One commenter to my last essay thought that I had ‘a Pollyanna view of the world’. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but it gave me the focus for another essay, which follows naturally from the last two. What has been most interesting in the Comments to these two essays about progress has been the determination on the part of some readers to continue to see the world as bad, dangerous, awful, unequal, unfair, what you will, in the face of good global data that don’t say the opposite, exactly, but make the point that for the great majority out in the world, things are getting better. What sort of things? Well, they live longer, they are less hungry, there is less war, economic growth is occurring almost everywhere as girls are educated and baby production drops. There are more possibilities for more people, again, almost everywhere. What’s not to like?

I had to remind myself about Pollyanna, who is the heroine of a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, in which a young girl is sent to live with a nasty old aunt who treats her badly. Her Dad had taught her always to find something positive in the world, and she applied this teaching to all the vexatious things that happened to her, and to what happened to their neighbours in the village. Eventually she loses the use of her legs when she is knocked over by a car. The village rallies, and people come to see Pollyanna and tell her how much her attitude has improved their lives. The girl then takes comfort from the fact that she still has her legs, and in time all ends happily, with the stuffy aunt marrying someone and Pollyanna getting back the use of her legs. The book had lots of sequels, and four films and a TV series came from it. I’ve seen none of them, and never read the book.

Pollyanna doesn’t have a view about the world, but about one’s life: that life is largely what you make of it. Yes, you can have been dealt some poor cards, but it is how you regard your hand and how you play the cards that is important. As a bridge player I can attest to that. Really good players can make a great deal out of little, as I was sometimes horrified to observe when I was playing against them. Pollyanna did not wait for other people to do the things she thought ought to be done; she got in there and did them herself. She was, of course, an optimist, who believed that by and large you can trust people to do the right thing. I am happy to be seen as a kind of male Pollyanna, and I do, and have done, a lot of voluntary community work.

I’ll contrast Pollyanna with Voltaire’s Candide (1759), who began as an optimist. Indeed, the subtitle of the novel is ‘Optimism’. The hero Candide is taught that he lives in the best of all possible worlds, where all is for the best. The novel sets out his continual confrontation with reality, and his increasing disillusion as a result. At the end he devotes himself to a peasant-like existence on a small plot of land (this is a most brusque summary of an incident-filled story). Candide has become, I think, a pessimist — more, one who thinks that the world is naturally horrible and the less you have to do with it the better.

I wrote about optimism and pessimism in earlier essays, here and here. Pessimists agonising about the reality and the future of humanity puzzle me, partly because I don’t feel as they do about what is happening, and partly because the evidence about humanity as a whole points in the opposite direction. Yes, bad things are happening every day, not just in Australia but in other countries too. But over time, the data suggest strongly that things are improving. No doubt pessimists are equally puzzled by my inability to see how horrible things really are. If I were poor, handicapped, of the wrong skin colour (whatever that is, depending on which country you are in), and in a horrible job or no job at all, they would argue, I would think differently. Perhaps, but I hope not, since I have at least been poor. I have known people who had a sunny disposition despite the problems they faced, and I would like to argue that my optimism is partly inborn, and partly the result of a good upbringing.

Before I go much further, I should say that in my experience we all have an optimistic side and a pessimistic side. For example, I remain pessimistic about the failure of the politicians and the electorate to see how the alternative energy madness (fuelled by the CAGW madness) makes electricity supply much more expensive and less reliable. Or, if I were to graph the matter, you would see two curves that show that optimists and pessimists actually share some perceptions, but have outlying perceptions that are rarely shared by the other group. This is a bow to Jordan Peterson and his objection to the over-use of binary opposites.

Let me set out the ways in which what I see as some of the pessimistic Commenters have reacted to the data showing that many bad things have decreased and many good things have increased.

Response 1 (an old seminar tactic) There is no balance. What about bad things getting worse and good things declining? Rosling’s book says nothing about this, and is therefore deficient and we need pay no attention to it.

