Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How often do we hear people say we must “get on the right side of history,” as if they know their own history? “When they say it, what do people mean?”...

They may mean “my side,” or “the good side,” or “the side that posterity will smile on.” People may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy. Or they may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of socialism, or a stricter form of collectivism. For generations, the Left has assumed that history marches with them: Get out of the way, or be crushed.

The phrase has what British historian Robert Conquest calls a “Marxist twang.” The Marxists believed that history was predictable and unidirectional, so of course there must be a right side and a wrong side to it. The candle makers were on the wrong side, the lightbulb makers the right side. But history doesn’t work like that. There were times when it was obvious that technology aided tyrants and there have been times— much like our own—when it seemed equally obvious that technology must liberate the individual. The truth is, it must do neither.
The problem is "the inevitable march of history" is an idea which ignores, for better or worse, individual agency. Individual freedom. From Jonah Goldberg's The Tyranny of Cliches, excerpted in NR.
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