It seems to me, I usually warn about potential threats to our liberty and prosperity, but that gives a skewed impression of my true beliefs about the future. I do see many possible dangers facing us, some are from our government(s) running amok and others are foreign in nature, while they have the potential of lowering us and our children to serfs and slaves, the future in the long term, is bright. Mankind has never advanced in a straight line. The progress in human understanding has always been through fits and starts. Sometimes reversing direction for a long time but always eventually getting back on track. The Dark ages were just such an example. Mankind taken as a whole, is a complex system, complex systems have a way of finding equilibrium. This equilibrium of the complex system that is humanity, is generally to improve the standard of living, increase the liberty of individuals and limit the power of political favor as well. In the long, or perhaps short term, this bodes well for the future of humanity.
If we look back at the arc of human history we can see that people’s lives used to be short, violent and brutish, (to use another’s phrase). This is still true in some parts of the World. The evils that humanity has seen are largely a result of our own ignorance and self indulgence. Slavery for example has largely been eliminated from human existence. Unfortunately, there are those who enslave others still, but they are almost universally criminal and not State sanctioned. This is a huge step for mankind. That slavery is becoming more and more detested, by people the World over, is a sure sign there is hope for us.
Thrasymachus said that most people want to live their lives in peace. This is true enough but he went on to say that the great men want power over others. This always manifests itself in the form of political power. The “great men” that he spoke of were and are the political elite. It is human nature to seek power over others. This is the thesis of Freud’s concept of the id. Irrational, lusting after whatever the id wants. Power being at the top. That human governments have put in place checks and balances to limit and minimize this aspect of our nature is another sign that we are able to learn. That the majority of us want to live in peace is another source of hope.
The founding of the United States and the subsequent writing of our Constitution was a seminal event in human history. It was an evolutionary step in limiting the power of the political elite. Rome had limited the elite through the use of the Consular system, which worked well for them for hundreds of years, but eventually failed. Ancient Greece used the Ostracism to limit the power of the elite to some avail, but in the writing of a constitution the power of government was enumerated in a written document, open for all to see, but most importantly… enforceable. The true innovation in the American Constitution was stating overtly, that the power of government comes from the people, not that the people’s liberty comes from the government.
Of course the elite have always sought to free themselves of whatever shackles that are placed on them. This is why there have been so many failures of governmental systems. This is as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. The attempts of the elite to throw off any limitations on their power are the reason humanity has retreated so often. We can expect this to continue as long as there are people. That we have advanced so far is reason for optimism. Perhaps we will loose our liberty to the elite today but it would be foolish to believe future generations will not again win it back. The nature of complex systems are that they have long tailed events. Unlikely happenings, that change the system profoundly, and sometimes in kind.
Capitalism has proven itself to be the most efficient means to advance mankind’s humanity to man, as well as generate prosperity, whenever and wherever it is used. This knowledge is like a genie escaping from a bottle, it cannot be put back in. Limited government through constitutionalism has proven itself to be the best way to insure that the elite don’t misuse the power invested in them. Western Philosophy, while often nonsensical, has brought us the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and constitutionalism as well. Eventually teaching the basic truth that all men are created equal. The future of mankind is bright. Our children, or maybe great great grand children, will inherit the stars. When that happens humanity will have suffered, loved and matured. Isn’t that the way all things grow? To start as an infant, grow to be self indulgent adolescents and eventually to mature into productive adults. Hsun Ching said the congenital nature of man is evil and that the good in us is a learned trait. I expect humanity is no different… we are learning to be good, and good we will eventually be.