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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Book Review- It's Getting Better All the Time

The late Julian Simon once bet doomsayer Paul Erlich that the price of a set of five precious commodities would drop from 1980 to 1990. Erlich thought that our limited resources would dwindle in the face of surging populations. Simon thought that human ingenuity would find ways to improve life for more and more people. Simon was right. He wanted to repeat the bet from 1990 to 2000, but the details were never settled. He would have won again, as the real price of the five commodities fell another 19% over the decade.

Simon died of a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 65, but his unyielding optimism in the face of the world's problem led Stephen Moore to finish Simon's manuscript, published as It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years.
How has the United States changed over the past century? Is life truly better now than it was in the past? Using statistical reports and other historical materials, Moore (fiscal policy studies, Cato Inst.) and the late Simon (business administration, Univ. of Maryland) argue that for the most part people entering the new millennium are much better off than their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. The areas covered include health, economics, race relations, safety, environmental issues, and women's rights. A number of charts and graphs, well complemented by an extensive index and a bibliography, shows the positive changes that have taken place over the past 100 years. Readers will appreciate the information provided by these colorful graphics, which readily allow for additional research on subjects of interest. (Library Journal)
Simon and Moore do not suggest that the challenges we face are not daunting, or important. Or that we can blithely ignore them as they will be inevitably solved. Rather, they provide staggering evidence that by tackling these problems with innovation and freedom, we can solve them faster and cheaper than you might think.

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