It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the 20th Century

It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the 20th Century

It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the 20th Century

It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the 20th Century

Excerpt

In February 1998 Julian Simon died of a heart attack at the age of 65. Julian had been my mentor from the time we met at the University of Illinois in 1980—where he taught economics and I was an undergraduate student and then his research assistant. In 1983 we came to Washington together and I worked as his research assistant for the next several years. He was my mentor. After that we worked on and off together on projects for the next decade. At the time of his death, he and I had been well under way in collaborating on writing this book. In fact, he had just finished editing a preliminary first draft.

I'll take credit for the idea. I had gone to Julian and told him to take all his great material over the years (he wrote dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly articles) and construct a kind of index of human progress in the form of a book of charts that are easy to read and digest. I thought it might be particularly marketable if it were timed with the start of the new millennium. He said, great idea, let's do it together. (You can imagine how flattering that was.) Julian was a fanatic about collecting some of the most unusual data and statistics, and so his files that we plowed through together were a treasure chest of information on long-term trends on everything from life expectancy to the speed of the microchip. Julian was a fervent believer that the best predictor of the future was the past and that the best way to measure the past was to get the longest-term data possible to detect the real trend lines.

After Julian died the project went into hibernation for more than a year. Without Julian prodding me along and without his input, it languished. In late 1999 Cato published a preliminary version of the book in the form of a study titled “The 25 Greatest Trends of the 20th Century.” That study received such an enthusiastic response that I was inspired to complete the book. (Julian's family was very supportive of finishing it too.) The book will serve as a handy and abbreviated compilation of many of his best ideas. The tragedy is that this book could have been so much better if Julian had lived.

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