The Future and its Enemies


I just finished Virginia Postrel’s challenging The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress. It is an appeal to embrace the dynamism of life and overcome our fears for the future. It is about real progress, not state-driven, top-down control.

Consider for example this, from page 42:

Conserving only the underlying stable rules, while letting individual decision making drive change, is a concept that a century of technocracy has made foreign to most people. It does not fit neatly into the comfortable old left-right dichotomy and does not line up with technocratic assumptions about the powers and uses of government. It has a hard time making its case, because it promises only general patterns of improvement — spontaneous order and discovery — not specific results.

In the context of our present system of stifling technocratic control and horror of the future, it’s a fascinating read. In the context of having cared for the homeless this morning in Wycombe’s night shelter — something operated by local churches and volunteers, not the state — it raises a challenge: how shall we care for the disadvantaged in a world of spontaneous order and yet ensure we leave none behind?

The answer is as simple as it is difficult. Individuals must learn to enjoy their freedom responsibly, not choosing to make themselves slaves to others, but helping wherever they can.

Postrel is the editor of Reason magazine.

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