What distinguishes today’s quality of living conditions than from the past?
It’s not that political order has changed so much to improve society, i.e. democracies doesn’t automatically translate to economic betterment.
It’s not about killing high target fugitives either...
As Professor Don Boudreaux wonderfully writes,
Secular and spiritual authorities have killed people for millennia. And these authorities have often employed impressive organizational talents and state-of-the-art techniques both to gather intelligence on the whereabouts of their prey and to perform the actually killings. In taking down Bin Laden, the U.S. government did what governments throughout the ages have regularly done. Success at this task does nothing to distinguish America from any of hundreds of other societies – societies present and past, good and bad, great and contemptible, civil and uncivil...
Our civilization is vindicated by our supermarkets full of food, by our shopping malls full of clothing, by our homes with solid floors and solid roofs and air-conditioning and automatic dishwashers, by iPads and smart phones and aspirin and antibiotics and Amazon.com, by the globe-spanning cooperation that makes these things real – and by the freedom from central direction and mind-numbing, soul-shriveling superstitions that have made so many other ‘civilizations’ sanguinary and hellish.
It is free trade (and the innovations derivative of trade) and economic freedom that has made that remarkable difference.