Here Goldberg goes into the complexity of potential causes of capitalism. His discussion of The Miracle and what it represents gains a lot more flavor and nuance than the one word construct it’s had up until now in the text.
He discusses Common law as an emergent property of a society. Again here I note some vocabulary stemming from the “Complexity” science movement of the past several decades as well as that of David Christian et al in the Big History conversation. (Speaking of which, I’ve noted he’s got a new book out on the topic.)
I will take some issue with what looks like a logical problem toward the end of the chapter here:
Therefore the demise of our civilization is only inevitable if the people saying and arguing the right things stop talking.
I do take his broader point, but what, praytell, are the right things, particularly when you’ve just made the argument that you’re not exactly sure what complex system caused it all? We really need to know exactly what caused it to be able to fight to maintain the correct parts of the Goldilocks conditions.
In general, I find myself agreeing with the broadest points here and find the arguments and ideas quite intriguing.
Interesting case so far. I can’t help but extrapolate some of these ideas including pluralism to the internet in terms of a state and the effect of the IndieWeb movement. Is Facebook a stationary bandit?
There is a heavy flavor of the viewpoint of “Big History” lurking in the text though I doubt that Goldberg is directly aware of the area of study/research. I’m also seeing a lot of reliance and influence from Francis Fukuyama lurking within the text. (Note to self to go back to finish reading his two most recent tomes.) Based on what I’ve read thus far, I’d say I’m in general agreement with much of the broad strokes. He’s also positing an interesting thesis about the causes and roots of the democracy, the industrial revolution, and freedom under which we find ourselves living currently. I’m not sure I like his single word description he’s using for our present “Miracle”, but I do appreciate the need for a shorthand. Taking the longer and broader term view (particularly in contrast to the state of the second and third world countries in much of the rest of the world), it’s much more obvious how much more fragile our country and institutions are. Some of the tribalism which I see us backsliding into is very troubling from this perspective.
Social constructs and institutions which are eroding become a bigger issue under this broader thesis. I can think of simple recent cultural touchstones like Hobby Lobby not being forced to provide complete health care coverage (abortions) for employees and being given exemptions for religious reasons or cake shops being able to not serve homosexual couples. Given the broader themes going on, I can easily tell where Goldberg would come down on these legal issues. (Though I do wonder how they could be ruled on positively within this framework from a legal/constitutional perspective.)
I’ll make a scant note of it here and hopefully circle back to flesh it out more later, but I think that Goldberg’s thesis could be dramatically scaled up in a way in which he may not suspect. In Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies,Cesar Hidalgo has an increasing scale from the individual to the firm and this could then scale to a megafirm and potentially to larger (currently undefined) institutions. This could potentially mean that our current situation isn’t “as good as it gets” (my words not Goldberg’s, though the sentiment is similar.) Taking things to a more logical conclusion and treating all humans as equal as a base, then corporations/firms would need to treat humans equal and at the next level up all firms should be considered equal as well. With these givens then ideas like universal healthcare (or even access to education), which could be framed as “socialist” on the first scale of just individuals would be more easily able to be viewed as capitalist on the next level up. My layout here is certainly a bit murky because these ideas are simple models which are far from widely known, but a bit of fleshing out could make them much more apparent.
With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, two-time NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist, National Review senior editor, and American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg makes the timely case that America and other democracies are in peril as they lose the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism.
Only once in the last 250,000 years have humans stumbled upon a way to lift ourselves out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that defines most of history—in 18th century England when we accidentally discovered the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism.
As Americans we are doubly blessed that those radical ideas were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for our uniquely prosperous society:
· Our rights come from God not from the government.
· The government belongs to us; we do not belong to the government.
· The individual is sovereign. We are all captains of our own souls.
· The fruits of our labors belong to us.
In the last few decades, these political virtues have been turned into vices. As we are increasingly taught to view our traditions as a system of oppression, exploitation and “white privilege,” the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from left and right.
At a moment when authoritarianism, tribalism, identity politics, nationalism, and cults of personality are rotting our democracy from within, Goldberg exposes the West’s suicidal tendencies on both sides of the ideological aisle. For the West to survive, we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past – or back to the muck we will go.
Suicide is painless, liberty takes work.
I’ve seen this coming via other sources including Goldberg himself, but h/t to @jaketapper for the reminder to bookmark this for later.