June 21, 2005


John J. Miller has an interesting piece on the wordlview of H.G. Wells in today's WSJ. "Crackpot Utopianism" features pretty heavily in it.

"Human history is in essence a history of ideas," [Wells] once wrote. That may be, but Wells flirted with the worst ideas of his time. After interviewing Lenin, Wells called him "creative" and described communism as the best hope for reforming Russia. The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn't intrigue him. "There is good in these Fascists," he said of Italians in 1927. "There is something brave and well-meaning about them." He despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions as "nonsense." It was for views such as these that George Orwell delivered a blunt verdict in 1941: "Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany."

Whereas the author of "Animal Farm" and "1984" possessed a keen sense of how and why totalizing states go badly wrong, Wells was constantly drawing up plans for ideal societies driven by rationalist principles and governed by high-minded elites.

A good rule of thumb: whenever someone starts talking about ideal societies driven by rationalist principles and goverend by high-minded elites, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.

Posted by Robert at June 21, 2005 09:20 AM

Science and rationality are wonderful things. The problem is that human society cannot be ordered on scientific/rational principles. We are not simply rational creatures, there's a big part of us that's emotional and irrational. That is communism's fatal flaw, as to why it'll never work as advertized. I've always viewed Frankenstein as a prescient warning against such well meaning attempts. You can piece together a society on scientific grounds, but in the end it will only be a monster.

Posted by: rbj at June 21, 2005 01:00 PM

Agreed, rbj, with the addition that all utopians also believe that men are basically good and infinitely malleable. When their ideal rational state runs aground on irrational human nature, the program is always the same: first re-education, which fails, then imprisonment, and finally extermination. Mugabe's Zimbabwa is just the latest textbook example of this phenomena. They never seem to learn, always saying that it has never really been tried correctly.

BTW, I've heard of totalitarian states, but never before of totalizing states. Do they continuously do sums, or what?

Posted by: jd watson at June 21, 2005 03:44 PM
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