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Review Essay

Doomsday Delusions

The Case for Optimism in a Pessimistic Age

In This Review

It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear
It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear
By Gregg Easterbrook
PublicAffairs, 2018, 352 pp. Purchase
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
By Hans Rosling
Flatiron Books, 2018, 352 pp. Purchase
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
By Steven Pinker
Viking, 2018, 576 pp. Purchase

Anyone glancing at a newspaper these days finds a litany of woes: war, crime, disease, terrorism, and environmental disasters, all sandwiched between predictions of the coming collapse of market capitalism and liberal democracy. U.S. politicians on both the right, such as President Donald Trump, and the left, such as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, warn that the United States and the world are sliding toward calamity. Pessimism rules the day.

The world does indeed face challenges. Yet by almost any measure, life for most people has been getting better in almost every way. Levels of war and conflict are near historic lows. People are living longer and healthier lives and are better educated than ever before. Incomes for most families are higher than at any time in history. One billion people around the world have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the last two decades, and although income

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