Progressive and inclusive are the ‘buzz words’ of the new generation of politicians, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, and now our own prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Progressive and inclusive are potentially good words, but ethereal and somewhat ambiguous if left (pun intended) undefined. Progressive loosely means developing in stages – moving something or someone, somewhere. Inclusive means including all things normally expected or required.
Progressive is a great word if applied to taxation. It means having progressively higher marginal tax rates for people on progressively higher incomes, or with the greatest share of the collective wealth. It means doing away with regressive taxes that impact mostly on those on lower incomes. It was taken as a given until the 1980s that tax would be progressive. Somewhat ironically, a return to progressive taxation is long overdue.
Inclusion is also a great word if it means that everyone can participate fully in our society on every level. Prejudice and discrimination are the enemies of inclusion, whether on the basis of religion, moral beliefs, race, gender, disability, or just intolerance of different opinions and interests.
Economic inequality is also the enemy of inclusion. Everyone needs a reasonable income to be able to participate fully in society, to live like everyone else.
Right now, New Zealand, like most places in the world, is neither progressive nor inclusive. Economic inequality has worsened, leaving many marginalized groups unable to participate in society, and groups that were once included being gradually excluded.
This is exacerbated by the housing crisis. Even previously included groups such as teachers and nurses are finding themselves no longer able to afford to live in places such as Auckland and Queenstown. And find themselves very limited as to what suburbs they can live in in other areas.
Likewise with healthcare and access to employment / a liveable income.
A progressive and inclusive society will need to be one where wealth and resources are shared equitably, a society that prioritizes affordable and effective healthcare, warm dry housing for everyone, free education at all levels, and a liveable income for everyone
If that is what the new young political leaders mean when they talk about being progressive and inclusive and their talk is not just aspirational but backed by concrete actions, we will certainly see change for the better.