Measured in years lived, the present century, which is only ten years old, is already “longer” than the whole of the 17th century. This century has made an even bigger contribution to economic history. Over 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010 ***.
For century after century, the human race remained mired in poverty. Life was nasty, brutish and short. Then an incredible explosion of prosperity. How did it happen?
In Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning around 1500, the West came to dominate the rest of the world because it adopted a system including competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. Yet the explosion comes centuries later. In Bourgeois Dignity, Deirdre N. McCloskey argues the explosion was ignited by a new attitude toward wealth and its creation — one that respected innovation and entrepreneurial drive.
In his column on McCloskey’s book, Rich Lowry notes:
Unfortunately, we have a president of the United States who has been a member his entire adult life of what McCloskey — borrowing from Samuel Taylor Coleridge — calls “the clerisy.” These are the intellectualoids who never lost their instinctual scorn for commercial activity. Can you imagine Barack or Michelle Obama routinely urging college students to contribute to hope and change by entering the innovative economy’s great swirl of creative destruction?
Unfortunately, special interests will always pursue anti-innovation trade and regulatory policies to protect their fiefdoms.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to prop up what’s old than foster what’s new. A few years ago, the Federal Reserve handed out billions upon billions of dollars to practically every large, established firm in America.
The problem may be larger than the clerisy’s antipathy to competition. They want to stifle scientific debate when it suits their politics. They have little regard for property rights. They will stifle medical innovation. They indiscriminately bemoan materialism. They never wanted welfare reform and have been busying themselves rolling it back. All of it done in the name of “progress,” of course.
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