Response 2 Rosling’s data are too short to suggest that we have a bright future ahead. All sorts of bad things could happen, and most likely will.

Response 3 The homeless in Canberra on a winter’s night will take little comfort from Rosling’s figures.

Response 4 I can show you that things are getting worse for the Rohingya refugees, and Jewish settlements are increasing, and you only need to walk down the streets of a slum in Bogota (and so on…).

Response 5 Thomas Piketty shows that the word is getting more unequal.

Response 6 The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says that this group has moved its Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight.

Response 7 Real wages are falling, species are declining, global debt is increasing (and so on…)

Response 8 It may be true that these things have occurred, but people aren’t happier. The social compact is unravelling. Our leaders are awful (and so on…)

Response 9 The unemployed are not better off merely because their living standard has increased since the 1930s.

Response 10 Perhaps there has been some improvement, but it isn’t fast enough.

I haven’t identified the Commenters, and that’s not the point of this analysis. And one comment at least was in jest (I think), though it could easily be used with great seriousness. What is displayed in the responses is an unwillingness to confront data, in this case good data. It is often possible to bring another dataset to bear, and then the argument becomes methodological. There are several public opinion polls, and they do not agree on particular findings. Which one is right? Probably none of them, but one can at least find out which one is more likely to be right if you are able to look at the methodology.

What we have in the responses is a variety of debating styles. Response 1 is one you see frequently in academia: you take issue with the aim and methodology from the start, and argue that the author should have done something else altogether. In fact, Rosling was quite clear about what he set out to do, and what the outcome is. Response 2 is about prediction. The fact that things are better doesn’t mean that they will continue to get better. Agreed. Rosling made no claims involving prediction, other than the likely size of the human population in 2100, on which he is on safe ground, since he is simply agreeing with the world’s demographers.

Responses 3, 4, 6 and 8 are simply irrelevant to the argument. Rosling says many times that there poor people everywhere, and while armed conflicts have declined, they still occur. Happiness can only be measured by self-report, which is inherently unreliable.Response 5 is about inequality, and Thomas Piketty’s book, which I have referred to before is in no sense a global database. Moreover, it is not straightforwardly the case that economic inequality is rising, let alone rising fast, even in Australia (despite Piketty and Andrew Leigh MP who argues that it is). Finally, as I’ve asked before, many times, what is an acceptable level of income inequality? None of the inequality-denouncers ever says what it might be.

Response 7 requires good global data. When none is provided one is likely to see a hand-wave rather than a substantial argument. Response 9 is plainly mistaken. What the Commenter meant to say (perhaps) was that being a better-off unemployed person is not as good as being an employed person. Maybe, but social welfare provisions now are very much greater than they were in the 1930s, while unemployment, at 32 per cent in May 1932, the worst month in the Depression has dropped to around 5 per cent now (I agree that there is some uncertainty about the level of real unemployment). Response 10 is helplessness exemplified. It is a version of ‘What do we want??’ ‘X!!’ When do we want it? ‘Now!!’

If the commenters were in such a position that they had to answer the question ‘Do you think that the human progress that Rosling draws attention is a good thing?’ they would, I think, be forced to answer that it was, because the negative would make the one who chose it seem an unbelievably heartless creature. My guess is that they would all want to add, ‘but…’ to their ‘Yes’.

Pollyanna wouldn’t hesitate: she is doing her best to make the world an even better place. Rosling is probably right, that it is the little bits that everyone does, having seen it is possible elsewhere, that help to do so.







Join the discussion 85 Comments

  • Doug Hurst says:

    Thanks Don – your thoughts are more realism than optimism to me. I too was poor (by todays standards) but had good parents and a hard working extended family who set a good example. Life is largely what you make it, with some luck along the way, but by most measures most people live better now than at any time in history.

    But like you, I don’t understand the widespread pessimism and continual criticism about all things Australian by so many. I recently visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore and met many there who think highly of us, especially as a place to live or to seek education.

    Being permanently aggrieved and angry is unlikely to lead to a happy life, but such malcontents are unlikely to listen to old white men like us so I am more and more just ignoring them.

