2018 | January 4, 2018

Reasons for optimism about the new year

The team at


“Most important story of 2017 is that the global poverty rate reached its lowest level ever,” tweeted economist Bill Easterly. “This will probably be the most important story of 2018 also. Happy New Year.”

One reason: China. In the past three years, the world’s most populous country has cut by half the number of people living below the poverty line (from 99 million to 43.4 million). That was one of the 99 “best stories” of 2017 rounded up by Quartz. The U.S. poverty rate, at 12.3%, is the lowest since the financial crisis.

Over the last 16 years, more than a billion people have gained access to electricity (and in 2017 the price of wind and solar power fell another 25%).

Remember Zika? It all but disappeared as a five-year international assault on tropical diseases saved millions of lives.

All that violence? Deaths from terrorism fell 22% in 2017 from a 2014 high. Rates of violent crime and property theft in the U.S. are half that of 1990; incarceration rates are falling in the majority of states.

Predicts Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times [paywall]: There will not be a war on the Korean peninsula, nor will there be one in the South China Sea or in eastern Europe…By contrast, there will be big and positive change in the Middle East. And England will win the World Cup.”