The global advance of peace comes as surprising news to most people, but what's even more surprising is that the messenger is now the front page of The Wall Street Journal: Their headline March 27: "Obscured by the Roar of the World's Battles, Peace Is Advancing."
Calling the peace trend "fitful but unmistakable," The Journal notes that "From 1992 to 1998 armed conflicts declined in all of the world's five main regions to a total of 36 from 55... fights that are intractable are yielding...even civil wars, while more numerous than during the cold war, are being settled more quickly than a decade ago."
Great news of course. And yet the Journal is quick to claim, "This isn't happening because human beings are suddenly less prone to the darker impulses." Instead, the Journal says the peace is propelled by "The new emphasis on humanitarian and reconstruction aid," which has made the cost of war go up. Furthermore, "Global economic growth has given prospective foot soldiers in some trouble spots the prospect of something better to do. Perhaps most importantly, people around the world are trying harder to prevent conflicts from turning violent in the first place -- and forging links between divided groups even during shooting wars."
But maybe the illustrious Journal's hard-nosed lack of faith in human nature has caused it to miss the real story (a story we broke in our very first issue in 1998): That people worldwide are becoming less prone to their darker impulses.
Our source is Dr. Ronald Inglehart, principal investigator of the World Values Surveys of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, -- a global project now in 60 countries representing 70% of the world's population. Inglehart has found that over the last 50 years, what makes people happy and fulfilled and what motivates us for good or ill has been changing, worldwide. In the language of social science, the shift has been from the "Materialist" values of people who have grown up worried about real survival needs such as hunger to the "Postmaterialist" values of people who have grown up with their survival needs taken for granted.
Says Inglehart, when people don't have to worry about hunger, their passion for safety expands to include necessities like air bags. Such personal security also diminishes the need for absolute rules or outside authority, making the world ripe for democracy. Money and power become less important than personal freedom and self-expression. Foreigners no longer pose a threat to survival and may even bring ideas that enhance our standard of living.
Inglehart predicted the end of this year would coincide with an important benchmark: Materialists and Postmaterialists are equally numerous in many Western countries -- a shift in world thinking that may have everything to do with why peace is gradually breaking out.
Here's something else that comes with the shift in values: Creating more wealth becomes less important than saving the planet. Just wait until The Wall Street Journal picks up on that.