The Free Press 1998. ISBN 0-684-82760-3

Virginia Postrels book is aimed at launching a new word - "Dynamist". This is a view of the world that she says has rarely been fully articulated.

As the editor of Reason magazine, contributor to Forbes ASAP, Wired and a careful technology observer she has concluded, I think very correctly, that the old political terms of "Right" and "Left" have been superseded. We live in a new world in which the fundamental division is between people who welcome change (Dynamists) and those that don`t (Stasists).

She follows Hayek and quotes him, identifying Dynamists as "the party of life, the party that favours free growth and spontaneous evolution". The idea is a wholehearted acceptance of evolution through variation, feedback and adaption with a basic framework of laws that "protect the soundness of the system without guaranteeing an outcome".

Stasist government planning troubled Hayek and he was one of the few voices speaking out against it in the 1940`s and 50´s. It was the fashionable pseudo-scientific TRUTH that was embraced in everything from economics (Beatrice Webb: "I had laboriously transformed my intellect into an instrument for research. Child bearing would destroy it..."??) to urban renewal projects (concrete dead zones) and psychology (Skinner- if you can`t measure it it doesn't exist).

Postrel sees this technocratic attitude firmly in power ever since Roosevelts Progressive Era when he instructed public officials to "look ahead and plan out the right kind of civilization", with the emphasis on "plan".

The idea that things could evolve and develop alone was strongly opposed by technocrats who tried to anticipate events and still do so, producing enormous regulatory foul ups such as the S&L problem, the California power crisis or the Crédit Lyonnais bankrupcy in France - to quote only more recent examples.

She identifies another kind of stasist that has been around for a longer time, namely Reactionaries who have their roots in farming/

landowning societies with fixed status, obligations, tradition, church and life governed by the seasons.

Interestingly she shows how this view has metamorphosed into the green movement and ironically into parts of the very industrial societies that destroyed landowning power.

She quotes Lasch on the parochialism of urban ethnic neighborhoods: "Lower middle-class culture, now as in the past, is organized around the family, church, and neighborhood ......The people of Charlestown ........had renounced opportunity, advancement, adventure, for the reassurance of community, solidarity, and camaraderie".

All this ties in with anti NAFTA anti WalMart anti computers and a general desire for stasis.

Some criticism of a very good book:

- Slight criticism: The Friedmans in "Free to Choose" have similar ideas and aren't mentioned. Also Schumpeter is quoted approvingly as usual for his "creative destruction" view of capitalist change. When will someone mention that in the same book he rejected the idea and went on to strongly support socialist technocratic planning?

- Moderate criticism: Aren't reactionary tendencies integral to us. ie.they are tied to our emotions. How do we handle this? Also dynamism can overshoot badly in the economy - see Soros (Alchemy), being an open invitation to the technocrats to come in and fix it.

- Serious criticism: She says, "Dynamists would argue for the human value of saving what they love, for prairies as a connection to history and species preservation to serve our aesthetic and moral sense." She is anti monopoly but doesn't humanity really have a monopoly hold over other species ? Also the Dynamist view drives us at full speed into Kurzweils quote,"few serious observers who have studied the issue claim that computers will never acheive and surpass human intelligence." This may be desirable or undesirable but it is a consequence of free evolutionary growth that she doesn't consider.

{Return to my Home Page and latest recommended book}{Return to other recommended books}