Countdown to Christmas
20 - Progress
- Would you prefer to live in 1630 or now? In case you do not fancy religious warfare, the answer seems obvious: now. How about 1795 or now? Well, still no penicillin, so better “Now!” Maybe 1941? Well, of course now. 1968? 1982? 1996? 2008? The answer always seems to be “now”. But why? Because of progress. Because it gets better by the day. And not only materially. We also advance socially, morally, technologically, and scientifically.
- The idea of progress is the belief that the human condition will improve over time—and is deeply rooted in the liberal tradition. However, this does not mean that progress is inevitable. Liberals have no deterministic conception of history. We cannot just relax and just wait for a better world to come. Instead, liberalism is concerned with establishing the institutions (i.e. liberal democracy, science, markets) that allow society to leverage the powers of progress: human curiosity and ingenuity.
The last couple of years have been challenging: A global pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, record inflation, and a looming worldwide recession. That means that the doomsayers and fear-mongers will certainly have the upper hand at this year’s Christmas dinner conversation. But don’t worry. The long arc of history bends towards progress. And his “gender neutral bathroom sign” will remind your reactionary family remembers just of that. We have 99 problems but an alternative to liberal progress ain’t one.