Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


Views from the Center


Been discouraged about the state of the world recently? (Me, too.) Charles Kenny’s new book should be at the top of our reading lists. In Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding–And How We Can Improve the World Even More, Charles argues that the quality of life--health, education, access to infrastructure, fundamental rights—has progressed at a staggering pace in recent decades, even in the very poorest countries. The spread of ideas and new technologies mean that living standards, even in countries that have failed to grow economically, are much higher today than they’ve ever been before.

Among the signs of things getting better you can find in Charles’ book (or in his accompanying CGD essay, Getting Better in Pictures):

  • Since the late 19th century, the chance of a child born anywhere in the world dying before its first birthday plummeted from 1 in 5 to just 1 in 20 today.
  • In the 12 unfortunate countries with lower incomes in 2005 than 1960 (on average 27% lower!), average life expectancy nonetheless increased by 10 years and literacy doubled.
  • Beer production is at an all-time high, and per capita consumption is converging across countries, regardless of income levels.

The book is full of encouraging fact McNuggets like these that can serve as a psychic pick-me-up snack. To help these factoids—and Charles’s book—attract the attention that they richly deserve, we’re sponsoring a Twitter contest (HT to Wren Elhai for this cool idea) for the next couple of weeks. To play, just Tweet your best evidence of how the world is getting better. Include #GettingBetter and (character limits allowing) mention either @CGDev or @CharlesJKenny. You may draw your examples from Charles’s book or elsewhere. In keeping with his inimitable style, funny is good but not required to win.

@CharlesJKenny and @CGDev, our institutional Twitter feed, will retweet selected entries along the way. On March 18 or soon after we will select our favorites applying a combination of regression analysis and statistical tools derived from Google’s secret algorithms. Winners will receive a signed copy of the book that inspired Felix Salmon, finance blogger for Reuters, to write: “I learned more from this book than from any other book I’ve ever read.” (I am NOT making this up, go here and click on “reviews” to read what Felix and others have to say about Getting Better…).

If you’re not on Twitter, this may just be the nudge you have been waiting for. We will also accept entries posted as comments on this blog post. Good luck!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.