How the West fell in love with failure and how to save it from itself

I don’t like graphs, very often they are boring and tend to quantify things that are sometimes unquantifiable; the elusiveness of human life seems to me much more promising than its econometric calculations and exact curves. But even I have to surrender to Our World Data’s graph of the world’s extreme poverty level from 1820 to 2018.

To get a sense of how gigantic and sweeping economic growth in the West was, economist Angus Maddison calculated in his book The Rise and Fall of American Growth, that from year 1 to 2021 the world economy grew by only 0,06%; Deirdre McCloskey, in Bourgeois Dignity, states that until the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, almost everyone lived on a maximum of 3 dollars a day. . But something frightening and magnificent occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries, generating a boom of prosperity that redesigned rational, political and social capacities, as well as the material and scientific possibilities of humanity as a whole.

Only from 1715 to 2010, Maddison calculates, the industry produced – in goods and materials – 25% of all that humanity had produced from the first year of the Christian era until the advent of industry in the 18th century. Global GDP went from estimated 182, 2018 billions of dollars, in year 1 of the Christian era, for 61, 61 trillions of dollars in 2010 ), according to the World Bank and Human Progress. To complete, the estimate of the Center for Business Economics and Research is that, in 2022, the world GDP will exceed 182 trillions of dollars. It would go without saying, but I will say it all the same: there is absolutely nothing in the history of humanity that compares to this.

The ideas that germinated in the 17th century West produced this economic and social impulse that, when looked at under this historical panorama drawn here, sounds almost like a miracle. But it would be too superficial to finish our impressions on the economic character of this growth, the western miracle goes beyond material prosperity — although I tend to agree that it is the most showy and impressive.

As Eric Voegelin said in O mundo da Pólis, in his monumental collection Order and History : ideas lead to practice, just as beauty presupposes its archetype. To understand how the West’s wealth boom worked so well, it is necessary to understand the ideas that allowed such an enterprise to thrive.

Which saint is the miracle of?

In The Suicide of the West, Jonah Goldberg claims that the modern West is indeed a civilizational “miracle”. Goldberg argues that the origin of this miracle is found in a rhetoric of freedom that argumentatively embraced the common sense of the masses in the 16th and 17th centuries, causing the servile mentality to give way to an enterprise of cultural expansion, to a spirit of individual freedom that snatched gradually throughout Europe, changing both the praxis and the community ideas of the population – especially the English population.

According to economist Deirdre McCloskey in her other work, Bourgeois Equality, the discourse adopted by the bourgeois favored the advent of free thought, free transaction of goods, the defense of property and, consequently, a viable democratic politics, based on strong non-absolutist institutions, and no longer on castes or blessed monarchs. The discourse of freedom and deregulation would have generated modernity.

For the American sociologist Rodney Stark, in The victory of reason, the success of the West was already embryonly being prepared by Christianity for centuries. According to the American, Christian theology and the philosophical advances of the Middle Ages had already created the blanket of progress in Europe, the Enlightenment only organized and propitiated the potential start of such movements of progress. From capitalism, from individualistic ethics to experimental science, Christianity would then be the key to understanding why the West was the cradle of economic and cultural prosperity.

To conclude the impressions of great contemporary thinkers about the reason for the success of the West, in Civilization: West x East, the British historian Niall Ferguson lists what it would be for he the differential that made Western Europe the vertical power of advancement so discrepant in relation to the East: 1. Competition; 2. Science; 3. Property rights; 4. Medicine; 5. The consumer society; 6. The work ethic. The development of these specific points, according to the historian, was what made the West become this enormous power of prosperity.

The success mentality

From the most enthusiastic to the most serious and neutral, few can, in fact, disagree with the structural, intellectual, social and economic success of the civilizational model of the modern West. What the West engendered as a way of life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the East was not fully capable of absorbing for centuries on end; and of all the benefits that we could demean as indispensable for such success, it seems to me to be unanimous the understanding that the primeval refusal to absolutist models and the denial of the alienation of the basic liberties of the individual are the key to this eureka moment. The economic success that so impresses us and which, as we have seen before, is truly astonishing, is nothing more than a by-product of a mentality of freedom, of a disruption of human consciousness that took place in those first centuries of the Enlightenment. To understand how great the West became, it is necessary to understand this movement towards an individual ethics.

