When we think of the past 10 years of American and global history, we become panic stricken, fearful that things like the 2008 economic meltdown and housing bubble burst could be just around the next corner at any time. The truth of the matter is that on the whole, the US economy and how Americans live has improved significantly over the past two centuries—but taken out of context, we just aren’t able to see things this way.
It’s hard to imagine that things at any other time could have been worse when we see our neighbors being thrown out of their houses by the local sheriff due to foreclosure they just can’t financially keep up with. But imagine this: creating shelter with your own two hands, living in a covered wagon until it’s complete, and dealing with the deaths of multiple children due to a lack of medicine and acumen in the field of medicine. You may find yourself saying, “Well, that’s apples and oranges,” but is it really? After all, we are still in the same country.
While today’s poverty issues in the US are definitely a real issue (one in six children going to bed hungry every night) there was a time when poverty wasn’t really the issue—the challenges were instead about not having the resources that modern convenience have brought us, regardless of how much money one would have had in the mid-1800s.
Think about the fact that in the news recently we are starting to have a very real discussion about raising minimum wage, and not just by a quarter, but by several dollars. In addition, advances in the health industry have made it possible for our children and ourselves to live. And when you put things in perspective, think of this: is it better to go bankrupt to save your child, or to have your child die? Anyone who has a child knows the answer to this without any debate.
Many of us are concerned that our cell phone carrier doesn't have fair prices or good enough coverage; but there was once a time when women did not even know they were widows until they received a letter weeks or months after their husbands had been killed on the battlefield. Communication has advanced so tremendously that we have taken for granted the possibilities we have because of it. Think of the people under the age of 30 in the US who have used simple innovations and “getting out of the box” thinking to create apps, software, brick and mortar venues, and other platforms that make communicating with loved ones a matter of mere seconds. These innovators didn’t have to spend much money (or in some cases no money) at all to make the world a better place to live. Most of these people are college graduates—and none of them would likely suggest that the obscene cost of higher education wasn’t worth it now.
And here's a closer that really brings it home: more than 95 percent of people on Earth don't live in the home of the free, and their struggles mirror what our citizenry were facing centuries ago. It's all a matter of perspective regarding affordability, availability, and real life changing education that allows us to climb closer to the top than past generations.