Listening to media reports, you would think the world is falling apart.
Google “Donald Trump” along with “end of world” and you’ll get 68.8 million results. Try “climate change” with “end of world” and you’ll get an amazing 178 million results. Any more searching and I might need a prescription to Zoloft.
More rationally, there’s plenty of angst about North Korea and Iran going nuclear, a potential bursting of the economic bubble, a stock market or bond market free-fall, our national debt, the opioid crisis and other challenges.
And yet there is plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. On this uniquely American holiday, we should we thankful for the opportunity to sit down with family and friends, and to reflect on what we have, rather than on what we don’t have.
Be Thankful for Freedom
The gift of life itself, of good health and of people who love us should not be taken for granted. Nor should the freedoms we have as Americans. In America, in spite of ongoing protests about inequality and various groups’ rights being impinged upon, we have a Bill of Rights that grants us freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of choice. We have a Constitution that guarantees and reinforces our freedom and a legal system in which guilt must be proven.
Life’s not perfect, but it sure beats living in Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia or just about any other country in the world. And, over the long-term, life has been getting better and better in many ways.
The economy appears to be improving.
In spite of billions of dollars in damages from recent hurricanes, the threat of a government shutdown and other factors, the economy grew at a rate of 3.1% in the second quarter and 3.0% in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Between the financial crisis and this year,
the economy had been growing at a rate of about 2%, which was well below the 3.3% a year average growth rate for the period that preceded it.
While many suggested that 2% growth was the new normal, others believed that deregulation and tax reform could return the U.S. economy to 3.0% growth or even higher. The Trump Administration credits its efforts at deregulation for the return of 3% growth and suggests that as deregulation continues, so will 3% growth. We’ll find out in the months to come whether that’s that case.
Our standard of living has improved.
You don’t have to turn your television on to know that our standard of living has improved – just look at it. You probably have a flat screen, high definition model with cable providing you with many more channels than you need. You may have streaming capabilities and an entertainment system that provides you with theater-quality sound.
You likely have a cellphone with more power and features than a supercomputer used to have. Your car is likely to have features that were never even dreamed of a few years ago; while self-driving cars have not arrived yet, cars are much safer than they used to be. Consider that deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents dropped 31% from 2000 through 2013, although the National Center for Statistics and Analysis reported an increase in fatalities over the past two years.
Other technological advances, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence technology, promise to continue to improve our standard of living.
For perspective on how much better our standard of living is than it used to be, consider that per capita annual gross domestic product (GDP) was $1,257 in 1820, measured in 1998 international dollars, and $27,331 by 1998. By the third quarter of 2017, it reached $52,646.
Our environment has improved.
Climate change alarmists take note. As we’ve previously reported, the United States is a world leader in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, CO2 emissions fell 12% in just 10 years, from 2005 through 2015. Emissions fell by another 1.7% in 2016, according to the EIA.
In comparison, CO2 emissions have increased in countries that are sometimes considered to be more environmentally friendly than the U.S. They increased by 0.9% in Germany in 2016, according to energy research firm AG Energiebilanzen e.V., as growth in energy consumption outstripped the country’s reduction in coal use and increase in renewable energy sources.
Our air and water are much cleaner than they used to be, and we have greatly reduced exposure to hazardous materials. We’re not sure what happened to acid rain, but when’s the last time you heard anyone mention it?
Our crime rate is down.
According to Pew Research, statistics from the FBI show that overall the crime rate fell 50% between 1993 and 2015, which is the most recent full year available. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that the crime rate dropped 77% during that period.
For the years 2015 and 2016, violent crime increased significantly in the 30 largest U.S. cities, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice, but Brennan projected a 1.8% decline in the crime rate for 2017, a 0.6% decrease in violent crime rate and a 2.5% drop in the murder rate, based on statistics through May.
Our health has improved.
So what do we have to be thankful for? Plenty. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.