  • Chris Warren says:


    You are batting on the wrong side of the wicket. The balls are coming from another direction.

    Piketty and Leigh are the balls and you cannot wave them off with a cursory “despite”.

    Turn around and you will see all the data for ball 7 – ACTU and ILO have published this.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Chris, you didn’t go to the link and thereby read the paper by Fenner and Tapper. It might be worth your while. Measuring economic inequality is fraught anyway, but they do a good job.

      • Chris Warren says:


        Are you referring to Alan Fenna [not Fenner] and Alan Tapper’s “The Australian Welfare State and the
        Neoliberalism Thesis” in Australian Journal of Political Science 2012?

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Yes. I think AutoCorrect, which is more likely to know of Frank Fenner than Alan Fenna, changed what I thought I’d written.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            And you still haven’t looked at my essay which described what they did, let alone read the essay itself.

  • Chris Warren says:

    A document, in effect, illustrating one of the dynamics by which the poor get poorer – real wages are pushed down as a % of production.

    The ILO has data showing that average wages are falling behind labour productivity – a sure pointer to workers getting poorer.–en/index.htm

    So who gets the benefit of capital or multi-factor productivity?

    • spangled drongo says:

      Rosling wasn’t exclusively referring to the developed economies, blith.

      When there is an extra couple of billion hard-working, desperate-to-improve people thrown into the mix do you think the self-indulged western worker wouldn’t feel the competition?

      If you had an ounce of positive, rational thinking in you, you would be extremely aware, grateful and thankful that the world has absorbed the enormous net standard of living increase so amazingly well.

      If there’s one thing that damages a functioning Pollyanna view it’s the enuresis-induced wet blankets of this world.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        SD has beaten me to it, but both your links refer to developed economies, and it is obvious that since manufacturing has been pushed into countries where wage rates are relatively low compared with ours (the EU’s…) you are comparing a part with the whole. Also there is strong evidence for a cyclic movement in wages and prices in industrial economies, and if that is the case then some of the explanation is provided for (that is, if you are interested in explanation).

        • Chris Warren says:


          So-called SD comments are caught by my filter so I am not sure what the issue is. You may have been misled by our house-troll.

          However, my comment was to your point 7 which certainly can include developed economies.

          The ACTU and ILO do NOT “hand wave”. They use good global data and provide substantial argument.

          I am not clear what is “part” and what is “whole”. Productivity consists of three parts – labour, capital, and multifactor.

          The wages “part” is a part of labour productivity “whole” – as I see it.

          The wages part is making conditions much worse for workers in developed economies.


          • spangled drongo says:

            “So-called SD comments are caught by my filter”

            Apart from the silliness his comments, to do this in order to deny one side of the debate to help his weak arguments, says it all about our blith.


          • Don Aitkin says:

            Neither the ACTU nor the ILO used ‘good global data’. They explored data from developed economies, mostly those in the OECD. So you are comparing part of the world with the whole of the world, always a bad move, especially since you don’t have good data for the rest of the world. The issue is not about ‘developed economies’, it is about movements in the human world — all countries.

          • Chris Warren says:


            That was obviously just silly. What was wrong with the data used by the ACTU or ILO.

            Your attempt to shoot the messenger has backfired.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Chris, you really do have trouble in understanding. The ACTU and ILO use OECD data for the most part. The OECD includes 35 countries, while the UN’s membership exceeds 194. Rosling was using global data. You are not, and nor are your sources. You cannot use data from 35 countries as representing the world. You have left out 159 other nations.

