Saturday, 24 December 2016

2016 - relativism vs. absolutism?

I've grown tired over the last few days of hearing and reading things like "what a terrible year it's been", "I can't wait to see the end of it", "next year can't be any worse", blah blah.  For all those who've suffered personal setbacks or tragedies to prompt you to say those kinds of things, fair enough.  But for the media types, from whom I've heard this bilge pour forth, what they've really meant is "Brexit, Trump, populism in general, tut tut."

Well, in Scrooge mode, I say suck it up guys, because there's plenty more to come. I don't necessarily like or agree with it all the manifestations of 'populism', but I like and agree with it a heck of a lot more than the self-satisfied politicians, bankers, lawyers, industrialists and diplomats around the world for whom their world is very cosy thanks. It works for them. It doesn't work for millions of others - the homeless who I saw in their multitudes in Manchester the other night, the low paid workers who despite working hard for 40+ hours a week, still need the state to top up their pay, or the young professionals who can't afford to buy their first house. I've never thought of myself as a revolutionary, being essentially right wing, but things have got to change - we do need more equality, but not of the sort that the Labour party espouses, which takes a few more quid off middle earners and transfers it to the welfare budget. We need the sort of equality where people don't build up massive asset bases through government monetary policy of the day, or where the free market in housing isn't restricted by central and local government planning policy.

Anyway, all that's not the point of this post. The point is the people who are saying 2016 has been terrible are, in my estimation, largely those for whom the world has been pretty cosy. It's been relatively poor for them.  By many other absolute measures, it's been fabulous, which might seem a strange thing to say after writing the last paragraph - I'm not going to quote sources, as it's Christmas Eve and there are many things to be done - but, in no particular order:

- there are fewer people in absolute poverty than at any point in our history
- inequality between rich and poor countries has never been lower
- the incidence of wars (despite Syria) is still very low by historical standards
- transfers of power still happen peacefully and smoothly in many countries
- ISIS is on the wain
- access to technology is easier, cheaper and more life-changing/enhancing than ever before
- etc etc.

...and these trends will probably continue. So in absolute terms, I'd say 2016 was a pretty good year - and next year will be even better. Your personal graph might ebb and flow, but overall, the world's is on an upward trend, and long may that continue.

Have a very Happy Christmas, and a terrific 2017.

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