Half Full or Half Empty?

As promised, it seems our HDW is itching for (and deserves) a good argument.  I’m happy to oblige him, but must say, that it appears he (and John Stossel – see below) has “taken the blue pill”.  Well, good for them, I’ll stick to the red pill.

To begin, from Wikipedia:  Meliorism is an idea in metaphysical thinking holding that progress is a real concept leading to an improvement of the world. It holds that humans can, through their interference with processes that would otherwise be natural, produce an outcome which is an improvement over the aforementioned natural one.

So, we’re going to get metaphysical, are we? 

Now, are you really advocating the free market (be still my heart) or is this really just an argument over achievements of humanism (of the secular variety) vs. …name your poison?  Humanism is the greatest thing since….sliced flatbread baked on a hot rock in the sun by aboriginal savages?

OK, how about I concede this:  mankind’s material condition has improved dramatically, especially over the past couple of hundred years or so.  Satisfied?  Clearly, that must be evidence of humanistic brilliance, not some tragic, habitual eagerness to trade beaver pelts for beads and “firewater”.

I am, as you know, kind of a stickler for “giving credit where credit is due”.  So, for the record, I’ll have to contend that the vast majority of these material achievements that humanists are so doggone proud of are the products of “Western Culture” in the modern age.   We might debate the particular “when, why and how” of that at some future point, but for now, I’ll merely suggest that something unique in history – both for the west and the rest of the world – emerged in the last 300 to 500 years ago or so.

No, the achievements themselves aren’t really at issue.  We are living longer and eating better.  We do have lots of nifty toys, comfortable homes, and entertaining gadgets.  We’re also pretty darned proud of ourselves.  Uh, oh, I’m getting all “deja vu” all of a sudden.

And this is the issue, to my thinking at least.  The human condition, material and moral, does seems to follow the path as described by the (apparently incorrectly attributed) “Tytler Cycle“. 

So, looking good up through the abundance part of the cycle.  How do you imagine the rest of the process is looking?

Harry Tuttle

Note:  As cited above, John Stossel addressed this very question on his February 4th episode, which you can watch in it’s entirety on HULU.  Like most “true” libertarians, he’s generally pleased with human progress to date, only really concerned with encroaching government.


4 responses to “Half Full or Half Empty?

  1. Pingback: Involuntary Simplicity – Not Just Another Reality Show « A Reasonable Life

  2. “The world…is not merely getting better or merely getting worse; there is one thing that the world does; it wobbles.”

    (Chesterton again.)

    M. Ragazzo

  3. HDW:

    That’s pretty funny, actually. You’re sense of humor is improving along with your general disposition (and your digestion too, I’m guessing.)

    In contrast to your average humanist, I just happen to believe that humankind is flawed, to which anyone who plays golf can attest.

    And, no, we don’t “have” to play the Tytler Cycle’s dire “back-nine”. But, flawed as we are, it seems the full round is in the offing. As noted many times before, I remain convinced that we’ve already passed the 9th hole beer-garden.

    Sure, as with anything, there’s always a silver lining in the darkest cloud. But, do we need cataclysm? Well, that’s a hefty-bag sort of question…perhaps better left for another day.

    Instead, I’ll just close with this:

    “I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles.” – G.K. Chesterton


  4. Half full? How about 80% full? The work isn’t finished, but so far the project is going very well.

    “OK, how about I concede this: mankind’s material condition has improved dramatically,…”

    Why so reluctant, Tuttle?

    You seem to think that a US default would be a very bad thing, because it would cause material hardship to the citizens- an end to the abundance we are accustomed to.

    Now you argue that abundance leads to selfishness and bondage.

    Maybe a cataclysmic default is just what we need?

    I can attest to the spiritual value of sleeping under a tarp or a bridge or a picnic table.

    Finally I understand.

    Greenspan and Bernanke are true Christian libertarian warriors. They will defend us from the complacency caused by our material abundance. They will lead us away from bondage and back to the faith that made this country great in that golden era of ubiquitous poverty and child mortality.

    Long live the Federal Reserve!

    Go USA!

    And please, Have a nice day.


    Blue pill, indeed.

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