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Michael Barone: Good News Abounds

Michael Barone's newest column is out and he is sharing the good news the MSM don't report:

Things are better than you think. Yes, I know, most Americans are in a sour mood these days, convinced that the struggle in Iraq is an endless cycle of bloodshed, certain that our economy is in dismal shape, lamenting that the nation and the world are off on the wrong track.


That's what polls tell us. But if we look at some other numbers, we'll find that we are living not in the worst of times, but in something much closer to the best.

What do I mean? First, economic growth. In 2005, as in 2004, the world economy grew by about 5 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, and the IMF projects similar growth for several years to come. This is faster growth than in all but a few peak years in the 1980s and 1990s, and it's in vivid contrast to the long periods of stagnation or contraction in history

The great engine of this growth is, of course, the United States, which produces more than one-quarter of world economic product and whose gross domestic product has been growing at around 4 percent -- 4.7 percent in the latest quarter. Other engines are China and India, each with about a sixth of the world's people, and economic growth of 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. But other areas are growing, too: Eastern Europe (5 percent), Russia (6 percent), East Asia (5 percent), Latin America (4 percent), even the Middle East (6 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (5.5 percent)

And take a look at the information Barone has on world violence and war:

But aren't we also living in times of record strife? Actually, no. Just the opposite. The Human Security Centre of the University of British Columbia has been keeping track of armed conflicts since World War II. It reports that the number of genocides and violent conflicts dropped rapidly after the end of the Cold War, and that in 2005 the number of armed conflicts was down 40 percent from 1992.


Wars have also become less deadly: The average number of people killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002, it was just 600. The conflict in Iraq has not significantly changed that picture. American casualties are orders of magnitude lower than in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and precision weapons have enabled us to vastly reduce the civilian death toll.

Michael ends his piece with this paragraph:

Yes, [Islamists] can inflict severe damage on us by asymmetric warfare, as they did on Sept. 11, and we must continue to take determined action to prevent them from doing so again. Yes, a nuclear Iran is a severe threat. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that, in most important respects, our civilization is performing splendidly.

This isn't quite the picture the MSM paints.


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Comments (24)

KimBarone needs to... (Below threshold)
mak44:

Kim

Barone needs to stash the hookah and the opium. You bend over backwards to constantly attack the MSM. While the MSM, especially the television journalists, have turned much of what they report into corporate pablum & fluff stories, any perusal of the world media would certainly indicate that Barone's vision is a pipe dream.

What you cannot abide about the media is that it does tend to report reality & as Colbert says, Reality is just evidence of Liberal bias.

Get off the pipe & take a look at our world. By mid-century the competition for energy will likely have undone much of the World's economic progress. The resulting potential for conflict will have escalted enormously.

The vaunted world economic growth is unsustainable without a revolutionary breakthrough in energy technology which is nowhere near in sight. With the current economic growth cited above and another 1 1/2 billion in world population by mid-century, there is no way that a realist could have Barone's vision. That's all we need; a Barone lullaby to while us asleep as the deluge looms.

And then there's the matter of the global environment which may well preclude the dawn of a 22nd century.

Barone selectively extrapolates some statistics to fill out his opiated dream. No one looking realistically at this world condition today could conceivably see it as better.

Well golly gee You sure con... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Well golly gee You sure convinced Me everything is going down the shitter. Mak, pop a paxil and kick back and enjoy the fact that Your alive.."

"Reality is just evidence o... (Below threshold)

"Reality is just evidence of Liberal bias."

Except, of course, that the things Barone wrote about are reality, and aren't being reported on by many mainstream sources. If you were correct, we'd be seeing that info plastered all over the front pages, with nice big headlines. Since it isn't, you're wrong.

"The vaunted world economic growth is unsustainable without a revolutionary breakthrough in energy technology which is nowhere near in sight."

Revolutionary breakthroughs usually are sorta hard to see. Since there are a helluva lot of people looking for that breakthrough, odds are pretty good.

We don't even need a breakthrough, though. The expansion in the US economy (15% or so over the last five years) hasn't come with any dramatic energy consumption increases (about 1.5% over the same time period, and actually only 1% increase in the last three years of strong growth). Much of the rest of the world could follow suit, but they currently have access to relatively cheap energy (yes, even with the "high" prices of the world market), and don't have to resort to the more-expensive methods we're using here.

By the time they get around to needing new energy sources, the developed countries will have worked out the problems and made them useful for less-developed places. Things like hybrid cars, electric transportation, less energy-intensive industrial processes, et cetera.