            I don’t know how else to express your problem.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Don, as a bridge player, you will recognise that success is primarily dependent on avoidance of error. There is no evidence that errors are, at any level or in any way, diminishing, so I think the ‘Pollyanna’ tag has more than a grain of truth. Shouting ‘the sky is not falling’ is all very well, but it does require people to deny the evidence of their own senses. Life in Australia is not improving, and has not been for some years now.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Life in Australia is not improving? Which bits of life? Compared with when? A quick look at the ABS data doesn’t suggest that much is going backwards. And when indicators like infant death rates are very low, it is hard to show a substantial improvement.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Don, you live in Canberra. One of the wealthiest and most cosseted populations in Australia.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          What an irrelevance! You are slamming the arguments by pointing to where the speaker lives. Surely you wouldn’t allow that in one of your seminars. For the record, I lived in Canberra when I was a boy, too. It was a town of 15,000 people. I have also lived in Oxford, Paris, Ann Arbor, Sydney, and London, as well as Bateman’s Bay, which has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country. You can do better than this.

          • Chris Warren says:


            What is the data for youth unemployment in Bateman’s Bay?

            I understood that youth unemployment in Eden Monaro was low because unemployed youths tended to travel to Sydney and etc to search for a different life.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            It was around 30 per cent when I lived there.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Don, I have lived in Canberra, in the 60s and the 80s. In my opinion, apart from academia, it is one of the most intellectually isolated parts of Australia.

            In reference to other comments, if we are doomed to a static population (without the ‘jobs and growth’ mantra), why can we not have it now?

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Bryan, in the late 1960s, when I became reasonably well known and met with people from embassies and the public service as well as academia, I thought it was wonderfully lively, and you could get a decent conversation about Australia as a whole. In the 1970s I was in Sydney, where that just wasn’t true. Conversation there was extraordinarily Sydney-centric, preoccupied with money, and who-would-win (whatever). Back in Canberra in the 1980s it was even better than it had been in the 1960s. Canberra was also more alert to what was happening overseas than had been my experience in Sydney.

            I don’t know why you had the experience you had. It certainly wasn’t mine.

          • Chris Warren says:


            I have lived in Canberra more than twice as long as you. It is by far, due to various institutions, the most intellectually connected centre in Australia other than in some fields such as marine industries, heavy engineering and theology.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Don, I lived in Perth, for a while. Somewhere of which the Canberra Times had never heard.

            Chris, I moved there in 65. If you didn’t, forget commenting.

  • In almost all circumstances there are both positive and negative aspects. Whichever side is focused upon tends to predominate and to govern our relation to both the world and of the world back to us. Positive people tend to be more successful, “luckier”, better liked and more satisfied with their lives than those who focus on the negatives. Unfortunately, bad news is attention getting and tends to predominate in the news media. Then too, ethical disapproval of the behavior of others affords a delicious sense of moral superiority without the bothersome need for any personal cost, effort or achievement.

    Bad news and righteousness make for a toxic world view of a bad place filled with bad people, a perspective that is likely to be self-fulfilling in regard to personal experience. Despite the fact that in the developed world the population enjoys an unprecedented level of health, wealth, comfort and ease, depression is becoming epidemic. A bit more focus on the positive is not just being a Pollyanna. It is a smarter way to live.

    • JMO says:

      Agreed Walter, a more optimistic person has the odds for him/her to be more successful, well off and contended despite the obvious negatives that have always abound the world. My younger brother was better off than me when we both left home, 45 odd years later he is on welfare (for the last 24 years) and rather poor (unless he has not told me whether he won Lotto a few times), still miserable and pessimistic of Australia (the hand that essentially feeds him) , constantly complains of his perceived medical problems and still considers we are facing a climate emergency. Whereas now I am far far better off ( he would say rich – no I have never had a big redundancy payout or won Lotto)), happy, contended, no medical problems (as yet) , consider the world is getting better (in rather haphazard way) and a climate calmist ( once an alarmist – but saw the light).

      I must take issue (in a personal way) about Don’s remark on CAGW madness. Due to this “madness”, I have not paid an electricity bill for over 6 years, recently I did get one bill for $90 – oh dear what a rude shock. So I am rather perplexed about others who complain about electricity prices did not see the writing on the wall around 2009 and decide to do something about it, following the maxim “il faut cultiver son Jardin”! (The end punch line of Voltaire’s (Francois-Marie Arouet) “Candide”).

