Improvements in our lives

It’s natural for people to focus on the negatives in their lives or on things they’d like to see improved. But sometimes this means we forget how far society has come. NC State University economist Mike Walden comments.

“I’ve been reading a book published by an economist, a newly published book about the changes in our everyday lives over the last 100 years, and it’s just amazing. If you go back 100 years, for example, most households didn’t have electricity, no indoor plumbing, no modern appliances. Usually the wife in the household had to spend many hours lugging water from the well to the house to cook with, to clean clothes with.

“Transportation was by horseback. Now a lot of people might think, ‘Oh, that would be nice.’ But if you think about what horses produce in terms of waste. Cities were smelly. They were polluted. Cities had to hire people to clean up the horse waste. Health conditions, medical training and hospitals were very primitive compared to today.

“And most people, of course, today look forward to eventually retiring and maybe having 20 or 30 years to do what they want. People couldn’t retire in those days. Literally, people worked until they dropped. Vacations were nonexistent. Entertainment, very, very rare. Life was very, very hard. We’ve made tremendous strides over the past 100 years.”

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