Radical Positivism

Open to all,

its definitive credo is:

Universal human progress by private and voluntary means.


On Sunday, July 16, 2001, on the ABC-TV program "This Week", columnist
George Will delivered a characteristically succinct and incisive
micro-lecture on the limits of miracles.

His topic was the so-called New Economy, also known as the Information
Revolution. and public alarm and dismay associated with the slowing of
its rate of growth.

Prior to the Information New Economy, he pointed out, there were, from
latest to earliest, an Internal Combustion, or Automotive, New Economy;
an Electrification New Economy, a Rail Transport New Economy, and a
Steamship New Economy, all within about two hundred years. Each time an
affordable innovation in technology for a while made commerce and wealth
generation explode, and prospects seem boundless.

But in every case, including the latest, the new technical category
began to reach its points of saturation, repletion, and even diminishing
returns. With the Information Economy, reaching that point is especially
shocking, because that one had two major elements: microcircuitry and
digitization. Each alone launched a New Economy, but the two came so
close together that they seemed as one, and that one seemed bound to go
on forever.

It will, actually, but the great sudden liberations of human
productivity, and enthusiasm, it engendered are behind it. It is now
leaving its epoch-making phase and entering one of slower expansion and
refinement.

One of the greatest implications of Radical Positivism is that exactly
the same happens with civilizations. All great ones are built on new
combinations of facilities and expediencies. They grow, spread, and
prosper until those components have delivered the greatest amount of
their combined promise. The rate of innovation slows. Often, prosperity
brings about a leisurely, entitled mindset in the population. When the
combination that wrought that prosperity and growth begins to meet its
limits and producer slower rates of expansion and prosperity
enhancement, people tend to become fearful.

Fearful people, timid people, people who had come to think they are
exempt from adversity, faced with the slightest discomfiture or even
prospect of it, even unto the prospect that the rate of improvement may
decrease, let alone the spectre that it may stall or reverse, look to
others to blame, to assail with demands that they do something. Quite
often they retreat into a compulsive repetition of what produced the
growth now behind them, and oppose any variation of it.

For example, if overgrazing of range land by a sheep flock that has
grown and grown, bringing its shepherds greater and greater prosperity,
begins to slow the rate of flock growth or even reverse it, many
shepherds will demand that nothing be changed, that innovations be
curtailed, that what worked so well be continued blindly despite
evidence it has reached its point of diminishing returns. Religious
leaders may demand more piety and sacrifices, and enjoin any innovation
-- such as cutting some forest and clearing more grazing land -- as
inconsistent with the old and proven ways, and symptomatic of human
presumption repulsive to the gods.

In short, as economies or civilizations begin to slow their growth or
even diminish, what is needed is more liberty, more latitude, more
innovation, so new techniques can be found. But due to something in
human nature, what is usually inflicted is greater restriction, greater
regimentation, more tunnel-visioned concentration on ways, the
potentials of which have been exhausted. And that results in stagnation
and then decline in economies and in civilizations, time after time.

Mythology too emphatically warns us against discovering or inventing our
way to disaster. The Prometheus myth, the Pandora fable, the Eden
legend, the Frankenstein novel and its progeny unto "Jurassic Park" do
just that.

But in economies and civilizations, stagnation and decline do not result
from discovery, innovation, risk-taking, and opportunity-pursuing.

Quite the opposite.

 

 


Radical Positivists of the world unite, and make it a better place for all!


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