“The future doesn’t exist yet; we have to make it up.”

“The future doesn’t exist yet, we have to make it up.” Not exactly a profound statement. It is the closing sentence from an essay by Walter Russell Mead   titled  A Crisis of Civilization. You will have to read the essay to understand the context in which the statement was made. I sincerely hope you will read mr. Russel Mead’s essay because I personally need to hear your opinion about what he has written. I have never been more disturbed by something I read since reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath when I was but an ignorant teenager. I need to know if you come away from this essay with a feeling of hope for the future, which I believe the authors intent, or if you come away with a sense of despair or do you think that Walter Russell Mead is just plain wrong.

Mr. Russell Mead believes the economic model used by th United States, Europe and, Japan, which became the envy of the world is no longer sustainable and can not be recaptured. Also, he believes the model can no longer be copied by such developing nations as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, South Africa).  My interpretation of his reasoning is that technology innovations keep improving productivity making it possible for fewer and fewer people to produce all the goods and services that the world needs. This, of course, makes more and more people redundant (my words not his). he is optimistic(?) that further technology and innovation can solve this problem and that the United States can lead the way.

And that’s what we need to remember today. America had to build a new kind of democratic industrial society before it could serve as a model for others, or before it could hold that model up as a goal. Now that the blue model is no longer adequate, we need to prepare the way for something new.


America’s job is to show the world how to shoot fish in a barrel: how to harness the power of the new technologies and how to find productive uses for all the human labor being released from drudgery and routine. We have to show how the complex and sophisticated services that people need for life in post industrial society can become radically cheaper: good legal advice, financial planning, education, training, government.  The costs of these services can fall as far and as fast as the prices of so many goods did in daily life when the industrial revolution first swept through the world.


The fight for the reforms and changes in the United States that can facilitate and speed up the birth of a prosperous post-industrial society here is deeply connected to the fight for a peaceful and prosperous world in the 21st century. It is not just that these changes will keep the US rich and strong enough to play a role in supporting world peace. It is that the example of a successful transformation here will do more to promote democracy, peace and human rights worldwide than all the foreign aid, all the diplomats and even all the ships and tanks and drones in the world could ever do.

Why do I get the feeling that Walter Russell Mead is painting a picture of hell and trying to put it in the best light possible?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on ““The future doesn’t exist yet; we have to make it up.”

  1. I too am a big WRM fan. Yes, he paints a picture of hell, but like all Jeremiads, it is designed to shake us off the path.

    Too much state control stifles the kind of innovation we need to thrive in the new millennium. That is a constant theme in his writings.

  2. Yeah, no matter what you think of WRM, he’s definitely got some ideas.

    The way I read him, he’s basically saying the blue social model is destined to shit the mattress. What isn’t destined is our response to the welfare state’s collapse. We can choose to go down several different paths; some more autocratic, some more individualistic.

    I also get the sense that he sees the welfare state’s self-destruction as a tremendous opportunity to get back to free markets and free citizens.

  3. Oh, I fell for the invite.

    I generally don’t like rambling dissertations that embrace a multitude of subjects and points. That is probably obvious when one reads what I write.

    Having said that, and read this twice, here is my conclusion. He is saying that great change is coming and that we can either view that as an opportunity of immense proportions and lead the way out…or dwell in fear as we focus on all of the negative things that will come about in the short term.

    Those are my cliff notes on the piece.

  4. I agree with him about the industrial age morphing into the machine age. The more freedom, the less government interference and regulation Americans have, the more creative and successful we can be, witn new ways to make affluence attainable for every American. Our ingenuity has raised the ocean in the past, and it will again as long as bureucrats keep their paws off and let entrepreners create. What he doesn’t really address is the reason America has been the torch bearer—our constitution which guarantees personal liberty to pursue happiness. And as we are witnessing now, when government ignores the constitution, we become weaker and weaker and weaker.

  5. The more I read of history the more confident I am that humanity and the west will survive, the west has seen far worse times than what we see today and we’re all still here in some form or other.

  6. Unfortunately we have these nasty military weapons, so why we sit around and try and figure out our next incarnation, others will have plans for those who have allowed themselves to lay fallow.

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