It was the best of times, it was the second best of times

This is the golden age for Planet Earth.  Here is the FT:

We first asked whether young people were happy with their lives. We found that in emerging economies young people tend to be far happier than in the west: 90 per cent of Indonesians and 78 per cent of Nigerians said they were happy compared with just 57 per cent in Britain and France.

They also tend to be more optimistic. The countries with the highest proportions of young people who think the world is getting better are China, India and Nigeria; those where the highest proportion think the world is getting worse are France and Italy. The emerging economy exceptions were Argentina and Brazil, where young people are as gloomy about the future as they are in Europe.

The economic boom in the emerging markets is really starting to pay dividends in terms of human happiness.  Consider:

1.  In most of the world things are getting better at a rapid pace.

2.  Even better, the areas that are struggling, like France and Italy, are mostly already very affluent countries enjoying the “second best of times”.

3.  Even better, there are good models for these laggards, right across the border in Germany, where lots of jobs are created for young people.

4.  Even better, France and Italy are democratic countries that can freely choose the German model.

5.  Even better, we know that Germany’s success is not just cultural (although culture plays a role), nor is it based on trade surpluses that cannot be replicated worldwide.  Germany was a failed economy as recently as 2005, with 11% unemployment, despite it having the same culture and a huge trade surplus.  It was the labor market reforms of 2004 that brought success to Germany.  France and Italy can do the same, as long as they reject right-wing populism and embrace neoliberalism.  (Go Macron!)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg; there is far better news in the FT survey:

Young people in emerging economies are emphatic supporters of liberal values — even when those values run contrary to the laws of their country. In India and China more than half of young people think that same-sex marriage should be legal. Around three-quarters of young people in India, Brazil and China support equal rights for transgender people — more than in France and Japan.

Overwhelmingly, young people believe that men and women should be treated equally — with the greatest support for such values in the very different societies of Canada and China. Even in India, more than nine out of 10 young people support the principle that men and women should be treated equally — marginally higher even than in the UK and the US. We can no longer generalise about conservative developing countries and more liberal developed countries.

For all the concern about religious conservatism and polarisation, it is heartening that two-thirds of young people have close friends from other religions, and less than a fifth say a person’s religion is an important factor when deciding whether or not to be friends with them. Even in countries where this figure is highest — for instance India (29 per cent) and Indonesia (31 per cent) — two-thirds do not think a person’s religion is an important consideration when forming friendships.

Liberal attitudes are the key to progress.  The liberal attitudes of young people in the emerging markets bodes well for continued progress.

Members of Generation Z born in emerging economies are more likely to travel and forge friendships in other countries — on and offline — than any previous generation. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that they broadly agree with their contemporaries in the west on a host of personal and political issues, with some notable exceptions (Nigeria is a category of its own for religious conservatism) and, if anything, are greater supporters of the international order. With the growth of nativism around the world, it’s reassuring to know that the generation who will inherit the earth are, in most part, liberal globalists.

The future of the world has never been brighter.

PS.  Except for Trump:

1.  Now Trump says that the more overhyped story in all of media history (terrorism) is actually being underreported.  No, this is not from The Onion.

2.  Nixon is his role model:

Donald Trump, a self-professed Nixon admirer, is learning this history lesson about the presidency in real time: His most dangerous enemies are people who ostensibly work for him.

3.  Trump finds out that being President is a big job:

Donald Trump has said he was surprised at how big a job the presidency is.

The leader of the free world told Fox News interviewer Bill O’Reilly he works “long hours” and often gets only about four or five hours’ sleep a night.

Mr Trump said that at the start of his presidency he has been surprised by “the size, the magnitude of everything” and being president can be a “surreal experience in a certain way”.

Yes, it also seems kind of surreal to me.

4.  Repeal of Obamacare is now to be delayed.  Just as I suspected, the GOP has no plan to replace it.

Still, I see Trump as a pretty small cloud attached to an awfully big silver lining.



8 Responses to “It was the best of times, it was the second best of times”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    8. February 2017 at 13:13

    Trump is a pretty small silver lining attached to some awfully big clouds in the West. Monsoon Asia and Africa are different matters.

    “The liberal attitudes of young people in the emerging markets bodes well for continued progress.”

    -You could have said that for the 1960s Middle East.

  2. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    8. February 2017 at 16:48

    My rough take is that life is getting better for middle-class people in undeveloped nations and not getting better for middle-class people in developed nations.

    That explains everything.

    To be sure, there are marvelous technical and medical improvements going on all the time.

    On the other hand, to be middle-class in London is to be boxed out housing markets and a permanent renter.

    Given the institutional imperfections in modern developed economies, including property zoning and large feckless flows of capital between nations, it is not clear that globalism is working for the middle-class in developed nations.

  3. Gravatar of Anand Anand
    8. February 2017 at 18:47

    Perhaps Scott may be interested to know that Chomsky considers FT to be the best newspaper in the world, followed by the WSJ.

    He doesn’t like the Economist because it has no bylines.

  4. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    9. February 2017 at 01:20

    Except that the West is reproducing at below replacement levels.

    It would seem that modernity is selecting for people who resist it.

    How ironic.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. February 2017 at 07:55

    Anand, You said:

    “Perhaps Scott may be interested to know”

    Nothing about Chomsky interests me.

  6. Gravatar of Random Walk Random Walk
    9. February 2017 at 12:23

    I find these happiness studies fascinating, especially as I have heard liberal friends suggest placing more emphasis on happiness indexes, rather than the pursuit of GDP (GDP being an evil corporatist thing with the left). In the end, happiness is too subjective and unquantifiable to be a valid performance metric.

    The flaw with this particular article is the use of the empty term ’emerging markets’. It is just a catch all term for any country that is still poor. It needs to be dispensed with.

    I have recently lived in Argentina. It ain’t emerging from anything anytime soon. Perhaps this is responsible for their pessimism.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. February 2017 at 14:21

    Random, Good points.

  8. Gravatar of Craken Craken
    11. February 2017 at 05:57

    So, happiness is relative to recent economic improvements, not absolute wealth. And, propaganda works–except when it doesn’t, as in 2016 America.
    There are many crucial ways in which the world is not getting better, such as the ongoing train wreck of rich world dysgenics and the decline in productivity growth int he rich world.

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