One thing I like about the classical liberalism is that it generally has a much more optimistic worldview than other ideologies. Clearly, optimism is only good if it is justified, but I think that, for the most part, the optimism of classical liberalism is justified. Without a doubt, as we conclude the first decade of the 2000’s, humanity faces plenty of challenges. But if you look at macro trends, the world today is more peaceful and prosperous and its inhabitants have a better chance of living satisfying, interesting, and fulfilling lives than ever before. Contrast this with pessimists on the right, who worry about a society that is rapidly becoming less religious, more tolerant, and more culturally liberal, and pessimists on the left who fret about rising levels of income inequality, potential environmental catastrophe (which I think is a warrented, although often exaggerated, concern), and globalization.
Because of the current economic downturn, this is an especially difficult time to convince people that humanity is on the right track. I certainly do not want to diminish the very real and tragic effects of unemployment and economic insecurity resulting from the global recession.
However, looking at the state of the world from a global perspective, things are actually pretty good, as Matt Yglesias pointed out last week: “if you’re one of the 2.5 billion people who live in China or India, this is pretty much the best of times. This also seems to be the best of times for Indonesia, and Brazil the world’s fourth and fifth largest countries. That’s 43 percent of the world’s people living in four countries who’ve had a very good decade.”
So again, it’s truly tragic that many people in the developed world are losing their jobs and homes and struggling to to maintain the quality of life to which they have become accustomed. But citizens of developing countries are pulling themselves out of poverty at an unprecedented rate, and I think that that justifies continued optimism about the progress that we will see as we head into the next decade.