Arnold Kling  

Holiday Reading

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During this season of good cheer, I am reading A World Undone, G.J. Meyer's history of the first World War.


Men with the power to decide the fate of Europe did the things that brought the war on and failed to do the things that might have kept the war from happening. They told lies, made mistakes, and missed opportunities. With few if any exceptions they were decent, well-intended men, and almost always they acted for what they thought were the best of reasons. But little of what they did produced the results they intended.

I tend to set the bar pretty low. I always said about my daughters that if they reached 18 without getting pregnant, addicted to drugs, or badly injured in an accident, I would feel pretty optimistic about their future. So far, so good.

Similarly, as far as government is concerned, I think that the fact that our leaders are not taking us into another first World War is something we ought to be happy about. World War I gets my vote for Worst Historical Event Ever, and it happened less than one hundred years ago. Today, we're not sending most of our able-bodied men to go fight in trenches. Count your blessings.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ryan writes:

Thanks for the "it could be worse" perspective. Every time my despondency concerning current events surges I try to place it into historical perspective. Despite the efforts of the authorities at market destruction and economic degeneration, I still cannot help but consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been born into the wealthiest, most prosperous environment that human history has ever known. Indeed, it could be worse...

eric writes:

I dunno, we are building up to surge in Afghanistan. This century might be able to top the last one!

Suzi Orman writes:

Men with the power to decide the fate of Europe did the things that brought the war on and failed to do the things that might have kept the war from happening. They told lies, made mistakes, and missed opportunities. With few if any exceptions they were decent, well-intended men, and almost always they acted for what they thought were the best of reasons. But little of what they did produced the results they intended.

Jesse writes:

Argonne. I just have to remember that little skirmish to stay in perspective. I don't think the retelling of any battle has had a stronger personal impact. 300,000 French died in a two mile stretch of trench in under a month. All participants pretty much died to a man. The despair they must have felt, the human capital lost.

But my 401K!

Dave Tufte writes:

My wife says that I will be a success if my daughter never becomes a pole dancer.

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