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Much to be thankful for

I LOVE writing my annual Thanksgiving column. As an American living in the 21st century, there is an overwhelming amount to be thankful for.

Global poverty is in a rapid decline. Within the last generation, the persistence of people living a subsistence existence has declined from 40 percent to 10 percent. This is the greatest period of economic advance in the history of man. And we’re just getting started.

In almost every area, the world is progressing. This progress can be stressful as change always is, but the end result will be higher standards of living for us all. That’s a good thing.

Money does not buy happiness, true. Studies have shown that after about $75,000 a year in income, additional money causes as much stress as pleasure. The United States, which has an average per capita income of $60,000, will reach that point in six years.

The average per capita income in the world is $10,000. At current growth rates, the world average per capita income will reach $75,000 in 50 years.

In other words, my children could live to see the world reach maximum material happiness in their lifetime.

This is truly mind boggling. The human struggle for material well being has been ongoing for thousands of years. We are now on the cusp of succeeding.

Statistics are one thing, but this reality is apparent in our day-to-day lives in just about everything we do. Think about the human quest of knowledge. Today a smartphone, properly used, can give an average American instant access to all the combined knowledge of the world – literally, in the palm of our hands.

Thirty years ago, such a device would have cost a billion dollars. Indeed, we are all billionaires.

Look at something as basic as the light bulb. Two years ago, I replaced all my incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. I haven’t changed a light bulb since. It now costs me $50 to light my house for a year – one tenth the cost from before.

People worry about global warming, but last year the world installed twice as much wind and solar power as fossil fuels. At that rate, the world could replace fossil fuels in 35 years, including gasoline and diesel.

In reality, the rate of wind and solar growth won’t stay the same. It will skyrocket. New storage technologies will emerge, leading to a world of extremely low cost energy that will have little effect on global warming. So let’s quit being Chicken Littles.

Seems it was just a few years ago, everyone was alarmed about deforestation. Unfortunately for the pine tree farmers, Mississippi has more forests than ever before. We have a huge abundance of wood to build the world’s houses.

Just walk into a grocery store. You can buy just about every type of food you can imagine. That’s if you need to buy groceries. There are hundreds of restaurants in Jackson serving every kind of cuisine imaginable at affordable prices. We have an abundance of everything in America and the rest of the world is not far behind.

People love music. We have more music than ever, streamed to a countless array of portable devices we can take anywhere.

Entertainment? Netflix and streaming video provide us with more sports, movies and shows than we could watch in a 100 lifetimes. The resolution of the new televisions is almost lifelike with 4K, yet 4K will be obsolete in a few years. The screens will be better than your eyes can tell.

Travel? We have more jets, hotels, cruise lines, resorts than ever. Soon, you won’t even have to get on a plane. You can put on virtual reality goggles and walk through the streets of Paris as though you were there.

Recreation? Goodness gracious the options are unlimited: biking, swimming, tennis, golf, running, walking, weightlifting, motorbiking, horses, hunting, fishing, spectator sports. There are more recreational possibilities than we have time.

Health? People know more about healthcare than ever. For one thing, the Internet can provide instant access to information about all kinds of ailments. Hospitals and specialty clinics can treat an almost unlimited number of diseases. There is a pill for everything. The biggest impediment to our health is our own bad lifestyle decisions. We are on the verge of breaking the code on cancer.

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in this country. Just 10 years ago, a heart attack meant a cracked chest and a bypass with a six month recovery. Now stents run through a wrist incision can bring heart attack victims back to normal health in a couple of days.

I recently had a bad tooth. I was dreading bloody gum surgery. Turns out a new laser invention can annihilate all the germs without damaging the human gum tissue. I was in and out of the chair in an hour with zero post-op pain. A huge advance in just a few years.

How about money and finance? I use Venmo and Cash App to send money anywhere at the touch of a smartphone screen. In Africa, electronic banking is proving to be a huge advance, allowing vibrant economic activity in the poorest, most remote regions of the world. This is transformative.

World peace? The little skirmishes we see today are nothing compared to the world wars of yesteryears. The major powers will never have another war. Weapons are so advanced, we dare not use them and haven’t. America has deployed sophisticated missile shields that can protect us from attack.

When I was young, everyone was terrified of overpopulation which would lead to massive starvation. Didn’t turn out that way. In fact, the opposite is happening. Turns out, as the world develops, birth rates drop like a rock. European and American birth rates are so low, we’re not even replacing our existing populations. Same in China. India won’t be far behind. The bigger problem will end up being underpopulation.

On Thanksgiving 2018, we have more to be thankful for than our Pilgrim ancestors could ever have imagined.