    • spangled drongo says:

      Well said, Walter.

      The success you can achieve by being positive can be quite breath-taking.

      The real world Pollyanna effect is what gets us there.

      It’s known as making your own luck.

  • Michael Dunn says:

    Thank you Don. Among other things, I appreciate, as a Pollyanna myself, your summary of her story. Another Pollyanna was the author Albert Facey, whose book A Fortunate Life reveals what a poor Australian rural labourer made of the cards life dealt him. Worth reading.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Yes, Facey’s book is a great read. I think I heard it read on ABC radio a long time ago, and that pushed me to buy the book so that I wouldn’t miss an episode

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Generalising from the particular. “I made it, therefore God’s in His Heaven and all’s right with the world”.

  • BB says:

    Well I am both pessimistic and optimistic about the world. The advance in all aspects of human existence is vast compared to say the 1700s. This is for the whole world not just a few countries. Yes there are disparities but in the main life in the most poverty stricken countries is better than it was in England in the 1700s. One of the classic concerns of the doomsayer is world population it seems it never occurs to them why it has increased so greatly. The controls that kept our population around 500 million 300 years ago have greatly diminished. Food, health, protection from extreme events, cold and heat to name a few. The population has increased because of abundant resource produced by human expertise. I accept I would not be alive, probably gallstones and kidney disease would have got me by now. Thank you to modern medicine which gets better all the time in fact my GP tells me every extra year I live extends my longevity by 2 1/2 weeks.

    My pessimism is generated by those who wish to tear all of that down. The deep green who was too close to comfort for me in my nearest brother. The natural world according to him was our friend and humanity that virus is destroying it. There are too many people there really should be only about 500 million. Attack the means of generating electricity so that its use is greatly diminished is their mantra. For them fossil fuels are touted as the main enemy but I can only think that their use is what has made civilisation rise to the level it has. Oh no it is poison it will make the planet fry but is it in their heart of hearts known if they are successful in this it will end modern civilisation. Unfortunately I cannot just tell them to go away there is too much influence exerted by them and they need to be opposed at every turn. Remember the environmentalist cry “if it works it is not Green”. If someone were to invent an emission free power source which cost very little without impact on the environment and produced as much energy as anyone could possibly need I am sure there would be total opposition from the environmental movement.

    How well I remember “Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”. A planet put the story to the populace that disaster loomed and that they should build three giant spaceships in order to leave. They did so and the first ship was assigned all those who were impediments to society. It was launched then the other two suddenly discovered there wasn’t a problem after all. Unfortunately that first ship landed on earth and formed environmental groups.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      I have nothing against optimism – I lived for many years on hope, and not much else. However, believing an ever expanding population can live an increasingly affluent lifestyle is worthy of Disney’s Fantasyland. There will be limits, but as yet, nobody is prepared to admit to them, to prepare for them, or to specify what they should be.

      • spangled drongo says:

        “However, believing an ever expanding population can live an increasingly affluent lifestyle is worthy of Disney’s Fantasyland.”

        Bryan, as BB just explained above it’s the other way round.

        It’s the improving lifestyle that is leading to the increased population.

        It’s a fundamental law of nature.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          “It’s the improving lifestyle that is leading to the increased population”

          Tell that to the Africans.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Ever studied extinctions?

          • spangled drongo says:

            Bryan, in spite of their 400% increase in population in the last 50 years, the World Bank’s poverty measurement team estimates that the percentage of poor Africans fell from 58% in 1999 to 47.5% in 2008.

            The fact that it fell at all defeats your argument.

            If the poor increased by up to 399% that would still be an improvement.

