Subject: Re: Giving Richard His Due
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 15 Feb 2002 09:55:09 -0800

"Tony Stanco" <Tony@FreeDevelopers.net> writes:

> Before people start responding to just the title, please read at least the
> article and preferrably the book. The end of history refers to what Hegel
> and Marx called the end of history -- that is the end of looking for the
> best political system. It's not the end of time or the end of human activity
> or anything like that. The argument is that liberal democracies, for all
> their problems, are the best we can do about controlling political power.
> (Churchill said it much more eloquently when he said that democracy is the
> worst system imaginable until you look at the others.)

I have read Fukuyama, and the argument only works if you ignore the
contrary evidence.  The most populous country in the world is not a
liberal democracy, and shows no signs of wanting to move in that
direction.  The various Islamic fundamenalist movements appear to have
broad-based popular support across a wide stretch of Asia and parts of
Africa; they are not calling for anything like a liberal democracy.
The South American countries are merely experimenting with liberal
democracy, and that only in the last 20 years or so; it takes a lot of
optimism to argue that they could not shift political systems again.

Converting the world to liberal democracy and market capitalism is the
last remaining great enlightenment project.  There is nothing to prove
that it will succeed.  It may, but it may not.  History is not over.

> Just so people remember how we got to Fukuyama -- people were saying that
> the ideas of ethical people like Richard didn't matter.

I didn't hear anybody saying that Richard's ideas didn't matter.  I
heard people saying that he doesn't compromise, and I heard people
saying that his positions sometimes work against his goals (I don't
happen to agree with that, but people did say it).

> To which I responded
> that the ideas of ethical people, especially notions of freedom and equality
> dating back to Jesus and Socrates  have been the motivating factor of all
> political history that gave us liberal democracies. Richard's insistence on
> freedom is a contination of that ancient heritage applied to economic
> activity (software production). How Richard got there 20 years ago, ahead of
> everyone else, is the reason he is special and will be remembered by
> history. He is part of history marching to greater human freedoms.

I think that Richard's ideas were significant and powerful.  But the
labor movement was applying notions of freedom and equality to
economic activity long before Richard was born, and I think that
Richard is perfectly aware of that.

Ian