Quotation of the Day…

(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 129 of University of Notre Dame philosopher James Otteson’s excellent 2021 book, Seven Deadly Economic Sins:

[C]ulture is critically important for growing prosperity, but culture can change – and quickly. The culture that enabled the growth in worldwide prosperity we have experienced over the last two centuries is not only recent but rare. And it is fragile.

DBx: We humans have been on this orb for at least 200,000 years. Thus, for only about 0.1 percent of our time on this globe have large portions of ordinary men and women lived entire lives well above mere subsistence. For literally 99.9 percent of our existence, we’ve lived lives about as materially prosperous, and perhaps even a bit worse, than are the lives lived today by Americans’ pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and goldfish. (Certainly, Americans’ dogs and cats today are better fed and sheltered than were nearly all of our ancestors, and these animals also have better medical care than was available to our great-great-great grandpappys and our great-great-great grandmas.)

The chief reason I so strongly resist, and so loudly decry, Covid Derangement Syndrome is that I fear that this mindset will work as an acid on bourgeois culture. The Covid-Derangement-Syndrome mindset is, in many ways, a reemergence of the tribal, fear-all-strangers mindset of our deep evolutionary past.

Since March of 2020 much of humankind has come to regard as not only acceptable, but as applause-worthy, fear of close contact with others. So many of us now resist personal engagement with strangers – so many of us regard strangers in the flesh as dangerous enemies rather than as potentially helpful trading partners – so many of us see strangers in the same way that all of our pre-modern ancestors saw strangers: as threats to be avoided, even scorned, rather than as opportunities for mutually advantageous cooperation and exchange.

So, so sad – and fraught with terrible consequences.

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