Reflections of a Political Economist: Selected Articles on Government Policies and Political Processes

By William A. Niskanen | Go to book overview

39. A Reflection on the Major
Developments in the World,
1951–2000

We made it! We are the lucky ones. We beat the odds. When we were born, our expected life span was about 62 years for baby boys and about 65 years for baby girls. And most of us now have reason to expect another 10 to 20 years for those important activities for which we have not previously had the time, money, or inclination. So let us be thankful for the blessings of life, liberty, and—with an assist from modern medicine—the pursuit of happiness.

I am honored that you have asked me to reflect on the most important developments in America and the world over the past 50 years—subject only to the constraint that I be mercifully brief. There were many important developments in this period, of course, and my selection and interpretation of the most important of these developments almost surely reflects my own background and experience; I doubt whether someone who grew up in Berlin or Beijing or who graduated in 1940 or 1960 would have the same perspective on this issue as someone, say, who graduated in Bend in 1950. Some of you may even have a different perspective, and that can be the basis for an interesting conversation. In any case, my remarks summarize my perspective on politics, science, the economy, the arts, and popular culture; and my focus is on those developments during the past 50 years that are likely to be considered to be most important over the next 50 years.


Politics

The most dramatic and important political developments of this period were the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of the

This was my speech in June 2005 to a reunion of my high school class on the 50th
anniversary of our graduation from Bend High School in Bend, Oregon.

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