Friday, March 30, 2012

A Positive Rant

Heading to our nation's capital for the weekend, where Chris will participate in the Epilepsy Walk and I will take in the National Gallery and the cherry blossoms.

With that on my mind, and given that D.C. is the home to our fearless leaders and representatives -- and that it seems the news is crappier than usual these days-- I thought I'd share some good news, or at least a different view of The Big Picture than you're likely to get on the nightly/cable/24-hour news.

It's from quite a long article by investment guru and economist Alexander Green, in Spiritual Wealth, an e-newsletter I receive on a regular basis. It repeats a litany of information you've likely heard before about how different things are now than they were earlier in the 20th century, or before. But there's a wealth of stuff to think about, too, and I thought I'd pass some of it on. As the title of the article asks, "How often do you hear a positive rant?"

     "Consider that in the first half of the twentieth century, most people earned a subsistence living through long hours of backbreaking work on farms or in factories. In 1850, the average workweek was 64 hours. In 1900, it was 53. Today it is 42 hours. On the whole, Americans work less, have more purchasing power, enjoy goods and services in almost unlimited supply, and have much more leisure. 
     "Or take computing. In 1987, a megabyte of memory cost $5,000. The Mac II sitting on my desk - with one megabyte of memory and a running speed of 16 megahertz (which Apple described as "blindingly fast") - cost $5,500. Today an exponentially smaller, faster and better machine costs less than a tenth as much. As for memory, you can buy a terabyte drive today for less than 60 bucks. 
     "In Africa today a Masai warrior on a cellphone has better mobile communications than the President of the United States did 25 years ago; if he's on a smartphone with Google, he has access to more information than the President did just 15 years ago, with a feast of standard features: watch, stereo, camera, video camera, voice recorder, GPS tracker, video teleconferencing equipment, a vast library of books, films, games, music. Just 20 years ago these same goods and services would have cost over $1 million... 
     "Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution - all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.
     "Thank your lucky stars that you won the lottery simply by being born in the modern era." 

Copyright © 2012 by The Oxford Club, L.L.C

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