I very much share the sentiment behind the opening sentence to the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed “Reviving Argentina” about the electoral loss of the Peronism in Argentina, but the arithmetic doesn’t work. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal writes:
History is replete with great nations that decline into tragic despotism and poverty, but less common is the story of national revival and renewed prosperity.
The very first things that could be called “nations” lived in tragic despotism and poverty, and there were no nations that had escaped despotism and poverty. Now there are nations that that have escaped despotism and poverty. So despite some backsliding along the way, transitions for the better have outnumbered transitions for the worse.
The fact that governance has gotten better over the millenia is a wonder. As I wrote in “Why Thinking about China is the Key to a Free World”:
Freedom is a rarity in human history, and still too much of a rarity in the world today. This should be no surprise. Would-be tyrants abound, and it is not easy to establish a system that keeps them all in check.
There is a lot of grim history behind us, but things are better now, and with our efforts, they can be even better in the future.
Note: There are some tricky issues in the accounting (transitions from non-nationhood to nationhood or vice versa, nations splitting into two or amalgamating into one–or if weighted by number of people, birth and death) but a fair accounting should try to make these kinds of transitions neutral for the question at hand. The bottom line is that things used to be worse than they are now.