The “Aughties” were awful. But all the media‐driven doom and gloom is getting a little out of hand. Yes, it was a rotten 10 years for America. But cheer up: Things aren’t as bad as they seem, and there’s a good chance they’ll get better.
This was the “decade from hell,” Andy Serwer proclaims in a recent Time cover story: a period of economic apocalypse and unrelenting terror, “the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post‐World War II era.”
Holy hyperbole, hackman. Has Serwer never heard of the “misery index,” the measure of unemployment plus inflation that Ronald Reagan used to pummel Jimmy Carter in the 1980 race? At 11.84, it’s at its decade‐long peak right now, but it hit 22 in Carter’s last months and busted Obama’s record in four of the last six decades.
Surely the 1930s — the decade that saw Hitler’s rise to power and a U.S. unemployment that routinely passed 20 percent — has to count as more “dispiriting” than the 2000s. And how about the ‘60s — a decade of assassinations, vicious race riots, rising crime and a pointless war that killed more than 50,000 Americans?
The Aughties were worse, Serwer says, because “the idea that terrorists can attack anytime and anywhere is new and profoundly unsettling.”
Well, settle down. The latest “Human Security Brief,” tabulating political violence worldwide, reports that over the last decade, “fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent,” while “al‐Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.” Every year of this decade — including 2001 — many more Americans died from the flu than died from terrorism.
Doomsayers like Serwer could benefit from a little historical perspective. As P.J. O’Rourke once put it, if you think there was some golden age in the past you’d rather live in, “let me say one word: ‘dentistry.’ ”