Where goods cross frontiers, armies won'tThe Edge feature on "dangerous ideas" also has this from Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (the man who popularized the creative "flow"):
Where goods cross frontiers, armies won't. Restated: where economic borders are porous between two nations, political borders become impervious to armies.
Data from the new sciences of evolutionary economics, behavioral economics, and neuroeconomics reveals that when people are free to cooperate and trade (such as in game theory protocols) they establish trust that is reinforced through neural pathways that release such bonding hormones as oxytocin. Thus, modern biology reveals that where people are free to cooperate and trade they are less likely to fight and kill those with whom they are cooperating and trading.
My dangerous idea is a solution to what I call the "really hard problem": how best should we live? My answer: A free society, defined as free-market economics and democratic politics — fiscal conservatism and social liberalism — which leads to the greatest liberty for the greatest number.
The free marketHow's that for contrast? Shermer is a well-known author and editor of Skeptic Magazine, and one of my favorite columnists (his column appears in Scientific American). I was pleasantly surprised to see him picking this as a dangerous idea.
Generally ideas are thought to be dangerous when they threaten an entrenched authority. Galileo was sued not because he claimed that the earth revolved around the sun — a "hypothesis" his chief prosecutor, Cardinal Bellarmine, apparently was quite willing to entertain in private — but because the Church could not afford a fact it claimed to know be reversed by another epistemology, in this case by the scientific method. Similar conflicts arose when Darwin's view of how humans first appeared on the planet challenged religious accounts of creation, or when Mendelian genetics applied to the growth of hardier strains of wheat challenged Leninist doctrine as interpreted by Lysenko.
One of the most dangerous ideas at large in the current culture is that the "free market" is the ultimate arbiter of political decisions, and that there is an "invisible hand" that will direct us to the most desirable future provided the free market is allowed to actualize itself. This mystical faith is based on some reasonable empirical foundations, but when embraced as a final solution to the ills of humankind, it risks destroying both the material resources, and the cultural achievements that our species has so painstakingly developed.
So the dangerous idea on which our culture is based is that the political economy has a silver bullet — the free market — that must take precedence over any other value, and thereby lead to peace and prosperity. It is dangerous because like all silver bullets it is an intellectual and political scam that might benefit some, but ultimately requires the majority to pay for the destruction it causes.
My dangerous idea is dangerous only to those who support the hegemony of the market. It consists in pointing out that the imperial free market wears no clothes — it does not exist in the first place, and what passes for it is dangerous to the future well being of our species. Scientist need to turn their attention to what the complex system that is human life, will require in the future.
It appears CHICK-sent-me-high (official pronounciation) is voicing the vague unease of many regarding the market. Shermer's upbeat assessment ties in economic with political liberty - a connection forcefully argued by Milton Friedman. So Csikszentmihalyi's advocacy of _________? as an alternative to free markets, would probably end up constricting the very liberties that make, instrinsically or indirectly, for the high quality of life he advocates.