The Unpredictable Future And Winning Liberty

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Richard Ebeling via Epic Times,

As a new year begins, it is easy to consider that the prospects for freedom in America and in many other parts of the world to seem dim. After all, government continues to grow bigger and more intrusive, along with tax burdens that siphon off vast amounts of private wealth.

Extrapolating these trends out for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the chances for winning liberty are highly unlikely. There is only one problem with this pessimistic forecast: the future is unpredictable and apparent trends do change.

Many years ago the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper pointed out, “If there is such a thing as growing human knowledge, then we cannot anticipate today what we shall only know tomorrow.” What does this mean?

When I was in high school in the 1960s, I came across an issue ofPopular Science magazine published in the early 1950s that was devoted to predicting what life would be like for the average American family in the 1970s. It had a picture of a wife and child standing on an apartment building roof waving good-bye to dad as he went off to work—in his one-seat mini-helicopter!

Dad Going Off to Work in Future

As best as I can recall, the authors talked about such things as color televisions, various new household appliances, robots that would do much of our household work, and the use of jet planes for commercial travel. What was not mentioned, however, was the personal computer or the revolution in communication, knowledge, and work that it has brought about. When that issue of Popular Science was published, one essential element of the computer revolution had not yet been invented: the microchip.

We Cannot Predict Tomorrow’s Knowledge Today

Those authors could not imagine a worldwide technological revolution before the component that made it all possible was created by man. Our inescapably imperfect knowledge means we can never predict our own future. If we could predict tomorrow’s knowledge and its potentials, then we would already know everything today—and we would know we knew it!

This applies to social, political, and economic trends as well. Most people in 1900 expected the twentieth century to be an epoch of growing international peace and harmony. In 1911, the British free trader and peace advocate, Norman Angell (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933), argued in The Great Illusion that war had become so costly in terms of financial expense and wasteful destruction that it would be irrational for the “Great Powers” of Europe or America to be drawn down that path any longer.

But, instead, in 1914, there began the First World War, that went on for four years, took the lives of at least 20 million soldiers, and cost (in 2014 dollars) over $3 trillion. And the relatively classical liberal and free market world that prevailed before the “Great War,” was shattered.

The twentieth century, as a whole, was the bloodiest and most destructive in modern history due to the rise of political and economic collectivism, in the forms of socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism and the interventionist-welfare state. The conflicts that collectivism brought in its wake have cost possibly 250 million lives over the last one hundred years. No one anticipated this turn of events in 1900.

The Unpredictability of Future Political-Economic Trends

When I was an undergraduate in the late 1960s the book assigned in my first economics class was the seventh edition of Paul Samuelson’s Economics (1967), the leading Keynesian-oriented textbook at the time.

There was a graph that tracked U.S. and Soviet Gross National Product (GNP) from 1945 to 1965. Samuelson then projected American and Soviet GNP through the rest of the century. He anticipated that possibly by the early 1980s, but certainly by 2000, Soviet GNP would be equal to or even greater than that of the United States. Notice his implicit prediction that there would be a Soviet Union in 2000, which in fact disappeared from the map of the world in December 1991.

Which of us really expected to see the end of the U.S.S.R. in our lifetimes, without either a nuclear cataclysm or a devastating and bloody civil war? In the mid-1980s the often perceptive French social critic Jean-François Revel published How Democracies Perish, in which he expressed his fear that the loss of moral and ideological commitment to freedom by intellectuals and many other people in the West meant that the global triumph of communism under Soviet leadership was a strong possibility. Instead it was Soviet communism that disappeared from the map of the globe.

Who in January 1990 anticipated that Saddam Hussein would invade Kuwait in August of that year, setting in motion a chain of events that resulted in two American invasions and a ten-year occupation of Iraq?

Who in 2000 would have anticipated that Bill Clinton’s eight years in office would seem, in retrospect, an era of restrained government compared to the explosion in government spending and intervention during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations?


