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Thursday, November 29, 2018

We Are The Luckiest Generation That Has Ever Lived

Explaining Our Miraculous Flourishing

By Marian L. Tupy

Young Man Readin By Candle Light - Matthias Stom

There is no God in Jonah Goldberg’s new book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy.

But the book nonetheless revolves around a miracle.

“The Miracle” is the shorthand Goldberg, a bestselling author, syndicated columnist, senior editor at National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, uses to describe the escape of our species from the depths of ignorance, poverty and every-day conflict to the heights of scientific achievement, material abundance and relative peace.

To appreciate Goldberg’s Miracle, consider the following. Homo sapiens are between 200,000 and 300,000 years old. Yet the modern world, with all the conveniences that we take for granted (I wrote this article sitting on a plane 8 kilometers above ground, using an internet connection provided by a satellite orbiting 37,000 kilometers above the surface of the Earth), is merely 250 years old. Put differently, for the first 99.9 percent of our time on earth, progress was painfully slow. Then everything suddenly changed. Why? That’s the question that Goldberg strives to answer.

Goldberg has written two previous and popular books, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change and The Tyranny of Clich├ęs: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. Goldberg’s writing style, as the titles of his books suggest, is geared towards a mainstream audience, but the AEI fellow researches his books with care.

Of human nature, Goldberg writes:

“Humans were not designed to live in the market order of contracts, money, or impersonal rules, never mind huge societies governed by a centralised state. We were designed to live in bands, or what most people think of as tribes. The human brain is designed so that we can manage stable social relationships with roughly 150 people… We were designed by evolution to be a part of a group, but that group was very limited in size. These groups took on a variety of structures, but the basic anatomy was generally the same. There was a Big Man or some other form of chieftain or ‘alpha.’ …In the most basic sense, these bands were socialist or communist in that resources were generally shared. But the genetic programming clearly emphasised us over me. We still hold on to that programming and it rubs up against modernity constantly.”

Based on the above paragraph, readers will be able to deduce the crux of Goldberg’s argument. The Miracle happened not because of, but in spite of, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

Our rule-based society, where equality before the law takes precedence over the social and economic status of the individual, a staggeringly complex global economy that turns strangers from different continents into instant business partners, and a meritocratic system of social and economic advancement that ignores people’s innate features, such as race and gender, is both very new and extremely fragile.

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