World Conditions Continue to Improve
As we enter into a new decade, it might make sense to look back to view the progress than mankind has made in these “last days”.
About 200 years ago everyone on the planet lived on the modern day equivalent of about $400 a year. The exceptions were tiny nobilities. In the late 18 th century life for all humans started to improve from one year to the next. Today we expect our cars, medical care and other systems to continually improve. Since the early 20 th century incomes have increased 1.5 percent per year.
Not only are we richer, we work less and have better products than ever before. A hundred years ago men began working in their teens with no vacations. One hundred years ago 26 percent of male workers retired by age 65, today over 80 percent do.
In developed countries the 99 percent of the poorest of the poor have refrigerators, in the US 64 percent have air conditioning and 60 percent have washers and dryers.
The probability of a 20-year-old having a living grandmother is higher than a 20-year-old having a living mother a century ago.
The list goes on and on. We live better, there is less starvation than anytime in recorded history, less water pollution than 100 years ago, we live longer and we are wealthier than any other time.
A sign of the last days, I think not.
The comments above are taken from the American economist Steven Landsburg. Please see his writings for more statistical proof that the world is getting much, much better.
I agree that life is better for more people than a couple hundred years ago. The fly in the ointment is global population growth. That will undo the progress we have seen. In another generation population must be checked or it will start looking like that Soylent Green movie with Charleton Heston.
Moshe - a statistic and a thought for your consideration.
Population growth is the greatest thing that can happen. We need more geniuses, we need more people growing and producing things of value. Technology advances increase food production and such advances are highly correlated with increases in population. And families can choose its own population growth rate, which become self-regulating.
A statistic from Thomas Sowell: Take the state of Texas, divide it into lots of 5,000 square feet, put a house on each lot and put a family of four in each house. You have just housed the entire world population. Think about that, just the state of Texas.....
"Population growth is the greatest thing that can happen. We need more geniuses, we need more people growing and producing things of value. Technology increases in food production are correlated to increases in population. And families can choose its own population growth rate, which become self-regulating.
A statistic from Thomas Sowell: Take the state of Texas, divide it into lots of 5,000 square feet, put a house on each lot and put a family of four in each house. You have just housed the entire world population. Think about that, just the state of Texas....."
Your post reminds me of those justifications for indiscriminate breeding that devout Catholics use.
You state that population growth is good for producing geniuses but at the 99 th percentile rate we already have 60 million of them. What's the point of producing more if you are unwilling to take the advice that many of them give you, namely that population growth is the problem? It doesn't, for instant, take a genius to see the flaw in your notion of fitting everyone into Texas. They simply don't have enough room to grow their food in that 50x100 foot lot for four persons. You may be able to grow all the vegetables they need if: The houses are underground; you're using permaculture techniques and it's being grown in a greenhouse to protect against hot and cold weather. Nevertheless you won't have space for grains even if you adopt a vegetarian diet (Beef requires 10 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of beef).
As far as "technology increases in food production" are concerned, you need extraordinary amounts of artificial to grow these so called miracle grains. Artificial fertilizer is made from natural gas. Try thinking of the implications of that.
The bottom line is that we are, in your limitless population growth scenario, constantly chasing after the next techno-miracle. The day quickly comes when our magicians run out of tricks. What is needed is population stability with a lot of unused and redundant land so that the modest population does not come crashing down whenever a mega-drought hits.
: They simply don't have enough room to grow their food in that 50x100 foot lot for four persons.
Yes, they do. 50x100 is 5,000 square feet. If you take half of that, you have enough of a footprint for one 2,500 square foot single story house, or one 5,000 square foot two story house.
It's possible to grow 100 pounds of potatoes on only 4 square feet and to grow $700 worth of food on 100 sq.ft. If you utilized 2,000 square feet of the 2,500 square feet of dirt left after the home, you could grow $14,000 worth of food. Given differences in land quality, how arable the land is, etc. that is still more than enough to feed a good sized family, let alone just 4 persons.
The available land on this planet is tremendously underutilized.
Villabolo - the "Texas example" is an extreme to get people to think creatively. Imagine the remainder of the US to use for agriculture and other uses Increasing population is a good thing and it is self-regulating if it becomes a bad thing. Michael Kremer - the Harvard economist - has gathered data for all of recorded human history and pre-history to support the theory that population growth drives technological progress, technological progress drives economic growth and economic growth drives population growth - a virtuous cycle....
Thomas Malthus said when welcoming in nineteenth century predicted that uncontrolled population growth would lead to mass starvation and human misery. It didn't happen then and will not in this century.
Some really profound thinking on the costs and benefits of population growth (the benefits far outweigh the costs) are found in the writing and research of Sowell, Kremer and Landsburg. Give it a read.
Thanks Zarco--good post. I agree so much. My mother
often tells me that we must be so close to the end because
of the bad conditions we live in. I tell her I think that conditions
were worse during WWI and WWII.
Farkel: We have an historical example from the Irish as to what happens when you rely on potatoes as your main staple food. The potato blight caused the death of a million Irish and the emigration of a million more. That is why you need redundancy in any system. By the way, I'd like to know where you got your yield estimates for 25 lbs of potatoes per square foot.
Overall I agree that the Earth is not efficiently utilized but I can not envision a society of tens of billions feeding themselves from open air agriculture due to the issues of drought and/or too much rain, extreme heat or cold, etc.
Your thread should be titled: "Facts you'll never read in the WT's literature :)
I never asserted anything about potatoes being a main staple food. I merely cited an example of how many can be produced on a very small footprint. My main point was that you can grow $700 worth of food on 100 square feet. That includes all kinds of veggies.
:By the way, I'd like to know where you got your yield estimates for 25 lbs of potatoes per square foot.
:Overall I agree that the Earth is not efficiently utilized but I can not envision a society of tens of billions feeding themselves from open air agriculture due to the issues of drought and/or too much rain, extreme heat or cold, etc.
Why? That's what farmers face all the time. Are you asserting that most food is raised indoors instead of in the open air?