The main idea of this book is to review history of capitalism in America and extract from it some lessons for current situation when after the great recession lots of people once again loosing believe in this system. Author also trying to suggest some solutions, but they are not going beyond typical suggestions of better managing entitlements and decreasing regulations, albeit without any clear explanation how to achieve either one of these objectives.
Author starts with imaginary meeting in Davos in 1620 when in his opinion nobody would predict America becoming the richest and most powerful country in the world with 5% population and 20% of world GDP. He credits capitalism and democracy for this development and revers to property rights as foundation of American DNA. Author discusses key engines of American development: intellectual property protection, individual freedoms to think and act, mass immigration, free market that forces increase in productivity as the best way to obtain wealth, and the most of all creative destruction that constantly moves the country ahead. At the end of introduction author points out the downside of all these: constant presence of losers who were left behind who respond by banding together in unions, gangs, and most important political class: groups that make living by violence. After hundred years of struggle these people succeeded in robbing America of its dynamism and binding its economy with myriad entitlements and limitations. Author indicates that he believes that there is need for radical change in line with Swedish model that was implemented after social-democratic way brought Sweden to stagnation.
One: A COMMERCIAL REPUBLIC: 1776-1860
The history in this book starts with creation of America, which practically inherited its democratic rule and market economy from colonial times. Moreover, the revolution was mainly prompted by attempt to remove these conditions. Author describes mainly subsistent economy that existed at the time and was based on agriculture, horsepower, and wide availability of land. However despite being subsistence economy it was managed by people who actually were productive, culturally conditioned to use market for exchange, and armed so they could keep product of their labor for themselves. Author pays a specific attention to the fact that original Americans were busy people always trying to do something to improve their lives rather than demand from somebody else to do it for them. Initially it meant extensive growth: bring immigrants and start cultivating more land, but sometime after war of 1812 it start turning into intensive development when economy was growing faster than population.
Two: THE TWO AMERICAS
Two individuals represented the original America’s divisions: Jefferson with his ideal of farmer’s republic and Hamilton with his ideal of industrial capitalistic republic. It then morphed into North with its free labor and South with its slave labor. Here is interesting table of South wealth structure in which between 1/3 and 50% of wealth was market value of slaves:
Author does not provides equivalent table for North were taxable labor was belonging to individuals providing this labor. However the difference between development with free labor and slave labor nicely demonstrated by GDP per capita table showing that break in performance actually occurred in 1830-40 and it remained wide until in 1960s southern labor also become free:
The two Americas went to war with each other and capitalist North based on free labor won, more or less uniting country under capitalism.
Three: THE TRIUMPH OF CAPITALISM: 1865-1914
This chapter is about the period in American history when capitalism was pretty much not restrained neither by slave owing aristocracy of South nor political aristocracy of the North, mainly because the former perished in the Civil war, while the latter was only in process of forming. This process was continuously disrupted by impact of western movement when new land, gold, and other resources dramatically increased wealth of country. This wealth was concentrating in hands of Midwestern tycoons rather than adding to the wealth of Eastern aristocrats, which made it available for massive development of the middle of the country. Important factor here was that it was not only natural resources but also growth of productivity as represented in this graph:
Four: THE AGE OF GIANTS
This chapter is about industrial giants who rose to huge economic power during this period mainly by achieving significant advantage in productivity that allowed them dramatically cut prices and push competitors out of business. The interesting thing here is that while author talks about dramatic growth of corporations and role of innovation, the final result of this was overwhelming control over economic development in hands of professional management or in other words corporate bureaucrats who become less and less interested in innovation and directed their efforts more to maintaining standardized mass production and avoid disruption by small, but effective competition.
