With a new study out today that provides evidence that those who approach their lives with a spirit of gratitude (when it's deserved of course) to others score higher across a whole number of measures of well-being, it's worth taking a moment for some "social gratitude."
In a world of pepper-spraying cops, genital-groping TSA agents, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that's topped 100 percent, it's sometimes hard to find the good, but despite the ankle weights the state keeps attaching to us, humanity keeps running, moving ever upward.
In the long view, life expectancy continues to rise as do literacy rates. Slavery is in long-run retreat and illegal in every country, and despite the apparent desire of US politicians of both parties to declare war on every small country in the mid-east, deaths from war continue to fall and violence in general continues its decline. Every day the news is full of new secular miracles, from 3-D printers that can produce the head for Jeff Dunham's new dummy to medical procedures that save lives that would have been lost even as recently as a few years ago. The average American household continues to be able to afford fantastic toys that the rich of a generation ago could not have imagined, and poor Americans today are more likely to own basic necessities (not to mention "toys") than was the average American household a generation ago.
And perhaps most important: a diminishing percentage of humanity lives on less than $1 per day, and global income inequality is falling as well.
Even as freedom retreats in some quarters, the freedoms we have left continue to improve the lot of humanity in ways our ancestors could only dream of. The sad part is that we continue to weight and shackle ourselves in ways that are slowing that progress from what it could have been. We do so because too many are too skeptical about the benefits of freedom and those with power (or who want it) are all too willing to take advantage of that skepticism to serve their own interests, both political and corporate.
As we pause to recognize all we are grateful for today, let's also re-commit ourselves to the task at hand, which is to understand the degree to which free people under the right institutions can maximize the degree of social cooperation, peace, and prosperity made possible by the progressive extension of the division of labor and exchange. And let's further re-commit ourselves to taking what we've learned and spreading it to the four corners of the Earth so that the cornucopia so many enjoy in the West can be the reality not just for every American, but for all of humanity.