Thursday, August 10, 2006
Positive spin on a negative twist
But on the bright side (I know, it’s a vice, trying to show that actually everything is just fine) these are just part of the birth pains that a proto-civilization must go through. In Nikolai Kardeshov's theory of the development of civilzations (the contribution of Soviet SETI I mentioned in an earlier post), we are at a crucial cusp, a short period where our evolution will be painful. In this period, we will learn how not to destroy ourselves over religion, race, and similar non-issues. And in fact, I think we humans still have a very good chance of developing a true civilization. Why?
It’s no longer a mystery that private property and free markets are they key ingredients for a successful society. Even the Chinese “communists” and Indian dirigists recognize this, and are acting accordingly (one third of the world’s population). Logic and evidence support the liberal view, and this is becoming obvious to nearly everyone, despite the denials of religionists, populists, fascists, and similar opponents of freedom.
The time is ripe to shout that reason and individual liberty offer a way – actually the only way – out of our problems. Individual liberty means respect for the rights of everyone; it means protection for Jew, for Arab, and for everyone else, and over exactly those things over which the individual has legitimate claim. It also provides for a system by which individuals can organize and exchange so as to generate mutual prosperity.
Peace and liberty and prosperity – all of these are actually attainable, for the bulk of humanity, within our lifetimes. We have to do the right things, but we have the power to make the world right.
So expect to see freedom round the world soon -- hopefully before the nuclear missiles start flying.
ADDITIONAL NOTE (18 August): I incorrectly referenced "The Rise of American Nuclear Primacy" in my reply (below) to Indigo Red. It actually appeared in Mar/Apr 2006 Foreign Affairs. Here's a link to the article.
Interesting how the free-thinkers of the 19th century were confident religion would slowly disappear in the 20th. Ha! The Great Agnostic Robert.G.Ingersoll is one of my favourite people.
And Austrian economics and the history of thought? - I wish I was in your class.
And good to read you have a hopeful view for the future, if we don't kill ourselves first of course.
And yes I also believe recession looms sometime soon when excess debt and mal-investments will be liquidated.
I'm in New Zealand and we have the same housing mania as the U.S and other western countries.
Yes, people love the idea of easy money with no productive effort in return, but in the end there is no free lunch.
I've read some of Ingersoll and really enjoy him, both his content and his style. I think I will probably blog more on the subject of religion and it's influences on thinking, political ideology, etc. in the coming months. Your comments will be welcome.
Are you familiar with Rodney Hide? He was in NZ's parliament for a time and is a political acivist there, but I have lost touch with him. I was acquainted with him when he was in Montana, attaneding Montana State and working at PERC. He's quite an interesting guy.
One thing about hopeful visions of the future -- humans really do not seem to be evolutionary dead-ends to me, and despite our strange tendencies to accept crazy ideas and do destructive things, our stronger tendencies are to discover truth, cooperate, and create and build. If we can just get our negative tendencies under control we should have a great future.
From individual to family to clan to village humans made their way with probably as much violence as we see today. From the village to city-state to nation-state to empire people certainly experienced much violence.
As humans return from empire to nation-state we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of going backwards. But, reverse we must and forward to...where? The only logical path is region-states to world-state.
I am not a big fan of the world-state idea, but civilization has moved inexorably in that direction from the dawn of society. Each succeeding level of alliance has brought increased security to the participants. The world-state would accomplish the global peace that is sought.
The primary concern is, of the current major players, Islam or democratic West, which will survive to lead the world? I believe individual liberty, private property, and free markets will eventually win, but WWIII will also be the route chosen. From the ashes of the last civilization will spring the new.
I fear, however, that I will not survive the coming cataclysm. I'm not at all certain I would want to.
If you don't want to see the outcome of the coming conflict you predict, then you shouldn't fear not surviving.
OK, a more serious response... My "missiles flying" isn't meant literally. The United States will almost certainly have complete dominance in nuclear weaponry for our lifetimes. A very interesting explanation of why is available in the May/June 2006 "Foreign Affairs."