      • BB says:

        The population will start to decrease when resources start to decrease. If the African population is increasing it is only because of an increase in resource. This is a fundamental that humans cannot change. If the resource declines then the population will also. Besides you have introduced a straw man. I never wrote that it would be an ever expanding population or an increasingly affluent lifestyle.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Bryan, I know you have no intention of reading the book, and that makes it really difficult to discuss things with you. There are limits, and I’ve described them in earlier essays. But here is Rosling (p.76): ‘The world population today is 7.6 billion people, and yes it’s growing fast. Still the growth has already started to slow down, and the UN experts are pretty sure it will keep slowing down over the next few decades. They think the curve will flatten out at somewhere between 10 and 12 billion by the end of the century.’
        There are 2 billion children now, and there is expected to be 2 billion children by 2100. Why? Because the NRR (net reproduction rate) of the human population has declined rapidly from the middle 1960s (5) to now (2.5). As wealth increases families don’t need to be large, and the efforts of the parents are focussed on a couple of children, not on a drove. Women who are educated have skills that put them in the workforce. They don’t want a large family. Contraception is practised as much in Catholic countries as it is in Muslim countries. Women know what they are doing. And so on. You really should see his TED talk about population, which is really arresting.

        And we needn’t worry about the Muslims overtaking us by breeding. The NRR in Iran (1.7) is the same as that in Italy (1.7) and indeed Australia (1.7). Growth in wealth for the poor countries, growth that moves them from substance to something more, is the key. Rosling shows that it has been happening for the past thirty years. It is still happening. I see no reason why it won’t continue to happen, but I am not a predictor.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          Don, you really should read Dr Jane O’Sullivan’s submission to the productivity commission.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            That was quick. Bryan, her submission is about Australia, and though she shows GDP/TFR ratios they accord with what Rosling says. Countries with low birthrates have higher GDP increases.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          … and when you tell me the population will approximately double, but the number of babies will remain the same, send me the name of your local drug dealer.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Bryan, the arithmetic is simple. We are at ‘peak child’ now.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            So, with double the population, will the peak remain the same?

            I may not be quick on my feet, but I am not stupid.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Max Roser (your source below) says much the same as Hans Rosling. While he isn’t sure that ‘peak child’ is here he says it is very close if it is not here. The rise in the number of births has stopped increasing. IF, things go on as they have dome for the last thirty years — contraception remains available, education of girls (90 per cent already have primary education) continues and poor countries get wealthier, THEN at the end of the century we will have about the same number of children as we have today. If they reproduce themselves at the same rate, we will have a static or declining population.

            This is simple demography with a few assumptions thrown in. I agree that the assumptions may not be met, girls may be banished from school, the Pope will be listened to more seriously by women, and countries that are poor will get poorer, for some reason.If that happens, then this demographic prediction will not be met.

  • Neville says:

    I think Don is wasting his time trying to get Bryan and Chris etc to understand simple data.
    The evidence is freely available but they don’t want to know and their general attitude certainly justifies Dr Rosling’s ignorance project.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Free evidence.
    When will the world reach ‘peak child’?

  • Chris Warren says:

    Deliberately confusing falling inequality between nations with inequality within nations is pointless.

    People live within nations NOT between nations and even in developed nations, wages are falling, housing is becoming unaffordable and poverty is increasing.

    According to the UN;

    Poverty is no longer a problem of devel-
    oping regions only; it is also on the rise in
    developed countries. The International Labour
    Organization estimates that in 2012 more than
    300 million people in developed countries
    lived in poverty.
    Children and women are the most affected
    by poverty, and 36 percent of children in de-
    veloped countries live under the relative pov-
    erty line, in households with an income below
    60 percent of the national median household
    income. In the United States 32 million adults
    are functionally illiterate, and in the United
    Kingdom 8 million.

    You cannot Pollyanna this by pointing at external trends between one nation and another.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Chris, what is it about comparisons that you don’t understand?

      For the last time. Rosling is comparing what nations as a whole were like thirty years ago with that they are like now, along a set of variable for which he has good global data. That’s all. All those things you want to say are irrelevant to this comparison. Ok, you don’t think that what Rosling is done is important. But it is NOT refuted by pointing to what happened in this country or that country, or functional illiteracy in these countries, or how many people in which countries fall below the poverty line. No doubt these are important questions, but, again, they do NOT refute what he has shown.

