The enlightenment myth of infinite progress has not yet died. This assertion of mine is based largely on anecdotal evidence and the general impression I get from the cultural and political commentariat. It is commonly held that things are getting better or they will get better in the future. Peter Kreeft calls this the religion of progress; or, the belief in change for change’s sake. I think it’s a fair description of a common mindset of some on both the left and the right.
One reason this mindset is so pervasive is because the of the free economy. (I am using the word free here in a sense that means this: our economic actions are no longer under the control of some state or social organization that limits who we can do business with. Free also means generally free from excessive taxation). The free economy has resulted in the massive creation of wealth which gives us the false impression that humanity has no limits. An important part of conservatism, then, is to remind people that mankind does indeed have limits, and that the idea of a limitless humanity is a dangerous cultural, political, and moral poison.
Perhaps no one expresses this danger better than Wendell Berry, especially in his latest essay on this very subject. It is titled “Faustian economics: Hell Hath no limits”. I think it gives a great outline of the kind of cultural changes that are going to need to occur in the coming years. Read the rest of this entry »