Feature

These are the good old days

By any historical standard, we live in a golden age, said Michael Shermer in the Los Angeles Times.

Michael Shermer
Los Angeles Times

We’ve never had it so good, said Michael Shermer. Environmentalists like to paint “a gloomy portrait of our future”—focusing on pollution, endangered species, and world hunger. But by any historical standard, we live in a golden age.

The remote Yanomamo tribe in Brazil, which lives as our ancient forebears did, possesses about 300 products—“baskets, arrow points, arrow shafts,” etc.—to improve its quality of life. Residents of any big city have access to about 10 billion consumer products of every imaginable kind. While anthropologists estimate that hunter-gatherers earned the equivalent of $100 a year, the average U.S. urbanite today earns around $40,000. A quarter of us earn more than $75,000. Our homes have doubled in size from 1950, to an average of more than 2,200 square feet. Over the past decade, crime has plunged as much as 75 percent in some cities, our air is cleaner, and the average American today has almost four times more leisure time than in 1880.

So in contemplating the world’s problems, please keep some perspective. “These are the good old days.”

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