      If you don’t understand this crucial distinction there is no hope for you.

      • BB says:

        On the whole I am optimistic but it is the blinkered idiot stuck in their confirmation bias that does give me pessimistic thoughts. Unfortunately they have a sway in the general populace who don’t counter them with data and reason. The public unfortunately are not swayed by data and reason. There is an interesting book by Scott Adams it is called “Win Bigly” in which cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias of the general populace is discussed. To change things one needs to persuade by means other than data and reason.

        It is a sad reflection on the intelligence of humanity which is another thing we have been misled about.

      • Chris Warren says:


        No-one is trying to refute Rosling.

        The broader context means his presentation is not adequate and his approach to climate change is threadbare.

        He reports only on some aspects which others mistakenly use to promulgate Pollyannas. This is the problem – not Roslings (restricted) facts.

  • Bazza says:

    Pollyanna was a child. She played the ‘glad game’.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    In a world getting richer, Rosling’s observation is worthy of an Ig Nobel prize. It is blatantly obvious that ‘richer is better’, and that that will affect all strata of society. It does not require a genius (or a statistician) to know when dollars and not pennies are being dropped into the poor box. As far as babies are concerned, growth is not good, and societies are going to have to adjust. At present, a ‘non-growing’ economy is inconceivable. So when babies stop being produced, the economic world ends? Sorry, Don, but you can do better.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Bryan, I think you have forgotten what all this was about. Rosling wrote his book because he kept coming across people who thought the world was getting worse and worse, and that things were terrible.In fact, as he shows, there has been consistent improvement in important measurable variables for a generation and more. Why, then are people so convinced that things are so bad? His book is about the reasons why. Since you haven’t read the book, and do not intend to, you have created another book which you think Rosling wrote. He didn’t.

      As to population, at the moment Australia does not replace its own population through natural forces (births exceeding deaths). Our NRR is 1.7. We therefore have a large immigration program. I think it is too large, and is one of the main reasons our housing stock is well behind demand and our housing prices so high (the price of land is another important variable). The same is true (NRR, that is) for much of Western Europe. In due course, I think there will be a reaction against taking in people to do the jobs the natives don’t want to do, and a lot of those are being mechanised anyway. Japan has had a static population for the last twenty years or so, and is managing. I’m sure Denmark and Sweden will, too. So will we. It’s not that hard if you are a rich country.

      You are right to point to shifting populations as an important issue. We take in about 20,000 refugees a year (way ahead of any other country per head of native population), and about ten times as many come as students many of whom would like to stay, people with skills (often meaning money), and family reunion. If you think there are looming problems ahead for Australia, fine. But there is no need to confuse what Rosling argued, and the evidence he presented, with your own sense of what is important.

      And I can always do better. I try to, too.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        “Rosling wrote his book because he kept coming across people who thought the world was getting worse and worse, and that things were terrible”
        I do not recall subscribing to this view. I said the world was getting richer, and it was hardly surprising that life was better across many nations. I also said my concerns were with Australia, not the world in general.
        The ‘declining population’ fear is a myth, and I am surprised you subscribe to it. It has been discussed extensively by Mark O’Connor and others, and you may recall that Australia survived quite happily with a population far lower than at present.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          I didn’t say you subscribe to these gloomy views (though there is at least a hint of it in what you have written). And I don’t subscribe to the falling population myth. I simply report that it exists. I do think no harm would be done if we reduced our immigrant intake by about half, though recent incidents show how difficult that will be because of the lobbies that surround the current ‘policy’.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Don, I suspected you were sensible at heart, although sometimes it was difficult to discern.
            I am normally a Labor voter, and object to feeding the rich, but I do not like politicians being beholden to interest groups. I defy you to identify ANY current policies, from either side, that will result in better conditions for the current population.
            I can’t, which is why I am gloomy.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            But what I am going to do now, is enjoy the love duet between Sena Jurinac and Anneliese Rothenberger in Rosenkavalier. In my opinion, the most perfect moment in all of grand opera.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Ah, I join with you in despairing of our current crop of politicians. There is a real lack of will and of courage. Cory Bernardi finally shook his head and left, forming another party. The recent budget and the debate thereon has been a miserable who-can-buy-votes-best contest.