Historical Chronology Does Not Mean Future Causality

And who today knows what the whole twenty-first century holds for us? Let me suggest that the answer is: nobody.

As the late Robert Nisbet, one of America’s great social thinkers, once pointed out, “How easy it is, as we look back over the past – that is, of course, the ‘past’ that has been selected for us by historians and social scientists – to see in it trends and tendencies that appear to possess the iron necessity and clear directionality of growth in a plant or organism . . . But the relation between the past, present, and future is chronological, not causal.”

The decades of relative global peace and market-based prosperity that preceded 1914 did not mean that war and destruction were impossible for the rest of the twentieth century. The ascendancy of Soviet communism, Italian fascism, and German Nazism in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s did not mean that freedom and democracy had reached their end, though the books and articles of some of the most insightful advocates of individual liberty and limited government in the years between the two World Wars carried the despair and fear that totalitarianism was the inescapable wave of the future.

The persistent and current growth in government intervention and the welfare state does not mean that a return to the classical-liberal ideas of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government is a pipe dream of the past.

Human Events are the Result of Human Action

Human events are the result of human action. Our actions are an outgrowth of our ideas and our will and willingness to try to implement them. The stranglehold of Big Government will persist only for as long as we allow it, for as long as we accept the arguments of our ideological opponents that the interventionist welfare state is “inevitable” and “irreversible.”

That is, the present trend will continue only for as long as we accept that the chronologically observed increase in government power over the last decades is somehow causally determined and inescapable in the stream of human affairs.

This could have been equally said about human slavery. Few institutions were so imbedded in the human circumstance throughout recorded history as the ownership of some men by others. Surely it was a pipe dream to suggest that all men should be free and equal before the law.

Yet in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a new political ideal was born – that declared that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable individual rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property, which no other mortals could take away. So slavery, which Aristotle considered to be the natural condition of some men, was brought to an end before the close of the nineteenth century through the power of ideas and human purpose.

In the 1700s, mercantilism – the eighteenth-century version of central planning – was considered both necessary and desirable for national prosperity. Even Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations(1776), believed that its hold over men’s minds and actions was too powerful to ever permit the triumph of free trade. Yet in one lifetime following Adam Smith’s death in 1790, freedom of trade and enterprise was established in Great Britain and the United States, and then slowly but surely through much of the rest of the world.

This was all made possible because of the rise and partial triumph of a political philosophy of individual rights that argued for the banishment of violence and oppression in the relationships among men.

Future-Past Picture

Liberty’s Winning Ideas are Out There

We cannot imagine, today, how freedom will successfully prevail over our current paternalistic governments, any more than many people could imagine in 1940 a world without German Nazism and Soviet communism, or FDR’s New Deal. But that does not mean it’s impossible.

Precisely because the future is unknown, we may be confident that trends can and will change, just as they have in the past. We cannot fully know today what arguments friends of freedom will imagine and successfully articulate tomorrow to end government control of our lives. But those arguments are out there, waiting to be better formulated and presented, just as earlier friends of freedom succeeded in making the cases against slavery and mercantilism.

In 1951, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out, “Now trends of [social] evolution can change, and hitherto they almost always have changed. But they changed only because they met firm opposition. The prevailing trend toward what Hilaire Belloc called the servile state will certainly not be reversed if nobody has the courage to attack its underlying dogmas.”

There is one thing, therefore, that we can predict: patience, persistence, and belief in the power of ideas and a well articulated defense of individual rights and free markets will provide the best chance we have to achieve the free society many of us so much desire.

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noben's picture
noben (not verified) Dec 30, 2014 10:08 PM

Should've crossed out the Future and left the Past.

Publicus's picture

The future for Americans are very predictable. Here:


The only thing that can be expected from the next US president is more war, more murder, and more oppression of the gullible American people.