Five THE REVOLT AGAINST LAISSEZ-FAIRE
The revolt came from the part of population who found themselves not competitive in the new industrial economy and started looking for the way out. Big part of it were farmers that believed that their problems came from tight money supply based on gold so they demanded silver and found their champion in Bryan. The other, more important movement was coalition of new immigrants who found that their labor was not valuable enough to provide for their needs and educated classes who found pretty much the same: free market needs for their labor could not provide levels of compensation they believed they entitled to. They all saw solution to their problems in increased government intervention: force employers to agree to better condition of work than could be achieved by individual bargaining, limit market power of corporation that could not be achieved by competition, government supported jobs that would put their holders outside of market pressure. This created progressive movement that succeeded in increasing government expenditures and intervention in economy. Author discusses details of how it happened and provides a few graphs demonstrating results:
There were also two big cultural forces that promoted increase of government. The most important was American believe in education as the way to rise to higher level in society both materially and psychologically. This created the chronic oversupply of highly educated individuals that could not find place in market economy on par with their perceived self-value and therefore directed their effort to obtain it via government interference. The other factor was the end of frontier that removed safety valve letting out individuals who were not ready accept live of employee in somebody’s else business and did not have resources and/or abilities to start their own.
Six THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA IS BUSINESS
Here author moves to period after initial triumph of progressives in 1900 – 1920 when progressive success combined with war economy and big government excesses of Woodrow Wilson lost support of population. It was period of “do nothing” Harding and Coolidge administrations that freed economy at least to some extent and produced economic miracle of 1920s including self-fixing brief depression of 1920-21. Author reviews multiple technological achievements of this era when car, radio, electricity, and many other new technologies were rapidly implemented. Author also reviews changes in business culture when utilitarian approach as represented by Henry Ford was pushed out by more hedonistic approach as represented by Alfred Sloan. Author discusses radical change in resource allocation brought in by formation of financial industry, providing massive consumer loans, formation of unified countrywide market with chain stores like Piggly-Wiggly. This development was supported by dramatic improvement in transportation and communications, allowing countrywide optimization of allocation of labor and capital. At the end of chapter author stresses that it all created tensions that later led to the great depression: growing debt, unrestricted financial speculation, culturally diverse population with significant number of recent immigrant in main centers of the country, and, also very important, unwarranted growth of believes in engineering approach to the management of society as represented by Herbert Hoover – probably the most experienced and qualified societal engineer ever.
Seven THE GREAT DEPRESSION
This chapter describes the great depression and author defines its causes in such way:
Author also discusses in details monetary aspects of the depression, expressing view that the problem was not with unsustainable gold standard, but with fixing exchange rates to dollar at prewar levels. In short author characterizes the problem as necessity of transformation of economic center from Britain to America that failed to be conducted smoothly due to “European pride and American irresponsibility”. Author also defines as one of the main causes of depression low effectiveness of American political system that was not designed for massive internal intervention and therefore failed to respond in time to markets breakdown. The author discusses Hoover’s failure to contain depression and FDR’s New deal, which was pretty much the same policy that Hoover had, only on much wider scale, without restrictions of constitution, and with massive support of intellectual class. Author points out that FDR’s failure to revive economy was combined with his success in providing substitutes for healthy economy in form of safety net: unemployment benefits, social security, mass unionization, and government expense. The war and economic mobilization that provided more than full employment created illusion that FDR overcame depression, while the victory in the war made not only hero out of him, but also sealed up, at least for a while, his New Deal achievements as permanent characteristic of American system.
Eight THE GOLDEN AGE OF GROWTH: 1945-1970
This chapter is about the most prosperous time when America was one and only big industrial country that came out of WWII without any destruction on its territory and consequently become producer of just about everything needed for the significant part of the world. This golden age created quite unreasonable believe that such condition will last forever, resulting in what author calls corporate imperialism – dominance of big American corporations at home and abroad supplemented by increasing psychological unhappiness of population in both places. Obviously it could last only until economies in Europe and Japan would be restored and once again become competitive.
