DEBATE: As the year draws to a close, do we still have reasons to be cheerful?

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The average human being has never been happier (Source: Getty)

As the year draws to a close, do we still have reasons to be cheerful?


Viscount Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, says YES.

Yes, we do. A lot went wrong in 2018 for a lot of people; but a lot more went right. Levels of absolute poverty, rates of infant mortality, age-adjusted death rates from cancer, heart disease, war, and malaria – all down to record lows. Global inequality is falling fast.

Despite what social and mainstream media constantly tell you, the average human being has never been wealthier, healthier, happier, cleaner, freer, safer, better fed, or more peaceful.

Britain is at the forefront of these near-magical improvements in the life chances of people, with its world-leading research in biotech and artificial intelligence combining with an explosion of entrepreneurship and a record level of employment to promise a bright future in which we capture the benefits of innovation. It’s no surprise that, just this week, the UK topped the Forbes ranking for the best country to do business in.

We’ve created more jobs than the rest of Europe put together in the last few years, showing the resilience of the British economy in the face of relentless doom-mongering about Brexit. We have a great future.


Dr Victoria Bateman, lecturer and fellow in Economics at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, says NO.

A rising number of people starving and sleeping rough on our streets. Children failed by under-funded public services and the welfare system, with the UN accusing ministers of being in a “state of denial”. A nasty whiff (or rather stench) of anti-immigration sentiment as we edge closer to a calamitous no-deal Brexit, one for which we’re told to harness the “blitz spirit” – this time in a war which we’ve declared on ourselves.

That’s the Britain of 2018. More divided, more cruel, and increasingly beyond its international sell-by-date. Isolating itself – while fooled into thinking otherwise – at a time when the world is edging closer to deglobalisation with tariffs and trade wars, and when countries need to work together to solve challenges, from climate change to defence threats.

It’s not surprising that, for me, 2018 was a year of naked protest. To twist a phrase, the lamps are going out across the UK; we may never see them lit again in our lifetime. If so, it’ll be over my naked body.

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