Who, if anybody, has a vision for the future?

Political debate in the United States is based on nostalgia—a desire to return to a former era.

Donald Trump’s motto is “Make American great again!”  He doesn’t specify when America was great.  My guess is that his favorite era would be the 1920s, when the country was prosperous, big business was respected and the U.S. was free of entangling alliances.

The Clinton-Biden wing of the Democratic Party simply wants to turn the clock back to 2015.  Bernie Sanders wants to complete the unfinished business of the New Deal of the 1930s.  Elizabeth Warren wants to go back to a time when capitalism worked the way it should—perhaps under Eisenhower.

The closest thing we have to a positive vision of the future is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.  Her idea is to meet the challenge of global warming and resource exhaustion in ways that avoid or minimize hardship on working people.

Her key idea is full employment through a 1930s-type public works program that builds a green infrastructure and meets the country’s other long-deferred needs.  This is the only way the coming bad years can be made bearable.  I don’t blame her for not thinking out all the details in advance.

The government of China, in contrast, has a definite, feasible plan to make China a powerful and prosperous nation.  It includes an industrial policy to make China a technological leader and a foreign investment program to bring about the economic integration of Eurasia.

For the past 15 years, Pepe Escobar has been writing about the overreach and coming collapse of American empire and how China, along with Russia, will pick up the pieces.  I think that is highly possible, although my view of China is not as uncritical as his.

I think the socialist vision of a utopian centrally-planned economy has been discredited, both in theory and practice. All the uprisings going on all over the world seem to have a vision of radical democracy, which I think is hopeful, but I don’t claim to understand them well.

Science fiction offers visions of the future.  There is a lot of excellent, dystopian, near-future science fiction – Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife; Ken McLeod’s Intrusion; and Cory Cotorow’s Radicalized.

For a positive SF vision of the future, I recommend Kim Stanley Robinson’s work.  Cory Doctorow’s novels are said to be good, but I haven’t read them.

The trouble with extrapolating present trends into the future is that there are foreseeable crises that are likely to change everything in unpredictable ways;

  • a climate and renewable resources crisis, as global warming becomes unbearable and fossil fuels and certain raw materials become unobtainable;
  • an economic and financial crisis, as the system of global finance and fragile global supply chains breaks down; and
  • an international crisis, as the world turns against the United States and the dominance of the dollar.

I don’t know whether the change will be for the better or the worse.

If the future is unpredictable, what is the point of even thinking about it?  It is because your vision of the future gives you a compass point for the present.


2 Responses to “Who, if anybody, has a vision for the future?”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I think a vision of the future is as repugnant as a vision based on nostalgia for the past. Visions of the future conflict and can lead to wars & terrorism. Progressive notions suppose that Man has the capability to build a better world. They also lack respect for our ancestors, accusing them of falling foul of current fads. They rewrite history by selectively emphasizing the evil deeds of our forefathers without understanding the context. They also choose to forget that we are the product of evolution’s trial & error. Does evolution work to a plan? Does God work to a plan, whatever we mean by God? We cannot know, though religious beliefs may assert it.

    The only thing that can work in my view is to work as a team within a community which puts the interests of the tribe above the self-interest of its members. There was a time when the tribe was limited by geography, language and culture. Today there is no viable alternative but to co-operate in global terms, each playing a small part and trusting those who are equally subservient to the whole but more skilled in their areas of expertise. This requires no ideology, no vision; just a loving expression of moral values in action.

    This is a hugely different view of the world than the one which currently dominates, based on competition and a wealth distribution system which shackles most of a population into soul-destroying work producing and trading unnecessaries.

    The beauty of it though is to require no revolution, just you and I paying close attention to how we live, love and observe the successive moments in each day. It doesn’t depend on anyone else. We each have talents which can be put to better use than those imposed by the doctrines propagated in current public discourse.


  2. JanBeek Says:

    I am happy to have discovered your blog, Phil. It is intelligent and thoughtful, and well written. I will be back! I posted the Maya Angelou poem, “Continue” on my blog and gave you credit for finding and sharing it. Thank you for doing so. I am an enormous fan of Maya Angelou. Her words resonate in my soul.


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