It would seem whenever we see the news, something horrific is always going on. When I wrote on a similar topic several weeks ago, I used as an example the November 2015 Paris attacks, during which extremists took the lives of 103 people. Furthermore, in July 2016, an attacker killed 83 people as he drove upon them during Bastille Day in Nice. And, of course, we can’t forget that 50 people died in the Orlando attack at the Pulse club.
It is clear terrorism and violence are serious problems. But is it true that, overall, more bad things are happening than good ones around the globe? Or is it that only bad news makes it to the headlines?
I am inclined toward the second perspective. Here is some good news: Malaria death rates are falling. 3.2 billion people are exposed to Malaria worldwide and close to a million people died of it in 2000, yet the number of deaths was brought down to 438,000 by 2015, according to the World Health Organization. What is more, the United Nations reported a 52 percent reduction in new HIV cases among children and a 33 percent reduction for adults and children from 2001 to 2013, globally.
I want to go a step further than I did two weeks ago. There is also good news at home. The U.S. has 10 out of 10 of the biggest technology companies in the world, with Apple, HP, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft all on the list, according to Fortune. This matters! Democratic nations with strong technology are going to be a force for good over the long term.
Let’s turn our attention to jobs. According to CNN, since 2010, the economy has added 14.4 million jobs, bringing the unemployment rate down from 10 percent to less than 5 percent. The gross domestic product (GDP) has grown about 2 percent per year, which may not seem like much. But considering the world recently faced one of the biggest financial tremors in history, this rate is acceptable.
Many argue the economy seems to be stagnant. Again, we recently faced a recession comparable to the depression of 1929. Back then, the GDP fell sharply, people stopped consuming, and that stalled production, leading to a massive wave of layoffs. Moreover, tragedies related to the Great Depression lasted from its beginning until the end of the Second World War. The U.S. seems to be coming out of the Great Recession much more quickly.
It took time after the Great Depression, an aggressive spending plan put forward by the Roosevelt administration, and the added production that came with the inclusion of America in World War II, to really rebuild the U.S. economy to a point of stability, some 16 years after the Great Depression started.
There is still more good news. Homicides have fallen by 13 percent since 2010. The number of people dying in wars drops each decade. Petroleum imports to the U.S. fell 62 percent, given the strengthening of the American oil and gas industry as well as the use of wind and solar technologies, which have increased by 273 percent since 2010.
Yes, the world is all messed up. It seems people treat each other more harshly. Many companies do not offer good customer service. Many government servants do not seem to be serving with the right types of hearts.
All that said, things are still getting better. It is just hard to see sometimes.
John Hoffmire is director of the Impact Bond Fund at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and directs the Center on Business and Poverty at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison. He runs Progress Through Business, a nonprofit group promoting economic development.
Mario Alejandro Mercado Mondoza, Hoffmire’s colleague at Progress Through Business, did the research for this article.