The Illusive Future

Because the future hasn’t happened yet it sometimes disappoints when it actually comes. Take for instance the Independent‘s conclusion in March 2000 that “snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”.


Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. … “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

That turned out to be a miss. And besides, it’s not ‘global warming’ any more. It’s climate change or newer still, climate chaos. The Atlantic Wire reporting on March 28, 2013 wrote, “no, it’s not your imagination: Almost half of the country is getting pounded with snow — even though we’re a week into Spring … According to an expert meteorologist at, nearly half of the continental United States is blanketed in snow”.

Even the most credentialed savants can make mistakes. In 1968, Dr.Paul R. Ehrlich in his bestseller The Population Bomb predicted that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

It didn’t work out that way. The same Independent wrote in 2012 that “Africa confronts a new killer: obesity”. “The UN said in 2006 that, for the first time, global deaths from excess had overtaken those from deficiency. That may soon apply even to the famine-scarred countries of Africa.”


By 2003 it was clear to the New York Times, which earlier praised his work,  that Ehrlich was wrong. But they knew why: he did not among other things, anticipate the AIDS epidemic. “There are also alarming reasons for the drop in the population growth rate — notably the H.I.V./AIDS epidemic. It is one of the factors the United Nations cited in revising its 2050 world population projections, from 9.3 billion people down to 8.9 billion (we’re at 6.3 billion today). The U.N. estimates that there will be a half-billion fewer people in the 53 nations most afflicted by AIDS than there would have been.”

There were it later turned out, about 30 million deaths.

Remember when Spain was the beacon of the future? The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2009 that “Spain’s renewable-energy leadership has become a template for the Obama administration and its clean-energy push”. Today, who wants to be Spain? As on Cypriot woman recently put it, “Europe was such a disappointment.”

Sometimes the feared future actually happens. And it turns out to be a good thing we didn’t get what we wanted.

In 2008 Obama promised his supporters that he would “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems … I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons; I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material; and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals.”


In recent months President Obama reassured the public that he would build missile defenses on the West Coast and Alaska to defend Continental United States against North Korea ICBMs.  He has ordered the deployments of B-2 and F-22 combat systems to Korea, presumably because the solar powered versions don’t work so good.

It is instructive to remember that the Internet and GPS began as Department of Defense programs. Once they were evil. Today they are so important they cannot be left in the hands of the DOD and should be transferred to the stewardship of the United Nations forthwith. Given current trends, missile defense will probably join the earlier duo as those once malevolent, now luminous technologies, especially if it plays a part in deflecting some incoming extinction level asteroid in the future.

Then everyone will know that the Internet was actually invented by Al Gore; GPS by Garmin and missile defense by President Obama. What would have happened if he got what he wanted and had nothing to defend against the Nokors with?

The trickiest future, especially for those who think history is on “their side”  is doubtless the one they anticipate but  find tragic when it gets there. Troubadour at the Daily Kos for example believes that every right thinking person should wants things to be free.


How exactly is public transit “public” if the people who use it have to pay for it? They already paid when their tax money built the roads and/or tracks, and in order to guarantee that people can use the roads they own, there must be publicly-provisioned transportation. … Now, not everyone who owns a given public bus can fit on that one public bus, so obviously a different economic mechanism than markets applies to public goods: Namely, queues – i.e., first-come, first-served….

Speaking of which, why in the hell do we not have public air transit? If we are not going to be serious about building high-speed rail, then at the very least we can provide a public air travel service. Our taxes and debt build airports, funded the aeronautical research that made these aircraft possible, run the FAA, and also track and manage air traffic. We may not be entitled to sip scotch in 1st class, but we are entitled to freely use (in both the sense of “unhindered” and “without charge”) the infrastructure we own …

Public transit has to be free of charge, and access allocated only by the non-market economic mechanisms – queue, lottery, or command, or some combination thereof.  Moreover, there needs to be public air travel.  We built the air infrastructure, we own it, it’s ours, and we each have an absolute right to use it.  It should be practical to travel from one corner of this country to another without paying a single dime toward transit.


Yet if only taxpayers could embark for free think then what happens to all the low income persons?  Maybe the Daily Kos missed a step or two. No matter. “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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