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Friday, June 1, 2018

A Better World, A Right Royal Wedding.

A Better World

There are wonderful things happening across the world today.

Most of what we hear and read in the media is depressing. Unfortunately, a big disaster is usually much better for sales than something positive. The on-going onslaught of negative stories from around the world makes people think that things are getting worse not better. And recent research in part explains this sentiment by showing that negative stories have a far larger impact on us that an equivalent positive story.

In this piece, I would like to share some statistics with you that show that in many ways, our world is actually becoming a kinder, safer, healthier, more prosperous one. A better world. Maybe hard to believe, but true:

1. Life expectancy

72.0 years was the average life expectancy at birth of the global population in 2016.
In 1950, it was just 48 years

2. Food production

Cereal yields across the world have tripled since 1960. Population has doubled.

3. Democracy

Over half of the world's population lives in a true democracy today.
100 years ago is it was less than 10%. 
In 1900 there were only 10 democracies. 
Today there are about 90.

4. Drinking water

In 2015, 71% of the world's population had access to safely managed drinking water. 
Go back a hundred years and it was very few people.

5. Infant mortality

In 1990 across the world there were 64.8 deaths per 1000 live births.
Just 25 years later, this rate had fallen to 30.5 deaths per 1000 live births.

6. Wars
Globally, the number of people killed at war has never been as low as it has been since the end of WW2.
There has never been a period with so few wars
7. Public Healthcare
Access to public healthcare shot up in the second half of the 20th century to provide almost universal coverage in OECD countries. But there is still much to do: according to the WHO, 100 million people are being pushed into poverty because they must pay for health care out of their own pockets.

Less than 100 years ago, there was virtually zero public healthcare

These are just a few examples of how vastly many people's lives have improved in the last few decades. And I believe technical innovation will only serve to increase and accelerate the rate at which such improvements develop. 

A Right Royal Wedding 

I am not known for my passion for the Royals but I reluctantly admit that from a purely economic point of view they are almost certainly net contributors to our coffers even after the costs of security. Significant numbers of tourists visit the UK to see their palaces, the Changing of the Guard in Whitehall and other royal related things. The UK's place on the world stage, albeit diminishing following the Brexit decision, is undoubtedly augmented by the influence, presence and contribution of the Royal Family.

People everywhere seem to love pomp and circumstance, fancy venues and dresses, aspirational living at its extreme. And nothing represents this better than a Royal Wedding, particularly when the bride is not royal, not an aristocrat, but she is mixed race, foreign, divorced and an actress. Even the script writers of 'Dallas' could not have dreamed this one up.

Only the dog looked more disinterested than me

However, what really fascinates me, is the way this event unites people in a way no political or sporting event can. Almost everyone is either indifferent or enthusiastic to varying degrees. At one end of the scale you have the fanatics who travel vast distances, camp out at 4am in the cold, just to catch a 10 second glimpse as the royal carriage goes past at 1.30pm. And then you have varying degrees of interest ranging from those glued in front of the TV who would not miss it for anything to those who are vaguely amused or entertained and finally the group who organises a competing non royal event in order to miss it. But what we don't get is significant numbers of 'haters' who go out of their way to criticise. You get these groups for virtually any type of political event and for many football events and other sports events where there is frequently a distinct lack of respect for the winning side.

What is it about these grand, exclusive, expensive, anachronistic, aristocratic royal events that seem to capture the hearts of so many and incur the wrath of so few? 

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