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The FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress Paperback – December 8, 1999
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Virginia Postrel smashes conventional political boundaries in this libertarian manifesto. World-views should be defined not by how they view the present, she says, but the future. Do they aim to control it, as many conservative reactionaries and liberal planners want to do? Or do they embrace it, even though they can't know what lies ahead? Postrel (editor of Reason magazine) firmly places herself in this latter category--the dynamists, she calls her happy tribe--and urges the rest of us to sign up. The future of economic prosperity, technological progress, and cultural innovation depends upon embracing principles of choice and competition. The downside of this philosophy, Postrel readily notes, is that it doesn't allow us to manage tomorrow by acting today. And that's exactly the point: we shouldn't want to. A future constructed by an infinite number of individual decisions, made privately, is one she believes we should encourage. The Future and Its Enemies is at once intellectually sweeping and reader-friendly; it has the potential to join a pantheon of books about freedom that includes works by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Postrel, editor of Reason magazine, believes that conflict between stasists (who urge control and favor the status quo) and dynamists will shape the future. In her opinion, the greatest threats to the future are efforts to shape it in advance. She believes in minimal controls, those necessary to create a framework for cooperation in which private property is respected. The topics she covers include technology, the environment, and urban planning. Postrel criticizes those who strive to re-create a simpler past or to thwart competition; specifically, she opposes William Greider (One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, LJ 1/97), who sees footloose capitalism as a danger. Her defense of the right to experiment is convincing, but it goes too far: Postrel seems to believe the status quo should yield to any proposal for change, ignoring the rights of people to enjoy the results of their own successful experiments. Nevertheless, her book is recommended as a thought-provoking look at an important subject.?A.J. Sobczak, formerly with California State Univ., Northridge
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The author likely has a point about individual and non-government directed successes. What she ignores are the thousands of years of state directed projects that still rank amongst the greatest achievements of all time. I would point out not only the Interstate highway system, the Panama Canal, the lend lease program of recent times. I would also point out that there are examples of state sponsored works of literature (the Aeneid)and music (the music composed for the courts of Europe) which are rather famous. The art and architecture of "stasist systems" include Versailles and the Peterhof. Not too shabby.
I'm not suggesting statism (which is really what the author is talking about while using the term "stasist") is superior to anything in particular but for all the successes of the dynamist approach, their opponents have a few laurels to rest upon too. Why is that? What kind of a book could have discussed the ups and downs, the drawbacks and advantages of both her approach and the state directed and controlled systems she loathes, and why are they important?
This book really doesn't address these questions and I think the author should have addressed them in at least the span of a chapter (while consolidating others). It's an argument that she either avoids for some reason or didn't consider, but "stasists" can mount a powerful rejoinder to her work, and a few reviewers here do just that.
In some important ways, this book disappoints. I think it has some merit and persons interested in free markets, free enterprise, and entrepreneurship might find this work very useful, if far from comprehensively advancing the author's arguments. I rate this book three stars. Were it not so verbose and repetitive, I would probably have gone four stars, yet written a similar review. Interesting? For the first 125 pages, yes. Valuable? Perhaps, but not as a comprehensive or forceful manifesto for libertarian ideas.
She thoroughly destroys the notion that 'there is nothing new under that sun'. While the universe, therefore our earth, is necessarily finite, we misunderstand this finiteness because we misunderstand the different combinations things can be arranged in. For example, a deck of cards has only 52 cards, but the number of combinations you can put the cards into is 52x51x50x49x...x3x2x1, which is a number larger than the number of particles in the universe! So whenever you shuffle a deck of cards, you can rest assured, that that is probably the one and only time that arrangement of cards will ever be in existence... ever.
People are so inventive and creative and always looking for new things. Obviously, there will always be new things. Every time someone declares that we are nearing the end of history, science, technology, etc. it's safe to say they have no idea what they are talking about. We need to let people be as creative and as inventive as they can. It will only make our lives better, on the whole. There will always be setbacks, but as long as people can think, we will always find a way to make out of those setbacks.
The book is a stunning, intelligent look at modern life. I liked it so much, I bought The Substance of Style, which is, yet, another insightful look at modern life.
Most recent customer reviews
Stasists vs. dynamists -- this is as pertinent today as it was 20 years ago.
kindle: $14.Read more