The Freedom without which we won’t be able to live

The harsh contradiction that will dominate the politics of the 21st century manifests itself in the opposition of two equally necessary, equally indispensable tendencies. The globalization of opportunities and fateful risks will force all states to renounce part of their sovereignty. The Freedom without which we won’t be able to live weiterlesen

Did the Nazis have a conscience?

… the existence of a universal human conscience may be demonstrated even on a more elementary level, namely in the vilification of other humans, a practice that has undergone little or no change at all since the beginnings of human history up to the present day.

Disparaging ones fellows as an indication of the existence of a universal conscience?

Did the Nazis have a conscience? weiterlesen

Sarrazin reloaded

The best known example of a shitstorm of recent origin is, of course, the “case Sarrazin”. In his book „Deutschland schafft sich ab“ (Germany is about to abolish itself), 95% of his evidence had been drawn from relevant scientific publications, while the last 5% (particularly his comments on the relative importance of the environment versus genetic predisposition) were a matter of legitimate scientific controversy. The professional publications he used had, however, only reached the tiny audience of researchers with similar interests, that is why they had practically escaped all public attention. Sarrazin reloaded weiterlesen

To which League does Mr. Christoph Steskal belong? Considerations concerning an editor of a German publishing house

We may be indulgent to German spitzes if they occasionally pee on the statues of great men, for that is the very nature of these animals, but when they bark at the moon, everyone realizes that these cute little creatures are reaching out for far too high a goal. We shake our heads shouting „stop it“. The moon is not your league!

As for myself, nobody blamed me for writing books like “Die Arbeitslose Gesellschaft” (Jobless Economy) or “Das Pyramidenspiel” (The Ponzi Scheme). On the contrary, top specialists like Bert Rürup and Gerhard Scherhorn, both consecrated „economic experts“ of the Federal Republic of Germany, voted for rapid publication. But now – well now I am obviously under the thumb of megalomania. Or should it be rather taken as a symptom of advanced age befalling all of us?

Do you know what league you pretend to be playing in?„, Dr. Steskal of Propyläenverlag asked me obviously outraged, when I contacted him on the phone about my manuscript „In search of Meaning and Purpose in Human History“. No, I knew nothing about my league. The really important question, so I believed rather naively, should have been whether the book was well written, well researched, convincing in its theses and whether it would appeal to an educated audience. As to good readability, I have some reason to trust myself. Meinhard Miegel, himself an expert in writing with vivid forcefulness, praised me for what he literally but, of course, exaggerating called my „brilliant style“. Alfred McCoy, a well-known American historian, after reading the last ten pages of my English(!) translation of “Meaning and Purpose” called them „well written“ . Obviously, Mr. Steskal thinks differently about the matter. He plants himself broad-legged in front of the Walhalla of the supposed gods of his publishing house in order to deny me further access. In his opinion, I did not know the league to which I belong.

The man is right – at least from his point of view. If he had to judge whether the book contained the required standard of expertise, readability, persuasiveness and acceptance by an enlightened public, he would have to rely on his own  judgement and his own intellect. In other words, he himself would bear risk and responsibility. But so much strength of character is a rare phenomenon. Most people rather like to play it safe. If a non-fiction author is shielded by a professor’s title or – better – if he belongs to a renowned institute, the lecturing editor is absolved. Whatever nonsense a book may contain, the responsibility is not his.

Dear Mr. Steskal, if you had taken the trouble to read the proposed book carefully, you would have immediately noticed that this expedition into the history of man starting from hunter-gatherers and culminating in today’s warring superpowers is first and foremost a compendium summarizing the most important scientific findings of the past decades. I do not know the extent of your historical knowledge, but you will certainly not be aware of all those often breathtaking insights of modern research: after all, I have drawn information from dozens of contemporary authorities. For this reason alone, careful reading might have been worthwhile even for you personally.