Some 20 years after the end of war world capitalist economies mainly recovered and American golden age in production ended. First Germany, then Japan, and later on other countries start producing goods as good or better than American and sell it at cheaper price. That’s when unsustainable entitlements, corporate benefits, and government regulations demonstrated how much they are burden on economy, which responded by stagflation: combination of huge inflation and economic stagnation happening at the same time – something that Keynesian economist confidently stated could not possibly happen. Author provides a few graphs that demonstrate decline of core American industries: steel and automotive.
Ten THE AGE OF OPTIMISM
This chapter is about 1980s, Reagan, and changes in American attitudes away from big government, that brought stagnation, to more economic freedom for American business and less accommodation for American enemies. It is also about one less noticeable, but most important development – revolution in finance that allowed much more efficient resource allocation via junk bonds, mutual funds, IPO, and other mechanisms. It was beginning of the globalization process of combining multiple economies in one supply chain. Author discusses change in America during this period from manufacturing to service economy and massive implementation of information technology.
Eleven THE GREAT RECESSION
This is about great recession of 2008, its causes and consequences. Author defines causes as exuberance of 1990s that followed fall of communism and countries of eastern block joining one world economy. Author especially stresses his believe that one of reasons was under-consumption, when consumption could not keep pace with growth of savings, causing inflation of such assets as housing in USA. This was combined with securitization of assets leading to overly complex structure of securities that masked quality of underlying loans, resulting in bubble that eventually burst. Author avoids mentioning his own role as FED chairman in allowing this to happen under political pressure, but praises work of his followers who, in his opinion, prevented this recession turning into depression by pumping practically unlimited amount of liquidity into the system. He explains the following up stagnation by decrease in the growth of productivity that started even before recession and provides graph to demonstrate this:
Twelve AMERICA’S FADING DYNAMISE
Here author discusses declining economic dynamism of America and explains it by country’s move away from creative distraction to less risky behavior. He discusses multiple reasons: decrease in quality of education, aging of population, decrease in quality and scale of immigration and disappointing result of IT revolution. Generally author rejects these causes and points out to growth of entitlements and regulation that stifle economic development.
In conclusion author discusses what he believes is downside of creative distraction – its losers who create political pressure against capitalism. He points out that even if its costs are visible, while benefits are not so much in reality it was capitalism benefits that created mass prosperity from cheap and abundant food to better work conditions and much more. Author reviews changing social structure of America from 1800 to 2000 and expresses believe that technological improvement will allow overcoming current problems as it pretty much did before.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is a nice historical overview, but it is not going deep enough into causes of the problems. In mine opinion there is not enough attention to people who rise again and again against capitalism despite dramatic increase in wealth and quality of life in America, especially if compared with any socialistic and communistic experiments conducted in XX century with catastrophic results. I’d like to see much more clear analysis of anti-capitalist forces, layers of society that constitute these forces, and reasons for theirs increasing power. I would like to see clear understanding of the situation and some ideas how to fight it, because this really is an ideological war in which one side has difficulty to understand that they are at war. I actually believe that XXI century will produce final victory of capitalism and destruction of all forms of socialism that will lose supporters similarly to what happened to National Socialism after military defeat. The question is how big price humanity will pay to achieve this result.
The main idea of this book is that in addition to commonly accepted Darwinian idea of genetic evolution via random change in DNA followed by selection of organisms fit for environment, there is another mechanism – epigenetically changing genes expression that has tremendous impact on the functionality of organism. Author believes that these two mechanisms are complimentary with epigenetics responsible for quick response to dramatic changes in environment, while DNA changes are much slower and kind of harden new functionality of organism.
INTRODUCTION: Looking Back
It starts with discussion of sci-fi, entertainment, and quick changes that occur in life, technology, and environment requiring similarly quick changes in humans and other animals and their behavior. The usual scientific explanation divides it into two separate domains: Darwinian evolutionary random DNA change with selection of the fit, which is very slow process and cultural change that supplement this selection with quick accommodations. Author believes that it is not enough and does not adequately explain accumulated observation. The missing component is epigenetic change, which practically brings back Lamarckian ideas of biological inheritable changes. Biologically it is done by natural addition of molecules that regulates DNA expression, highly dependent on environment, and is inheritable.