People as uninformed and as gullible as Americans have no future. Americans are a dead people that history is about to run over. - Paul Craig Roberts

Anusocracy's picture

The only way freedom can exist is if, somehow miraculously, the 99% of the people on earth who want government died or had their brains replaced with ones that want freedom.

Other than that, we're in a feedback loop that's going to self-destruct. The way intelligence develops and operates in nature assures its own destruction when advanced technology occurs.

As it has probably happened billions of times previously in the Universe

Comte de Saint Germain's picture

There is one thing, therefore, that we can predict: patience, persistence, and belief in the power of ideas and a well articulated defense of individual rights and free markets will provide the best chance we have to achieve the free society many of us so much desire.

Dear Richard Ebeling, your sincerity itself is pure bullshit.

hansg's picture

This article smacks of desperation. "Well, we've tried everything we know. It's all failed. But there's always room for a miracle! Please let everything be ok, despite all of our fuckups!"

shovelhead's picture

The implication you obviously missed is that you have to actually DO something.


tplink's picture
tplink (not verified) noben Dec 31, 2014 12:12 AM

my roomate's half-sister makes $65 /hr on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her pay check was $14940 just working on the computer for a few hours. you could try this out...

shovelhead's picture

Glad that porn cam is working for her.

Pro Tip: A shave and some asshole bleach. She looks like a baboon when she goes doggie.

besnook's picture

more utopian blather. man is man. the most important lesson of the bible is that man has never changed. your hope for peace is dielusional. even the buddhists have very little constraint on human behavior and they have spent 3000 years preaching nonviolence as the primary tenet of the philosophy with only modest success. thinking the violence prone west will somehow become enlightened in peaceis a fantasy.....but i guess we can't know the future, right?

NidStyles's picture

Utopian? How so? Please do tell where it said the future was going to be all rainbows and unicorns.

besnook's picture

the entire theme of the article and especially the last line. the quest for liberty is never attained. liberty is a utopian state of being at the societal level. the only hope one has is individual liberty. even that is only an illusion in the confines of a state.

nmewn's picture

You banty liberty around like its a lost cause at the societal level yet it is what every individual seeks.

Maybe we should stop asking the state to infringe on our neighbors liberty?

besnook's picture

an individual has some ability to hide from the state. not totally, but close enough. there are great stories about mountain men and remote communal communities who enjoy the relative anonymity needed for liberty. they are sort of like the aboriginal tribes in south america who enjoy liberty until they are discovered by the state then have to rely on the state for protection, the end of liberty.


personally, all i require for an acceptable level of liberty is the ability to travel around in a state of anonyminity as far as the state is concerned as long as i am a law adibing citizen. there is no other legitimate reason for the state to bother me.

GeezerGeek's picture

Unfortunately for you, there are now so many laws, rules and regulations that you cannot possibly be a law abiding citizen. Remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse, even if you could not possibly read all the laws, etc. even if you dedicated your life to doing so. In summation, the state will 'bother' you whenever it damn well pleases.

besnook's picture

that's the rub, isn't it? name a .gov without those restrictions on liberty. the best one can hope for is a benevolent dictator who likes you. that is why there is no such thing as liberty living within a state, only the illusion of liberty.

that is why china ius a much more honest state than the usa. the usa preaches life, liberty and the pursuit of happoness yet interferes in one's quest at every turn while preaching the exceptionalism of the usa using those platitudes as proof. the chinese people know liberty is dispensed by the state and the state constantly remind the people this is so. there is no ambiguity and no such thing as a false arrest.

i like the chinese system only because i know the rules and the rules are followed. i know where i stand at all times. the usa applies rules when they are convenient and makes them up as we go along making it impossible to navigate the system. christ! they even criminalized being a child and playing cops and robbers and cowboys and indians and alien invasion and even marbles and hackeysack.

liberty is certainly utopia.

nmewn's picture

Personally, I've never been much on the pacifist thingy. There's not much of a future for me laying down in front of a tank driven by someone else.

