Marginal gains

Half empty or half full?/Wikimedia Commons


We have to do better.

Yes, yes, we do. Whatever it is, we have to do better.

COVID-19, race relations, socioeconomic inequities, the war on drugs, climate change, media accuracy, our favorite failing football team, the burnt steak at dinner tonight.

Yes, by God, we have to do better.

But you probably don’t need to read that here because if you’re reading anywhere else you’re sure to have heard the message:


Often what it actually means, however, is that you have to do better:

“I spent my days working from home. I wore my mask from the time I got up until the time I went to bed. I only left the house to get groceries when the cupboards were bare. I followed all the rules, and still I caught the COVID.

“We have to do better!”

The “we” there is actually “you” because I did everything right and it turned out wrong which has to mean someone else in the collective didn’t do her or his share.

We have to do better.

Why this constant refrain? Can no one actually figure out what it is we need to do?

“Partisan tribalism is spinning out of control in this country. We need to do better!”

How about we stop warring with each other? Just because your neighbor’s philosophical and political views differ from your own doesn’t mean she is Satan.

Then again,  maybe she is. You never know. Satan is sneaky. She can pass as black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, rich man or poor man, Progressive or Libertarian. This list goes on and on.

It’s why we have to do better!

Partisan nonsense

If only we’d all think and act and dress alike, everything would be better, right? But how many of the people who appear to believe this have the guts to say it? It sounds so unAmerican to suggest we Borgify the country, but that appears to be what many on the left and on the right would prefer.

The pandemic is the plague of the 21st century. The global economy is on the verge of falling apart. The planet is heating up. There are human rights abuses even in the good, old United States. It all so wrong.

We have to do better.

So what do we do if we can’t? What if we’re still basically governed by the fundamental laws of nature – whether we are willing to accept that idea or not – and we are really doing about as good as we can, maybe even a little better than we should be?

Does all this handwringing about the need to do better help us then or just add to our angst? How about if all the people saying we need to do better actually just did better?

Is it possible the forces of good could make the world a better place by individually doing good rather hectoring everyone else on how they need to do better?

Of course, we need to do better. That’s a given. We will always need to do better.

It’s part of that nature thing. The planet and all life on it is in a constant state of evolution and the fundamental yardstick for all organisms – humans included – dictates they do better and flourish or do worse and die.

From that standpoint, it could be argueg we’re actually already doing too much better. The world is over-run with humans. There are 7.8 billion of us here now, almost double the number in 1974. We’ve populated the planet largely unchecked since our brains spawned the Industrial Revolution.

“It had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion,” notes the Worldometer population counter. “The second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).”

OK, numbers aren’t everything, but at least in the Western world we’re not doing so bad by other measures either. You and I live in a far less violent place than our parents knew even a generation ago.

Yes, there are problems in other parts of the world. Wars always seem to be erupting somewhere in the Mideast or Africa, but there hasn’t been a world war for 75 years – not bad when you consider there was only about two decades between World War I and World War II.

And before WWI, wars involving Western powers were, well, common: the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-15; the Boxer Rebellion, 1900; the Boer War, 1898-1901; the Spanish-American War, 1898, the First Italo-Ethiopian War, 1894-96, the Russo-Turkish War, 1870-71; and the farther back in time the closer together they get.

The American Indian Wars in this country ran until almost the end of the 20th Century. Yes, it involved largely European immigrants violently seizing control of a North America from earlier Asian immigrants, but the country has been trying to make peace with the first American ever since and much more so in modern times than in the past when the rules of civilization exerted less control over the rules of nature.

Nature’s rules are pretty simple. The strong dominate and the weak can only hope for the best. We generally now try to take care of the weak. The system isn’t perfect. There are still failures. Some people in power still abuse the powerless because they can.


But the practice is no longer institutionalized. Slavery is long gone in this country, though it survives elsewhere. World Population Review cites 167 countries in which slavery still exists with big numbers of people in slavery in six of those: 18.4 million in India; 3.4 million in China; 2.1 million in Pakistan; 1.5 million Bangladesh; 1.2 million in Uzbekistan; and 1.1 million in North Korea.

Don’t read this wrong. This is not some creed to American exceptionalism. We’re not that exceptional. There are plenty of other countries doing quite nicely, including Japan, which was a pretty barbaric country at the time of WW II.

Thankfully it is no longer involved in the business of invading other countries, massacring large numbers of their residents as in China in 1937-38, or running concentration camps where large numbers of people, including U.S. prisoners of war, were worked to death.

The world overall is a better place than it was then, and in this country, the glass is not half empty. It is more than half full. Arguably a lot more than half full. Alaska offers a fine example there.

