Charles Mahoney was born before the turn of the century and arrived in America before he was fully grown. He met his wife Rose at Pimlico when he was a jockey. In the most prosperous part of his life he made deliveries to speakeasies in Baltimore--- but he also spent years as a ditch digger in New York and others as a flyweight boxer, in the days when gloves were scarce. With a horseshoe shaped scar on his baldhead, a pug nose, cauliflower ears, and constantly raised fists, he was one tough looking dude.

You wouldn't dare call him short.

In the 1920's, when Joanne Mahoney was a child, her mother Rose died of tuberculosis. Soon after, she and her brother Billie were taken from Charlie and went to live in a Catholic sanitarium. They stayed there, in separate facilities, until they graduated from high school. Only a few years later Joanne was a single parent. She lived, with her son, in a rented room in a house with no plumbing and a rickety outhouse.

Joanne Mahoney, bless her, was my mother. She died at 57.

I thought of her, and remembered a lot, as I read a recent report from the Cato Institute. "The Greatest Century That Ever Was", written by Stephen Moore and the late Julian L. Simon. As a pair, Moore and Simon can get in the ring with any tag team of Doom and Gloomers and knock'em dead. Some readers will remember Professor Simon as the economist who challenged the predictions of Global Angst Guru Paul Ehrlich. Simon won on every count. With Simon gone, the man most likely to pick up the positivist challenge is Michael Cox, an economist with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.

I tell you, straight out, the Moore/Simon report should be required reading for anyone subject to moments of doubt. It could save the professional lives of those thinking about making a career of Worry and Whining.

There's just no future in it.

Some readers, no doubt, may think that Charlie, Rose, and Joanne are like characters from Angela's Ashes. Perhaps they are. But the brute fact is that many elements of their lives were shared with millions of Americans. They were not isolated to the very poor.

Let me give you some examples. According to the report, one house in four was without a flush toilet as recently as 1950. In 1930 only half of all houses had flush toilets. Yes, we're talking about America. As Moore and Simon put it, "The latter part of the 19th century was an era of tuberculosis, typhoid, sanitariums, child labor, child death, horses, horse manure, candles, 12-hour work days, Jim Crow laws, tenements, slaughterhouses, and outhouses." The table below lists some of the major trends that have made life so much better in one incredible century.

As the Beatles sang, "It's getting better, It's getting better all the time."

Trend 1900-1920 1995-1998
Life Expectancy (in years) 47 77
Infant Mortality (deaths per 1000 live births) 100 7
Deaths from infectious diseases (per 100,000 population) 700 50
Heart disease (age adjusted deaths per 100,000 population) 307(1950) 126
Home ownership (percent of households) 46 66
Electrification (percent of households) 8 99
Telephone calls (annual per capita) 40 2,300
Accidental Deaths (per 100,000 population) 88 34
Patents Granted 25,000 150,000
Wheat price (per bushel in hours of work) 4.1 0.2
Poverty rate (percent of U.S. households) 40 13
High School completion (percent of adults) 22 88
Air pollution (lead, micrograms per 100 cubic meters air) 135 (1977) 4
Agricultural workers (percent of workforce) 35 2.5
Computer speed (millions of instructions per second) 0.02 (1976) 700

Source: www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-364es.html

In the last half century alone, the researchers found, household wealth has risen from $6.4 trillion to $40.8 trillion. In the United States we are healthier, better educated, longer lived, and wealthier than at any time in history. The idea that this is even possible--- something unimaginable two centuries ago--- is our most important national export.

And if we are lucky--- really, really lucky--- you and I will see a lot more bumper stickers like the one I saw on New Years Day.

"Stop Global Whining."