It’s interesting how we tend to get stuck in a negative outlook on the world. This is not a criticism of any person or group of people; it seems to be human nature. Our tendency towards pessimism is egged on by the 24-hour news media, which bathes us a steady stream of emergencies, crimes, disasters, scandals – you name it, so long as it’s terrible news.
Let me use an example here to demonstrate my point. How would you answer the following question: In the past 20 years, has extreme poverty doubled, stayed the same, or been cut in half? Take a moment to think about it.
The correct answer is that extreme poverty has been cut in half globally. It’s astounding. Significantly more families across the world have access to clean drinking water, nourishing food, transportation and a safe place to sleep at night than they did just two decades ago.
I’ll bet you didn’t hear this story on the news. That’s probably why only 10% of people who are asked that question can give the correct answer.
As an aside, we Americans aren’t the only Eeyores. Residents of 30 other countries, ranging from Russia to the UK, also believe the world is getting worse.
Now, I’m not here to dispute facts you hear on the news. They are often from reliable sources. But always remember that facts and statistics can be manipulated to serve a purpose or agenda. As the old saying goes, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”
The fact is, contrary to what you see, hear and read, we are not spiraling into a world rampant with crime, poverty, natural disasters, and energy crises. In fact, global numbers show that quite the opposite is true.
Let’s talk about the good stuff that you don’t hear on the news. And by doing this, we’re going to talk about what’s really going on in the world.
Crime – According to Gallup Polls going back to 1990, the vast majority – about 70 – 85% – of Americans believe that crime is getting worse in this country. Not so. Since 1990, the number of crimes reported in the US has dropped from 14.5 million to under 9.5 million, representing a significant 5 million fewer crimes.
Clean Water – In 1980, about 58% (just over half) of the world had access to clean drinking water. Today, almost 88% of people across the planet have access, representing a tremendous improvement.
Plane Crash Fatalities – In the early 1930s, there was an average of 2100 deaths per 10 billion passenger miles. Today, that number is has decreased dramatically, down to only one death per 10 billion passenger miles.
Number of Nuclear Warheads – In 1986, there were about 64,000 nuclear warheads. Today, there are only 15,000. Yes, it only takes one or a few to wreak havoc, but this is a positive direction.
Fatalities from Natural and Technological Disasters – Back in the 1930s, about 971,000 deaths per year happened as a result of natural or technological disasters – from things like earthquakes, malaria, locusts, tsunamis, gas leaks, fires, explosions and building collapses. Today, that number has dropped to 72,000, representing a 92% drop.
Mobile Phones and Internet – In 1980, 0.003% of folks had a mobile phone. Today, 65% of people across the globe have one. As for web access, in 1980 0% of folks could get online, while 48% had access as of 2017.
Immunizations – In 1980, only 22% of the globe’s population had been vaccinated against major diseases. In 2016, that number leaped to 88%.
Hunger – As of 1970, 28% of the people on earth were malnourished. Today that number is only 11%.
Extreme Poverty – Living in extreme poverty means today (after adjusting for inflation) that you have less than $2 a day on which to subsist. Back in 1800, 85% of the world lived in extreme poverty. In 1966, things were better, with only 50% of the world in extreme poverty. Today, poverty of this magnitude only touches 9% of our globe’s population.
Our list of amazing improvements goes on and on. Why did we not know how much our world has changed for the better? Perhaps because these upticks are simply too slow and methodical to be noticed at the moment. Perhaps, again, because we don’t hear these types of stories on the news.
Still, there’s power in understanding what’s really going on in the world around us, and in the bigger picture. Don’t let a gloomy attitude influence you for the next decade, year, or even day. There is so much progress happening; I’m sure you won’t want to miss it.
After all, demographics largely determine the tide of our global economy. Today, the world has 7.6 billion people. It is estimated that, by 2100, we will swell to a population of 11 billion. The composition of that population is shifting as well. On a percentage basis, we will have fewer children and more working adults as we head towards 2045.
And let’s not forget that, when it comes to the economy, our feelings as investors come into play. We can’t be blinded by the barrage of bad news and expect that things are only going from bad to worse. Imagine if you had let this misperception and the accompanying fear dominate you over the past decade when it comes to your money. You would have missed out on a more than 200% positive market move. In the end, you would have been misled by bias and misinformation, and unable to see the incredible progress that has been (and continues to) happen before your very eyes.
This article was originally published on June 8, 2018.