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Ed Hudgins

Cato's HumanProgress.org Quantifies Good News

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Cato's HumanProgress.org Quantifies Good News

By Edward Hudgins

October 31, 2013 -- The Cato Institute has launched a new website, HumanProgress.org, which quantifies the good news that, overall, things are getting better all the time.

The project, directed by Marian Tupy, pulls together in one location data sets organized into eighteen categories, among them food, health, housing, education, energy, environment, and violence. Want to look at the rise over past decades of caloric intake or the decrease in infant mortality worldwide or in particular countries? Want to look at the relationships between such factors? Want to compare how much food $1,000 would purchase for an Egyptian in 1970 versus 2010? This website, with its powerful search functions, will allow you to do so.

Users of this website will need to make their own judgments concerning the relative importance of the various factors to human progress. For example, is it progress if a country sees a decrease in forest cover but also a decrease in levels of malnutrition? Fortunately, the data also show that once economic development reaches a certain level, there is improvement in most factors across the board.

Among the data sets integrated into the website are those from the Economic Freedom of the World reports, which have been produced for two decades under the leadership of the Fraser Institute in Canada and published in the United States by Cato. (Full disclosure: I worked on the initial development of that report, and laid the foundations for the similar index produced by the Heritage Foundation.)

Those reports measure the degree of economic liberty in all the countries for which there is data over time. The reports have become a valuable tool for showing the relationship between free markets and economic prosperity. HumanProgress.org now makes easier to look at the relationships between free markets and many measures of human progress.

The data sets one can explore on the website show that by virtually any measure the world is a better place today than at any time in human history. But it also reveals where the problems are and suggests how they might be dealt with.

Getting good, accurate data is always a challenge and this website will be improved and refined over time, just as have been the Economic Freedom reports. So this website should become an ever more indispensable tool for anyone interested in human well-being and the betterment of humanity worldwide.

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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “It’s Getting Better All the Time: Double Book Review.” April 24, 2013

*Walter Donway, “U.S. Economic Freedom: Retreat Becomes Rout.” September 18, 2012

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