CHAPTER I From God to Science
Here author retells the story of raise and mainly fall of Lamarck’s ideas of acquisition of inheritable characteristics. Somehow instead of just supplemental process in understanding of evolution it became perceived as unscientific. Here author definition of what it is: “The favored theory of Charles Darwin, and the “Darwinians” who followed him, is that the major process of evolution is driven by natural selection combined with genetic change by mutation. Epigenetics posits that a quite different set of circumstances can drive also evolutionary change, and that both Darwinian- as well as epigenetic-driven change (or, to do him honor, Lamarckian-driven change) can proceed simultaneously.
Author also reviews general history of scientific understanding from observation of Hadrian wall leading to rejection of biblical account of geological age, through work on Linnaeus cataloguing living organisms that demonstrated their changeability, and work of Buffon, who anticipated Darwin’s Ideas by about a hundred years, but did not risk to go public with this. Author also briefly discusses Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus who was thinking in similar ways.
CHAPTER II Lamarck to Darwin
This chapter retells story of Lamarck’s live and survival during French revolution. From professional side it is also story of struggle against Georges Cuvier, who in addition to being “father” of comparative anatomy and scientist who developed understanding of mass extinctions was also dedicated enemy of Lamarck who succeeded in discrediting Lamarck’s work.
CHAPTER III From Darwin to the New (Modern) Synthesis
Here author presents Darwin’s view in such algorithmic way:
- There is a pattern of characters encoded in each organism in structures called genes.
- This pattern is copied and passed on to offspring.
- The copying is never perfect: Variations arise through errors in copying or through random (not directed) mutations. This produces variation. Even greater variation is introduced through sexual reproduction.
- The variant members compete with each other for more offspring produced that can survive.
- There is a multifaceted environment that makes some of the variants more successful than others.
- The individuals that survive and go on to reproduce, or who reproduce the most, are those with the most favorable variations. They are thus naturally selected.
This all is correct, but not complete. Author points to the speed with which evolutionary change occurs, making it impossible to explain by random process exclusively. Another problem is the absence of small change sequences for many cases when new species appear seemingly from nowhere.
CHAPTER IV Epigenetics and the Newer Synthesis
This starts with explanation of the modern understanding of epigenetics as a supplemental phenomenon to DNA that changes genes expression without changing DNA itself while allowing these changes to be transferred to the next generation. Author provides example of this with 2 types of nautiluses that were considered different species, but have the same DNA. Then author provides definition: “Epigenetics is the study of heritable gene functions that are passed on from one reproducing cell to another, be that to a somatic (body) cell or to a germ cell (sperm or ovum), which does not involve a change to the original DNA sequence.” The bulk of this chapter discusses how exactly this happens:
- Methylation: DNA activated by methyl groups
- Modification of genes expression, often via interaction of 2 X chromosomes.
- Reprogramming: combination of genome and epigenome.
Then author discusses impact of this new understanding that includes epigenetics impact on history of life and hormonal processes.
