‘Progress will prevail’

Today’s Herald editorial talks of A year marked by backward steps – naming flag change and TPP failures as well as Brexit and Trump – but thinks that progress will prevail.


New Zealand, like all postcolonial countries, is on an inevitable trajectory of independence and even the most ardent traditionalists know it.

In time, the replacement of its flag will be one of the easier changes it makes. In time, the very name of the nation will probably change too.

Probably, but it may take some time. I’m not confident of all of flag change, name change and establishing a comprehensive constitution happening in my lifetime given the lack of maturity evident with the flag debate which was dominated by petty politics.


The US election, too, was a re-assertion of nationalism, not just in economics and trade but in culture and ethnicity. Many have taken fright at the scale of migration in the modern, more integrated world.

But threats from migration have been overstated and the benefits not acknowledged by demagogues who have succeeded in politics this year. Migration is needed by most developed countries with ageing populations and birth rates below replacement level.

More important, migration enriches the receiving countries economically and culturally. Life is more better for the variety of skills, tastes and interests migrants bring.

Democracies have succumbed to fear this year because of terrorism from the Muslim world. Even the US, facing a fraction of the numbers pressing on the EU’s borders, has been unnerved.

But fear is not humanity’s natural state. We are an optimistic species and progress will prevail.

The problems with immigration and Muslim terrorism and refugees won’t disappear by shutting borders (when has a country ever thrived by shutting itself off from the rest of the world?) and taking wide scale punitive action.

Overall in the world progress has prevailed for a long time so there’s good reason to be optimistic progress will continue.

So far this century has been far safer than the last for the majority of humans, and the overall standard of living has improved.

Take poverty (a much discussed topic this year in New Zealand):


Data source: World Poverty in absolute numbers (Max Roser based on World Bank and Bourguignon and Morrisson (2002))
OurWorldInData.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts/ CC BY-SA

We have to be optimistic that we can continue to progress. There will be setbacks but overall we have to hope and try for better.