F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
December 24, 2000
Remarkable Progress Will Continue

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"America is a great country recording giant strides in social, economic, and cultural progress because the American people have greatness inside of them."

"The 20th century was punctuated by two terrible world wars and numerous horrid episodes of genocide," observe the late economist Julian Simon and his research assistant, Stephen Moore, in their new book, It's Getting Better All the Time, published by the Cato Institute nearly three years after Simon's death. "At least 200 million people perished as a consequence of that brutality. Still," they emphasize, "the century ended with far greater freedom for a far greater percentage of the world's population than ever before in recorded history."

Simon and Moore provide abundant statistical data to buttress their contention that "life in the United States is much better today with 270 million people than it was in 1900 with 70 million people." They view Americans as "net resource creators, not resource depleters -- protectors of the environment, not destroyers. Each generation," Simon and Moore assert, "leaves the ecological fate of the planet and our continent in better condition for future generations." They conclude that "the growth of the American population, which is healthy and wealthy, is a trend to celebrate, not to bemoan."

Simon and Moore say that our population has quadrupled because Americans today "live longer, healthier, safer, and more prosperous lives than their ancestors. A larger population is a reflection of the success in conquering death in this country. The evidence does not support the contention that population is growing out of control," they continue. "U.S. birth rates fell for most of the century," Simon and Moore report, "and are now at or near replacement level. Prosperity tends to beget smaller family sizes," the two economists explain. "Fertility rates are falling all over the world." Simon and Moore concede that "some areas of the country are getting crowded and congested, particularly booming cities like Los Angeles, Houston, and Denver. But," they emphasize, "we are hardly running our of space in this country."

Simon and Moore argue that "America got rich at such a faster pace than other nations in the 20th century quite simply because no other place on earth cultivates the entrepreneurial, inventive spirit of human beings more than the United States does. Government has grown enormously over the past century in the United States," they lament, "but, compared with other nations and with the heavy hand of government that restricted individual freedom in past eras, Americans today enjoy an unprecedented degree of political and economic freedom. This provides Americans with the ability and the incentive to build, create, innovate, and prosper."

Simon and Moore find cause for optimism in the fact that there are "more Americans than ever before, living in greater affluence than ever before." They predict that the remarkable progress of the 20th century will continue. As evidence of "a long-term trend of improved life on earth," Simon and Moore point to widespread affluence in developed countries, "the wondrous advances in the storehouse of human knowledge that have accumulated," and the fact that "even poor nations are making spectacular strides in health, education, incomes, and equality."

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