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While I am not totally sold on the dialectic methods of inquiry employed by Marx, it certainly has its uses. For many years I have been lecturing on just how much better our living standards are today than at any point in human history. Of course, all of this growth has not come without some costs. The existence of some costs does not mean a situation is undesirable. Nonetheless, I tried to write a very short piece wherein my challenge was to convince myself that we are actually worse off today, and worse off as a consequence of our living standards. Here is my effort (I took only 4 minutes to write it, I am sure with some time, I could do better):

One consequence of the spectacular growth in living standards in the world over the past 200 years is that virtually every good and service is within reach of ordinary citizens. A modern citizen is worse off in this regard because modern commercial society makes “bad things” just as cheap and easy to get as “all the good things” we have been talking about.

Of chief concern among the easy to acquire “bad things” is nuclear weapons. Without our high income, advanced technology, global communication system, etc. it would have been impossible to invent such horrifying devices. Precisely as a result of our remarkable wealth, it is becoming easier and easier for a single person or groups of persons to acquire the means to produce or buy a nuclear weapon. Such a device has the potential of killing not just thousands, but millions of people in a matter of seconds.

Our pre-industrial ancestors certainly faced enormous risks to their health and safety. But none faced even a remote possibility that entire countries, or even the entire planet, could be wiped out due to a release of energy from a nuclear weapon. That risk is real and serious, and likely growing – as energy becomes cheaper, communications and distribution continue to improve, and perceived injustices get increasing play in a variety of media outlets.

2 Responses to “Bizarro-Wintercow, Perhaps a New Series”

  1. Harry says:

    Thank God for academic freedom.

    Your point is a Ludditie strech, but I’m glad you evaluate every angle.

    I do not, however believe one can blame our present very precarious situation on the high living standards we enjoy, in the West. (The JRR Tolkein West)

    Rather, one can blame our precarious situation on evil men, who have always been with us. They use the tools they have.

    I am looking forward to Paul Krugman’s next epistle, where he argues that unless we spend another $3 trillion, the cockroaches will overrun Washington, and by extension, the whole world. The old multiplier effect.

  2. Harry says:

    Where is Speedmaster?

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