Focus Point - The Optimists' Century

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I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. As the end of the year approaches, it's nice to reflect on where we've come from and how we've prospered. A new study from the CATO Institute offers a road map.

Called "It's Getting Better All the Time," the study is a compendium of the good news about American society, showting that more human progress has been achieved in the last 100 years than in all of the previous centuries combined. Here in the U.S., for instance:

Air pollution has fallen for three decades, smog levels are down 40 percent, rivers and lakes are much cleaner.

Crime's down, but there are also far fewer fatal accidents -- whether home or travel-related -- than a century ago, and deaths on the job have plummeted.

Teen drinking, smoking and drug use have declined, and so has the rate of teen pregnancy.

Best of all, in 1900 life expectancy was just under 50 years. Today it's 77.

Not bad things to celebrate as we enter the new year -- or, for the hardliners, among whom I'm one -- the new millennium.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, unintended consequences.