Ideas to consider…

I’m reading The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley, subtitled ‘How Prosperity Evolves’.  On page 109 I came across a few lines that describe what I also find to be an interesting paradox:

Politically, as Brink Lindsay has diagnosed, the coincidence of wealth with toleration has led to the bizarre paradox of a conservative movement that embraces economic change but hates its social consequences and a liberal movement that loves the social consequences but hates the economic source from which they came. ‘One side denounce capitalism but gobbled up its fruits; the other side cursed the fruits while defending the system that bore them.’

The reference is to Brink Lindsay’s 2007 book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture.

Ridley is in essence trying to convince both sides to see the bright side.

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  • Jim  On June 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Where to begin???

    “…the coincidence of wealth with toleration…” my judgement would be “the coincidence of wealth with LACK OF TOLERATION” from the left. Please advise where the left is tolerant! Perhaps the G20 demonstrations?

    “…the other side cursed the FRUITS while defending the system that bore them.” Fruits!!! The social consequences of our wonderful capitalist system, due to the intolerance and self absorption of the left, have yielded destructive garbage!

    And yes, we curse the garbage as we watch the most beneficial society in the history of mankind being taken apart!

    I have not read Mr. Ridley, but if this excerpt is a good sample, I would re title the book “The Irrational Optimist”.

    “FRUITS” is the troublesome word in his analysis, and this is the root cause of our differient views. I’m not sure this helps the discussion.

  • Curt  On June 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Ridley’s book takes the long view, not current events, and the types of tolerance that he’s referring to are things like: “universal suffrage, religious tolerance and female emancipation”.

    I think your comments as in fact largely illustrating the point Ridley is making – you praise the “wonderful capitalist system” but feel that the social consequences have been “destructive” – that is exactly what Ridley points out. It seems a bit too easy to me to simply blame the left for those problems. I guess one question is what role does the system itself play in creating those consequences.

    I see the left as at least in part a reaction to the capitalist system. Thus the system in a sense helps to create those who see more faults than benefits – personally I don’t subscribe to that view, but it’s clear to me that markets can have destructive consequences at times as well.

    In terms of justification for optimism or pessimism, I think it’s useful to look at things from other perspectives. Would I have been particularly optimistic about things in 1932 or 1942? From my vantage point now it seems like there was plenty to be worried about during that whole decade, and hard to see some of the amazing things that would come soon enough.

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