No, please do not object that such a summary is – horribile dictu – nothing but a piece of popular science, which you do not want to admit in your publishing house. Mr. Steskal, don’t be insincere: you would be all too glad to count a man like Yuval Noah Harari among your authors, but the Israeli author could well be described as an ingenious compiler. No, what counts – at least for most people – is the use an author is able to make of all those countless suggestions and facts that he then turns into a book. In my case, the thoughts of Max Weber are responsible for the special orientation of my work. Although the more recent anthropological, historical and economic research is largely of Anglo-Saxon origin with Germany content with the role of a satellite not only politically but also in the intellectual sphere, the great thoughts of this man are still of primary importance. In any case, they have exerted a decisive influence on myself and my book.

How could anybody become megalomaniac when writing about Sapiens, whose greatness is so doubtful because he was rarely an angel, but much more often a devil? Self-confident I certainly am, as I believe to have hit on a source of hope: Even when man assumes the role of a devil he never lacks the voice of conscience – on the contrary, conscience speaks more clearly in many of the worst situations. The earliest historical evidence suggests that people sought justification vis-à-vis themselves and others for their very cruelest deeds. But such a history of moral justification has not yet been written. It is one of the pivots of my work – I assume, Mr. Steskal, you simply overlooked this truth which, nevertheless, is of great importance as it provides empirical evidence that Sapiens has remained the same for at least 50,000 years, not only in his genetic makeup from then until today, but also morally.

Such historically attested identity leads us directly to our present time and opens perspectives of the future. Is it presumptuous to agree with what Immanuel Kant, H. G. Wells, Arnold Toynbee, Bertrand Russell, and Albert Einstein see as the ineluctable destiny of mankind? Do you think that, am I not entitled to harbor the same conviction?

Dear Mr. Steskal, an author – probably every author – tends to overestimate himself and his personal achievements. Hardly any among them succeeds in moving up into that league where he would like to be placed, but an editor who always wants to play it safe – asking not about an author’s thoughts but about his credentials – will certainly never get beyond mediocrity. In other words, „Meaning and Purpose“ doesn’t belong to your league. It is obviously not part of your nature to rely on your own thinking, your own knowledge and to assume responsibility for both.

(The German original of my book has been sent to a different publisher but the English translation is – at least for the time being – accessible on the internet: “In Search of Meaning and Purpose in History„.

To „sinn“ or not to „sinn” – that is the question

Since the old Babylonians looked up to the stars, man has been thinking about the future, trying to read it from tea leaves, from the livers of sacrificial animals or derive it from the stars of the zodiac. Nowadays, we tend to be more modest: at most we ask what will happen in the next ten to twenty years – for example, how people will judge the Merkel era after her successor occupies her position. To „sinn“ or not to „sinn” – that is the question weiterlesen

Climate Change and Mass Migration

I am fortunate enough to live in a country where nobody is hungry, nobody is persecuted because of his or her faith, color or race and where even at night people need not fear to be ambushed or murdered by starving people, desperate thieves or political fanatics. Climate Change and Mass Migration weiterlesen

The Curse of Globalization

I am living in Puch near Weiz, a small village in Styria. Some tourists who spend their holidays here will describe the place as dreamy, although local people are by no means idle dreamers, but hard-working men and women. The Curse of Globalization weiterlesen

Forebodings of war: US against China – hopefully a trade war only

As late as the end of the last century, one could read in Der Spiegel, a German magazine, that after the downfall of the Soviet Union the super-power US had achieved complete victory. In fact, Hollywood movies were on display all over the world, people dressed in jeans, singing and making American music, drinking Coca-Cola, and spreading Windows, Apple, and the American-made Internet all over the world. In the nineties, no world power seemed to exist or even to be conceivable other than the mighty United States of America. Forebodings of war: US against China – hopefully a trade war only weiterlesen

Capitalism, Wealth, and Power

The current moaning about neo-liberalism, tends to obscure the fact that the last two hundred years have seen nothing less than the greatest progress in human history, provided, of course, that we are willing to define progress in a purely material way. Capitalism, Wealth, and Power weiterlesen

The Meaning of Economic Philosophy

In ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’, Karl Popper strongly defended the position that major interventions in the economy, especially when ideologically motivated, are usually disastrous and should therefore be avoided. The Meaning of Economic Philosophy weiterlesen