Tom Goodenough

The Spectator podcast: The doom delusion | 20 August 2016

The Spectator podcast: The doom delusion | 20 August 2016
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It's August 2016 and the best time in human history to be alive. Well, at least that's according to Johan Norberg, who writes this week's Spectator cover piece on the new golden age. Never, he says, has there been less war, disease, conflict, discrimination or poverty. So why do we find that so hard to believe? On the podcast, Lara Prendergast is joined by Fraser Nelson and Johan, who says:

'What I've done is look at long-term data and statistics - everything from poverty, malnutrition, literacy to fatalities of war, the risk of dying in a natural disaster, the risk of being subjected to a dictatorship - and everything is improving. And people have a hard time believing that because they are hearing all of these other messages and often people prefer those anecdotes and shocking stories to actual data'

So can it be true? And if good news doesn't sell, why make a positive piece like this the cover story? Fraser says:

'People pick up The Spectator precisely to read the stories that other publications don't come up with. This might not be the biggest selling issue of the whole year but I actually think it will be one of the most important themes that we've covered. I think this is the single biggest issue of our times - it will shape our lives more than anything we read about. And it's important to tell our kids they are incredibly lucky to be living through these times'

But the good news doesn't stop there. Team GB is on course for a record haul of medals at the Rio Olympics. British athletes have won a raft of golds across the board, in sailing, cycling, gymnastics and diving. So does this success mean the days of Britain being a nation of sporting losers are a thing of the past? In the Spectator this week, Simon Barnes discusses how the UK became an Olympic force. He tells Lara:

'After 1996 there was a feeling that everything in British sport was absolutely dreadful. And it all changed after that with John Major's invention of the national lottery, of which a fifth of the proceeds were to go to sport. And money makes a lot of difference but you've got to spend it well. And UK Sport decided the strategy was not to worry about the pursuit of things like the pursuit of excellence - it was the pursuit of medals'

And finally, has the arts world had a sense of humour failure over Brexit? Lloyd Evans, who has been at the Edinburgh Festival this week, says luvvies are still reeling from the referendum. But does their sense of disillusionment merely show how detached they are from the real world? Lara speaks to to Lloyd and the Spectator’s arts editor Igor Toronyi-Lalic, who tells Lara:

'It's very odd because the arts establishment usually consider themselves radical and revolutionary and this was a revolutionary act - one of the most revolutionary things the British have done for hundreds of years and they don't seem to understand this or capitalise on this, which shows up their lack of imagination which is very sad'

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Written byTom Goodenough

Tom Goodenough is the Spectator's online editor.

Topics in this articleSociety