Friday, August 27, 2004

Bailey on Fukuyama:

Great article at Reason by Ronald Bailey on Francis Fukuyama’s most recent book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Fukuyama is another one of those Straussians, in fact, a former student of Allan Bloom’s. Like most of the Straussians, he is a learned and intense thinker, and I think he has written much worth reading, and, even though he is decidedly not a libertarian, some of his ideas deserve praise.

(For instance, his book The End of History and the Last Man, —the book that put him on the map as a thinker—is, or at least, could be interpreted as a defense of democratic capitalism from the point of view of Hegelian historicism [I say “could be interpreted as” because some critics of his, notably Shadia Drury, argue that Fukuyama, like Strauss himself and his East Coast followers, are not real defenders of liberal democracy. And in this book, Fukuyama also writes about the downside of History ending at liberal democracy as well]. That is, the founding principles of modern politics take it as a priori true—because such rights derive from “the laws of nature and nature’s God”—that liberal democracy/democratic capitalism is the only legitimate form of government. But what if one doesn’t believe that rights are objectively grounded in nature? Fukuyama argues that History—that is Truth as it is historically, not objectively, determined [because Truth cannot be objectively determined]—will not evolve beyond liberal democracy, that all forms of government either have arrived at this destination or are moving towards it and eventually will get there. So Fukuyama offers another basis, besides natural right, for justifying democratic capitalism. That is something that I think we libertarians can appreciate).

But for whatever his virtues, this book in particular and his stance on biotech in general is not something that deserves praise. Fukuyama is a social conservative—although his social conservatism is quite moderate and reasonable on some issues, but rather reactionary on others. And his view on biotech is reactionary. The bottom line is that Fukuyama and like minded folks are against technological progress on this issue. And if there is one thing that makes the West so great is the way that we have been able to progress scientifically. Think of how much better life is now that it was just one hundred years ago. Bailey perfectly sums up this sentiment in this passage:

Our ancestors had no wings; now we fly. Our ancient forebears could not hear one another over 1,000 miles; now we phone. And our Stone Age progenitors averaged 25 years of life; now we live 75. Thanks to our knack for technological innovation, humanity has by far the largest extended phenotype of all creatures on planet Earth. Nothing could be more natural to human beings than striving to liberate ourselves from biological constraints.

Fukuyama’s mindset would have kept us in the stone age.