Is the World Really Falling Apart, or Does It Just Feel That Way?

‘…[T]here is an argument, albeit one that would only comfort an economist, that today’s crises are both rarer and less severe than those of even the recent past. Consider the mid-1990s, a time that Americans tend to remember as one of global stability and optimism. If today were really a time of exceptional turmoil, then surely that world would look better in comparison?

In reality, the opposite is true. The mid-1990s saw genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. Years of war in Europe amid Yugoslavia’s collapse. Devastating famines in Sudan, Somalia and North Korea. Civil wars in over a dozen countries. Crackdowns and coups too numerous to mention.Such events were in fact more common in the 1990s than today. Prior decades were, in most ways, even worse.

But you are unlikely to remember every decades-old disaster as vividly as you might be able to recount, say, a terror attack or political crisis from this week.And reductions in such crises have only reduced the world’s problems, not erased them. No one wants to cheer a famine that is less severe than it might have been in the past, especially not the families whom it puts at risk, and especially knowing that future conflicts or climate-related crises could always cause another.

Still, the feeling that the world is getting worse is not universal. In fact, it is mostly held by residents of rich countries like the United States. Survey after survey has found that a majority of people in low-income and middle-income countries like Kenya or Indonesia tend to express optimism about the future, for both themselves and their societies…’

— via The New York Times

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