Guest Post: The End Of History
The next in a continuing series (most recently: Security in a Free Society).
Submitted by Free Radical
The End of History
There is properly no history, only biography. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was famously proclaimed that what we were likely witnessing was
… not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such; that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
In reality, however, what we are witnessing is the ideological exhaustion of “Western liberal democracy” and therefore the last gasp of the fraud upon which it rests: the state, even its best form. No longer able to hide behind the Jeffersonian dream of constitutional freedom and order or the Lincolnian myth that the dream could be preserved at the expense of the principle upon which it was founded, the American state’s demise proves that “the final form of human government” has not yet arrived – not because a final form shouldn’t have arrived but because, for those who have had so much fun during historical times, the aftermath won’t be any fun. On the contrary, it will be “a very sad time”:
The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.
How sad, in other words, that if people were in fact freed from “the worldwide ideological struggle” (though of course they have not been), they would at long last be able to live their lives on their own terms. How sad that without “the struggle for recognition,” people would not have to endure another Pharoah, Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Clinton, Bush, or Obama, and would instead be left to while away the hours in the peaceful pursuit of their own happiness. How sad that without the “purely abstract goal” of one or another statist ideology, grandparents, parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren would not know the “daring, courage, imagination, and idealism” that continues to send their loved ones home in flag-draped cartons. How sad that “environmental concerns” could actually be solved, rather than perpetrated by governments and perpetuated by their bloated “regulatory” agencies. And how sad that “economic calculation and the endless solving of technical problems” – i.e., the day-by-day work of an increasingly complex and thus more richly rewarding world – would not be complicated by the relentless onslaught of the state.
Yes, there is the hope that “centuries of boredom at the end of history might serve to get history started once again,” so that murder and mayhem can once again spice up the dreary “satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.” What is a cell phone, after all, compared to a land mine? What is communication compared to mutilation? With “no struggle over ‘large’ issues and consequently no need for generals or statesmen,” how much attraction can life hold? What’s the use of living, in other words, if you can’t make a killing killing people?
And a twofold killing it is – over 15 billion people “since the beginning of authentic history,” at a cost of over a thousand trillion dollarsi – according to the research published in a 1914 New York Times piece that also makes the following observation:
Brilliant deeds on the battlefield are done by the man who will take the greatest risks in support of an ideal; the man who will take the greatest risks is, ordinarily, the best of men. So these are least likely to escape. …
… And even though large numbers of the best of men are left, many are destroyed, and of those remaining many have been deteriorated physically by the effort, by the wounds, by the diseases, of wartime; while the economic course of every man participating in a war is interrupted by his service, and, in the majority of cases, such an interruption harms his industrial or professional or mercantile future, thus directly affecting the opportunities that he may offer to the rising generation, which, for a time, depends upon him.
And thus does the killing of the best in war also kill “a certain portion of the incalculable social and educational effort of the ages.”
But no matter. For as war is its very health, the state will have a war if it wants one, never mind how much the people, understandably, do not:
Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. … But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same in any country.
But why? The answer is as old as Plato’s Dorians:
[I]t is immaterial for the citizens of any nation where the frontiers of their country are drawn. It is of no concern for anyone whether his country is big or small, and whether it conquers a province or not. The individual citizens do not derive any profit from the conquest of a territory.
It is different with the princes or ruling aristocracies. They can increase their power and their tax revenues by expanding the size of their realms. They can profit from conquest. They are bellicose, while the citizenry is peace loving.
The “princes and ruling aristocracies” will object, of course, that they are not bellicose at all and only want to increase their power in order to be of greater service to humanity. They are public servants, after all, seeking only to do good on their constituents’ behalf. What they do not understand, however – what they dare not even contemplate – is that because Men are cruel, but Man is kind, no men are more cruel than those who would do good with mankind’s money – with the proceeds, that is, of the legalized theft by which “Western liberal democracy” and every other manifestation of the state perpetuate themselves. For as easy as it is to make this theft legal, it is impossible to make it moral, the resulting assault on society being all the worse for the pretence upon which it is based: namely, that legalized theft is the price that must be paid for a civilized society.
And it is because of this vast charade – the biggest of all big lies – that its perpetrators fail to realize that they are but the latest incarnation of the iniquity that has prevailed from time immemorial, that however much the forces of history have been debated over the centuries – are they blind, cyclical, progressive, eschatological, dialectical, etc. – there are actually no forces of history; there is only the history of force. In fact, there is only history as force, the absence of which is not history but biography – the ability to graph, as it were, one’s own bio in cooperative association with one’s fellow human beings.
Its perpetrators do not understand, that is, that their role in history is history, for history is nothing more than the biographies of those who have used the political means to trump the economic means, the producers of which have had their biographies expropriated in the process. As such, history is merely a chronicle of conquest, subjugation, and confiscation, and therefore a glorification of perpetual war for perpetual war. And just as war and the state are one, so, then, are the state and history one.
Therefore, the end of the state will be the end of history.
i Inflation-adjusted as follows: 15 billion battlefield deaths x $3,677 per death in 1914 dollars (see footnote 138) x 20 to correct for the dollar’s lost purchasing power since then (see here) = $1,103,100,000,000,000.My next submission: “The Final Form of Human Government.”