In 1950, the average life expectancy for a Native born in Northwest Alaska was 46.6 years, according to a study published in Global Health Action. By 2001 it was over 70 years, and it is now up over 76 years. 

A 63 percent increase isn’t just a better; it’s way better. And it’s not just in Alaska. All over this country, most people live way better than their parents and grandparents did in 1950. There are exceptions, of course, because there are always exceptions.

But the reality is we are doing better, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that needs to go back and study their history. Those who do might even come to conclude that we’re now at the point that it has become much harder to do better because we’ve done so much better.

We’ve made such big improvements over time that we’ve entered the world of marginal gains. Progress inevitably comes slower in that situation, which is not to say we shouldn’t keep trying to get better.

But there is no indication that whining more helps.










25 replies »

  1. My my, how ironic – Craig’s blog saying, “A home for readers and thinkers”, is seldom demonstrated in the comments section of his posts. So much poor thinking instead… Maybe change it to: “A home for conspiracy theorists, disinformation provocateurs, and Russian bots.”

    • Sierra, and all this time I was told it was Trump who was a Russian and Ukranian asset.. Sorry, just being a “conspiracy theorist”. What say you Sierra?

      “The Senate committees revealed that they had obtained records that “show potential criminal activity relating to transactions among and between Hunter Biden, his family, and his associates with Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh and Chinese nationals.
      Burisma report to be released this weekVideo

      Investigators also found millions of dollars in “questionable financial transactions” between Hunter Biden and his associates and foreign individuals, including the wife of the former mayor of Moscow as well as individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

      • Bryan,
        we’ll be waiting here all week for this juicy tidbit, sorta like the burisma file that Rudy came back with after meeting with a known Russian plant on Biden(s).Last time I checked it wasn’t a crime to get overpaid and underachieve.But then maybe things have changed.
        Looks like your man Chito in Charge is taking a lot of write-offs in his tax files.Obviously a sign of successful business men.$400million coming due soon,best stock up on Maalox.
        Like the great bumper sticker I saw a month ago: Fraud,Liar,Treasonous=TRUMP 2020

      • David Mc, anyone can do a bumper sticker. Good bad or indifferent. Even a 7 year old kid can publish one . Takes someone more mature to think a situation through without resorting to unsubstantiated smears and sound bytes. So your point is ? Your allusion to Trumps lack of success because he uses tax write offs is either very uneducated on your part or just you being happily complicit in a lie to fool other unthinking robots . You and I both know business and buisness men take every write off available . Thats how system works. You know it , i know it and Jeff Bezos knows it . So quit your propaganda pushing. Unless you just prefer to pretend ignorance. Let’s work together as Americans shovel to shovel to make America a better place for everyone. Spreading misinformation does no one any good. I know you are not foolish enough to fully believe what you insinuate. Making money in private sector is tough as heck , you can only dream of making it to the point of having a 200 or 400 million tax liability or penalty- beside the fact he probably won’t even have to pay it or maybe even won’t get a judgment against him for it . The fact remains hes not like Hillary, obama , feisteen omar , oac and others who immorally make their riches and profits due to their position of power while in public office or due to public office. Or after. Truly a distortion of what public service means . Trump freely gives his whole Presidental paycheck to support good government causes . the many other politicians jealous and hypocrites take their paycheck and money from any one that’s willing to bargain money for power . The Democratic party is now a cess pool . The American people were robbed of a better choice than biden . Their nomination process was corrupt. Most powerful dems couldn’t make it in the private sector without holding the reigns of government and brokering that influence for money. Trump made his fortunes on the street like you and I . Hes our man . Not like the fakes who put him down. Is he perfect? Double heck no ! You and i both know the other alternative than trump that Democrats and Republicans have presented since Ronald Reagan have been trash or worse . Trump is Making an Honest effort to do what he thinks right . Be it wrong or be it right. Hes his own man. Unlike Biden , Hillary and others who owe their riches to power brokers. Focusing on Trump is a fallacy. A distraction. A tool to divide you and i , good Americans and the world. The point is saving the republic – keeping the executive branch independent from outside interests and keeping America strong so we can help other countries and be pinch hiters for the right cause . Not war mongers and Bullies like the bushes, Clinton’s and obamas . Join me . Use your vote. Take back the republic . Dont be fooled and divided by politicians and a press that’s owned lock stock and barrel by the same families and power brokers. Who got us into endless wars ? Who caused waco and ruby ridge , and other atrocities. The past politicians have heartlessly killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and done very little to stabilize the world. Its not right its not left its forward. Look past the smoke and mirrors Dave . What man freely gives his paycheck for tge better good? ? Who is trying to stop world violence? Re think your position from ground up . Dont be distracted by the personal foibles of a showman buisness man . An imperfect human. Look further and see what he’s trying to fight for . A better America. Strong so we can help others. An independent executive branch not compromised by the same power brokers again and and again. You and many have been hoodwinked. This is your fellow man talking to you . Man to Man . Dont be a tool . Beware. Those past power players are planning and conniving. They know how to manipulate and keep us under wraps . Many citizens have forgotten it but we are all brothers in this country. Dont be divided. Stand strong for our republic and to make this world better for everyone.

