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Prosperity and Progress

October 09, 2018 (227 words)

There is a breed of libertarian economist who, along with a corresponding breed of progressive social scientist, never tires of trumpeting the dramatic increase in material well-being our society has experienced since 1800 or so.

This shiny fact gets trotted out to celebrate and certify the three indispensable cornerstones of the modern era: liberal democracy, religious pluralism, and free market capitalism.

But the dazzling statistical analysis these experts deploy only captures one aspect of human flourishing, and sheds no light whatsoever on the ultimate meaning or purpose of our day-to-day sturm und drang.

Sooner or later we all come to realize there is more to life than having ready access and the requisite purchasing power to acquire the latest smart phone, a big screen TV, or a really cool pair of sneakers.

That we have been taught to narrowly define human progress as simple material prosperity is undeniable. We would all do well to broaden our definition of that term while there is still a little time left on our personal game clock.

John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which is To Come in 1678. It’s been translated into over two hundred languages, and has never been out of print. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
October 09, 2018

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