What if you could tap your magic slippers together three times, recite a treacly incantation, and everything got better just like that?
This metaphor explains that past 77 years. Really!
Skeptical? I would expect no less.
I know stories work better than statistics, but I’m going to give statistics a go. Let’s compare life in the US in 1939, the year the Wizard of Oz debuted, and 2016. Has life gotten better since then?
My comparison is VERY approximate; if anything, the gaps will be bigger than stated below, so round up. But approximate should be good enough for my purposes.
Life expectancy, 1939: 63 2016: 79
Income per person, 1939: $10,600 2016: $53,350 (inflation adjusted)
Newborn deaths, 1939: 16/1000 2016: 3.6/1000
Child Mortality (0-5), 1939: 61/1000 2016: 6.5/1000
White male/female high school completion, 1939: 24%/28% 2016: 82%/82%
Black male/female high school completion, 1939: 8%/9% 2016: 73%
I could go on about the decrease in crime, violence, teen pregnancies; and the improvements in health, education, civil rights…even animal welfare!
So in 1939 the greatest generation was about to be cast into the crucible of World War II. (Note that since the end of WWII we have had 70 years of increasing peace.) The year that panzers crossed into Poland, back here in America folks had five times less money than people do today. They also completed high school at much lower rates. Note that whites increased their high school completion rate more than threefold, and blacks realized an eightfold increase. For every 4 babies that died in 1939, only one dies today. For every nine children who died between birth and five in 1939, today only one dies. Today people have about 16 extra years to live.
What price would you put on 16 years of life? That should alone convince the skeptic that we’re making progress.
Back to Oz.
So it’s 1939. Let’s run the lines:
World: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Henry the Protopian Fairy: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to make life better and better. You’ll be doing it for the next 77 years and beyond!
The Pessimistic Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her the good news before, you evil imperialist industrialist!
Henry: I have been. No one’s listening. She didn’t believe me. She had to learn it for herself.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, World?
World: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn’t enough just to want to read the papers — if I ever go looking for a better world, I should look at how the world has changed…use facts, not stories. Because it’s there, in the facts. Is that right?
Henry: That’s all it is! Life is getting better!
Scarecrow: But that’s so easy! I should’ve thought of it for you –
Henry: No, she had to find it out for herself. Now tap those magic slippers and watch the world get better!
Henry: Whenever you wish.
Meantime, just tap three times.