An excellent brief video from Hans Rosling.
We can all argue (what fun!) about what exactly set this all off: the innate genius of the English that everyone else then just copied, capitalism, markets, liberal democracy, whatever, but there's no doubt at all that something changed those couple of hundred years ago. Something changed for the better of course: longer, richer, lives for all.
There are many flavours of this liberal, market, capitalism thing, from Hong Kong style laissez faire to Swedish social democracy and China's current authoritarian fumblings towards the rule of law. But when you peer down into the figures that Rosling is visualising there one result stands out a mile. All those who got rich did so with one of those flavours of liberal market capitalism, all those who got rich did so as they adopted liberal market capitalism and no one has got rich without adopting some flavour of it.
So let's hear it for liberal market capitalism then: longer richer lives for all, 200 years and counting.