Quote of the day, about the birth of a new world

The post-WWII era draws to a close, ushering in a period of large-scale geopolitical change.  Most people greet this new era with hope, and equanimity about the transitional period.  Perhaps people’s confidence in an orderly evolution of new world rests on a weak foundation:  a belief in the rationality and wisdom of the world’s people, and their leaders.  Here’s one form of this widespread sentiment.

“While conceivable, a disorderly ‘run on the dollar’ is unlikely, as this would be in nobody’s best interest.”
— “The Dollar Demise”, Royal Bank of Scotland, December 2007  (no longer available online)

It’s an odd belief, as the history books overflow with events not in any participant’s interests.  Perhaps the best exponent of this theory was Norman Angell (Wikipedia), author of The Great Illusion (1911) — available for download via Google Books.  From the synopsis:

He attempt to show that {war} belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed; … that military power is socially and economically futile, and can have no relation to the prosperity of the people exercising it; that it is impossible for one nation to seize by force the wealth or trade of another — to enrich itself by subjugating, or imposing its will be force on another; that in short war, even when victorious, can no longer achieve those aims for which peoples strive.

History shows the wisdom of his logic.  WWI and WWII show his naïvety in imagining that logic would restrain the animal spirits of humanity.

Birth involves pain and hope.  But we should not rely on hope to minimize the pain.  Clear thinking and working together will prove more reliable tools.

1 thought on “Quote of the day, about the birth of a new world”

  1. How do you see computing as a player in future major transitions? Are they just tools? Or do they represent a major shift? WW1 and WW2 lacked transistor based computing power.

    Also, I don’t think there is a widespread sentiment of ” belief in the rationality and wisdom of the world’s people, and their leaders”.

    People are buying bullets by the truckload. Seriously. I have seen lines out into the parking lot at Gun shows. I don’t think they predict or anticipate disaster, but I do think they don’t want to be surprised by it. Also, in the talk radio world- no small population- there is always talk of buying gold. Again, I don’t think they’re intentionally betting against the dollar, I just think they want they’re eggs in many baskets.

    However, maybe by ‘widespread sentiment’ you meant among the intelligentsia and decision makers, in which I can see your point.
    FM reply: I doubt that many people are stockpiling bullets, as a fraction of American households. With a population of almost 310 million, actions of a tiny minority can generate big stories. As for computers (and better communications), I have not a clue. It should have an effect, but I don’t see it yet.

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