News Good News It’s the best time to be alive, thanks to capitalism

It’s the best time to be alive, thanks to capitalism

asian economies
Asian economies are pulling millions of people out of poverty. Photo: Getty
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There is a lot of bad news in the world today, but have we ever stopped to think of the good news?

Truth is, in Australia, our generation is one of the luckiest to be alive. Take travel, for example. Travel has never been cheaper, easier or safer than it is now.

My mother took two international trips in her entire life. I have taken many more than that.

When I first started travelling in 1992 a return fare from Australia to Europe was $1800. It was a bloody good fare too as a hard-working travel agent pulled every string she could. In today’s money that would be $3356.19.

I was searching on Kayak the other day for a potential trip to Australia from London in September (to watch the mighty Magpies at the MCG), with the cheapest return economy fare being – wait for it – £315 with China Southern, or $559.62.

Today’s discount economy fares are 16 per cent of the 1992 fares.

What is more, I can get a return business class, fully flat bed on a 787 Dreamliner for just on £1900 or $3376, flying Vietnam Airlines.

In other words, today’s business class fare is more or less what the economy used to be.

But of course, I am at the privileged end of world wealth. What about the less privileged end?

I worked for the Red Cross in the 1990s in places like Rwanda and Yugoslavia. The countries in war then that are in peace now include Rwanda, Mozambique, a big chunk of west Africa and many countries in Asia.

Despite what we read about Syria and terrorism, death counts in conflict have been steadily in decline since the end of World War II, with Our World in Data showing death rates in conflict falling from over 100 per 100,000 in the mid-1900s to around 10 per 100,000 now.

On the wealth front, while inequality exists and wealth disparity is growing in many places of the world, it is not a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Rather it is the rich getting richer and the poor getting richer. It is just that the rich are getting richer faster.

Global literacy rates are rising. Those living in absolute poverty (less than $2 per day) is falling, and the numbers entering the middle class is measured in the millions each year.

Which brings me back to travel.

Many people are now complaining that typical tourist attractions are now overcrowded. Cities like Barcelona are cracking down on Airbnb and short-term lettings. Venice is considering limiting the maximum number of tourists allowed each day.

Those with a racial eye note that many of the extra tourists look Asian. And there is a reason for this.

When I was a kid we wanted to ‘bring the world out of poverty’. Guess what? We really are succeeding – despite the charity TV ads desperately asking for money.

Yes there are more Asian tourists because more Asian economies like China, Vietnam, India and others are pulling millions of people out of poverty. And airlines like China Southern and Vietnam Airlines don’t give just you and I cheaper fares, they give them to everyone.

While our media calls out the negative, we are being blinded to the positive. Sure, the world is not perfect. Poverty and conflict remain, but both are at the lowest level ever.

Further, far from capitalism being the enemy, well-regulated capitalism has given humanity the greatest boost in wealth, life expectancy, health and education we have ever seen.

Shouldn’t we celebrate the positive, just as much as we bemoan the negative in the world today?

For many people, for the majority, life is actually pretty good, and better than it has ever been. Let’s now make it better for the rest, too.

Andrew MacLeod is a visiting professor to King’s College London, Chairman of Griffin Law, a non-executive director to Australian and US companies, and a former high-level UN official.

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