      • DPR,
        Apparently you connect different dots,and that is Ok.
        As far as the bumper sticker goes,id pay the Seven yr old whatever he was asking for two of them.
        And no Trump did not make his way on the streets like I did,(or you).
        I busted my teeth living before the mast for 23 yrs,and that was just my first career.

    • sierra, Bryan is NOT a Russian bot! Simply because he wouldn’t make the cut for lack of a certain required coherence.

      • Monk , don’t confuse yourself with Bryan. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean normal people like Sierra cant . I suggest you enroll in some basic community college classes. I was told never make fun of someone who cant change themselves because they cant help it . So i try as much as possible to be kind to you . My advice is in earnest. Start over with your education. In the mean time don’t confuse people with your lies and disfunctional learning process. Your constant negativity and lack of up to date knowledge is pretty gross and on show for all to see . Quite embarrassing . I hope your Freinds don’t know you post at this site .

    • Sierramarie , you have taken DNC , cia propaganda hook line and sinker. Call anybody you don’t agree with a conspiracy theorist, bot ect Real wise – not ! Wake up and smell the roses 🌹. If you only fish midstream you miss the trophy fish that hang under the banks and log jams . Same with information. You miss the facts if you travel in the main stream narrative. Think harder fish longer use live bait 😉

  2. The whole covid Mask thing . If you are ill then dont be a moron . Stay home . If you are in a risk of death group from covid take precautions and work at getting fit or loosing weight. As to the Mask 😷. I was walking into a store the other day and a karen yells out “ you dont have your mask on and you cant come in here”. I reply well yeah and i dont have my ankle monitor on either and yet— here we are !! My face my choice. 😉

    • From the leftist Wash. Post even:
      “This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.

      “Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.”

    • “For six months, many big media outlets have done everything possible to attempt to spread panic about the coronavirus,” Berenson, who has been an outspoken critic of the way coronavirus is covered, told Fox News.

      “In March, the crisis was ventilator shortages, which proved to be nonexistent. In May, they hyped the almost nonexistent risk Covid presents to children. Over the summer, they pretended that hospitals in the Sunbelt were near collapse,” Berenson said. “Now they focus relentlessly on a single figure, the death count.”

    • Steve , nice video . Rand paul is really one of the few class acts . He presents good points. Separately Fauci is a self absorbed Fraud . Faucis only point is you arnt listening to my dogma! You never listen to my dogma ! You think for yourself! How dare you not listen to cdc director . Your thoughts are like virus and need sterilization. Bill fakes , fauxi , criminal clinton , and x nazi emperor SOROS need put in a box so they can eat each other like a bucket of trapped shrews .

  3. The nearly 8 billion people who occupy the planet is the main problem. As is the ability of mankind to successfully quickly fight off the various plague-like diseases we encounter. While it would be very unfortunate and painful, a mass killing of a couple billion humans from a catastrophic event ( asteroid, huge volcanic eruptions, pandemic, etc would solve a lot of problems. Maybe even a series of 9.8 earthquakes that cause massive tsunamis which level large seaboard populations all over the planet. Or perhaps even mutual nuclear destruction of overpopulated countries. China, India, etc. But not Alaska!

    • What exactly is the “main problem from 8 billion people”? No question America would be a better, safer place if it got rid of all it’s Democrats, but getting rid of 8 billion would make earth better how?

  4. I have been watching old rock concerts on Youtube lately (many of them from the early 1990’s that I once attended as a teenager) and the take away is that we were a lot closer to one another before everyone had a cellphone and social media accounts online.
    Thousands of young people would road trip on weekends to meet up with one another and enjoy dancing and singing outside in large crowds…the internet was not required to spread the message that a good band was coming to town. Word just traveled, sometimes on a radio station, sometimes in the newspaper and sometimes just plain “word of mouth”.
    Technology is taking us further and further away from what is was to be “human” and to be an “American”.
    I am reminded of the advice that Timothy Leary had to share with millions of young Americans:
    “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”.

  5. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Half the country is right and the other half of the country is wrong. Half the country understands the problems we face as a nation and has the solutions to solve them and the other half doesn’t. Surely, we can all agree on that? Let the healing begin.

Leave a Reply