Sunday, September 19, 2004

And So It Begins.


In 1995 the London School of Economics magazine carried an interesting article by an Ian Angell. The article had a provocative subtitle: "The signs are clear. The future is inequality".

The article was "The Information Revolution and the Death of the Nation State".

This article was written in the mid-90s. Today almost a decade later we are seeing firsthand Angell's prophesy unfolding right here in Singapore.

When I first read Angell's article way back in school when it first came out, my first impression was "Wow!". I was so impressed that I wrote (snailmailed) him a fan letter. He was nice enough to send back a nice thank you note and a copy of the original LSE magazine where the article was first carried. I still have that magazine today.

Over the years, that first initial wide-eyed "wow!" is slowing turning into a worrying "ohh... shit!" as it now becoming more obvious that Angell had got it right all along.

***

At that time I was reading a lot of C.S. Lewis as well, even though I am not religous by any stretch of the definition. Not so much of his poetry and fiction works but more his non-fiction works. His ability to document his clarity of thought still amazes me today.

Often lost in the shuffle of his many essays is "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State" where Lewis cautions of the dangers of highly-planned technocratic society in the future. The essay was written in 1958 in the shadow of WWII and the rapid developments of hydrogen-fission bomb technology, and it stands up well to the test of time.

"I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has the "freeborn mind". But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticise its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology. Read Montaigne; that's the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating the mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone' schoolmaster and employer? Admittedly, when a man was untamed, such liberty belonged only to the few. I know. Hence the horrible suspicion that our only choice is between societies with few freemen and societies with none."
- C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963), "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State" (1958)

And so I started to read Montaigne...

And I started wondering what "economic independence" meant...

But those are discussions for some other day.

***

Enough about background theory and history already!

I just have to document all that background information as a reference to check back against at a later point. Better to lay out the underlying assumptions now. May serve as a useful check for when I get lost later.

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