87 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Peering back to the present, and finding it wanting,
This review is from: The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Paperback)
This short book is a report by a future Chinese academic on the collapse of civilization in the 21st century, caused by global warming and pollution. It purports to recount the disaster with perspective that usually only time can provide. We today are too closely involved to see the forest for the trees. That is usually the case. Yet most of us can see the forest, burning, and that is a different issue the book delves into with gusto. Science has been shunted aside in favor of "freedom" and the dollar.
The basic premise of a historian looking back to see what happened is valid, but the authors don't go nearly far enough. The rank stupidity of the politicians of the 20th century is no different from the rank stupidity of the church in the thousand years before, when it burned scientists at the stake for uttering facts it did not want to hear, regardless of provability. Basically, it was always this way. There have always been entrenched interests to defend, empires to defend, wealth to defend, and of course power to expand. Our author from the future missed that.
It is instructive to see how a future Chinese academic might view the economic history of the west, citing capitalism vs communism and neoliberalism and market fundamentalism (in the religious fervor sense). But that academic would surely have also discovered and reported the simple truism that separates all of it for the purposes of his report: Communism failed because it did not tell the economic truth about prices. Capitalism failed because it did not tell the ecological truth about prices. That in a nutshell has driven the greed machine to the heights we see today. (It is touched on in the glossary.) The greater good is a concept discredited in the USA, and the result is a planet swamped for example, in 88,000 new chemical compounds since WWII, only three of which have been tested. (This is touched on in the Q&A, where they compare the lack of chemical testing to exhaustive testing in pharmaceuticals.) Government went from being the solution in the trustbuster age, to the problem in the Reagan era. The results were predictable and were predicted. The market fundamentalists just told everyone where they could go. And we are. Faster than we thought.
The "report" is only about 60 pages. More of a pamphlet than a book. There follows a lexicon of terms we in the present currently use and abuse. This also helps give perspective, as does the Q&A with the authors that follows. The combination of those three nonstandard components makes this an unusual book that would be refreshing if it weren't so hurtful.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 15, 2014 10:39:20 AM PDT
Gregory A. Benford says:
"Communism failed because it did not tell the economic truth about prices. Capitalism failed because it did not tell the ecological truth about prices." EXCELLENT SUMMARY
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2014 12:20:58 PM PDT
David Wineberg says:
Isn't it just. I wish it was mine. I saw it in an excellent book by a British banker I reviewed last year,The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism's Future
Posted on Jul 17, 2014 7:25:20 PM PDT
I hold no brief for the dogmatism of the Church on scientific matters, or it's intolerance on religious doctrine, but I can't think of any scientists it burned at the stake for their science. Galileo was punished, but he died in his bed, not at the stake. Bruno was burned, but he was not a scientist -- and he really was a heretic.
Posted on Jul 26, 2014 11:43:50 AM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2014 12:53:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 27, 2014 12:54:06 PM PDT
M. Medeiros says:
I have not read the book but I do understand how unemcumbered capitalism can give rise to market failure, AGW is the greatest market failure in history. You "think" you have freedom, but if Western civilization falls, the masses will be free to fight over what little remains. Enjoy it while it lasts.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2014 8:34:05 PM PDT
John M. Flanigan says:
Another skreed from a scientifically uneducated worshipper of the creed of consumerism. God help us! There are so many of them!
Posted on Jul 29, 2014 8:58:20 AM PDT
Christopher Paul Winter says:
A rightist who disses Al Gore
Is someone you ought to abhor.
Should lead to estrangement;
His diatribe's one to ignore.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2015 8:50:13 AM PDT
Heather A Martin says:
Clever verse, but I don't think we should ignore him. I think we should read his point of view and consider how many other people might be laboring under similar ideas, try to understand why they hold this viewpoint and what they might be capable of in efforts to defend it. It's not enough for the people who "get it" to just talk amongst ourselves. A change will come and it probably won't be pretty; we need to understand the various factions as well as possible in advance of the real difficulty.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2015 3:27:36 PM PDT
Christopher Paul Winter says:
I respect your admonition, but I've done a fair amount of interacting with people who hold to such views and the exchange of ideas in media like this one seldom seems to make an impression on them. (Onlookers, however, may derive some benefit.)
How am I to have a reasonable discussion with someone who asks rhetorically, "Do you think the government should use force to make us all bow to the insane fanatic Al Gore, who lives like a king?" It would take several sentences to refute the dense disinformation in that single sentence of his, and if I took the trouble he would probably come back with some other bogus claim.
I once lodged great hope in online communication because it gives time for well-constructed arguments that can be read and re-read, hence are more difficult to misconstrue than ordinary conversation. Alas, that hope has proven unfounded. I now tend to the view that, if converting "skeptics" is the goal, face-to-face interaction has a better chance. But it would have to be a sustained conversation; debates are (generally) worse than useless.
If that was your point, I agree. Was that your point?
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2015 8:27:51 AM PDT
James Walker says:
Oustanding politicolimerick, Mr. Winter. (And, by the way, Al Gore DID have a major role in the development of the I-net.)