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Sunday, August 05, 2012

History - Not Ended Yet

   Sometimes people achieve fame by saying something that is absolute rubbish but fits the political/social needs of the time. Paul Ehrlich, whose has achieved fame (& $250,000 "genius" grants) by making dozens of environmental catastrophe predictions, all of them proven by time to be completely wrong, is one such.

   Another is Francis Fukuyama who famously said, when the USSR fell, that this was "the end of history" since, from now own, all governments would simply be administrators of the law and free markets.

   {I suspect he was not deliberately ripping off 1066 and All That, a wonderful satire of history which ended in 1918 with "America thus became Top Nation and History came to a ." *}

   The bit of his article I am going to bring up is not that famous inanity but comes at the end of the article. 
The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history...... Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.

 In fact what we have seen is these same allegedly liberal governments becoming ever more controlling as they suck up an ever increasing share of GNP to pay the ever increasing number of government employees and their friends, and then having to find more things to regulate to justify this growth.

   It is increasingly apparent that government is not solving technical problems; not successfully calculating effective economic answers; failing to satisfy consumer demands; and while using environmental concerns to enhance its power, since this is the only field it is even possible to claim government action is worthwhile, merely increasing false concerns, such as CAGW, without achieving any discernible results.
  The fact is that at all the things used to justify "liberal" western big government - the last 20 years have seen the liberal facade collapse and illiberal policies introduced which have consistently failed at the very things Fukuyama said our government was supposed to be committed to and better at.

 If, as Marx said, societies inevitably develop towards the most effective use of the "means of production" western governments have absolutely failed. The things used by Fukuyama to justify government - solving economic, technical & ending real environmental problems - are things at which these governments are clearly heavily counterproductive and free market solution (with "hidden costs" to the environment being properly included in the price system) are obviously more effective.

  Time for the withering away of the state then.

  The other point he has entirely missed is that of technological and particularly space development. It is difficult to imagine that when space development ceases to be prevented by the illiberal and all consuming state & we are exploring Mars, Saturn, Pluto and beyond, that boredom (or a failure to find new philosophies or artistic insights) will be such a problem.

    Or indeed that history will end.


* The punch line to 1066 and All That requires one to know that the dot at the end of a sentence ( . ) known in America as a "period" is known in Britain as a "full stop".  England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

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