Welcome to In Praise of Progress by me, Ville Vesterinen.
This is where I explore the importance of progress and economic growth. I talk with individuals who have a vision of a world they see that the rest of us yet can't. Individuals who are tirelessly working on the wild inventions, ventures and institutions that our prosperity depends on be it in science, business, policy or arts. I also study what history could teach us about how we got here and what drove the march of progress.
I borrow the definition of progress from Patrick Collison’s and Tyler Cowen’s wonderful article in The Atlantic where they argue for a new science of progress:
By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed our lives and raised standards of living over the past couple of centuries.
The blog is not meant to be a scientific study. My aim is rather to get us all interested in the topic. I hope readers find inspiration, a new-found understanding of the importance of growth and most importantly an excitement-filled urgency to find their own way to contribute.
Why Growth Matters
It’s true that if not managed properly economic growth and markets can easily get a bad rep because of the potential for large economic inequalities and market failures like polluting the environment. These are both important issues that we need to collectively figure out – and I believe we will – but the distribution of wealth and the pricing of negative externalities should not cloud the importance of economic growth itself. Quite the contrary. Economic growth makes all the solutions possible.
It's worth repeating how important long term economic growth is. Economic growth is what will ultimately lift everyone's quality of life. It opens up opportunities for the entrepreneurial-minded and generates tax revenues that ensure that the less fortunate are looked after. This, in turn, is what makes our democracies function. Conversely, we'll all be hosed if the economic growth slows down significantly and the technology-driven growth in our living standards during the past 200 years turns out to be an exception rather than the rule. We have had a great run from the industrial revolution to the current information revolution we're in the midst of, but future growth is not guaranteed without us putting in the hard work.
More science, engineering, and arts combined with the relentless creative human spirit is the way forward in a world where technology is making repetitive work redundant while at the same time our planetary boundaries are being stretched to a breaking point. If we lose hope along with our jobs we are flirting with a revolution of which our democracy may not survive as we hope it would. Fortunately, the opposite is equally true. If we find a common thread where we can contribute and work together towards an inspiring future, everything is possible.
Economic growth gives life to many wonderful things. A sense of shared direction, creative expression, entrepreneurship, a functioning democracy. Advancement of science, art, hope, peace, and excitement for the future. It lifts societies by opening up new opportunities and can be a life-changer for individuals who get to be part of it. Growth is a close friend of progress and the ultimate enabler.