Will 2020 Prove to Be the Beginning of the End of Modernity? by Daniel J. Boudreaux

For modernity to happen, a lot of historically unprecedented things had to happen. Now many of those things are being reversed. From Daniel J. Boudreaux at aier.org:

Daniel Hannan – Lord Hannan of Kingsclere – is today among Britain’s wisest and most articulate champions of classical liberalism. He’s also today very pessimistic about the future of liberalism. This pessimism is on full display in this recent video. Hannan predicts that the post-Covid-19 world “will be poorer, colder, grayer, more pitched, more authoritarian.”

I ardently wish that I found his stated reasons for pessimism to be unpersuasive, but this wish is not granted. Hannan’s pessimism, to me, seems warranted.

I urge you to watch the entire video. At under seven minutes, it’s short. But I believe that my summary here of Hannan’s point is accurate:

We humans are evolved to put our trust in hierarchy, for hierarchical methods of decision-making were quite effective at protecting the small tribe, as it roamed the countryside, from predators and privation. And our deep past was in fact fraught with dangers that, when not quickly avoided, killed us. In that long-ago era, anyone refusing to follow the leader’s commands was indeed a threat to the survival of the tribe. As a result, fellow tribe members turned on renegades. ‘Renegadeness’ was thus largely drained from the gene pool and replaced with the instinct to conform, especially whenever there was a perception of danger, which there was quite often.

Confidence in hierarchy, hair-trigger alarm, and fear of strangers (who back then usually were sources of real danger) helped our ancestors to survive. And survive they did for 300,000 years, nearly all of which time was spent hunting and gathering in small tribes. But these genetically encoded instincts that are so useful to members of the always-imperiled tribe do not support a liberal, open society of the sort that arose in the West over the past few centuries.

We humans have been around for at least 300,000 years. Nearly all – 97 percent – of this time was spent as hunters-gatherers in a perilous world. Yet only in the past two or three centuries have we stumbled upon a set of beliefs and institutions that suppressed many of our primitive instincts in a way that encouraged the emergence of modernity. By historical standards, the world that we know today is freakishly abnormal.

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