As a libertarian optimist I am constantly struck just how well humans are doing as a species and this general disposition is rightly be supported by the latest United Nation’s Development Program key statistics.
1. Infant mortality
In the Middle Ages more than 200 infants out of every 1,000 live births died before their first birthday. In the middle of the last century 157 per 1,000 died within the first year. By 2003 this number had dropped to 57 per 1,000 live births with average global life expectancy increasing to 66.8 years and in the developed nations 78.5 years. These facts are even more remarkable when you consider that the average global figure was only 31 years in 1900.
As a result of increased global agricultural productivity, the inflation-adjusted price of food commodities has fallen 75 percent since 1950. This is despite the fact that the world’s population has increased during that period by more than 150 percent. With global daily food supplies currently at 2,804 calories per capita, the average person on this planet has never had the opportunity to be so well fed if only we can institute a genuine free market trading system.
3. Wealth creation
From the year 1 to 1,000 A.D., the average person on this planet lived on the equivalent of a dollar a day. By 1800 this figure had doubled to $2 a day. In 2000, the average world per capita annual income stood at $6,000.
Between 1970 and 2003 global illiteracy fell from 46 percent to 18 percent of the world’s population.
Moreover during the last 200 years the world’s population has increased from 900 million to 6.3 billion. As such, modern capitalism with all its creative dynamism has meant that when it comes to key areas of concern capitalism has substantially increased the well being of an ever growing majority of the world’s people.
This is not to deny the fact that there are still more than 1 billion people in absolute poverty or that more than 50 million new cases of malaria occur in Africa each year alone.
What these facts from the United Nations do highlight is that there are truly profound historic reasons for libertarians to be cheerful and optimistic when thinking about the future.