Sometimes when I look around our chaotic, dangerous, unjust world I’m inclined to doubt the value of progress. It seems from the Economist’s Christmas special that I’m not alone. However, there’s an important point lurking in their article, one which throws me back to high school economics classes.
There are only two ways to increase your slice of cake. Either you take some from other people or you increase the size of the whole cake.
If progress is about increasing the size of the cake, I’m all for it. I think the trouble comes because we can’t decide on what type of cake we want. Some want fruit cake (an organic lifestyle). Others want chocolate cake (with nuclear travel and commercial spaceflights). Some want a cake bristling with aggressive additives. You get the idea. It’s not progress we object to, it’s how we define progress that makes us argue.
I’d say progress has to begin with everyone having clean water, food, security, the space to think their own thoughts.