History teaches some sad lessons about leaders who answer the self-perceived call of destiny, abetted by publics overwhelmed by social, economic and political disorder. Thus in the grim aftermath of World War I, the worst of men rose to the highest office in some parts of Europe and Asia. The world entered the unspeakably violent Age of the Dictators, as Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler took center stage. While they all espoused totalitarianism, in each case the political system they represented was different. For Mussolini it was fascism, for Stalin communism, and for Hitler national socialism. All promised economic rescue, and for some there was an early measure of success. But they also sanctioned brutality and the death and destruction of large numbers of their countrymen in the name of progress. Generally unknown is that each made use of religious sentiment and symbolism to maintain and extend power. In this issue, Italian author and historian Emilio Gentile shares his insights on the potential perils of politics as religion.
The present global financial upheaval, now reckoned to have cost financial institutions around the world $4 trillion and destined to roil the system for years to come, is the kind of crisis that brings renewed interest in reforming the capitalist order: out with Keynes and in with a more appropriate model. One suggestion is to more faithfully follow the objectivist ideas of writer-philosopher Ayn Rand. Contributor Dan Cloer looks afresh at the author of Atlas Shrugged, her ideas and her biography, to determine if that’s where economic salvation can come from.
An essential step on the road to recovery is to be willing to analyze the underlying reasons for the recent collapse and to avoid making the same mistakes again—easier said than done when society has trod the same path for centuries. Back in 1977, economist E.F. Schumacher wrote in A Guide for the Perplexed, “The belief that everything is ‘politics’ and that radical rearrangements of the ‘system’ will suffice to save civilization is no longer held with the same fanaticism as it was held twenty-five years ago. . . . Faith in modern man’s omnipotence is wearing thin.” What was needed then and more than ever today is an iconoclastic approach. Steven Andrews takes a long look at the world’s financial system and alerts us to a solution that would revolutionize the way we all handle money and property.
“There is no economic problem and, in a sense, there never has been. But there is a moral problem, and moral problems . . . have to be understood and transcended.”
The selfishness that has characterized the most recent descent into insolvency is also at the heart of the social sea change that is making children less present and less important for many. There was a time when the next generation was seen as the hope of the future—our posthumous salvation. But that is simply no longer within the purview of many couples. The lure of individualism includes everything, it seems, but the joys, responsibilities and sacrifices of parenthood.
In an opposing trend, more children are bringing children into the world. Yet they are the least equipped to provide the stability that successful family life requires. Those who could raise children, don’t; and the ones who shouldn’t, do. In related articles, Tom Fitzpatrick and Gina Stepp explore the implications of these social shifts.
Who will save us? It’s a question that resonates, whether we are talking about economics, politics, or family life. At one time or another in crises, most of us look for strength from outside of ourselves. This issue of Vision points to answers that come from a source that most have not yet considered.