Obviously (what's the Left problem with GM food?)

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Oct 20 12:36:29 PDT 2000

brettk at unicacorp.com wrote:

>Given the choice between being a hunter gatherer, or working in the English
>coal mines in the 1800's, which would you choose between?
>Granted this is a false binary, since you might choose to live in 1800
>England over living in Africa a 50,000 years ago, and you might prefer to
>live in the US in 2000 most of all.
>But the point is, as Carrol said, the notion that things are getting
>monotonically better every day for everyone is false. Even the assumption
>that overall things are generally improving for most is untrue. There is
>no inherent tendency towards progress. Had the Cuban missle crisis led to
>nuclear war, you would definitely wish humanity was still hunting and
>gathering. It didn't happen, but it might have, and might still.

Who ever claimed that "things are getting monotonically better every day for everyone"? Not me, not Marx, not James Heartfield. Though I think the drift of Carrol's post was that things are more or less getting worse, and have been since the first woman knelt to grind corn. The choice between being a hunter-gatherer or a 19C English miner isn't very relevant to any political choices we have to make today. The point is that capitalism has given us material wealth and sophisticated technology, but it's done a very bad job of using those things to better the lives of all. Before Coxian pessimism became hegemonic on the left, such as it is, there was a belief that humans could do better with the capitalist inheritance. I still believe that, and I think that biotech has the potential for being one of those things that could make life better in the right hands.


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