CHAPTER V The Best of Times, the Worst of Times—in Deep Time
This is about history of life, how environment had been changing, and how Darwinian random change could not explain speed of change without addition of epigenetics. Author discusses mass extinction events: asteroid 65 million years ago, Siberian Traps 251 million, extinction events between 600 and 700 millions. and the worst for life –snowball Earth 2.5 billion years. In all cases the first response of organisms was epigenetic reorganizations that only later followed by DNA changes. Overall author supports idea of multilayer adaptation to environmental change:“First was the change in environment experienced by an individual organism. Second was a change of that organism’s behavior. Third was a change in its phenotype, the expression of not only how its genes were used prior to the environmental change, but also how they are expressed post change. The greater the environmental change, the more consequential each of these steps might have been.“
CHAPTER VI Epigenetics and the Origin and Diversification of Life
This chapter is about a very important problem with origin of live – how come that quite complex DNA molecules were created in the first place. Author discusses what life is: complex organization, metabolisms, replicates, and evolves. In 2016 was discovered LUCA – the last universal common ancestor, which is bacteria like creature with DNA. Theoretical research claims that minimum for life is 355 genes. Author discusses how such complex combination could be created via lateral gene transfer that happens all the time on microbial level. At the end of chapter author discusses the Margulis endosymbiosis theory that proposes increase of complexity via direct merges of different microorganisms under environmental pressure, which would clearly be Lamarckian process.
CHAPTER VII Epigenetics and the Cambrian Explosion
This is discussion of period of rapid expansion of life that author believes could be explained only by epigenetic model:”It is posited here that four different epigenetic mechanisms presumably contributed to the great increase in both the kinds of species and the kinds of morphologies that distinguished them that together produced the Cambrian explosion as we currently know it: the first, the now familiar methylation; second, small RNA silencing; third, changes in the histones, the scaffolding that dictates the overall shape of a DNA molecule; and, finally, lateral gene transfer, which has recently been shown to work in animals, not just microbes.“
CHAPTER VIII Epigenetic Processes Before and After Mass Extinctions
The main point of this chapter is that Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution are different in both their mechanism and in their application, the latter more active during conditions of rapid adjustments to environment often after mass extinction events, while the former is more complex fine tuning process that kind of hardens results in form of DNA:
Author also discusses contemporary mass extinction and links it to domestication.
CHAPTER IX The Best and Worst of Times in Human History
This is about impact of human cultural evolution on human biology. Author discusses cognitive revolution that occurred 70,000 years ago after Toba eruption, then another one some 45,000 years ago with ice age climate change, then the one that came with agriculture, and finally the one that is currently in process. The main point author makes here is that all this happens way too fast for random DNA change to handle, so epigenetics provides more robust framework for this.
CHAPTER X Epigenetics and Violence
This is about more than just link of genes to violence, but rather explanatory insufficiency that exists if one does not brings in epigenetics. Here is example, formulated as three laws of behavior:
- First Law: All human behavioral traits are heritable.
- Second Law: The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes.
- Third Law: A substantial portion of the variations in the complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.
CHAPTER XI Can Famine and Food Change Our DNA?
This is continuation of discussion on environmental impact and author uses well-documented historical event of famine in Holland during WWII, that left clear traces in next generation. However author does not limit mechanism of impact here to epigenetics only. He also discusses impact of famine in microbiome that currently more and more considered a necessity for human existence.
CHAPTER XII The Heritable Legacy of Pandemic Diseases
Here author starts with obvious point that pandemics have great impact on gene pool not only by eliminating significant part of it, but also by its influence on survivors. This influence occurs via methylation process, making it transferable to the next generation without changing genetic code. Author also points to intensive religious experience prompted by pandemics and even specifies gene VMAT2, which controls mood and seems to be susceptible to epigenetic changes.
CHAPTER XIII The Chemical Present
This is about simple chemical impact of multitude of different toxins and metals that also could have influence that appears to have epigenetic effect.
CHAPTER XIV Future Biotic Evolution in the CRISPR-Cas9 World
This is about amazing finding that humans evolved in the last 5000 years as much as in precious 6 million years. This was done based on DNA analysis in 270 people from different genetic groups. The conclusion author derives is that dramatic change in environment accelerates evolution and epigenetics provide explanation for this process so far. However now humans are getting close to intentionally modifying genetic material to achieve specific results and this would practically switch process of human development from evolution to production.
