NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Good Times Are Now

November 27, 2002

Over the last 100 years, almost every measure of material human welfare has shown wondrous gains for Americans, says Stephen Moore -- and the human condition improved more than in the previous 10,000 years.

Consider, for instance:

  • As recently as 50 to 100 years ago, the leading causes of death were typhoid, smallpox, tuberculosis, diphtheria and diarrhea -- and polio crippled and killed hundreds of thousands of children and infants as recently as the 1930s.
  • Half of all medical treatments in use today were invented in the last 25 years -- and prior to 1900, you had only a 50-50 chance of benefiting from a trip to the doctor.
  • Historically, the average global per capita income throughout the ages was a bit more than $200 a year in today's dollars.

Even the "fabulous 50s" that many Americans remember fondly don't stack up to today.

  • A child in the 1950s had 2 to 3 times the chance of dying as a child today.
  • There were no effective treatments for cancer or heart disease.
  • The average poor family today has more modern conveniences in the home than the average middle-income family in 1950.

Furthermore, these material improvements are open to more people than ever before. In the 1950s, the average black had half the income of the average white, compared to 70 percent today, and one-third of the elderly were destitute.

Source: Stephen Moore (Cato Institute), "Be Thankful: Americans Are Living in the Good Ol' Days," Investor's Business Daily.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues