Historical Significance: What Is Happening Now That Really Is Important?

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The
holiday season is a time for reflection. For those of us with an
historical bent this reflection concerns what is happening in the
world. Today's headline will be forgotten in a couple of months.
The year's big story may well be a footnote in history. But what
is happening now that really is important? What will be affecting
lives for years and centuries to come?

Certainly
the big story of the day is the war on terrorism and its manifestation
in Iraq. Will this story have legs into the 22nd century?
As a comparison we can consider an event at the beginning of the
urge for American international imperial expansion, the Spanish
American War, when the U.S. brought "freedom" to the Philippines.
The Marines then proceeded to become entangled in a guerilla war
for decades where thousands of them were killed. But this was not
a war against the Spanish. It was against the Filipinos we were
supposed to be setting free. And we killed hundreds of thousands
of them. How many Americans know about this episode today? More
importantly, how many recognize its historical significance in relation
to our current imperial adventure in Iraq?

As
the big story may turn out to be a dead end, what we historically
minded would really like to know is the small overlooked story that
will be prominent in the history books one hundred, or even a thousand
years from now. For example, I suspect the Rome Times had
the story "Judea's Herod Looks for Insurgent Child" buried
on scroll 19.

Much
of human history, the big stories, have related to the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse. They ride angry and wild bringing destruction
and death. However there is a positive, quiet, constructive story
that is not usually news but has much more important and lasting
impact.

What
I believe will become a big story of our time is going on in China
and India. Over the last quarter century or so a transformation
has occurred and continues to proceed. Hundreds of millions of people
have been allowed to lift themselves out of poverty. Tens of millions
more have moved into the middle class. The data describing this
incredible event was compiled by the World
Bank
(which is usually not a reliable organization).

Why
did such a transformation take place? A small group of men, the
leaders of these two countries, did not declare a war on poverty.
On the contrary, the self-proclaimed communists and socialists simply
unchained, the chains being socialism, the Four Horsemen of Abundance.
They are Free Capital, Free Labor, Free Trade, and their leader
Profit, the critical guide to the creative path. The horses are
not wild stallions, they do not trample. No, they are draught horses
that work for mankind to pull the multitudes out of poverty.

What
is more, this economic tsunami spreading the division of labor has
not only benefited the people of Asia. The flood of inexpensive,
well made goods into the United States has been a boon for almost
everyone here.

This
is not an unprecedented event. Europe and the United States have
reaped the harvest of their work over the last two centuries. The
great potential for future work lies in Africa and South America.
It seems that the false prophets of economics, the socialists in
all of their flavors, have been silenced. So is the world safe from
economic lies? There is much discussion in some circles concerning
the Book of Revelation and the meaning of the Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse. However, it is always agreed that War is one of them.
If we were naming the economic destroyers of today, the evils that
mire people in poverty around the world, the Four Horsemen of Economic
Apocalypse; War is again prominent. The others are Welfare, Regulation
(domestic and international, i.e., protectionism), and perhaps the
most insidious of all, Fiat Money. Fiat Money makes all the evils
of government intrusion on liberty and capitalism more likely.

In
this holiday season, and every other day, we should count our blessings
due to the Four Horsemen of Abundance and be vigilant for the Four
Horsemen of Economic Apocalypse. This is accomplished practically
by understanding historical significance.

December
28, 2004

Ira
Katz [send him mail] teaches
mechanical engineering at Lafayette College.  He is the co-author
of Handling
Mr. Hyde: Questions and Answers about Manic Depression
and
Introduction
to Fluid Mechanics
.

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