Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Whitewaters of History

In response to Thomas Bender's No Borders: Beyond the Nation-State

A river's water seeks the path of least resistance as it flows along its sandy bed. In a raging river, there are streams of water that appear to flow in the same direction though their courses are ever-so-slightly divergent. To the passive observer safe on the banks, the divergent paths create the river's beauty; the rapids, whitewater, pools and eddies. To those running the rapids in collapsible rafts, the courses of water lead to either an exhilarating ride down the river or headlong collision with rocks and boulders.

Bender's flow of history is a certainly one path through time. A cursory review of his thesis, read safely on the banks, provides an interesting view of the passage of time and ideas. But be careful, Bender is not simply providing the thrills of history, he is heading the reader toward the wreckage smashed against the rocks of totalitarian ideals.

Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School of Economics pointed out that societies such as the US and England obtained their good fortune not by chance or happenstance, but because they recognized and implemented certain ideas and ideals that other societies either did not understand or would not adopt. Some excellent Mises books on this subject are: Human Action, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, and Omnipotent Government.

The US and England achieved greatness because they were grounded in the ideals of liberty and property. That other societies did not organize themselves based on these ideals is their own failures. That the two nations at hand so organized themselves is a subject that needs to be taught again and again.

We fail our posterity when we forget those ideals and instead teach a course that we are not significantly different from the societies that took the path that lead to the rocks and boulders.

Jim Fedako

1 comment:

Oscar said...

A country may make good or bad choices, and those choices matter. To that extent I agree. However, circumstances can circumscribe choices.

Consider Japan. After its "opening" by the Americans, the Japanese moved with remarkable speed toward a reform of its economy and government. Those choices enabled it to compete as an equal with western powers.

However, if Japan had been a more tempting target for the British--or if the United States had been traditionally imperialist at that point in time--then it might not have had the opportunities to make those decisions.