NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 7, 2008

By most measures, now seems to be a very good time to be alive, says Pete Geddes, executive Vice President of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment.


  • The world's per capita inflation-adjusted income rose from $5,400 in 1980 to $8,500 in 2005.
  • The World Bank reports that between 1980 and 2000, the share of the world's population living on less than $1 a day fell from 34.8 percent to 19 percent.
  • It forecasts that the number of people living on less than $1 a day will continue to fall sharply despite population growth, and account for only 10 percent of the world's population by 2015.

As for the United States:

  • For all races and both sexes combined, long-term trends in cancer deaths have been declining since the early 1990s.
  • American infant mortality dropped to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births and has been on a general decline since 1958.
  • In 2007, U.S. life expectancy was 78 years (In 1990, life expectancy was 75.4 years.)
  • The problem that can derail this progress is the looming entitlement crisis; Medicare alone would absorb 74.8 percent of income tax revenue by 2080, and Social Security 17.0 percent.

As for the environment, according to Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute:

  • Environmental improvement in the United States has been substantial and dramatic almost across the board
  • The chief drivers of this improvement are economic growth, constantly increasing resource efficiency, innovation in pollution control technology.

Overall, richer societies are healthier, cleaner and more resilient than poor ones, says Geddes.  Without exception, the worst cases of environmental pollution occur in poor countries, especially those lacking democratic institutions.  While there is no question economic activity creates environmental problems, it also provides societies with the means to deal with them responsibly.

Source: Pete Geddes, "Some Good News," Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, February 27, 2008.


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