EPILOGUE Looking Forward
Here author looks in the future and is quite scared by what he sees, which is increase in stress, all kinds of catastrophic events, referring to the paleontological research that found marks of increased stress in animals in areas where humans moved. Similarly stress in Native Americans dramatically increased with arrival of Europeans. Now the stress is increasing for the whole humanity, causing epigenetic change. Author ends with the point that epigenetic is moving into mainstream and probably will become quite common approach with the passing of older generation of scientists who cannot overcome old paradigm.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that idea of epigenetics and non-DNA inheritable change makes lots of sense and, if experimentally confirmed, does lead to the new synthesis in understanding of evolution. I personally would like to see the general theory of evolution that would include not only Darwinian and Epigenetic changes, but also cultural changes. After all the example of discovery of use of fire, while being obviously cultural event seems to lead overtime to purely biological changes in human digestive system that in term provided a lot more time for developing brain, language, and development of sophisticated culture, making humans not only super predators, but also unchallenged force in shaping the world to their convenience.
The main idea of this book is to summarize what is wrong with American society and provide some recommendations for Americans about the way to get back to fundamentals that made America great: free market economy and respect for individual rights.
This is about the point of this book – American deviation from the principles that made it great: society based on prosperity and individual rights. Here are author’s main points:
- “Right” and “wrong” are very real concepts, which should possess great force.
- We should be skeptical about the powers of the individual human mind.
- Human life is complex and offers many different goods, not just one value that trumps all others.
Author discusses 6 issues he considers critical for getting back on track:
- Time – present interests versus future
- Aggregation – how resolve disagreements
- Rules – how create and maintain rules and when to allow exceptions. Utilitarism and consequentialism of rules.
- Radical Uncertainly – consequences of action could not possibly be known completely
- How can we believe in rights – this is about rights (nearly absolute) and rules that could contradict each other
- Common sense morality – “Common sense morality holds that we should work hard, take care of our families, and live virtuous but self-centered lives, while giving to charity as we are able and helping out others on a periodic basis.“
Author also defines fundamentals of his philosophy: Productive powers should not be taken for granted and future should have say about our actions in present
- Wealth makes the world go round
This is about wealth creation and that’s how author defines it, going beyond usual GDP measures: “Wealth Plus: The total amount of value produced over a certain time period. This includes the traditional measures of economic value found in GDP statistics, but also includes measures of leisure time, household production, and environmental amenities, as summed up in a relevant measure of wealth.“
Author posits 3 key questions for growth, civilization stability, and environment, reviewing in the process of productivity growth versus increase in growth via increase in inputs, migration of people and capital, and West vs. Rest with special attention to Asian tigers and their fast development. Finally he discusses wealth / happiness relationship.
- Overcoming disagreement
It starts with the point that economic growth could not satisfy everybody and there always be differences in preferences. Author defines 2 principles:
- The Principle of Growth: We should maximize the rate of sustainable economic growth, defined in terms of a concept such as Wealth Plus.
- The Principle of Growth Plus Rights: Inviolable human rights, where applicable, should constrain the quest for higher economic growth.
He also discusses Nozick’s idea about rights being “side constrains” on individual choice and Derek Parfit’s “Mistakes in Moral Mathematics.”
- Is time a moral illusion?
Here author discusses time value of comfort or discomfort; meaning delays or speeding up events known to be not neutral for wellbeing. Being an economist, he brings in discount rates, applying it not to the value of money, but to the perceived value of event. He also refers to opportunity costs in the same way, as a moral choice.
- What about redistribution?
This starts with usual staff of feeling guilty that somebody somewhere suffers when one eats ice cream. Then it goes to economic speak: “we should redistribute wealth only up to the point that it maximizes the rate of sustainable economic growth. “
It goes from there to all typical staff: how “we” should redistribute, who should and should not benefit and so on. He also discusses Solow model of growth via technological improvements. An interesting point here is the link of the scale of economy to innovations” it does not worth invent iPhone for population of New Zealand because not much return due to very small size of population.
