That’s the title of one of the best articles I’ve read all year, and it’s from The Motley Fool. If you’re not a stock market investor, you might not know what the Motley Fool is, but they’ve made many investors wealthy with their superior research and investing skills. (No, I’m not one of the wealthy ones, but my little portfolio is doing okay.) The article is too long to repeat, but here are some of the important points.
A comedian says if his cell phone is out for 30 seconds, he’s upset. The cell phone itself is awesome. He should be thrilled instead of complaining. Same with the U.S. economy. “Everything is great but no one is happy.” Everywhere you go these days, gloom wins. It says, “Americans are pessimistic and miserable.”
It needs perspective. These are the good old days.
If I say the average American family earns less today than it did in 2000, it sounds scary. But if I say that family earns more than in 1995, it sounds better. Today $51,000; 1995 $50,000. And that’s adjusted for inflation.
The average American born in 1950 could expect to live to 68. One born in 2010 will probably live to 79, eleven more years. African-Americans did even better. They added 15 years of life expectancy. Mostly because childhood mortality has plunged, from 32 per 1000 in 1950 to six in 2012.
Older Americans now have something they once only dreamed of: retirement. Even as recently as the 1960s, the average man had two stages of life, work and death. Now, the average worker retires at 62. In the first half of the 20th century, the average working day was ten hours, six days a week. Today the average worker has 22 days of paid vacation.
In the 1960s, in most states, a woman could not take out a loan or a credit card in her own name. In 42 states, she had no legal claim on the earnings of her husband.
High school graduation rates are at the highest level in 40 years
Traffic deaths per 100,000 have fallen by half since the 1960s.
In 1973, 49% of new homes had air conditioning. Today 89% do.
“Today,” Matt Ridley writes, “of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99% have electricity, running water, flush toilets and a refrigerator, 95% have a television, 88% a telephone, 71% a car and 70% air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of them.”
Sure, inefficiencies, injustice and inequality exist today. But they always have. By comparison, we live in the most prosperous time in the history of the world. That’s a lot to be thankful for.