What was the best news of 2012?

Just before Xmas, I asked the readers at Core and at Troppo what they though the best bits of news of 2012 were.

Many, including myself but also David Walker, Steve Dunera, Tel and Jim Rose thought that last year was another in a long period of strong economic development in the poorest regions of the world, including in Africa, India, China, Latin America, and elsewhere. This was argued to be causally linked to improvements in the human condition (education, life expectancy). So in effect, last year again saw the slow rise of much of humanity out of poverty, ignorance, ill-health and other misery. The general rise of humanity out of poverty, violence, and ignorence is the kind of development that economists and philosophers have been hoping would happen for centuries, but we are currently living in the decades it is actually happening.

Jim Belshaw pointed out that institutions designed to improve justice in this world had again been slowly improving, presumably including the working of the international courts, but also the development of monitoring systems that keep tabs on the behaviour of the powerful in the conflict areas of the world. Jim thought this boded well for the continued reduction in conflict levels in the world.

Steve Dunera made the associated point that mobile phone connectivity has increased in much of the world and expressed the opinion, which I share, that this connectivity is turning into a vehicle for by-passing local monopolists of various plumages, hence again boding well for future developments in the economic and political sphere.

Tim Macknay pointed to the undoubted progress in the political situation in Burma as the highlight of 2012.

And then of course positive technological developments could be celebrated such as the reduction in costs of solar panels  and improvements in self-driving cars.

If I cast the net wider and include things I found personally uplifting, I would say last year was also a good year for popular art, including movies and music.


Author: paulfrijters

Professor of Wellbeing and Economics at the London School of Economics, Centre for Economic Performance

3 thoughts on “What was the best news of 2012?”

  1. Paul
    “I like to toast World Peace” says Andy McDow’s character in the movie Ground Hog Day. Of course she does. it doesn’t matter that she does nothing in the movie to bring it about. But that is Hollywood for you — there is no penalty for a disjunction between words and action. And this is a blog and again no penalty. Surely someone’s ‘best news’ had to do with them personally.

    People are a mixture of collective, ultraistic preferences and egotism. Why didn’t anyone say the best news I had last year was:
    I found out I am pregnant.
    I heard my committee had signed off on my PhD.
    I found that the data confirmed my hypothesis.
    I heard I got the job, made tenure, my house was worth more than expected, that the Sydney Swans won the grand final.

    The fact that nobody declared personally good news demonstrates the censuring that comes from observing statements rather than action. That, of course, is why preferences revealed by action are so much more highly valued by we economists than those ‘revealed’ by statements.

    I would also say that most of the answers don’t refer to ‘news’. Is it news that mobile telephony continued to expand in the developing world? Isn’t that what we expected to hear? If it is what we expected then how can it be news?

    Anyway, I like the Myanmar political change answer. That really was unexpectedly good news.


  2. Nonsense. News is a weighing of change and not confined to the unexpected. Some people have no idea about the general improvements in the world and it is a bit cranky to dismiss such momentous improvements as non-news. Neither is only the unexpected new. Are elections news even if the expected winner wins? Of course they are. The fact that what we hear in the media is so often the dramatic bad news neglecting information on how the aggregate state of the world is changing is a pity.
    The notion that everyone is aware of the changes in connectivity in Africa and the political ramifications of that is similarly weird.


  3. Australia implemented a Pagovian tax as a start in its share of the responsibility in tackling the world’s most implacable market externality


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