Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Awful Aughts? A Preliminary Progress Report

I have seen some articles arguing that the Aughts were a particularly bad decade, and my first response was to say:
"Nay!  Certainly, we had some serious tragedies around the world from 9/11 to Iraq to the reversals in Afghanistan to the tsunami and Katrina to ponzi schemes, popping bubbles and the Great Recession.  Oh, well, it does not look to good.  But the 90's had Bosnia, Rwanda, and some other bubbles bursting."
And then I realized that the Aughts, in many ways, were a crappy decade, especially ending with such economic difficulties, political morasses (is that the plural of morass?).  Too many disasters at the national (eight years of Bush/Cheney) and global levels (multiple wars, failed progress on a variety of fronts).

Personally, it was a very good decade, as you can tell from this post or this one.

So what upsides beyond my own life did we see from the decade past?
  • Politically, we saw some extensions of democracy, despite some reversals as well.  Serbia is no longer run by Slobo Milosevic.  We saw political movements that tried to push democracy forward with some successes.  Despite some difficult economic situations, Eastern Europe has remained democratic and free. 
  • While the economies of the West are in trouble in the short term, if we think about global averages, then the combination of economic dynamism and large populations in China and India probably mean that more people are better off now than ten years ago.  And that is a longer term trend.
  • We have avoided major wars that the US didn't start.  That is, no major conflict between India and Pakistan since the Kargil Conflict.
  • The internet and associated technologies have made information far more accessible.  While this raises a variety of challenges, the ones facing the greatest challenges are the authoritarians.  More information, despite much of it being sketchy, should lead to greater transparency, more accountability, and more time wasted on Facebook.
  • The US elected an African-American to be President.  As I walked through the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, this one outcome was very much in the forefront of my thoughts.  While my mother fears that she will not see a female President in her lifetime, I think Obama's election was such an historic event that it is ok that we must wait another eight years or so for that precedent to be set.
Obviously, more happened, but I am tired from a long road trip back from DC.  Any thoughts?

I refer to this as a preliminary progress report as it will require some time and distance to know the costs and benefits of the past ten years.

    No comments: