World-Wide Problems? Blame it on the Romans.

When it comes to seeing the glass half-full, you can’t beat Voltaire’s Professor Pangloss. According to this airtight optimist, “we live in the best of all possible worlds.”


At first blush, Pangloss’ sunny statement seems right. It’s hard to argue that there was any previous era when your chances for happiness were better. Consider an obvious example: If you were stuck in Egyptian society 5 millennia ago, you might spend your entire life stacking up two-ton limestone blocks at the whim of a local potentate with a braided beard, eye makeup, and a wife who was also a sister. Variety, foreign travel, and health care were not part of the deal.

Today, you can choose your occupation and your spouse, stack up blocks with big machines, and visit just about any place other than the Mariana Trench. As a fillip, the smart phone in your pocket affords you access to more information than contained in the entire library at Alexandria, in case you occasionally become puzzled or bored.

Living in the present: What’s not to like?

Only this. We were all born too soon.

Here’s why. For most of humanity’s history, it didn’t matter much when you were born. The lives of those in generation 5,231 were no different than those of generation 5,230. Millennia could plod by, and our ancestors would mostly just plod along.

Of course, that began to change at the end of the last ice age, when agriculture begat what we now call civilization. But the real revolution was more recent. To appreciate the effect of what we now call “progress,” consider what life was like a mere thousand years ago. Sure, if you were lucky you might get to occasionally wear chain mail, but neither you nor your neighbors had indoor plumbing, let —> Read More