Do you believe the world is a better place than it was 10 years ago? 50, 100, 200 years ago?  Has the quality of human life been steadily improving or is it possible that have we begun to regress?

A recent global survey of more than 18,000 adults across nine countries asked a simple question: “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”


Sweden                    10%
Denmark                  8%
Finland                      8%
Norway                     8%
USA                            6%
Great Britain            4%
Germany                  4%
Australia                   3%
France                       3%

The table above shows the results of this survey.  Sweden ranks as the most optimistic country with 10% of the respondents believing that the world is becoming a better place.  Only a mere 6% of Americans shared this optimism.

Before you make your choice, consider the following:

  • The number of people living in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, adjusted for inflation and international currencies, has dropped from 90%+ in 1820, to 44% in 1981, and was remarkably down to below 10% in 2015.
  • In 1820, only about one person in ten older than 15 years could read and write. In 1930, the number was around 33%.  Now, 85% of world citizens can read and write.
  • In 1800, about 43% of the world’s newborn babies died before their 5th   Since then, we have enjoyed better housing, sanitation, and nutrition, better knowledge of disease-causing germs, and greater access to antibiotics and vaccines.  Today, only 4.3% of newborns die before the age of 5.
  • Throughout the 19th century, more than a third of the population lived in colonial regimes, and almost everyone else lived in autocratically ruled countries. Now, more than half of the world population lives in democracies while 80% of the population that doesn’t resides in one country:

Due to the bombardment of negative news from TV and social media, it’s only natural to feel like we’re trending more towards doomsday than towards significant social progress.  The same pessimism often applies to the financial news we receive.  It’s human nature that the threat of danger will always catch our attention.

When this feeling of negativity or dread takes hold, the best antidote is to change the time frame.  The world news of the past month or week may have been distressing, but are we really in a worse society than we were in 5, 10, or 100 years ago?  Perhaps the past few months of investing have been dominated by negative news and/or losses in your statements, but have you forgotten the progress you’ve made over the last 10, 20, 30+ years?

It’s only natural to judge progress based on a short time frame, but when you take the Long View, this perceived slow progress becomes an impressive accomplishment.  Humanity is far from perfect, but I look forward to seeing the continuing positive advancement of our societies and the accomplishments of our clients for decades to come.