From the terrorist attacks in my hometown Paris to the rise of Trumpism, a lot went wrong around the world last year. But that doesn't mean 2016 can't get better. Here's what I'm optimistic about for the coming year:
Plenty of things are getting better, they're just too slow for us to notice.
With every passing day, self-driving cars get closer to reality. Some people are worried about what they'll mean, but I'll just note that in 2012 almost 100,000 people in developed countries died on the road. Self-driving can bring that number closer to zero.
On that same scale, last year, we went from zero to two privately-funded rockets that went to space and back, landing upright. Reusable rockets can make space travel a mainstream reality.
More generally, global economic growth continues. We're making progress fighting malaria, stomach bugs, and other diseases that kill way too many people. Governance indicators in most places in the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, are inching toward improvement.
2. Pope Francis's antics
I'm still a Pope Francis fan. Whether or not he wants to change Catholic Church teaching, I still believe he can't. Meanwhile, Pope Francis keeps playing his role as holy fool to the Church — exhorting, trolling, nudging, screaming, making a mess. It was a great and unusual blessing for the Church to have as its supreme pontiffs two great theologians in the persons of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but it may have left too many Catholics with the idea that the Pope's job is to be a professor. Francis's impact on the Church is a net positive, and in any case he's wonderful to watch.
3. Seeing the back of Barack Obama
I don't have the Obama Derangement Syndrome of so many of my fellow conservatives, and have always found him impossible to dislike on a personal level. But I believe he's been an ineffective president and a net negative for America and the world. In the area of foreign policy, many people are beginning to understand this. In the area of domestic policy, he has expanded the powers of the presidency (yes, any alternative or plausible successor would do so as well — still no excuse), expanded the grip of government on the American economy, and has made many foreign policy decisions.
I'm not looking forward to the presidential election, which is always a shameful spectacle, and I'm not too confident that a Republican candidate will win, though I agree with my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty that Hillary's flaws provide the GOP with a unique opportunity. And I'm sure we'll all be annoyed at whoever the new occupant is of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2017. But at least in 2016 we have a lame-duck Democrat president, and I count that as a blessing.
4. The French revival of Catholicism and entrepreneurship
France is undergoing an underground Catholic revival. After I first pointed to the trend last January, France's main right-of-center newspaper, Le Figaro, caught up to it in October. In the major cities, all the churches are full on Sunday morning, something unthinkable even 10 years ago. And the new faithful are young people, and urban dwellers. As a Dominican priest pointed out to me, the map of the new believers looks like a negative photo of the map of the faith's traditional heartlands.
France is also undergoing an entrepreneurship revival. France has had its first startup valued at more than $1 billion last year. France's enterprising finance minister Emmanuel Macron has made entrepreneurship easier in the country, though taxes are still punishing.
Everybody can tell you about France's worrisome trends, but I also see some green shoots.
Here's to a glass-half-full 2016!