The best news of 2012?

Here is a question to put to you over Xmas time, the season of joy and hope: what has been the best news for you this year in the sense of the most uplifting development in Australia or the world?

For me, it has been the continued economic growth in India, China, and much of Latin America. It has been another fantastic year on that front with growth rates expected to be around 7-8% in the South-East Asian corner for many countries (official statistics take a while). It means over half of humanity is continuing to rapidly climb out of poverty, low life expectancy, illiteracy, etc. Great news indeed.

Please add your ‘best news’ observation in the comment thread and I will compile a synopsis of them after the break.

7 thoughts on “The best news of 2012?

  1. do growth rates truly indicate increasing levels of life expectancy, literacy etc.? Would the HDI not be a more accurate reflection of these facets of non-material growth?

    • I would see economic growth of those countries as a leader indicator of the other ones, including HDI: they usually go up together and I am one of those economists who argue that the pursuit and achievement of economic growth is causal to the improvement in the others, at least for countries as low and medium levels of development. But that is a debate for another day.

  2. Christmas message is that capitalism really does make people better off. There’s been a sort of equality thing happening as the third world (and second world) are moving towards capitalism and the first world moves away from it.

    Eastern Europe is coming along. Estonia continues to achieve growth, falling unemployment, and low inflation in the face of less than ideal conditions elsewhere in Europe. Nothing to do handsprings over, but still good.

    What you are really seeing is the intellectual capital built up by the pinnacle of Western Enlightenment philosophy and technology is now spreading over all the places that missed out first time around.

  3. From a long-term perspective, “Third World” growth has been the best tale of every year since the end of the 1970s. Two centuries hence, it’s what this era will be remembered for – like the Industrial Revolution, but much bigger. Your great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will probably learn about it in school, while they will probably have to ask your great-great-grandchildren “what was communism”? (I fear they may also have to ask “what was the Amazon rainforest?”, but that’s another story.)

    And yes, HDI grows in line with income. You can see all this illustrated in the best way possible at the ever-wonderful Gapminder. I play the income/HDI time-series graph for my 13-year-old and tell him it’s the story of the past third of a century. Watch those big red and blue bubbles, kid.

    For 2012, the unexpected but rather exciting story is the return of human development in sub-Saharan Africa. This story has been going on since about 2006, but it is becoming more obvious as the cumulative effects of half a dozen years of development start to pay off.

    This is in part a terms-of-trade story (food, fuel and minerals prices are all up) and everyone’s worry is that it may prove transitory. Population growth, rule-of-law an health issues still pose huge threats to development. But Africa’s resurgence is also a story of increasing business capabilities, influenced by the growth in telecommunications and growing Internet access. In some cases development is overcoming bad government.

    Sub-Saharan Africa’s great outlier, Botswana, continues to lift its HDI despite the continuing effects of its AIDS epidemic (one person in six has HIV), proving that a nation with great institutions can survive almost anything.

  4. The growth in Africa at around 5% is also terrific. 22 of 48 African countries are now ‘middle income’ and by 2025 another 10 should get there.

    The progress in self-driving cars is really exciting. I very much hope that I own my last car, in 5-10 years I’ll just use my phone to order a self-driven cab/bus to where I want to go.

    The continuing progress of mobile phones and net access is also amazing. In particular for Africa where tyrants can no longer control information.

  5. Paul, my nomination is the always slow and often very fragile improvement in the human institutions designed to prevent conflict and reduce injustice, including especially injusticies perpetrated on people by their own governments. It is easy to lose sight of this when we look at some of the examples around us, but the progress is there. In parallel, the mechanisms designed to encourage cooperation between nations and other bodies in meeting simple emergencies such as natural disasters have improved.

  6. I nominate the quite substantial turnaround in the political situation in Burma, from what seemed to be an incorrigibly malevolent and corrupt dictatorship. The Generals have not ejntirely relinquished power yet, but the steps they have taken in the direction of an open society go well beyond the cosmetic. There is scope for real optimism there.

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