Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting away from it all; why we really need to find Galt's Gulch

The real problem is we are constrained. No matter where you go, you will always be in the reach of others, most of who are determined to make sure you pay your fair share of their entitlements. The siren call of living off the means of others continues to be the number one enemy of freedom, and indeed, there is little that can be done, since it is a rational choice for an individual to attempt to shift their burdens onto someone else.  It is also rational to attempt to dominate others by force if you wish to take their wealth for yourself; Socialism and Warlords are really just different facets of the same thing.

Personal "Galt's Gulches" are quite possible, and I have blogged on this subject in the past. A virtual "New Atlantis" based on Internet connectivity may also be possible, especially if the medium of exchange is something mutually agreed upon by the members (trading useful information and barter may not be as efficient as cash, but is certainly less accessible to the agents of the State).

No, the solution must involve escaping entirely from the clutches of the State, but also in leaving a beacon for like-minded people to follow. In the present day and age, we have a destination: space.

Since the 1980’s, a large and growing body of science and literature has been devoted to the problems of settling in the environment of outer space. Much of this is actually recycled, amazingly, thinkers like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky were writing on the subject as early as 1903. Most of the ideas have simply been refined with the addition of a century of scientific and technological development. Today we are on the threshold of actually achieving inexpensive spaceflight. Private companies like “Virgin Galactic” have working prototypes of commercial spacecraft that can bring people to the edge of space, and developments like IEC Fusion (being developed by EMC2 Energy) will bring cheap energy which can be harnessed for propulsion beyond Earth Orbit.

So, what's the problem? A society with access to cheap energy (which can be generated in theory by low cost devices that determined individuals or small companies can produce) would seem to be the definition of an Earthly paradise. The real problem is that while the powers of the individual could be increased, the power of the State could increase overwhelmingly. As well, vast increases in available luxury and wealth would be used to bribe the "sheeple" and keep them quiet in the face of an ever increasing "soft tyranny". 

New horizons are needed to draw the best out of people, and inspire those who by accident or design are unable to follow. The end of the middle ages in Europe came not when the New World was discovered (for the nth time) but when it was publicized: (Via Instapundit)

HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY: Many in the West will demonstrate their fierce originality and intellectual independence today by condemning Christopher Columbus using the same shopworn cliches they used last year. For those of a different bent, I recommend Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus, which takes a somewhat different position. Here’s an excerpt:

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

A community of people who are fully engaged in bringing new worlds to life will certainly develop a much different view of life and society than indolent masses who are being kept like fattened sheep in a pen. Where every hand at the wheel is important, the habits of hard work, thrift and planning become paramount, much like frontier society during the colonization of North America between the 1500’s and the closing of the frontier in the 1870’s. Even today, much of the difference between cultural conservatives and liberals can be traced to the environment: conservatives tend to live in small towns and rural environments, while liberals tend to live in cities. Far less surplus wealth exists in the countryside to feed populations of moochers, and those who do live that lifestyle often do so at the expense of family and friends who agree to provide support.

There are fewer extremes of wealth as well in such environments, allowing people to deal with each other as equals, rather than as masters and servants. While ideas like an “elect” might never die out, the ability to constantly expand to new environments and harvest new resources will provide an endless counterbalance:

Morison’s book is superb, and I recommend it highly as an antidote to the simplistic anti-occidental prejudice of today — which, as Jim Bennett has noted, has roots that might surprise its proponents:

This is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism. Just as Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a minuscule contingent of the Elect of God, their secularized descendants believe in the depravity and cursedness of Western civilization, with their own enlightened selves in the role of the Elect.

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