Henderson on Pinker
By David Henderson
Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now is, quite simply, a fantastic book. In this fact-filled and incredibly well-footnoted tome, Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor, shows how the conditions of life for ordinary people have gotten much better, not just for those in wealthy countries but also for most people around the world.
He shows that life expectancy has increased almost everywhere, health and nutrition have improved, and wealth and living standards have skyrocketed. The environment has improved. The destruction caused by war—and war itself—have decreased. Safety has increased and terrorism is a tiny problem. Literacy has increased. People have become generally more tolerant of others’ differences and people are happier.
He attributes this progress to the Enlightenment, the four pillars of which—as the book’s subtitle suggests—are reason, science, humanism, and progress. In laying out the facts and his argument, Pinker also shows a knack for the punchy, and often humorous, turn of phrase. Although he occasionally slips, as when he criticizes libertarianism, his slips are few and far between.
These are the opening 3 paragraphs of “The Wonder of Modern Life,” which is the lead book review in the Summer 2018 issue of Regulation.
Do read the whole thing, especially if you want to comment.
And, even better, read Pinker’s book; you will likely be “enlightened.”
HT to Pierre Lemieux and Richard B. McKenzie for telling me that the issue is out electronically.