- Must uncertainty paralyze us?
This is about forks on the road: how many different ways life could develop depending on different choices made at key points. Consequently author discusses impossibility of knowing completeness of future result of any action. This could lead to paralysis by analysis and similar forms of fear to act. Then author discusses a couple of mental experiments like terrorist with biological weapon and John Lenman’s ideas of irrelevance of consequences as measure of right or wrong and his discussion of D-day beach and poor dog. Finally he comes up with “The Principle of Roughness:Outcomes can differ in complex ways. We might make a reasoned judgment that they are roughly equal in value and we should be roughly indifferent to them. After making a small improvement to one of these outcomes, we still might not be sure which is better.“ At the end of chapter author states that practical implication of this discussion are: need for agnostic and tolerant attitude to others and protection of individual rights.
Conclusion—where have we landed?
Here author once again repeats his main points about importance of economic growth in conjunction with morality and provides specific recommendations:
- Policy should be more forward-looking and more concerned about the more distant future.
- Governments should place a much higher priority on investment than is currently the case, in both the private sector and the public sector. Relative to what we should be doing, we are currently living in an investment drought.
- Policy should be more concerned with economic growth, properly specified, and policy discussion should pay less heed to other values. And yes, that means your favorite value gets downgraded too. No exceptions, except of course for the semi-absolute human rights.
- We should be more concerned with the fragility of our civilization. The possibility of historical pessimism stands as a challenge to this entire approach, because in that view the future is dim no matter what, and there may not be a more distant future we can look toward in order to resolve the aggregation dilemmas involved in making decisions that affect so many human beings. We should be more charitable on the whole, but we are not obliged to give away all of our wealth.
- We do have an obligation to work hard, save, invest, and fulfill our human potential, and we should take these obligations very seriously.
- We can embrace much of common sense morality with the knowledge that it is not inconsistent with a deeper ethical theory. Common sense morality can also be reconciled with many of the normative recommendations which emerge from a more impersonal and consequentialist framework.
- When it comes to most “small” policies affecting the present and the near-present only, we should be agnostic, because we cannot overcome aggregation problems to render a defensible judgment. The main exceptions here are the small number of policies, which benefit virtually everybody.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is somewhat typical academic work expressing feeling that something not right and providing recommendations in form of “We should” without going into details of “How”. It is also interesting because of author’s believe in necessity of convincing people that one should do something at all. It seems to be an issue in his environment due to complexity and unpredictability of any action. It is interesting to me because in environment I live in such question just plainly not exist. If you are not doing something you are not making money and cannot have even relatively good live so unexpected consequences of actions be damned. In my previous environment in USSR such question would be resolved simple: if you do not act, you die. It is also very funny to read his call to be more concerned about distant future, because we really do not know anything about it. Any guesses and speculations are inevitably meaningless because not only future science, technology, and even morality are unknowable, but we also cannot do anything about it. The scope of our action is necessarily limited to10-20 years at most – the time length of implementing some relatively big and complex project. I think our concerns should be limited to 4 basic issues:
- Prevent blowing ourselves up via use of weapons of mass destruction
- Maintaining effective market economy, the one and only known way effectively produce goods and services necessary for living beyond subsistence level
- Maximizing individual perception of living a good live for maximum number of people so they would not become susceptible to some violent ideologies like Marxism, Socialism, National- Socialism, Communism, Islamism, and such
- Preventing individuals who are already poisoned by these violent ideologies from causing significant damage.
The main idea of this book is to demonstrate that there is real and clear danger of America moving to authoritarianism, but it does not come from Tramp and his supporters as media and other leftist groups claim. It comes from already deeply established and continuously growing tyranny of experts. At the same time Tramp, as of now, is the important protection force against this authoritarianism.
