There is a fascinating graph on gapminder.org that plots life expectancy and income per person by nation from 1800 to 2013. When I pressed play on it and watched those coloured blobs shifting rightward and then creeping upward as the years ticked by a completely unexpected thing happened: I felt moved.
It was beautiful and inspiring to watch. It felt rather like watching a butterfly emrging from its chrysalis and taking flight for the first time. I wondered if the animation of this graph might affect others in the same way it did me and so I decided to make a short video of it. (If you find that you can’t view the video in your country, then you can watch it at libertytoday.uk).
It is rather amazing, is it not, to consider that the force driving each blob rightwards and upwards is countless individuals merely acting to improve their own lots. Those moments, by the way, in which many of the blobs suddenly drop down and shift left correlate to the world wars – the horrors of 20th century statism. But notice how quickly the blobs shoot back up afterwards. That’s down to private enterprise and testament to the indomitable human spirit.
In making this video I realised how incredibly fortunate I am to have been born in 1980 and not 1800. If I had been, then at my current age of 34 I would probably be entering into my twilight years – assuming I had made it through childhood and hadn’t already been killed by some disease, that is.
The odds are that I have another 30 years or more left to live. I used to think nothing of this, but I realise now that this is the most wonderful gift, which has been bestowed upon me not by nature or by plans of politicians, but by virtue of the economic freedoms of the people of the 19th century. The gift of life. Or, more precisely, the gift of a life twice as long as the average one in 1800.
Reflecting on the wondrous progress humanity has made in just the last 200 hundred years is a great way to feel inspired whenever things seem rather bleak. Another good way is to consider how liberty grows today despite the State.
“Like the tendrils of a vine reaching for sunlight despite an obstruction, liberty grows outward and upward. For every corrupt cop, there’s an entrepreneur making lives better through innovation, and for every bureaucrat, a programmer works to cripple tyranny at its foundations. For every useless bill, someone is working to make it obsolete.”
There are three things that we should always remember in order to keep our spirits up. Firstly that, as Matt Gilliland put it, we are “the freest people in all of history…” Secondly, that in just two centuries the common man hauled himself out of subsistence and into prosperity. And thirdly, that the destructive power of government action is no match for the creative and productive powers of 21st century society.
Here’s to 2015 and the continued expansion of liberty by circumvention of the State.