Are the naughties the best decade ever?

Some people are saying they're the worst decade ever, but that's more true for the global relations of the United States than for the level of human well-being in the world as a whole.  Even in the U.S., a lot of social indicators improved.  Elsewhere Chinese growth continued, Indian growth moved into the big time (in the gross reckoning we're already at well over two billion people), a lot of Eastern Europe was successfully absorbed into the EU,  Indonesia made slow but steady progress.  Brazil may have turned a corner, and Africa had a better-than-lately decade in terms of economic growth.  Communism didn't really come back.  Admittedly the Middle East is a tougher call.  Canada did strikingly well, as did Australia.  There was lots of progress on public health, including in the war against AIDS.  The internet truly blossomed and human creativity continued.

For a lot of you it feels bad, but it's not obvious that the naughties have been such a terrible decade overall.  By the way, that home prices fell was overall a good thing; the roofs on those homes still keep out the rain.

I thank Bryan Caplan for a discussion related to this post.


The decade runs from 2001-10 ( Have not yet heard that there was a year 0 C.E), why join Time , Newsweek etc with the obsession that it ends in 2009 ? Should we not be marginally more accurate?

How could the 2000s be the worst decade? Their standard seems to be only that some bad stuff happened. But why not the 1910s? You had the first world war, the 1918 influenza outbreak, the abhorrent 18th amendment, etc.

Word meanings follow usage, rather than original meanings. 99% of people consider the decade of the 60s to be 1960-1969, and so forth, so the dictionary meaning of decade is surely going to evolve to actual usage. Luckily the killjoys who harped over Jan. 1, 2000 as not being the start of a new millennium have to take a 990 break from their scolding. A serious traditionalist would not even recognize Jan. 1, 2010 as the start of the decade because of the calender shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calender has altered the start points.

Anon is partly right, but mostly wrong. The first decade of the millennium is 2001-2010. Tyler, however, specified he was talking about the naughties, which can only mean 2000-2009. Using liberalarts' example, the 60s were 1960-1969, while the 7th decade of the 20th century was 1961-1970.

2001-10 people: a decade is just ten years. It doesn't have some special meaning that requires it to begin with 1. You had your stickler moment when people misused "the third millennium", be happy with that.

Time is trying to get readers. I don't seriously think anyone could think the 00s were the "worst decade ever" or even the worst in the past century - the 1940s anyone?

Culture is not in decline. Old people are forever saying culture is declining, but it's more accurately changing.

As Tyler points out, some very poor parts of the planet are doing better, so in some sense global inequality is on the decline. Inside the US, however, where many Time readers are focused, inequality is getting worse and the appearance of prosperity generated by debt fooled some people into thinking we were richer than we actually are.

All these things you say are true.

There was no world war as in the 1910's or 1940's. There was no great depression, although the decade isn't done by over a year.

And the natural world upon which human life absolutely depends is poised at the edge of the abyss; resources are at the point of exhaustion, the world swamped with waste and garbage from too many humans ans too many machines.

Great decade, can't wait for the next one.

Hey, Federal tax revenues are down 25% from a decade ago; millions of Americans have had huge tax cuts; millions of Americans can sell their property without having to pay capital gain taxes; tax rates are lower than while Reagan was president.

And as economists assure us that cutting taxes leads to greater growth and higher employment, we can be confident the economy is growing robustly and everyone who wants a job can choose from many offers.


Where do you get your information? FYE 2009 revenues were $2,105 billion. Ten years ago they were $1,827. If you adjust for inflation they are down about 9%, but that's even after the precipitous drop from FYE 2008. FYE 2008 revenues were $2,524, which were approximately 37% higher than revenues for 1998, after inflation adjustment.

Source: OMB and Monthly Treasury Statements.

Things have been going to hell in a handbasket for a few thousand years, at least if you talk to the old folks. We'll survive the Prophet Obama, too.

Not surprisingly they didn't use rates for anything, or even counts really.

And isn't it strange that through the supposedly worst decade ever nobody was depressed? If you lived through the 1930s or Hogarth's London, you would've noticed how bad things were. Instead, everyone was in a state of euphoria. Just because you sober up a little afterwards doesn't mean you didn't have any fun.

As for pop culture, I'd grudgingly admit that the 2000s were pretty bad, aside from pop music -- that stretch we had from 2003 to 2006 saw a rebirth of fun rock music (not the whiney, sappy, or angsty stuff of the '90s) as well as danceable rap music.

But the movies, TV shows, etc., took quite a slide in the 2000s.

I was hoping that link about improvements in the states would be something meaningful and interesting instead of being about divorce rates. I guess it's interesting that they've fallen relatively quickly since 2000, but I'd say overall lower divorce is the result of a cultural shift where cynicism about marriage resulting in fewer and later marriages plays the key role. As a 25 year-old that definitely seems to be the attitude in my peer group.

"I judge my decade by the music that comes out of it. I can say without a doubt that this decade was horrendous."

Your metric only works in eras of mass culture. Music in the 00s was characterized more by the complete fragmentation of the market than by any particular musical style. I doubt we'll ever go back to associating an era with types of music.

Take a look at this list:

The mass-market album/sound peaked in the 80s. The 2000s saw very few top-selling albums and they're variously hip-hop, cheesy pop, alt-rock, and female vocalist.

The TIME list is ridiculous. Why put in Bernie Madoff and decadent Detroit but leave out the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon? Darfur? The Civil War in the DRC (which started in the 90s, but continued into the 00s)? The conflicts in the Ivory Coast and Liberia? Zimbabwe's crisis? The re-igniting of violence in Sri Lanka? Somalia?

The worst decade will be the 2010s. There are times in history when you can sense a "gathering storm", as Churchill put it, and this is one of those times.

When judging a decade, do we consider just its effects on the people who lived through it, or its far-reaching effects on future generations? Arguably, the biggest tragedy of the 20th century was the First World War, both in its own right (death toll) and also because it was the not-so-indirect cause of most of that century's other tragedies both major and minor: Bolshevism and its gulags and killing fields, Nazism and its genocides, the Second World War, the end of the first great era of free trade and globalization, the end of the first era when it was possible to travel within Europe without passports, and arguably even the Spanish influenza of 1918.

I can't rate any decade that gave rise to scene kids as a good decade, even if it was a great decade for a few niche music genres (EBM, folk metal, and synthpop being my personal preferences) and consumer electronics (which I think we're really on the verge of).

Very grateful to a bunch of much better skills. I look forward to reading more of the future of the subject. Keep the good work.thanks.

Great information. Thanks for sharing! You've definitely gained a new reader :)

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