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Hardcover The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, & Progress Book

ISBN: 0684827603

ISBN13: 9780684827605

The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, & Progress

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

The editor of Reason magazine identifies the opposing world views whose clash will shape the next century--and argues that our progress and prosperity depend on embracing and open-ended, unpredictable, and evolving future. Index.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Sharp insight from Virginia Postrel

I consider myself an optimist and insightful person, but somehow managed to miss many of Postrel's insights. She gives me even more hope that the future is going to be more wonderful than I previously thought. She does keep that hope in check, though, by talking about the enemies of the future- primarily protectionists and those that see free trade as a threat, instead of the blessing that it is. She thoroughly destroys the notion that 'there is nothing new under that sun'. While the universe, therefore our earth, is necessarily finite, we misunderstand this finiteness because we misunderstand the different combinations things can be arranged in. For example, a deck of cards has only 52 cards, but the number of combinations you can put the cards into is 52x51x50x49x...x3x2x1, which is a number larger than the number of particles in the universe! So whenever you shuffle a deck of cards, you can rest assured, that that is probably the one and only time that arrangement of cards will ever be in existence... ever. People are so inventive and creative and always looking for new things. Obviously, there will always be new things. Every time someone declares that we are nearing the end of history, science, technology, etc. it's safe to say they have no idea what they are talking about. We need to let people be as creative and as inventive as they can. It will only make our lives better, on the whole. There will always be setbacks, but as long as people can think, we will always find a way to make out of those setbacks. The book is a stunning, intelligent look at modern life. I liked it so much, I bought The Substance of Style, which is, yet, another insightful look at modern life.

Why care about the future?

Postrel forces you to think explicitly about the future. I have 10 children. Thus I have more invested in the future than most people. The future my children and grandchildren inherit and create be mostly shaped by people with dynamist views. After all, it is the dynamists who created civilization. To be sure, history is full of examples where the forces of stasis won over the dynamists, sometimes for centuries. However, I think the future is with the dynamists. I'm betting this book will be considered a seminal classic 100 years from now.

Figure things out now and save yourself pain in "The Future"

I was at Printer's Inc bookstore in Mountain View, CA with a friend last month and he foisted this on me, assuring me that it would be an eye-opening sort of experience. I read the book from cover to cover in a couple days and I don't think my outlook on technology and the West Coast was changed as significantly as he claims his was, but I've got to admit that it was an excellent read and gave me much to ponder.Virginia Postrel is the editor of the uber-libertarian Reason Magazine and also writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal. This book is basically a fleshing out of her favorite theme- that technology is what is going to carry us through the 21st century intact and save us from death by exponential and catastrophic population growth, and that the future of our culture and the arts are essentially tied to technological development. But she also warns us that only unfettered technology can flourish. Regulation means expense and expense is the great bogeyman of research and development. If governments start regulating genetic engineering, the Internet and nanotechnology while they are in their infancy, there will be no bright tomorrow.One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the connection that Ms. Postrel draws between the neo-Luddite Jeremy Rifkin types of the left and the nationalist Pat Buchanans of the right. The idea that there is a coming realignment in politics is not original to her, but she presents the shift of political alliances away from left-right and into a freedom-tyranny oriented spectrum more capably than anyone else I have read.She doesn't paint a utopian future. She makes it clear that the road to tomorrow won't be easy for anybody, let alone everybody. But we won't get there at all unless the social problems of our day and the problems raised by increasingly rapid change are delt with by individuals, not bureaucracies. If the great enemy of the future is regulation, its best friends are the thinker, the private humanatarian and, most of all, the entrepreneur.

A Heroine for the 21st Century

I was familiar with Virginia Postrel's work in Reason magazine before I bought this book, so I was already looking forward to it with great expectations. However, Ms. Postrel actually managed to exceed them! So often even the best journalists cannot make the transition to writing full-length texts, but Ms. Postrel has done so with ease. Some reviewers have complained that the book lacks depth and it is true that Ms. Postrel could have added more case studies or psychological and philosophical analysis. But I have never thought that every book must achieve the scope of _Human Action_ to be useful. Indeed, something can definitely be said for making a book accessible to the public-at-large rather than catering to the converted.I found Ms. Postrel's arguments very compelling, especially when taken with the writings of previous authors. F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, and Frederic Bastiat of course did not use the terms dynamist and stasist in their works, but the same thread is clearly evident. Hayek, Rand, and Bastiat (along with many others) long ago identified the alliances between the far-left and far-right for the purpose of destroying progress. Yet Postrel's book brings that analysis to its logical conclusion by finally obliterating the falsity of the left-right dichotomy which many 19th and 20th Century writers still implicitly accepted even when they identified the parallels between stasist groups.That said, Postrel's book, although certainly capable of being read on its own, would be best read as part of a body of literature. I would recommend also reading Hayek's _The Road to Serfdom_, Rand's _Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal_, and Bastiat's _Economic Sophisms_ for readers previously unfamiliar with the subject. Those texts are readily available and are as accessible as Postrel's for the novice reader.Finally, I must say that with this book, Ms. Postrel joins Wendy McElroy as a heroine for the 21st Century, carrying on the work of such great liberal (in the proper sense of that word) women such as Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane, and Isabel Paterson.

It's a future not about Republicans vs. Democrats...

...not even about Liberal vs. Conservative. Everyone seems to want change. Postrel make the convincing argument that the battle is really between those who demand central control and a pre-planned future vs. those who are willing to let the future evolve in a many time unexpected way. Essentially it's an age old debate - almighty wisdom vs. evolution.... It's authority (whether it be religion or the state) versus freedom of choice (whether it be the markets or experimentation). Postrel delineates the battle ground with a variety of examples...both contemporary and historic. The book offers insights into the potential of creativity breaking out from the traditional command and control mentality. As a former urban planner, I was particularly enlightened by her examples as they relate to a changing urban scape. Overall, this is a ground breaking book that links a number of guru management ideas, politics, science and economic thought....the kind of cross-disciplinary analysis that opens up new ways to more objectively view the world. The Future and Its Enemies is a worthwhile read that will help the reader understand the real underlying dichotomy and debate ("the paradigm" which is a term that Postrel gratfully doesn't use) that defines how politicians and others react to a wide variety of contentious debates. Now the reader can understand the underlying personalities and sets of beliefs and predict how the future balttle lines will be drawn..and what side to be on.
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