Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Alfred McCoy on Dim American Futures

Somehow (one has a hard time retracing steps through the web) I came across this very interesting article. University of Wisconsin historian Alfred McCoy has given this subject some thought. Of course, like any prediction, it is uncertain. However, I do think that historians have a better perspective than most about how history may flow. I doubt that history has "laws", but it does follow patterns. We're all animals, and we love patterns. Culture, after all, is a pattern very widely accepted in a group. The culture of nations and how they interact also follows patterns. The pattern, can change, or there may be a choice of patterns. So, this is a "for what it's worth" piece, and I think it's worth something. It should lead us to think about our alternative futures. We, like Scrooge, have many ghosts of Christmas future in front of us. The way the U.S. electorate and political leadership are acting now, I'm not so optimistic. I hope I'm overly pessimistic. Anyway, McCoy provides some sobering thought.

Bill Gates vs. Matt Ridley

This is an interesting "debate" between Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation (and if you're from another planet, Microsoft) and Matt Ridley, the Rational Optimist, of whom I've posted before. The debate is a well-argued one, with each participant respecting the virtues of the other. Gates, like me, admires Ridley's work on history and his guiding metaphor of exchange--exchange of stuff and ideas--as a prime mover in human improvement. I agree with Gates, however, that Ridley sometimes seems to take an Alfred E. Newman (my choice, not Gates's) attitude ("What? Me worry?"). Gates rates risks with available knowledge, understanding that innovation could change the scene, but we can't count on it. I agree. In all, this is an intelligent exchange between two very capable and, I might add, well-mannered gentlemen.