The population growth scenario is rather minimal, too. Funny that you picked 2050 as your target date, since that's right about the time that the world population figures will probably have hit "stable," and many of the industrial nations will be in strong population decline...

Why should mak44 kick back ... (Below threshold)
dave:

Why should mak44 kick back and relax if his kids won't be able to enjoy the same standard of living after he's dead? There's a very fine line between optimism and complacency you know.

It's quite disturbing to see how virgo's reply implies the popping of pills to be the answer to the world's problems. Good advise. I think I'll just thank the lord for my good fortune by letting him take care of everything for now on while I sit around and intoxicate myself.

"Why should mak44 kick back... (Below threshold)

"Why should mak44 kick back and relax if his kids won't be able to enjoy the same standard of living after he's dead?"

Who says they won't?

The trends say that they will (as long as we don't listen to people like mak44).

For the 2006-2050 timeline, the overall trend is pretty flat for energy consumption for people in the developed countries, and with minor changes we could actually decrease consumption. A year-to-year gain in efficiency of only 1% would completely reverse the energy consumption growth rate into a decrease in overall consumption in places like the US.

And, as I pointed out above, when we make changes, it filters down to the rest of the world, at much lower cost. Which is why those massively expensive solar cells of the 1970s are now reasonably cheap, and are helping people in very remote areas get things like telephone and data service.

High-efficiency refrigeration? Infrared-reflecting window films? Televisions that use a fraction of the power? Cars that get twice the gas mileage or more? Foods that don't need refrigeration, for that matter. We bought the expensive first-generation products like that, and now they're getting down to everyone else.

It's another generation of what we saw with medical treatments from the 1950s on. Places like the US do all of the expensive research, and get the early benefits (at much higher prices), then the rest of the world get those same improvements at a fraction of the cost a few years later. Meanwhile, we're on to the next stage of new tech (genetically-targeted vaccines, tailored antibiotics).

The population surge in much of the world is getting ready to slam to a halt in many places, due to cheap birth control and the common tendency of people in improving economies to have less kids overall.

Add improved tech to a flat population trend, and things are looking pretty good in the medium and long terms, not just right now.

Long-time reader, first tim... (Below threshold)

Long-time reader, first time commenter...

Mak, the same arguments have been made since the 1970's (your last name isn't Ehrlich is it?) and they've been wrong time and time again. We keep finding oil (making it's *not* a fossil fuel) and if in the future we don't need it, so be it. Of course, it will be because of our innovations that we probably won't need gasoline to fuel our cars.

It's amazing you can wake up everyday and function with the perpetual black pit of despair you've got slung over your shoulder.

Cirby, I guess my definitio... (Below threshold)
dave:

Cirby, I guess my definition of "standard of living" is quite different than yours. In fact, you could probably say it's quite different than what it's supposed to mean conventionally, so I probably shouldn't have used the term in my previous comment.

Don't get me wrong, I am optimistic about the benefits we can expect by prospects in technology advancements, but I don't see those benefits along with those yielded by economic growth as being the only contributors to a better "standard of living" as it were. In fact, much too often, those contributors come with some undesirable costs and side effects. Failure to recognize those costs with respect to other important human needs seems too inevitable, because nobody seems to think they're important. That's where my pessimism lies. I guess that's beyond the scope of this subject though.

Why is Kim still writing he... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Why is Kim still writing here?

jp2:While I don't ... (Below threshold)

jp2:

While I don't find all of Kim's posts the most well thought out or void of emotional taint, she does such a good job at stimulating intellectual and logical arguments in the posts that follow from the likes of your brothers in arms that I am sure she has fairly good job security here.

[Translation from NewSpeak: she does such a good job at piquing the Left, it would be foolish to stop her]

What is very interesting ab... (Below threshold)
David B:

What is very interesting about Mak44's whining reply is that he cites no sources for his less then rosy outlook. Just repeats some of the standard drivel from the left leaning groups that have an axe to grind. Yet Barone cites his sources for his piece. Kinda makes you wonder who is really dealing in the reality mode.

But that is an easy conclusion . . .

I left a country supposedly... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

I left a country supposedly "advanced" by the socialist programs espoused by the lefties. They only accomplised making it a dismal place to live.

Their idea of advancement is to make everyone equally miserable. No thanks. The world is doing fine and the lies of the left are proving more and more hollow each year.

Of course, you have to keep screaming that it's all a disaster and that you need Big Brother government to take care of the unwashed masses with your "enlightened progress". Funny how the ideas from the left are neither enlightened nor do the progress.