- Freedoms, Rights, and the Liberal Ideal
Here author briefly reviews contemporary state of western countries and paints picture of increasing dominance of non-elected government and quasi government entities controlling everything and pushing aside old methods of society management – politics. This development has created a political backlash in form of multiple movements, with Tramp being somewhat a leader of one of them. Author discusses how liberal movement moved from promoting individual freedoms to suppressing them in the name of other individuals’ “rights”. Then author defines his understanding of authoritarianism: “Authoritarianism simply means governance legitimated by demands for deference to authority. “ and supports his point by discussing difference in how America entered wars in early and late XX century – the first after long political discussion and in accordance with constitution via formal declaration by Congress, while latter mainly via discussions between experts, unclear and poorly defined “use of force authorization”. So in reality these developments amount to substitution of sovereignty of people by sovereignty of experts.
- The Rise of the New Authoritarians
This starts with the list of what good liberals did: women and minority rights, voting rights, and so on. Author also notes that liberals could and did act under authoritarian rule and actually were quite successful in liberalizing such rule. After that author reviews history when liberalism was an ideology of individual rights, protecting the individual from government power. However they have somewhat difficult relations with democracy often referring to courts or to authoritarian power to achieve their objectives, unachievable via ballot box. Until recent times liberals in America had place in both political parties protecting rich against masses and expropriation as the republicans and middle class and poor against rich as democrats. However now liberal coalition pretty much rid of middle class and as of now combines rich, professionals, and poor, all of which highly depend on government for transfer resources to them from middle class. Author discusses here mainly USA and UK politics, including liberal support for immigration.
- Liberal Authoritarianism in a Global World
This chapter looks at the global liberal coalition mainly protecting interest of professionals who have education, skills, and established positions valuable on the global market so they promote power of international organizations, free trade and so on even if it is detrimental to masses in their own countries who cannot compete on the global market with much cheaper labor from developing countries.
- The Passion of Donald J. Trump
This chapter about the Donald as representative of national movement that is currently developing in many developed countries that aims to protect such people who are on receiving side of liberal world order. Author also reviews old populist movements like Bryan’s anti-gold movement and compare it to Trump, noting however that they are quite different in their philosophy. He also reviews some typical liberal paranoid attitudes: Trump=Hitler, racist, mercantilist, and so on. Author also reviews a very specific case of women not supporting Hillary, which seems to be unexplainable for liberals.
- The Populist Purgative
In the last chapter author looks at the big picture of Angle-American traditions that include all three: conservatism, progressivism, and liberalism, noting that the two main powers are really conservatism and progressivism, with real liberal being somewhat swing vote that from time to time give advantage of either of these powers. At the end author refer to Churchill and his famous quip about democracy that was actually quite powerfully reflected in Churchill political career as initially member of Liberal party, who become conservative leader only after this party folded. Author ends with Churchill’s point that liberalism will not be killed, but it would not be dominant either, always remaining kind of intermediary.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that there is way too much confusion about all these political terms. In reality “conservatives” or “right” are not trying to conserve current political arrangement, but rather trying overturn advances made by “progressive” or “left”. Liberals lost any connection to ideas of individual liberty and they are busy trying to restrict this liberty with their political correctness, censorship, and suppression of freethinking in any place where they acquired power: media, education, and corporate boardroom. All these labels become somewhat meaningless, hiding real passion and objectives of all these movements, which come down to the following few arrangements:
- Who will decide how to allocate available resources and produce new ones
- Who will decide which behavior is acceptable and which is not
- Who will decide how to use violence and coercion by governments
All these issues have hugely important consequences mainly because they impact how much and what kind of resources will be produced and how they will be used. Progressives and supporting liberals (American meaning) were successful in taking key positions in the society, but it resulted in severe limitation on productivity and freedom, without which possibility of innovation and prosperity is questionable. The resulting backlash was inevitable with or without Trump. Whether it will be the same yo-yo movement that America experienced for the last century or we’ll move in some new direction remains to be seen.