            And that duet has to be in the top five, though I’m not knowledgable enough about the singers to opt for the pair you named. Rosenkavalier was the first grand opera I ever saw, in the old Elizabethan in Newtown.

          • Chris Warren says:


            I too despair at the current crop of politicians. There really is a lack of will, courage and political direction. The fact that Cory exited-Right may be a good thing particularly if others of his ilk tail him off into the political distance.

            If you do not tackle the top end of town there never will be a fair Australia. I doubt whether Cory produced this youtube statement:

  • JimboR says:

    “Countries allowing leaded petrol: 193 in 1986; 3 in 2017.”

    Lead Wars is a good read. Vested interests firing off a “disputed science” campaign that gets lapped up by citizen scientists with an anti-regulation bent. Where I have seen that before? These days, nobody even admits to being on the wrong side of that science.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Scientists of the Groupthink, enuresistic persuasion must excommunicate any objection.

    So they sack Pollyannas:

  • margaret says:

    Jordan Peterson is no Pollyanna, yet there are three cheers for him?

    • spangled drongo says:

      Peterson should get 4 cheers. He’s understandably a more mature optimist than Pollyanna.

      Also feminists are inclined to misrepresent Pollyanna, marg.

      They hate femininity.

    • margaret says:

      “But witches don’t exist, and they don’t live in swamps, I say.
      Jordan Peterson:
      “Yeah, they do. They do exist. They just don’t exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist. You may say well dragons don’t exist. It’s, like, yes they do — the category predator and the category dragon are the same category. It absolutely exists. It’s a superordinate category. It exists absolutely more than anything else. In fact, it really exists. What exists is not obvious. You say, ‘Well, there’s no such thing as witches.’ Yeah, I know what you mean, but that isn’t what you think when you go see a movie about them. You can’t help but fall into these categories. There’s no escape from them.”
      ? Oh dear.

  • Chris Warren says:

    It may be too late for Rosling to get a wake-up call, but not so for the rest of us?

    Please do not shoot OXFAM.

    • spangled drongo says:

      How long should we wait to hear Oxfam tell us that the world is in good shape, blith?

      As long as GBRMPA takes to tell us to sack them because the GBR is similar?

      Or longer?

      And as usual you avoid what Rosling is telling you.

      But being so obtuse you can’t help it.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Great news!

    Peter Ridd achieves his target for legal funding against the anti Pollyannas.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Pollyanna at least knows the difference between advocacy and objectivity.

    And likewise do the old astronauts who sadly have to remind their old employer:

    “As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate. We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject. At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself.

    The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements”.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Tim Blair nails it:

      “The problem for deep-state players like NASA and its subsidiaries is the basic weakness of bureaucrats, generally, and especially scientist bureaucrats. Once you create a government agency to examine and resolve a problem, you guarantee it will not happen. The agency will almost immediately begin expanding the problem and ensuring it is not resolved. As Upton Sinclair said,

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

      What does it remind you of?

      This is exactly what Peter Ridd awa the rest of us are facing. The combination of the money and the groupthink is very hard for rational optimism to win against.

  • spangled drongo says:

    As a natural Pollyanna, I always considered Lindzen’s “Earth’s naturally adaptive iris” theory to make sense yet both he and it were discredited by the groupthinkers and anyone wanting to further research the “iris effect” science back then was told not to bother.

    Now, thankfully, new light is being shone on this theory which, if correct, will introduce considerable negative feedbacks that aren’t accounted for in the IPCC reports and which would reduce ECS to probably less than 1c:

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    It’s on uTube. Swarzkopf as the Marschallin and Karajan conducting. Arrival of Rofrano and presentation of the rose from about 1.15.

  • David says:

    Trump talking about North Korea

    “In the end it will work out. I can’t tell you how or why, but it always does”

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