Like it or not I'm happier living in a capitalist society where I have the chance to succeed in life rather than the soul sucking socialist government where even mediocrity is discouraged.

Faithand what coun... (Below threshold)
mak44:

Faith

and what country was that?

"Cirby, I guess my definiti... (Below threshold)

"Cirby, I guess my definition of 'standard of living' is quite different than yours. In fact, you could probably say it's quite different than what it's supposed to mean conventionally, so I probably shouldn't have used the term in my previous comment."

You're right. You shouldn't have.

By any reasonable definition, the standard of living for most of the planet has gone up in a dramatic way, over the last half-century - in the places that don't listen to people like mak44 or yourself.

In the places that folow the standard "Western society is bad" line, they're busily redefining what "living" is so they can pretend their own standards have gone up (when, by a sane man's measure, most of them are circling the drain).

Whenever I run into someone who claims that the "standard of living" is lower than it used to be, the actual truth usually breaks down to "I have no idea what things used to be like even a few years before I was born, and take for granted the huge number of improvements in daily life that have come with progess."

David BFirst: My ... (Below threshold)
mak44:

David B

First: My original post was based on an awarenes of what is developing in this world. If you need facts, read on.

A common assessment as to the availability of oil is that demand is outstripping supply, hence the horrific runup in the price/barrel in the past year. With production at near caopacity which could become severely unhinged w/ hurricanes &/or political instability, and the looming prospect of some sort of US intervention in Iran, the stage is already set for economic catastrophe. Further viokence in Nigeria could easily take a major supply offline. Any foolish attack on Iran would likely close the Straits of Hormuz, even if the Iranians were unsuccessful w/ retalliation against Saudi oil fields. With the instability & falling value of the dollar, there is growing prospect of a world switch to petro-Euros which would devastate our economy.

China, w an annual growth rate of near 10% & more than 4x our population, will create unsustainable demand for energy at current levels of production. The kind of change to some of the energy alternatives suggested by some above is unlikely to occur in time or in price in a sufficient manner to ease a growing world demand for energy.

A simple belief that technology will come along and save the day at the right time might just happen, but to rely on that kind of unknown as world expansion is rushing on is naive at best.

One does not need a raft of statistics to foresee the unpleasant implications of some of what I outlined above. But one ought to remove the blinders and consider the possibility that onrushing events could easily surpass the ability of technological innovations to bridge the troubled waters.

At the very least, it ought give major pause to those who advocate precipitous actions like a pre-emptive strike against Iran.

As to "whining left drivel," take a good look at the realities of the world you live in, made worse by the actions of the Chimp-in-chief and the chaos he has unleashed w/ his Crusade of the Morons.

Steve of NorwayDon... (Below threshold)
mak44:

Steve of Norway

Don't know where you get off w/ the new oil findings, but the growing assessments by geologists is that we are near or may already have reached the point of peak oil where new discoveries are no longer sustaining the current draw-down.

In addition, the US consumes nearly 25% of the world's oil. With the growing demand from China & India alone, the demand for oil will easily outpace supply in the very near future. With their rate of economic growth & more than 4x our population, they are already at 60% of our GDP. In the not too distant future they will surpass our GDP & their demand for energy will be insatiable. India is only a slightly less looming competitor w/ similar population & economic statistics. Only a fool would think that our current economic superiority will remain undiminished.

"One does not need a raft o... (Below threshold)

"One does not need a raft of statistics to foresee the unpleasant implications of some of what I outlined above."

But one does need some background in technology, economics, and an ability to actually think.

The Chinese economy is growing, and is in need of a masssive increse in energy production, which will be partly filled by hyrdoelectric projects like the Three Gorges Dam, and partly filled by the large number of new nuclear plans they have scheduled to be built over the next decade or so.

Due to the overall inflexibility of their economy, China will have a hard time paying increased prices for oil (some have said they're nearly at their top price point right now). This will create a drop off of growth in the Chinese economy, while not pushing the price much higher than it is right now.

The current price of oil, while high, isn't causing any real disconnects in the US economy, and from all signs, it would have to top $100/barrel and stay there for a few years to do so (and if that happened, there are some incredibly huge oil shale deposits in the US that will be more than economic for that price, big enough to supply the US for a very long time - certainly more than enough to keep us going until the newer energy sources get cheaper).

Back to your earlier post about "revolutionary" energy sources: there's been at least one major breakthrough in fusion tech announced this week, and a numberof other techs are on the near horizon (the thorium reactor, for one, which uses an element that's much more common than uranium, and which is effectively immune to things like meltdowns and creation of nuclear weapons).