But hey, you guys get it figured out first and then I'll be willing to listen ;-)

ebworthen's picture

We can try and keep trying as individuals, but there is always "monkey want banana" when it comes to humanity.

Counterpunch's picture
Counterpunch (not verified) besnook Dec 31, 2014 7:06 AM

If you think the most important lesson of the Bible is that man has never {or can never} change - by "bible" you plainly do not mean the New Testament. 

Your statement sounds in the pessimism, violence and hate of the unedited, naked Old Testament cult of Yahweh.

Ghordius's picture

Counterpunch, are you using old, hateful rubbish to combat old, hateful rubbish? Saint Augustine's views on Judaism? seriously? including his views on virginity?

lasvegaspersona's picture

The problems of the current monetary system are responsible for many of our ills. These can and will be addressed when the current system fails. A new system is already in the wings.


Usurious's picture

I would like to see FreeGold, but not sure it would fix any of societal ills........Let the collaspe happen and lets hope that debt based fiat currency dies for the good of humanity

himaroid's picture

The future looked survivable.

Until today.

Gartman says Gold will be the best investment 2015.

We're fucked.

bonin006's picture

Don't worry, He'll change his mind in a day or two.

disabledvet's picture

"Hey, lets start a war with Russia!"

"Wow! That's never happened before! Nothing is more uncertain than the future! I say lets go for it!"

Yeah, sure. The past has no consequence to current actions...nor does is create "inevitabilities." No, sir not one bit.

GeezerGeek's picture

If I recall correctly, we haven't invaded Russia for about 100 years. Time to pay them another visit, I guess.


shovelhead's picture

I read a hell of a good book about that strange little secret war.

I cant remember the title.

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

Future happens.... Many people think the future can be controlled but as was pointed out you can't control what you can't see. Our major problem is there are people who think they can and plan for certain things to fall a certain way and they will force it that way if needed. Unfortunately for them is they don't have a crystal ball and the future is a chaotic pattern.  We can either try to fit the flow into a narrow channel or ride the rapids and see where it takes us.

Victory_Garden's picture

Unpredictable future? Indeed.

Suppose, it depends on what level you see it all from. Freaking evil dark corruption seeks to sink the whole ship before she gets broadsided by PX. Stupid does not know all hands on board will be needed to save the Earth ship. Missing any more hands due to population reduction agendas will place in jeopardy the entire global flyer. All hands will be required to save it all thinking as one kinetic force of energy. All good hearts know it is an all or nothing adventure. There is no division in One Life force. One world's People. One Love.

If you have not heard these two hours of listening pleasure presented below, then you might should do it. IF, this is happening when they say it is, all the rest of the bantering, distractions deluxe, and jib-jab baloney suddenly all become moot. The focus of real quality life suddenly comes in to view.

Like really, who wants to haul around any amount of material things when it is known that it is the spirit world where one should build up the true richness of your karmic credit dept at, and not in the material one. It is well known that one can take the spiritual riches with them, but not the material things. Choose well between that which is temporary, and that which is eternal. There is NO ESCAPE from the well balanced scales.

Hr 2:

Hr 3:

Original link that has been disappeared for some reason on RBN, and on Hodges page. Moar hummmmmmmmm???????

Ya sees, ya has to see the first levels of consciousness (corruption and criminality) to know we are really in trouble as a world. But then, you has ta be a ready to embrace this biggest of all bits of info, be it true or not to SEE we are really really possibly in big huge deep doo-doo trouble beyond most peoples ability to even conceive. Unless it is on TV, of course. There have actually been many releases of information around this potential earth changing event that many already know is coming in various forms of media. Here is one great one.:

Just where have all those trillions of dollars gone, Mr Rumsfield? Underground city hidey-holes for the elite, you say? See it through their controlling minds and ask yourself, what would you do to forestall this info from people while profiting from it? Heck, it could actually be yet another distraction from the impending well planned crash and babylonian takeover. Pitting all countries against each other to cause huge distractions from the criminality and corruption is such an old trick.

