You’re not going to want to read this. Your every instinct is telling you that whatever follows, however valuable it might be, won’t be satisfying. And you’re probably right.

News consumers are conditioned to expect, seek out, and even find gratification in negativity. This is not the flowering of some grand conspiracy, but the nature of a media ecosystem that is dedicated to covering events over trends. “Bad things can happen quickly,” noted psychologist and author Steven Pinker, “but good things aren’t built in a day, and as they unfold, they will be out of sync with the news cycle.” The ready availability of bad news contributes to a cognitive bias that favors negative events as reliable indicators of future circumstances (i.e., the “availability heuristic”). That’s a shame, though, as it presents a distorted picture of prevailing conditions. By and large, those conditions are pretty good.

To make his point, Pinker cited a thought experiment posited by Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung. Galtung envisaged a hypothetical newspaper that published only every half-century. What stories would it tell? Surely, not ones predominated by the ephemeral madness that typify our political discourse. That paper’s lead story would likely be the almost across-the-board increases in human life expectancy.

Indeed, the triumphant consensus that favored markets and trade over autarky and conflict that emerged at the end of the last century has proven an incredible blessing. Between 1981 and 2008, 700 million people emerged from the “extreme poverty” that had previously been an intractable feature of human existence. Around the world, both subjective notions of well-being and objective rates of survival increased markedly in roughly the same period. Deaths attributable to warfare have declined to their lowest proportional rates in over half a millennium. American deployments abroad, while substantial, have declined to their lowest level in nearly 60 years—a response not to political concerns at home but strengthening security conditions abroad. In the United States, median family income is up, with 1.4 million people escaping poverty between 2017 and 2018.

For most of us, this forest is obscured by the trees. We see rising income inequality, exacerbating divisions between rich and poor. We see declining health outcomes and increasing precarity for some of America’s most vulnerable populations. We see conflicts abroad that seem to have no end, and from which America cannot extricate itself. And to remedy these frustrating conditions, many are leaning into the “solution” that once yielded the suffering we’ve only recently escaped: economic planning, capitulatory retrenchment, and the zero-sum mentality that regards comparative advantage and mutually beneficial exchange with suspicion.

These propitious conditions are not the only “problems” we’re trying to solve. By 1990, violent crime in American cities was simply a fact of modern life. For more than a generation, the nation’s violent crime rate had slowly but steadily risen. But, beginning in the last decade of the 20th century, those rates began to fall and they kept falling. The overall violent crime rate has fallen today by more than 50 percent, a condition that baffles social scientists who assumed that adverse economic conditions lead people to commit heinous acts out of desperation (the pronounced recession that followed the collapse of the mortgage market did not yield increased violent criminality).

This, too, is a problem in the eyes of policymakers—particularly Democrats. In the pursuit of necessary reforms that excessively penalize non-violent offenses and contribute to recidivism, the effort to end the “era of mass incarceration” has given way to reforms that increase public risk. Cities like New York have done away with bail and pretrial detention for offenses such as hate crime and vehicular assaults and second-degree manslaughter. The predictable result has been the release of unrepentant criminals from police custody who promptly resume their criminal activities.

You’d not know it from the coverage of the phenomenon, but there’s good news on the climate change front, too. According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, many of the effects of global warming observed in the arctic from 1995 to 2005 were attributable to the depletion of the ozone layer. This observation would explain why the poles have experienced warming trends that outpace the rest of the planet. The good news here is that this protective atmospheric layer has been repairing itself since ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and aerosols were discontinued. The “hole” in the ozone layer is the smallest it’s been since it was first observed, and both poles are expected to have completely restored ozone layers by the middle of this century.

This model is unlikely to generate the kind of traction in the press enjoyed by more apocalyptic projections. Even so, this finding doesn’t have much bearing on the consensus view that greenhouse gas emissions are a primary cause of warming trends. And though Western efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels cannot compensate for the actions of industrializing nations like China, which is aggressively expanding its fleet of coal-fired power plants, there’s progress to speak of. In the U.S., carbon emissions from power generation are down to around 1985 levels despite a dramatic expansion of domestic GDP and the presence of about 100 million more Americans. That’s due, in part, to the technological advances that have rendered cleaner-burning natural gas a ubiquitous and cheap source of fuel. That, too, is a problem that Democratic policymakers hope to solve by banning the “fracking” technology that made this sea change possible.

From consistently declining abortion rates to the reduced deaths and infirmities resulting from natural disasters; the good news is everywhere if you know where to look. Ultimately, though, the problem for news consumers and the lawmakers who respond to their informed constituents’ concerns isn’t that good news is hard to find. The problem is that the audience for that message is vanishingly small, and the perspective required to see it is in short supply.

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