There doesn't seem to be a simple explanation for why the world is becoming more tolerant and pacific over time. But part of the answer may be that we're witnessing a cultural sea change when it comes to attitudes toward the acceptability of both discrimination in general and violence in particular. Perhaps there's a part played by television there -- with over 1.4 billion of them in homes worldwide, the medium brings people of different races, creeds, and countries into living rooms and suggests how our daily concerns are alike. So do your part: Watch that re-run of It's a Wonderful Life.
This greater global comity must certainly be one reason that the world is increasingly merry. The proportion of the planet reporting they were somewhat or very happy climbed from under three-quarters to over four-fifths between the two World Values Survey waves. Global contentment may have dipped as a result of the financial crisis -- but Princeton University economist Angus Deaton suggested that happiness polls have pretty much recovered to their pre-crisis levels in the United States. And countries like China and India, which account for much of the world's population, became ever more prosperous over the past few years. So it seems very likely that cheer remains the default state for the great majority of humanity.
It is less jolly that, even as people are becoming better behaved, our faith in them is dropping. According to the World Values Survey, the proportion of people across the planet that believe most people can be trusted has fallen from 43 percent to 34 percent between the early 1990s and the mid 2000s.
Regardless, fewer people worldwide are being naughty, and more are being nice. That's great news, because the last thing the global environment can afford this year is more coal in peoples' stockings.