Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another lesson from history

I posted a while back some lessons from history that I'm re-posting today because they've attracted a bit of interest around the place, and because there's a new lesson that's suddenly topical.

It's said that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It might also be said that those who are either unable or unwilling to learn from history cannot honestly expect to have their ill-formed and baseless opinions taken seriously. History has many lessons for those both alert enough to identify them and honest enough not to evade them:
  • From the Dark Ages comes the lesson that taken together faith, mysticism, an ethic of blind sacrifice and a focus on some non-existent other world leads to dirt-poor misery in this one. (The same lesson can be learned either from the thousand years of the Western Dark Ages, or from what looks to be at least a thousand years of Islamic Dark Ages.)
  • The Inquisition and Islamic jihad between them show the truth of Voltaire's dictum that those who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities.
  • From the Enlightenment comes the lesson that between them reason and a focus on this world provide a way out of the darkness.
  • The Industrial Revolution shows that reason applied to production leads to an enormous increase in human welfare, (and from it also comes the further lesson that reason is man's unique means of survival).
  • That the Industrial Revolution happened first and most spectacularly in Britain shows that a legal environment protecting freedom and property rights is necessary for such a revolution to happen and to endure.
  • The relative success of the US Constitution shows that if you know what you're about that it's possible to tie up the government to protect freedom and property rights at least some of the time.
  • From two World Wars and a century of slaughter comes the lesson that totalitarian state worship is not the route to human happiness.
  • From the bloody failures of collectivism comes the lesson that 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a recipe only for human sacrifice and bloody slaughter.
  • From the rise of Nazism comes the lesson that appeasement rewards the aggressor; that all evil requires is for good men to do nothing.
  • From the Holocaust comes the lesson of the banality of evil, and the evil of blindly following orders.
  • From the spectular post-war economic successes of Germany and Japan comes the lesson that trade and capitalism are better than totalitarianism and bloody conquest.
  • From the rise of the Asian Tiger economies comes the lesson (again) that freedom and prosperity are directly and inextricably linked.
  • From the Fall of the Berlin Wall comes the lesson that non-freedom and poverty are also and inextricably linked.
  • The continuing fatwah on Salman Rushdie; the murders of Theo van Gogh, Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and Paul Marshall Johnson; the deaths of September 11 and the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London -- between them the lesson is there that war has already been declared between barbarity and civilisation...
All these lessons are there for those who choose to open their eyes and learn. Taken together, the lesson from the events of history is that reason, individualism and capitalism are a recipe for health, wealth and happiness in this world, and their polar opposites a prescription only for death, misery and destruction.

And there's one more lesson to learn from history that I could add now, one from Richard Nixon's disastrous presidency that should be a particular lesson for all political "strategists": the lesson that the real damage from Watergate was not the burglary, but the cover up. That's a point that those responsible for stealing "books" of emails and for misappropriating taxpayers' money might give some thought to today.

TAGS: History, Philosophy, Ethics, Politics, Objectivism

Labels: , ,

6 Comments:

Anonymous Sus said...

Good post, PC, thanks. Have forwarded it.

BTW, any chance of adapting the 'send to' segment to incorporate several addresses at once? Or are you bound by Blogger's set-up?

9/14/2006 01:37:00 pm  
Blogger P-Style said...

A response,

• From the Dark Ages comes the lesson that taken together faith, mysticism, an ethic of blind sacrifice and a focus on some non-existent other world leads to dirt-poor misery in this one. (The same lesson can be learned either from the thousand years of the Western Dark Ages, or from what looks to be at least a thousand years of Islamic Dark Ages.)
• The Inquisition and Islamic jihad between them show the truth of Voltaire's dictum that those who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities.
You imply a necessity between the ‘absurd’ and atrocities. While I think it is reasonable to assume that extreme belief results in extreme action (usually) it is illogical to assume a necessity between absurdity and atrocity. After all ‘atrocity’ is a moral conjecture, and ‘absurdity’ is a logical position, therefore the relationship between the two is dependant on a marriage of logical and morality, which is not always the case.
• From the Enlightenment comes the lesson that between them reason and a focus on this world provide a way out of the darkness.
This piont is very loaded with implied meanings and emotive language. It’s very easy to argue against something by simply describing it as ‘dark’ and a change away from it to be “a way out”.
• The Industrial Revolution shows that reason applied to production leads to an enormous increase in human welfare, (and from it also comes the further lesson that reason is man's unique means of survival).
Does it? Some would argue that welfare was started by those who were concerned with negative effects associated with industrialisation (such as poor factory conditions). Once again, you imply an illogical fallacy that demands a direct correlation between two variables. I would agree that industrialisation is a means to the increased generation of wealth, but the use of that wealth is dependant on other variables.
• That the Industrial Revolution happened first and most spectacularly in Britain shows that a legal environment protecting freedom and property rights is necessary for such a revolution to happen and to endure.
Are you aware that Britain had, at the time of the Industrial Revolution an oppressive empire that nearly spanned the entire globe, from which they were able to capture raw materials well out of their reach had they merely maintained a ‘comparative advantage economy’ based on their local resource base? Surely this contributed towards their economic growth, and that growth was not merely a function of their internal legal/ political organisation. . .
• The relative success of the US Constitution shows that if you know what you're about that it's possible to tie up the government to protect freedom and property rights at least some of the time.
No arguments here, “some of the time” applies to any political system Iw ould have thought. ..
• From two World Wars and a century of slaughter comes the lesson that totalitarian state worship is not the route to human happiness.
Correct. I’d been keen to see if any government can legislate happiness.
• From the bloody failures of collectivism comes the lesson that 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a recipe only for human sacrifice and bloody slaughter.
• From the rise of Nazism comes the lesson that appeasement rewards the aggressor; that all evil requires is for good men to do nothing.
From the misery in Iraq comes the lesson that one should be very careful when launching into a pre-emptive action against a ‘bad guy’, even if he is rather awful.
• From the Holocaust comes the lesson of the banality of evil, and the evil of blindly following orders.
From the misery in Iraq comes the lesson of the banality of self righteousness, and the evil of blindly following order.

9/14/2006 04:31:00 pm  
Anonymous AngloAmerican said...

"From the misery in Iraq comes the lesson of the banality of self righteousness, and the evil of blindly following order."

Not sure who you mean here p-style. You might think it reads clever but I just see it as a stupid comment without further elaboration.

9/15/2006 06:27:00 am  
Blogger P-Style said...

My apologies angloamerican. I was not intending to 'sound clever'. I just got bored of writing my own words by the end of my post, so I though i'd just cop and paste with some changes. . .

I'm simply trying to say that Iraq is also an example of how forcig 'democracy' or any other political ideology on a people can have negative side effects.

Once again, I apologise for not being clear.

9/15/2006 11:04:00 am  
Anonymous angloamerican said...

Apology accepted.

9/18/2006 05:48:00 am  
Blogger Hine Te-Po said...

Give me barbarism anyday. Its more honest and less hypocritical.

9/24/2006 09:41:00 pm  

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