Unraveling The Miracle Of Modernity: How Enlightenment Thinkers Tamed Human Nature And Built The West
In the late 17th century, a miracle happened in England that would revolutionize the Western world.
England witnessed an incredible increase in wealth and decrease in violence all thanks to one thing: Liberal institutions that embraced individualism and repressed tribalism.
This miraculous period of enlightenment quickly spread throughout the West, nowhere better represented than the United States, founded on principles of life, liberty, and property.
Unfortunately, today’s Western world is facing a crisis of populism and rejection of these same liberal values.
To save our legacy, it’s vital we understand what first made the West great; what factors led to this period of immense innovation we call modernity.
Jack Kirkland’s book “Suicide of the West” provides a manifesto for saving the West.
He discusses how Locke and Rousseau’s philosophies still shape our understanding of modernity; how individualism forms the foundation for civil society; how human nature can be checked by institutions grounded in freedom-respecting values.
Suicide of the West” is more than an eye-opening read—it’s required reading if you want to ensure we never lose these enshrined liberties so many sacrificed for in history.
The Miracle Of The 18Th Century: How Humans Turned Poverty And Violence Into Abundance And Progress
It’s no exaggeration to say that modernity is nothing less than a miracle.
Before 1700, people lived mostly in poverty and violence – life was “nasty, brutish, and short” for most of our ancestors.
But something happened to change all of that – first, around 15,000 years ago, the emergence of agriculture kicked off a period of rapid development.
But it was only after 1700 when the ‘real’ miracle happened.
Economic data paints an interesting picture: before this time, most people lived on around $1 a day; afterwards their income skyrocketed.
Not only did people become richer; they also began to think differently about how society should be structured.
This culminated with The Glorious Revolution of 1688 which saw William of Orange invade England and give parliament greater authority under the Bill of Rights.
These are simply some examples which illustrate why modernity can be described as nothing but a miraculous event in human history – one which we must understand more deeply if we want to preserve these gains for future generations.
The Miracle Of England: How A Combination Of The Rule Of Law, Engaged Civil Society And Limited Military Power Foster Economic Growth
As Daniel Hannan points out in his book Suicide of the West, England provided the perfect setting for an unprecedented “miracle” to take place.
This is so because there are a number of factors that make it a uniquely ideal environment, such as its geographic position, its legal system, civil society and its government’s minimal reliance on military might.
Geographically speaking, being part of an island has historically kept England well protected from invaders who could disrupt any liberty-based initiatives.
When it comes to lobbying for equality under the law, thanks to Common Law -which provides precedents that a judge can use to inform his decisions- protesters had a greater chance to succeed than they would’ve had if Civil Law was in place.
Regarding civil society and participation of people in politics, English individualism cultivated free association between all sorts of citizens thus nurturing true democracy just like Alexis de Tocqueville observed.
And finally, unlike other countries in Europe Britain didn’t require large armies in order to govern the nation; therefor not using military might allowed certain liberties and a less militaristic atmosphere which also helped this extraordinary phenomena happen.
In conclusion, all these factors explain why England was able to create unique conditions for something beautiful and extraordinary -like many Enlightenment thinkers believed possible- by providing fertile soil for freedom and democracy to erupt in ways no one expected before.
The Miracle Of Human Nature: How We Have Triumphed Over Our Primitive Instincts For Violence And Exclusion
Research has shown that, despite the miracle of modern civilization and cultures triumphing over human nature, humans are still predisposed to violence and distrust.
This can be seen through scientific studies such as psychologist Paul Bloom’s work which suggests that even infants aged six months old have an innate moral code.
Similarly, the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon found through his research with the Yanomamö tribe in the Amazon between the 1960s and 1990s that 44 percent of all men over 25 were involved in killing somebody and one in three adult male deaths were a result of violence.
These violent acts weren’t due to lack of resources but rather part of their culture and source of pride for many Yanomamö individuals.
The fact that despite these natural inclinations towards aggression; modern societies have managed to foster a much more inclusive attitude.
Violence has steadily decreased since prehistoric times and if it remained at its historical levels today there would be two billion deaths, instead of 100 million – according to Steven Pinker’s work on human violence.
John Locke And Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Old Debate Over The Role Of The State Still Matters Today
The Enlightenment saw a battle between optimists and pessimists, with two sides divided by their beliefs about modern society.
On the one hand, John Locke argued that the purpose of the state is to protect individuals’ rights to life, liberty and property – he saw this as an antidote to the so-called “state of nature”, in which violence determined who was right or wrong.
This influence of Locke’s thinking on the Founding Fathers of the United States was echoed in their taking up his argument (though slightly altered to refer to happiness instead) in the Declaration of Independence.
On the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau disagreed with Locke.
He believed that human beings are innately good but can be corrupted by society, and thus states should exist not for individual protection but for collective interests – safeguarding society from itself!
