Wars, plane crashes, mass murder -- it's easy to report news that happens suddenly. Reporters do a good job covering that. But we do a bad job telling you about what's really changing in the world, because we miss the stories that happen slowly. These are usually the more important stories.
Recently, President Barack Obama was mocked for saying: "The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed than it's ever been. It is more educated than it's ever been."
Although these comments received criticism, he was absolutely right. Despite the current violence in the Middle East, the world today is actually less violent than it used to be. In the 21st century, about 50,000 people a year died from war -- about a third the number who died each year during the Cold War and half the number during the 1990s, a decade thought of as a time of peace and prosperity.
People today are healthier. Death rates from nearly all diseases are down so much that we now live, on average, nearly twice as long as people did just over a century ago.
People are also better fed and better educated. (Also, thanks to free markets and capitalism, people are richer. Millions lifted themselves out of poverty. Of course, Obama left that improvement out; it doesn't fit his big-government vision.)
Let's consider the other improvement the president cited: The world is "more tolerant than it has ever been." Tolerance is harder to measure than changes in poverty or deaths from war, but there is little doubt that, in America at least, people are much more tolerant.
In just a few decades, life has improved dramatically for blacks, gays and women. When I started reporting, women still had to get a husband's or father's permission to get a credit card. Gays were ostracized. Interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 states. Anti-sodomy laws were on the books until 2003.
Early last century, wife beating was routine. A North Carolina newspaper from 1913 carried a front-page story titled, "For and Against Wife Beating." Most "expert" commentary was in favor of it. One doctor argued, "Beat her, she needs it," and a female advice columnist declared, "It's well known that women love most the men who are cruel."
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