That thread of conscience that always made the weight of common sense lean in favor of freedom and established values, this is one of those subtle differences, little noticed, that appeared in the West with gigantic force, not in the East. Although the West of liberal democracy is also the West that managed Nazism and fascism, it is also clear that, without delay, the West itself developed articulated means to react to such ideas, replacing tyranny in its place, creating systems, institutions and new traditions that fight, from the beginning, ideologies like these. Chesterton, in one of his most neglected – yet brilliant – writings, Barbary in Berlin, said that Civilization and its reality were always supported by a thin rope of wisdom and principle that stretched from the mountain of the past to the mountain of the future. The fat Englishman thus captured the Spirit of the West: the key to the Western “miracle” is a fine, subtle and fragile consciousness of freedom , arising from from ancient human experiences, extending to the social insights of modern philosophers; this rope – which we can also identify as “Western mentality” – was what nourished and lubricated the political pragmatism and disruptive ideas of the 17th century English, the capitalist entrepreneurship of the 18th century and modern liberal democracy.

The success of the West, then, is the result of an elusive and almost abstract “common mentality” that was given birth by the constant absolutist tyranny of past centuries; in more direct terms, such a mentality corresponds to the awakening of the individual conscience of men that rejects, in a primal way, social tyranny and promotes the idea of ​​freedom in all fields of human interaction. We can see this most clearly in the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution and, in some respects, despite the many criticisms to be made, in the French Revolution.

The mentality of regression

According to the Center for Economic and Business Research, the Chinese economy should assume the leading role in the world still in 2028, that is, five years earlier than predicted by the most optimistic pro-China analysts. The COVID crisis 19 ended up boosting the growth of the Asian country, mainly because the USA had no breath – as in the past – to withstand the health crisis that has befallen the world. With the expectation of growth of 5.7% from 2021 to 2021, the economy of the red country it is a real bang in the face of the tired and ideologized Western capitalism.

Regardless of where the growth and wear and tear of the West begins, whether it is the social mentality or the economy, – as maintain some liberals – it is increasingly obvious the weakening of the ideals that made that incredible graphic, of the principles that gestated liberal democracies. It seems that that breath of freedom, which we have been able to feel more intensely since the Glorious Revolution, is increasingly rarefied, sick; that freshness of the post-Renaissance intellectual and cultural air is increasingly exhausting, stuffy. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay state in Cynic Theories that: “They They also rejected the belief that the West experienced significant progress due to the Enlightenment, and will continue to experience it if it preserves these values.” We come to believe that too, that the West was not as prosperous as they painted, that its economic and political benefits were not as good as they made us believe, that there are more shame than glories, that there are more demons than angels in the corner here. ; preserving the values ​​of the West is no longer our priority, as we no longer know if the modern West is in fact a good thing to keep.

The advent of ideologies every day more intransigent, the weakening of capitalist principles and the increasingly centralized political rhetoric leave no doubt about this: we are living in an authoritarian moment in its deepest sense. It seems to be somewhat cyclical in Western history when we experience a kind of disillusionment with Western values. Then, those ready-made ideas, easy to embrace and proliferate under the guise of altruism and humanitarian abnegation, begin to gain popularity; however, as they are deeply unreal, false ideas, they end up clinging to the imposing force to prosper.

The diseases of the West

According to postmodernist scholars Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, in Cynical Theories:

So we can think of postmodernism as a kind of rapidly evolving virus. […] It mutated around the core of Theory, forming several new lineages, narratives. They are focused on a practical objective that was absent before: rebuilding society in the image of an ideology that has come to refer to itself as “Social Justice”


The West began, at some point, to swallow civilizational setbacks as social advances. This is nothing new, such diseases of the Spirit – as Hegel called it – are recurrent in the history of humanity, the difference is that, in the present day, this virus has found accommodation, comfort and defense among the powerful, the humble, the academics and opinion. public; those natural antibodies that, although weak, always fought against ideological evils, began to fight on the side of the disease. Current progressivism – bastard son of Frankfurtian Marxism –, in addition to discrediting Western virtues, has planted ideas in our midst that have begun to falsify reality itself; and, when we walk and act with virtual reality glasses stuck in our eyes, we can punch our mothers, kill our relatives, believing we are killing monsters and extirpating evils from humanity.

Identitarian progressivism and reluctant Frankfurtian Marxism are not attacking the West in the way many conservatives claim. This is not an external assault, but a managed suicide; what there is in the West today is the dramatic implosion of all the principles that made it prosper like no other civilization. tion in no other Age.

