The decade that brought us the iPod, GPS, Social Media & economic progress.
The decade that just ended produced stories that were tragic – 9/11 – horrifying – Hurricane Katrina – and depressing – the global financial crisis and current recession. However, perhaps the most important story of the naughties is the slow and steady march of economic progress that marks our day-to-day lives. It isn’t necessarily reflected in the stock market or in our bank accounts, but it is evident in the small and sometimes imperceptible changes in our daily routines that, over time, become large, substantive ones ::::
In The New York Times, Tyler Cowen discusses the encouraging progress of the developing world over the last decade, there are ample reasons for Americans to be pleased with the progress of the last decade too. Just ask: “Is my family better off in 2010 than we would have been in 2000?” The answer is probably a resounding yes: A quick comparison between what my family has now and what people of my age, income and family profile would have had exactly 10 years ago suggests that we are much, much better off. Here are just a few illustrations of how our lives are different today than they would have been in 2000:
1. Just spent a couple of weeks visiting family. As always my travels found me lost, GPS me, unlost
2. We can take pictures with digital cameras and share them on various social media sites that allow us to stay in touch with people from around the world.
3. Let my new Roomba loose, looks a lot like a Cylon, cleans my living room floor Sunday morning.
4. I’ve had a few cups of fancy coffee made with my new Keurig single-cup coffee maker. Premium coffee continues its steady march to mass consumption; I first learned about Keurig last summer.
“Apple-style-span” style=”font-size:medium;”>) will deliver movies and TV shows to our door and to our computers, and we can also watch TV and movies on Hulu.com for free. The Interweb has grown to provide education, entertainment, information and commentary. We can also watch DVDs in the car and on planes with a portable DVD.
6. Ebay: My dish washer conked out, but on Saturday ordered a new one online from the comfort of mine.
7. iPod: Go to YouTube and look up Steve Jobs’ speech introducing the iPod in 2001. The progressApple(AAPL-news-people) has made since then will astound you.
8. This article is saved in Google Docs and will be transmitted over a wireless connection when I’m finished with it, all from the comfort of my living room. Google became a verb during the 2000s, and innovations like Gmail and Google Apps are only the beginning of where the 21st century is going to take us.
9. Suddenly single, confused, not at the being single, confused at which site to profile myself on, gone are the days of dodgy dates, the nineties has given us slick well managed dating site. Casual Sex to Lets Get Married.
10. Nothing is perfect, but we continue to identify where there is room for improvement. A lot of people have lost their homes to foreclosures and their jobs to a recently soured economy, but this illustrates the structural flaws in the system of government intervention that produced a lot of unsustainable investments. Meanwhile, the progress we continue to make in spite of government opposition illustrates the robustness and resilience of the market economy.
In short, more reliance on markets and less reliance on government would at least continue and probably accelerate the trends that gave us the abundance we now enjoy. None of the changes I have outlined above have come from bold government initiatives. They have come from entrepreneurs innovating in response to market incentives.
One might easily dismiss this as a set of out-of-touch musings by someone who is over-privileged, but you could do a similar thought experiment for almost any income/education/family profile and find the same trend. The old trope that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer” is a myth, at least in free markets. Markets allow us to interact with one another by expanding others’ options and expanding others’ choices. Particularly as public enthusiasm for capitalism appears to be waning, this is a lesson that shouldn’t be forgotten.