So far, all of your suggestions on how things are going to go bad are based on a narrow range of ideas: that things are going to stay pretty much the same, technologically, and that they're going to get much, much worse socially and economically.

Note that the technical side of the question is more towards an increasing rate of change, not decreasing, and the economic and social parts of the equation are also not on your side...

To: CirbyFrom: D... (Below threshold)
dave in defense:

To: Cirby
From: Dave
Re: Comment from Cirby to Dave above (standard of living)

Is this a "left versus the right" thing? I'm sorry. I should not have got involved. Not my battle. But hey! May the best fool win!!

I'll leave you with a description of the book "Brave New World" that I copied/pasted from a Wikepedia.org article. The description was copied from the article of the same name.

""Brave New World" is a 1932 dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, set in London in the 26th century. The novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, eugenics and hypnopædia that combine to change society. The world it describes could in fact also be a utopia, albeit an ironic one: Humanity is carefree, healthy, and technologically advanced. Warfare and poverty have been eliminated, and everyone is permanently happy. The irony is, however, that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things: family, cultural diversity, art, literature, science, religion, and philosophy. It is also a society which delves in hedonism".

Although the book can be described as completely fictional and maybe a bit far-fetched, it does address concerns that are more important today than they were when the book was written, and probably becoming more and more important every day no matter what type of society you live in, be it socialist or capitalist. It's been a while since I read it, but from what I can remember about it, "happiness" comes to people mainly through the likes of those pills Viro suggested Mak44 should take. In fact, it's been years since I even thought of the book until I read that comment.

Like I said - beyond the scope of the subject being discussed here.

dave:...and pretty... (Below threshold)

dave:

...and pretty much nothing in "Brave New World" has anything to do with current trends or what any rational person would call "quality of life," other than as a counterexample. The "BNW" world is a top-down, "managed" society, with little or no real freedom, while the overall trend in the world is in the opposite direction - at least, in the places where we ignore the folks who push that ideology.

A quote from Tom Wolfe sums it up:

"...the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States, and yet lands only in Europe"

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!!!

Actually, Dave, virgo was m... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

Actually, Dave, virgo was mocking mak's suggestion/assertion/accusation that Kim P is on drugs...

But thanks for telling us what was on the summer reading list. ;)

Cirby the Omniscient<... (Below threshold)
mak44:

Cirby the Omniscient

You wrote: "Back to your earlier post about "revolutionary" energy sources: there's been at least one major breakthrough in fusion tech announced this week, and a numberof other techs are on the near horizon (the thorium reactor, for one, which uses an element that's much more common than uranium, and which is effectively immune to things like meltdowns and creation of nuclear weapons)."

What you are talking about is borderline science fiction at this point in time. It is hardly likely to come to any fruition leading to widespread use & energy substitution before mid-century, if then. That is not a solution for the next 25 years at least. The lead time for a new conventional nuclear reactor is in the area of 10+ years. Alchemy is not going to solve the world's energy needs.

You also wrote: "The current price of oil, while high, isn't causing any real disconnects in the US economy, and from all signs, it would have to top $100/barrel and stay there for a few years to do so"

I don't know what planet that you are living on, but the Dow & Nasdaq don't seem to get your point as inflation is beginning to roar its head, pushed through by the rippling effect of $73/bbl oil. It is more than likely that the Fed will continue to jack the short-term rate because of this. We are only beginning to see the effect of this energy hike. From current indicators, this could be the eve of another recession, so your claim that we can absorb oil increases up to $100 is esasily outside of the economic mainstream.

Stop it Mak Your scaring Me... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Stop it Mak Your scaring Me! cheer up everything will be fine.

"What you are talking about... (Below threshold)

"What you are talking about is borderline science fiction at this point in time."

Actually, it's just near-future engineering. It's only "science fiction" for folks like yourself.

"The lead time for a new conventional nuclear reactor is in the area of 10+ years."

...and the lead time for your "bad" predictions are on the order of four times that. With some of the new reactor designs (pebble-bed, for example) it will be on the order of three to five years, once we fix the licensing requirements.

"From current indicators, this could be the eve of another recession,"

It could also (and more probably is) the eve of a minor slowdown from very high economic growth rates to only moderately high growth rates. Which would also be a slowdown in the increase of oil consumption, which would negate your predictions at the top of this thread.

I also refer you to your compatriot Lee, who was claiming in another thread that nobody was telling us that the economy was in trouble.

Have some Slurm.... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Have some Slurm.




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