What a Wonderful World

New book illustrates the case for rational optimism

November/​December 2020 • Policy Report

It might not feel like it, but things are getting better all the time. While pundits and politicians stress gloom and doom, the reality is that human flourishing has been radically improving. People have never been wealthier, healthier, and happier. These trends and their causes are the subject of a new book by Marian L. Tupy, editor of Cato’s Human​Progress​.org, and Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason.

Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting, released in August, compiles these facts and accompanying charts in a beautifully illustrated volume suitable for display on your coffee table or in your office. The first printing of the book has already sold out as a result of large orders for use as holiday gifts for friends and clients. A second printing is now in stock.

As Tupy explains, “Well‐​known negativity biases that are deeply entrenched in the human psyche, and which we discuss in the introduction, conspire to make us think of the world as being in much worse shape than it is. So, the primary goal of the book is educational. If readers walk away feeling a sense of pride over the degree and scope of human accomplishment and imbued with a sense of rational optimism about our species’ future, so much the better.”

Trends discussed include a documented rise in happiness; a decline in global income inequality; radical reductions in both criminal violence and war; the expansion of equality and empowerment for women; decriminalization of samesex relationships; increasing access to electricity, clean drinking water, and the internet; and many more. In all, the book covers 78 different positive trends, with data to back them up.

This might seem like a difficult year to make the case that the world is getting better. But it is impossible to understand the world we live in today without knowing the reality of how much better things have gotten within our lifetimes. And in a time of widespread pessimism, that ray of sunshine might be especially needed. These radical improvements are the product of a global system of trade and capitalism that has produced wealth and wonders beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors.

Ten Global Trends is intended to not just gather dust on a bookshelf, but rather to be prominently shown as a conversation piece, much as other coffee table books on art and architecture. Light on exposition and prose, the true centerpiece of the book is its charts. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the trends documented in this volume are translated into easily digestible visual illustrations. Cato Institute designers Guillermina Sutter Schneider and Luis Ahumada Abrigo have accomplished this task and produced a stunning piece of art that readers will be proud to display.

Ten Global Trends is available at online booksellers and cato​.org/​books.