WWIII, if it occurs, would have to be fought by other means -- biological weaponry, cybernetic e-war, perhaps nanotechnology in the future... or guerilla war & terror.
I don't believe the Muslim world will be capable of of making a serious effort in any of the above excepts for the last, and I don't think that guerilla war and terror can bring down the west *if* we don't go ahead and bring ourselves down by abandoning western values and adopting totalitarianism (the apparent neocon strategy, unfortunately).
As for world government -- what we really need is world law, not government -- something along the lines of English common law, based is the rights of the individual. It needn't be enforced by a single world government, but rights of the individual aren't something that are negotiable, and they form the basis for a stable and prosperous society that is in the interests of most people (including most Muslims).
For that reason I think we face a positive sum game, in which better ideas, better institutions, and a fierce zero-tolerance for anti-liberal murderers like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda (among others, there are plenty of non-Muslim bad guys too) can prevail.
We just have to do what it takes, and first of all this means articulating and spreading the messages of reason and liberty.
America's dominance in the thermonuclear weapons arena is not seriously questioned. The real question is whether the US is willing to use those weapons. The current crop of enemy is convinced the US will not use them, and even if the bombs are used - so what? Against an adversary unafraid of death, there is no deterence. There is only total destruction.
The idea of world law sans world government is interesting. How would that work? Would it be like mega-federalism in which the existing countries operate as semi-sovereign provinces? If so, wouldn't that still over time evolve into a single centralized ruling authority?
Individuals though we are, we have grand herd tendancies. Grouping is one of the reasons for social organizations, gangs, political parties, fundamentalist terror cells. Such groups develope competing goals which leads to conflict. Respecting individual human rights is a wonderful idea, but those rights will always be at odds with the natural group formation. I don't see how anything would be solved or even different with world law with or without world government.
Lee -- I have never been to Belarus. I had Belarusian students in Kyiv, and have met some Belarusians (via the net) since then). If I were to find an economist position there, I'd go in a second, as I think Lukashenka's regime will not last and would love to be there when it goes.
If you have any interesting stories from your sister and brother in law's experiences there, I'd be interested in hearing. You could post them here, or email me at steele_econ@[take this out]yahoo.com. Of course, be sure to remove [take this out] from the above email.
Christianity and Western civilization are laterally related. They have a history with simultaneous events and tragedies.
Of course there are differences on some social issues. That's okay. There is still liberty for unbelievers to oppose and debate.
Abortion and Gay marriage is a stickler among those in the faith. However, women still can get an abortion anywhere and gay people still can get married in some states. The laws against this behavior can be easily overturned by the majority through election or judicial activism.
But by far Judaic-Christians and Libertarians have much more in common than left-wing Marxists and socialists.
As far as Islam goes, there are some Muslims who are civilized according to western standards. But there some that are lunatics, and many that wish the lunatics blow themselves up in the king's palace.
Anyway, stereotyping all believers is an immature way to observe human action. All individuals of faith are not the same. Sure there are high profile religious leaders that make news with their conflicting political views. But most American Judaic-Christians just want the freedom to practice and share their faith peacefully.
But generalizing isn't stereotyping. And while you might be right about the political positions of Chrsitians and Jews, at least in the U.S., you cannot deduce support for captialism by noting that people have benefitted from it. Americans have certainly been made very affluent by free trade, yet there's considerable opposition to it from beneficiaries.
It's hardly clear to me that all that political activists from America's Christian right really "just want the freedom to practice and share their faith peacefully" since that isn't in dispute at all.
But politics is secondary -- my primary reason for opposing revealed religion is that it is based upon, and promotes, bad epistemology, bad metaphysics, and -- as a consequence -- bad ethics. I also recognize that people have the right to believe what they will, and that perhaps something in our biology predisposes us to religious belief -- so I agree that we should learn to live with it if we must and minimize the damage by encouraging benevolent sorts of religion.