November 21, 2009

Saturday Learning Series - Worlds Without End

Some have viewed this ending episode of the series as a Utopian vision of the future, focused on Buddhism and tying it to the potential of the Internet. I think that's an oversimplification. I believe Burke is looking at the potential explosion of knowledge and is optimistic.

Despite the the scary sounding nature of a society 'tolerant of all views' and constantly changing, it is after all what made America great in the first place. The idea that radical thinking is a bad thing for America is nonsense. In the free market of ideas, good radical ideas will thrive and silly ones will go nowhere.

Radical thinking has created and helped sustain scientific progress. Radical thinking in a political world is something entirely different. Certain concepts like liberty and justice are timeless and will hold strong despite a potential for radical ideas.

Where Burke misses the mark on the free thinking concept is the idea that all societies will allow unfettered access to free thought. China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea are great examples of this. He's talking about an almost de-nationalized world where ideas supersede national identity. Reaching that point may still be centuries off.

However, in Burke's defence is that fact that while those totalitarian societies can thrive over a short period of time (China being the most recent example of a societal surge in geo-political power), they cannot sustain the rate of progress that a free society can muster. Free societies like Great Britain and the United States have had a distinct advantage in that regard and it is reason for their success in recent centuries.

Any move away from that freedom, whether by the likes of the Obama administration or by racism, or religious intolerance under any guise, is a danger to the continued success of America. That is not to say that the U.S. should be any less vigilant in defending it's national interests. There are those like the Taliban for example, or radical environmentalists, who would gladly see free societies turned back to the stone age to suit their own agendas.

There's nothing wrong with a utopia, other than the fact that it's pretty much impossible to reach. But if there were ever an opportunity to get there, where logical thought, religious tolerance, and individual liberty are all prized, then the liberties enshrined in the United States Constitution must be defended from abuse, theft and vandalism in the supposed name of social justice that includes rights not granted by the Constitution or God. President Obama refers to them as 'negative rights', because they don't go far enough to guarantee things for people.

Only socialist societies do that. Free health care. Free medicine. A right to a post-secondary education. What's next? A right to free television?

Freedom from stupidity? There are certain things the government simply cannot guarantee. Nor should it. If it tries to guarantee them, recognize that you are being sold a bill of goods.

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