20 February 2009

A sense of perspective

David Levin, the CEO of UBM recently sent out the following email to the staff. I feel it has an important message regarding keeping a sense of perspective amidst the doom and gloom generated by headline writers and news broadcasters that is worth sharing with a wider audience.

"These seem to be really bleak days. Each day we are bombarded by bad news from the wider world. It can be hard right now to feel balanced and secure. So I thought I would share the answer that I gave yesterday when I was asked if I am an optimist or a pessimist.

"I am an optimist. I believe that the state of humanity is improving and will continue to do so. That is not to say we don't face challenges but....


"Anyone who has a balanced perspective on literacy and health has to be optimistic; things have improved so much. If you go back 100 years the richest country in the world then had worse health statistics than the poorest country today. That is the progress we have seen; that is reality.

"While there is no doubt we have so much further to go in terms of having a society that is blind to race it is important to acknowledge that we have made massive progress (the President of the USA no less!) , and we can see how bad our parents' society was in respect of race.

"And again, while the place of women in society around the world has certainly not nearly achieved parity with that of men, our approach to gender and the opportunities afforded to women in the West have expanded beyond the wildest hopes of those who fought for women's' rights one hundred years ago.

"We are using only some tiny fraction of solar energy that lands on earth for free.

"Previous generations have had to deal with wars that killed in the millions, diseases that killed in the tens of millions and a general inability to provide education, heat or food to the mass of their populations. In our generation that is not the case.

Getting better

"The world is getting better and not worse. Markets, when properly regulated (and, yes, they do need regulation) are the most efficient allocators of resources and this is to all our benefit.

"Of course we are going into a recession and this will impose real difficulties on millions of people worldwide. This is a time when we need to think of how to support those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

"But the comparisons to the 1930's are far fetched (at least in respect of developed economies), as we have elaborate mechanisms to provide a social safety net that were not imagined in 1930.

"Pessimistic forecasts talk about economic contraction of 4-6 %. Imagine a 10% (and that would be way worse than almost anyone out there is seeing) - that would put the "developed world back to having an economy the same size and power our economies had in the mid 1990s.

"Life was not so bad then!"

(Image from Wordle)

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