Though he had his own reasons for this view given his personal experiences living in Paris, it found its most sinister application when Robespierre used these ideas to justify tyranny during the French Revolution.
These arguments remain pertinent today as they affect how we shape our societies.
Do we prioritize collective interest or what each individual desires? It is often said that how modernity settles this divide will determine whether it succeeds or fails – a sentiment that rings true even now more than ever before.
The Need For Regulatory Checks And Balances To Keep Elites Legitimate And Meritocratic
Aristocracy is natural and necessary for any functioning society.
It helps to ensure the best and brightest rise to the top, and so better decisions can be made at the highest levels of government.
However, even the noblest of aristocracies must have built-in limits in order to keep it from becoming too powerful and oppressive.
This was something John Adams understood well.
He argued that “every government is an aristocracy in fact”, but noted that “the great secret of liberty” is finding a way to control passions among the elites – in other words, place limits on their power.
That’s why he was so passionate about creating checks and balances within the US government with three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The Republic of Venice provides us with an example of what happens when those limits are not present or enforced.
Despite its commitment to “rule by the best” which opened up opportunities for fresh talent each year through a lottery system, over time unrest emerged among the powers-that-be who sought to corner resources and privileges by introducing hereditary rule.
This ultimately weakened Venice as a nation in both economic terms as well as its ability to attract talented people.
Thus we see it is vital for there to be a proper level of limit placed on aristocracy – otherwise even Aristocracy itself can become corrupted and dangerous for society at large!
The Administrative State: The Cause Of America’S Decline And The Source Of Political Dissatisfaction
The administrative state is contributing to the demise of America and the West.
This fourth branch of government, created in 1913 by President Wilson, was intended to provide social services and reduce wealth inequality.
But, instead, it’s actually caused a range of issues that are damaging to democracy, growth, and quality of life.
Firstly, because it isn’t elected and is staffed by bureaucrats appointed directly by the president—ouster is virtually impossible due to “death – rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs” being the biggest threat to job security in this system—it means those employed are able to do as they please without consequence.
We’ve seen this with the 2015 EPA case where toxic waste was dumped into Animas River in Colorado with no repercussions faced by anyone involved.
The economic issues continue from there; because public bodies are regulated much more than private industries their influence restricts innovation since citizens and businesses need licenses for a majority of jobs; this creates a nightmare bureaucracy that slows growth and entrenches income inequality even further.
It’s situations such as these that spur on political factions like the disillusioned Trump-voting American working class—people feeling disenfranchised with government because its rules no longer reflect what is right for them individually (such as arduous licensing processes even for things like hair-braiding).
And all of this has been caused through creating a fourth branch of government specifically designed to help society.
The Rise Of Tribalism As Identity Politics Threatens The American Dream Of Meritocracy
Identity politics has become a real threat to the success of ‘The Miracle’ – the utopian vision of equality for all that has been broadly accepted in the United States over the last few decades.
We traditionally think of it as the opposite of colour-blindness; instead of judging people on the content of their character and ignoring racial differences, identity politics encourages people to define themselves by their race or gender.
This philosophy is not only wrongheaded, but it also has dangerous consequences.
It creates an ‘us Vs them’ mentality and can lead to the formation of exclusive tribal groups which could potentially threaten our nation.
The election of Donald Trump is an example of this; many disenfranchised white working class citizens were 3.5 times more likely to vote for him because they felt like “strangers in their own country” and identified with his promises to put them first.
If we don’t curb identity politics, we risk eroding one of The Miracle’s greatest achievements: its commitment to egalitarianism and common humanity.
Without this commitment, we may find ourselves headed backwards towards tribalism rather than forwards towards unity and equal opportunity for all Americans..
The Miracle Of Liberty Must Be Protected To Avoid A Dystopian Future
If we’re to ensure the survival of Western civilization, rediscovering its core values is essential.
Through parental education and cultural and political conditions, focusing on the principles of liberty, individualism and property rights is key in keeping tribal instincts from running rampant.
The examples set forth by the Founding Fathers show us how to do this – creating the United States complete with a written Constitution that makes it difficult for laws to be amended.
The only thing that can protect these values are Americans making a conscious effort to uphold them, even if it means going against human nature.
And this intrinsic commitment is necessary for preserving the miracle of liberalism and capitalism created by the West.
If we don’t act to safeguard this miracle, there’s no telling what fate our civilization could face.
Therefore we must champion its core values if we want Western civilization to not only survive, but thrive.
Suicide of the West is a powerful book which makes us understand how the great liberal, prosperous and free societies in the West were created.
It explains that it was a miracle which happened almost by accident in England, but was developed consciously in the United States of America.
However, today both nations are threatened by populist and undemocratic forces that seek to dismantle those same founding principles on which they once flourished.
In order to protect their gains and push back against this wave of populism, people need to remember and understand what helped create them.
Overall, Suicide of the West offers readers a stark reminder of how fragile our democratic ideals have become and emphasizes the importance of defending them at all costs.