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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 56 of the late Hans Rosling’s 2018 book, Factfulness:

The misconception that the world is getting worse is very difficult to maintain when we put the present in historical context.

DBx: Regular readers of this blog know how deeply I agree with the point made here by Rosling. But only time will tell how much damage will be done to humanity by its insane self-immolation in response to covid. That humankind was, as of mid-March 2020, much wealthier than it had ever been and headed for still more and more-widely-shared prosperity can hardly be doubted by anyone familiar with the historical record. (Those unfamiliar with this record can improve their knowledge by reading the Rosling book quoted here. Or Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. Or Johan Norberg’s Progress. Or Edmund Phelps’s Mass Flourishing. Or Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape. Or Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. Or Deirdre McCloskey’s Why Liberalism Works. Or, better yet, by reading all of these books. And spend time at HumanProgress.org.)

But the collective insanity of the past few months – the sheeplike willingness of ordinary people to endure draconian restrictions on their freedoms and the media’s uncritical embrace of such draconianism – the propensity to be frightened to the point of losing the human ability to recognize the need to make trade-offs – reveal to me just how very thin is the layer of good sense and sound institutions that protect modernity.

I want to believe that any day now humanity will come to its senses and return to normal – a development that would feature sensible precautions to protect those persons who remain in real danger because of covid. I long to believe that, say, five years from now we’ll all look back on 2020 as an exception to recent-history’s rule of progress. Yet I fear that we might not – at least not within my lifetime or that of my son – witness a restoration of enough of the liberal ideas and institutions that are necessary to sustain progress and to protect ordinary people from the tyrants who are always eager to prey on them.

I am not necessarily predicting this horrendous outcome, but now I would not be surprised if it comes to pass.


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