The world's People are sick and farking tired of the freaking shit show!

pocomotion's picture

Victory Garden, God bless, but you are going off the reservation here.  Stay focused on maintaining your rent and bills then just relax and get back to nature or something.

New World Chaos's picture

The Babylonian Brotherhood has been waging war on the human spirit for thousands of years.  They have been winning, in part, because of our instinct to keep our heads down.  So I welcome anyone who challenges them on that field of battle.  Too much woowoo is better than none at all.  

shovelhead's picture


Why don't we all hold hands and levitate the Pentagon?

kchrisc's picture

People of the past were oblivious of freedom, because they had no experience with it, no education about it, no comprehension of it, and so could not demand it.

We are ignorant of freedom, because we have experience with it, education about it, and a full comprehension of it, and yet do not demand it

Freedom is a demand, not an expectation.

The banksters need to repay us.


"Concealed weapons are for when the expectation of being mugging free must become a demand."

Ghordius's picture

you don't need to know anything about freedom in order to demand it. you just need to know... oppression

in the past, shackles were out of steel. you don't needed an experience, education or comprehension of freedom in order to recognize that you were shackled, and ask for their removal

today, it's ideas. and strangely, the demand for total freedom is one of those shackles which is leading so many young Americans to debt serfdom through student debt

the roads to serfdom are paved with good intentions and requests for more freedom

22winmag's picture

You can say all you want about America being a police state and being "unfree", but even just a hint of freedom or the illusion of freedom is enough to separate America from the collection of sad, defeated nations that do not have said hint or never benefited from said illusion.

Sick's picture

This article failed to mention the invisible hand of the super rich evil bastards behind the wars and who greatly influence the direction of the world.  I agree there are many things that no one could predict and that have changed things drastically, but these super rich evil bastards are dumbing down the population and controlling things to the point where they have developed a status quo they seek to maintian.  Go ahead and come up with a world changing invention, clean and free energy, they will have you killed and your idea squashed to protect their control and money flows.  The best you can do is break away from the system, buy some land, learn to do things yourself for you and your family.  It is the only hope.

Sick's picture

This is worth reading.  V ineyard of the Saker WHITE PAPER



TuPhat's picture

"So slavery, which Aristotle considered to be the natural condition of some men, was brought to an end before the close of the nineteenth century through the power of ideas and human purpose."  Big fail on that one Richard.  It was brought to an end by a bloody war and the death of 600,000 americans.  Along with oppression of the south by the north for many years.  It wasn't really about slavery anyway but that is a different topic.

GeezerGeek's picture

And slavery continued to exist in other parts of the world. Mostly it was in countries of the Western world that slavery disappeared. Now that we've rejected Western Civ in the US, slavery can make a comeback. Except this time the slaveowner will be Uncle Sam, acting as a front man for TPTB.

indygo55's picture

He who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it.

noben's picture
noben (not verified) indygo55 Dec 31, 2014 1:07 AM

Was that what happened to ancient empires?

pocomotion's picture

Calm down doomers.  There is way too much time left before we need wilderness.  We should be getting out of this recession when the GDP/GNP gets to 2.9% which is very soon.  Diversify portfolios and support local development.

Atomizer's picture

“Although Rat’s life is controlled from cradle to grave, his infancy repeated and reflected in all activities and relationships, Rat needs constant affirmation to combat isolation. Rat goes mad if he is ignored.”


Fuku Ben's picture

Who needs liberty when they can have freedom?

noben's picture
noben (not verified) Dec 31, 2014 1:12 AM

Speaking of the Future... allow me to front run tomorrow's deluge of 2015 predictions:

After 5 years of "Next year will be the End", I predict that not only will many here say "2015 will be the End", but that we will repeat this exercise a year from now.

shovelhead's picture

Except the dead ones.

They will be 100% correct.