One of the most efficient ways of being a reactionary is characterized by selling crude ideas as social progress. This is what Gender Theory does, for example. Jonah Goldberg says about this in The Suicide of the West:

I claim that all rebellions against the liberal order of the Miracle are fundamentally romantic and reactionary in nature. They seek some modern, futuristic conception of social organization. Instead, they return to some form of tribal solidarity in which we are all united. Romanticism is the common voice to which our inner primitive man cries out, “There has to be a better way”.

Ideas that demand the death or the suppression of the empirical nature of biology, that try to knock out planetary common sense, that seek to normalize absurd ideological conclusions, that ask for the sacrifice of obviousness, the suicide of the most elementary reason… The post -modernism and its constructs of Gender Theory, Racial Theory, the Social Justice theses, etc., all these pseudo-ideas could be compiled in the amount of “civilizational delays”, a pot of eccentricities philosophical concepts that, if seriously put into practice, would mean a human setback in its most sublime character.

The authoritarian moment

The West that once prided itself on its vigorous rationality, its measurement systems and scientific methods; that created political institutions and legal norms that made new eras of absolutism virtually impossible; that uprooted slavery and freed women from traditionalist shackles, became, in a few decades, the West that puts biological men to punch women in octagons calling it “inclusion”; we are creating racial courts in universities to identify the degree of “blackness” of people who claim quotas, we call this “social justice” and “historical correctness” to lessen the stench of authorized racism. Recently in New Jersey, inmates became pregnant with transgender people—biological men, of course—in a women’s-only prison in that state; it’s biology frustrating discourse, it’s rhetoric yielding to obviousness, it’s retrogression spitting its results into academics’ social holograms, but it doesn’t matter, facts don’t matter anymore to Westerners.

Today’s ideologues are asking us to kill our rationality in exchange for a world of make-believe manufactured in universities and promoted by engaged companies; again propagate that the State can manage a fair and cute society if everyone, selflessly, accepts to be restricted in their fundamental freedoms. And for some bizarre reason, it seems that many actually believe that alienating their consciences is a better proposition than continuing to think freely.

“The freethinker pushes away what seems false to him, but he keeps what seems true to him, far from being a skeptic, he is sustained by the effective force of reason, which fuses truth and justice”, said historian Paul Hazard in his wonderful book The crisis of European conscience: 1715-2025 , commenting on the role of the free thinker in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The contemporary West, in turn, is on a fierce crusade against free thinkers, there is an all-out war against those who do not accept the dogmas of the ideological sects of our day. Free thinkers who are not exactly philosophers, historians and professional critics, but all those who dedicate themselves to understanding reality freely and who are not entangled in ideological enclosures; Chesterton would even call these “Common Men”, people who, in the free exercise of living, refuse fantastic proposals from idle utopians.

That extended rope that Chesterton made memory of it is thinner every day, it is about to give way. I fear that we no longer believe that freedom is the most necessary factor in social interaction; and, therefore, we are really ready to give in, without a fight, to every demand for state control, to every business pressure from the “wokes”.

Ben Shapiro, in The Authoritarian Moment, alerts us to this stupid turn of the West . We are falling into the old seduction of controlling the uncontrollable, of massifying the will of others, of artificially standardizing the destiny of man. According to the American critic, the only solution is to resist in an orderly and heroic way.

The resistance2028

The main problem is in the field of ideas, and, as Mises said in The Six Lessons : “only ideas [corretas] can light up the darkness.” It is an economic problem, yes, of course, but it is as we come to discredit the ideas of free market; it is a political problem, of course it is, but its origin lies in the discrediting of the basic principles of liberalism. I have no doubt that the failure of the West begins with the weakening of the values ​​that made it prosperous; when individuals begin to think that control, that the illusions and fantastic proposals of ideologues are more important than their own freedom. It is then evident that it is a disease of the Spirit.

There is only one way to reverse this process of mutilation of western values: knowing and practicing the principles of freedom that founded the West, to the same extent that we categorically deny the onslaught of authoritarian agendas. It seems too obvious, but the obvious can also be the solution. James II only understood how serious the popular revolt was in his kingdom when, in addition to intellectuals and public men, the Common Man began to say no to his wishes and postures. It’s not about instigating revolutions, I don’t believe that’s the way; it is rather an enlightened and heroic refusal, an argued counterpoint and a public exposure of the errors of progressivism. Restoring the mindset of freedom is a process that will take decades, perhaps centuries; what is left for us now is resistance to the advances of the new cultural and political absolutism of identityism. There is a solution, yes, the solution is simply not to give in!

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