Northian Pessimism in FP2P
By Bryan Caplan
Doug North has never sounded wiser or clearer than he does in his interview with Arnold and Nick. North’s concluding statement is the highlight for me:
I’m moderately pessimistic about the future of the world…
What particularly bothers me is that the world is evolving more rapidly now than it ever did before. The degree to which we can catch up with it and deal with it, I think, is more and more strained now that we’ve devised ways to blow each other off the face of the earth. The time horizon we have to solve problems is much more abbreviated than it used to be; whereas before we could make mistakes and kill a few hundred thousand people, now we can blow everybody up. And we don’t seem to have gotten very far in solving social disorder. I hope I’m wrong.
This is one of the better cases for pessimism I’ve heard. But it’s still pretty weak. Yes, we have greater destructive capacity than ever. But the will to use it has fallen even more. As I’ve argued before, riches atrophy the martial virtues/vices. As long as the major countries slip past the awkward transition period of (modern weaponry + pre-modern brutality) – and we’re already almost done – the future is bright. If you think the recession of the last two years is bad, imagine trying to tell the World War I or World War II generations about our troubles. In proper perspective, it’s no more than a minor setback.