So Where Did The Future Go?


A couple of  months ago there was a bit of hoopla over “Back To The Future Day.”  There were articles about how different things were all over the place.  Most concentrated on what we DON’T have, rather than what we do.

We have to understand that what we have now and what we will have in the future is the result of the decisions made in the past and being made now. For instance, the effects of the actions of the Federal Reserve are going to feed down into the future for a significantly long time.  As are the actions of all those alphabet soup agencies and their stifling effects on creativity and innovation.

Then there are the innovations that make changes that nobody expected, like the I phone. As much as the stifling effect on innovation has happened in some areas, others have escaped the notice of the regulators, at least for a while.

As Mark Steyn notes government has had an impact on a lot of things.

I don’t fault the makers of Back to the Future II for predicting all that high-tech stuff that never came to pass. Well, actually, come to think of it, I do. It was already obvious in 1985 that the western world was slowing down. In a certain profound sense, our civilization has given up on the future – which is why, if you were really to propel someone forward from thirty years ago, they’d mainly be amazed that Central Europe is now a Muslim refugee camp and Communist China is a dominant economic power.

But putting all that to one side, what happened to innovation? As is often said, the chief invention of the 19th century was invention: Our Victorian forebears transformed the rhythms of life that had prevailed for most of human history. The internal combustion engine conquered distance, the electric light bulb conquered night. The first half of the 20th century unleashed that transformative potential…

So there are no flying cars. But the earthbound ones now come equipped with technology that will permit governments to keep a record of everywhere you go.

And, if Obama or Cameron or Hollande or Merkel or Malcolm Turnbull or – drumroll, please! – Justin Trudeau were to propose activating that technology in the interests of reducing your carbon footprint, most citizens of western nations would nod approvingly in the cause of “saving the planet”.

Mark is far more pessimistic than I am, but he’s essentially right.  Big government did have an impact on technologies, especially those that get highly regulated like automobiles and energy.  Somebody could come up with the most fantastic technology, like compact fusion energy and the barriers to application would probably still overwhelm them.

In the 1989 “Back to the Future” sequel, Marty McFly and “Doc” Emmett L. Brown travel to October 21, 2015 — and the world is unrecognizable. “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” Doc Brown declares, as the DeLorean soars into the air.

Contrary to the film’s prophetic vision, our cars don’t fly, or run on nuclear energy, converting trash into fuel. Our teenagers do not fly around on hover boards, and our shoes don’t automatically lace themselves up. What happened?

Big government happened — the explosion of regulation and administration has held America back from all sorts of innovations, from sunscreen to nuclear power. Last year, the government added 77,687 pages of federal regulations, costing American consumers and businesses nearly $1.9 trillion, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The fact is that there was a HUGE push to restrain growth and technology in the 1970’s and even after the rather optimistic 1980’s it didn’t disappear entirely.   Actually the trend toward naturalism goes back to Rousseau and the romantics on both sides of the Atlantic in the  19th Century.  From the beginning the progressives have never resolved themselves to the industrial revolution very well.

With this in mind it isn’t that great a surprise that there was a pushback against technology. There’s also the fact that being the elite, even if in their own minds, the Progressives didn’t want to share their standard of living with we proles.  After all they were creating all those preservations and land restrictions for themselves, not the huddled masses. We wouldn’t want those wonderful parks and wilderness to be mobbed would we?

When you are already a have, then you don’t  really need more technology or the prosperity it brings. In fact a higher general standard of living isn’t in your best interest. And if you work in government what better way to restrain thing than to perform technology assessments, faulty studies  and flaky science to prove your point.  Followed up by appropriate regulations of course.

So the rest of are stuck with the consequences of some bad decisions made by people who already had their pile and didn’t much care about the rest of us. We should understand that the primary reason for the constant demands for ever greater regulation and constraints on economic activity isn’t a better, healthier and more prosperous standard of living.  Instead the big reason for all of the demands, the scare tactics, the false promises is to maintain the status quo and restrict the great body of us from having the opportunities to acquire the wealth and prosperity that the elites already have.

If we want to get the future back the biggest thing we could do is to stop listening to those who do not have our best interests at heart.  We can make better lives for ourselves and we need to tell those that don’t want us to have those lives to shut up, sit down and give the rest of us our chance to build our futures.

As Bill Whittle points out in these videos, reclaiming tomorrow can be done.


Where Bill gets it wrong was that the politics were not invisible.  If you look around, destructive forces were already there. The depression caused a economic blight and loss of technical growth and  WW2 brought about the destruction of most of the world’s economic activity.  It was only natural that growth was the primary concern of just about everybody. Even the progressives couldn’t hold things back.  But as the 1960’s ended things were prosperous enough again that it was all to easy to convince people that maybe they were living too large.

Still the  Progressives can’t hold things back forever.  We will find tomorrow.  I think that the excesses and broken promises of the Progressives are collapsing around them.  Welfare has not made the country more prosperous or brought prosperity to those dependent on it. The regulations don’t make us healthier and the pronouncements of doom seem ever more preposterous the more strident the pronouncers get.

Meanwhile, if we don’t get flying cars, we will get 3D replicators.  Or some other cool things we can’t even imagine And better lives for more people than ever before all over the globe.  Maybe it won’t be the Syd Mead future, but it will be ours.


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