who gives a shit what El Porko has to say on the worst television network in America?

  12. And here I thought all was lost because of mean tweets or something

  13. She tells John Stossel: “If you are a caveman who hears a little rustling in the weeds, and you say, ‘Oh, it’s probably fine,’ the other guy who says, ‘It’s probably a tiger,’ that’s the guy who lives. That guy was our ancestors.”

    Never seen such silliness coming from Katherine…. the guy who thought it was a tiger tried to make hus escape and got stung by a scorpion. The other guy, having paid close attention, KNEW it was nothing to worry about, and stayed there. The scrpion did not find him

    the ones who survive are the ones who listen to their parents, (yes they had them back then….) and learned the difference between a squirrel and a tiger rustling in the leaves. So the survival skills are not genetic at all, but passed down culturally, which well explains why today’s young are so helpless and hopeless.. instead of being TAUGHT by their parents, they are indoctinated by the gummin skelwz. Most never learn how to think OR pay attention,and so many are now on drugs “to calm them” they are near non functional.

    Most of the violence running loose in the land today is from those who are or recetnly have been on SSRI drugs, are so socially inept (one parent families,, angry, got dealt a bad deal, they take out their frustration by violent actions against innocents. Some “evolutioin”, that, eh?

    The way we are “wired” has not changed since the beginning of man. Thigns we have allowed have brought change into how we live, our values, goals, etc.

    1. Violence is at a low, too. Who cares what causes it? Those’re just targetted areas for future improvement.

  14. It only takes one fascist or socialist in power to destroy a nation and make life miserable. It only takes one foreign invasion. It only takes one war.

  15. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times (and never has anyone disagreed), we are not just the luckiest people in the world. We are the luckiest people in the history of the world.

    That said, it all comes with a price. It’s a product of hard work and reasonable compromises and there are always people trying to destroy it.

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  17. Greece has the lowest suicide rate in Europe. Does that mean that life is better there than in any other country?

    I don’t think suicide Poker online rate is http://kartuz.net/ terribly correlated to quality of life. South Korea seems to be a pretty successful country. Yet they have the highest rate of suicide.

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