Monday, March 29, 2004

Modern-day Luddites

The Luddites are always on the wrong side of history and, looking back, a source of some bemusement. Yet, as Brink Lindsey has forcefully demonstrated (Against the Dead Hand), the sentiment can be costly beyond imagination. Lindsey considers the industrial counter-revolution, the widespread reaction to fast-paced change, and connects it to most of the bloodshed of the 20th century. Populist and protectionist politicians (and their ideological allies), then, are playing with fire.

Learning and teaching history, therefore, is more important than ever. Yet, we now do less of it than ever. Much of what now passes for history instruction dwells on victims and their oppressors; these stories are usually connected to a vague anti-Western platform. Not only are many young people left essentially defenseless in the face of election-year rhetoric but a widespread response to terrorist abominations boils down to: "Why do they hate us so much?"

Hubris may be distasteful and dangerous but so is its craven opposite.