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The Year of Living Utopianly
August 31, 2005 9:49 PM   Subscribe

The Utopian Nightmare : "What is utopianism? It is promising more than you can deliver. It is seeing an easy and sudden answer to long-standing, complex problems. It is trying to solve everything at once through an administrative apparatus headed by “world leaders.” It places too much faith in altruistic cooperation and underestimates self-seeking behavior and conflict. It is expecting great things from schemes designed at the top, but doing nothing to solve the bigger problems at the bottom." Also, be sure to check out the the 16 ideas, values and institutions that may not be with us 35 years from now written by a variety of interesting people and compiled as part of Foreign Policy's 35th anniversary (although not all are free or available without registration).
posted by loquax (23 comments total)

 
Strangely, the site seems to be unavailable as I post, even though it was there a second ago. Maintenence window I guess...
posted by loquax at 9:51 PM on August 31, 2005


It shows up for me fine.
posted by Bugbread at 9:55 PM on August 31, 2005


To quote the late, great Douglas Adams:
"People are the problem".
posted by spazzm at 9:56 PM on August 31, 2005


Pretty sure that's "People are a problem," perhaps in order to leave open the possibility that there are other problems as well.
posted by Ryvar at 9:57 PM on August 31, 2005


The arguments against aid have been long refuted, most recently in Jeremy Sachs book The End of Poverty - though the dog eat dog capitalist ideologues of course aren't listening.
posted by wilful at 10:11 PM on August 31, 2005


What is it with mefites and blaming capitalism for everything?
posted by nightchrome at 10:16 PM on August 31, 2005


We've always been capitalist and look where it's gotten us. I wouldn't complain. What we have now is brain-bug style capitalism though. I personally think cooperation and appreciation of the distributed nature of intelligence--if not wealth--is the way to go.
posted by nervousfritz at 10:23 PM on August 31, 2005


The article on the War on Drugs just seem loopy:

The war on drugs will soon be over. It won’t have been won or lost, and we certainly won’t have wiped out illicit drug use.
...
The model drug of the future is already here in the form of crystal methamphetamine.
...
Thirty-five years from now, the illicit professionals who remain in the business will be custom drug designers catering to the wealthy.
...
In the future, there will be custom drugs for meals, golf, gardening, and more.
...
The political and social pressure against drug use will remain, but it will increasingly resemble the campaigns against performance-enhancing drugs for athletes.
...
Users, too, will be harder to hate. They’ll look a lot like you and me.


Mr. Schwartz doesn't seem to know much about current demographics of drug use ("look more like you and me"), plausible pharmacological schema for drug design (drugs for "gardening") or tolerable drugs(crystal = "model drug of the future is already here", never mind that it's been 'here' for a long time).

Should I read the others?
posted by Gyan at 10:30 PM on August 31, 2005


I like the idea of gardening drugs. I've been looking for a way to spend some trippy time with my plants.
posted by Hobbacocka at 10:38 PM on August 31, 2005


Gyan: Some are certainly better than others. Depends largely on the writer. Sadly the most interesting ones are not free.
posted by loquax at 10:39 PM on August 31, 2005


Dare i ask - anyone got a login they'd like to share? Otherwise this post is a bit impotent...

Im very interested in what that little fascist Ishihara has to say about 'Japanese Passivity' as either he or his son have both expressed interest at making a run at Prime Minister here in Japan - presumably within in the next 35 years.

He has a long term agenda for Asia that needs to be looked at very carefully, and its interesting how political families work this way with 25-50 year + strategies.

The kind of thinking that goes like 'Yeah laughing boy, you are pressing the buttons now, but just wait until my son/grandson gets into power...then we'll see.'...
posted by rawfishy at 10:57 PM on August 31, 2005


Dare i ask - anyone got a login they'd like to share? Otherwise this post is a bit impotent...

I mostly meant to post the article discussing aid and utopianism which doesn't require a login. I just threw in link to the other stuff for no extra charge!
posted by loquax at 11:00 PM on August 31, 2005


Some people still believe in utopia: did you know there is a Utopian World Championship? It's an essay competition and the winning essay "will be published and distributed to Heads of State, NGO's and other parties, organisations and individuals all over the planet". Meet the winner.
posted by Termite at 11:08 PM on August 31, 2005


Dare i ask - anyone got a login they'd like to share? Otherwise this post is a bit impotent..

Bugmenot worked for me. user: countrywise pass: globalportal
posted by agropyron at 11:11 PM on August 31, 2005


Loquax - appreciate the no extra charge bonus! I was only referring to this in my previous comment - substitute 'this post' with 'the second link'

Agropyron - also thank you, will give it a try.
posted by rawfishy at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2005


rawfishy : "Im very interested in what that little fascist Ishihara has to say about 'Japanese Passivity' as either he or his son have both expressed interest at making a run at Prime Minister here in Japan"

rawfishy: Ishihara's comment was one of the ones covered by bugmenot, so you can read it without paying. It basically says what you'd expect him to say, on one of those days where he doesn't go throwing out 三国人 or the like.
posted by Bugbread at 12:16 AM on September 1, 2005


Gyan: Mr. Schwartz doesn't seem to know much about current demographics of drug use ("look more like you and me"), plausible pharmacological schema for drug design (drugs for "gardening") or tolerable drugs(crystal = "model drug of the future is already here", never mind that it's been 'here' for a long time).

Isn't meth already regarded as the ideal drug for gardening?

In the future there will be drugs that make you feel exactly as you already feel but slightly more so. Of course, only wealthy will be able to afford this sensation. The rest of us will be coked out of our minds.
posted by eatitlive at 12:26 AM on September 1, 2005


nervousfritz:

Yes, capitalism has gotten us pretty far. But you those factory workers in South America and Asia are also participating in capitalism and they're not doing so hot. You and I wouldn't be doing so well if those people weren't taking it up the ass.
posted by Clay201 at 1:45 AM on September 1, 2005


yep, bugmenot did the trick.

And Ishihara was his usual textbook self, using simplistic populist language to peddle his angles on history.

I liked his angle on how...
'It is ironic that the Japanese economy—especially in the financial sector—is susceptible to plunder by the very Americans who were originally supposed to be our patrons.'

I think this a little different to how history shows the Japanese bubble occuring. But then again - why worry about history when you can rewrite it to suit you?

but i dont mean to derail the thread onto a Ishihara disembowelling....still the long term 25 year+ 'sleeper' strategies of government policies worldwide need to be considered.

This guy is just waiting for something to happen in Japan so he can take the reigns riding a wave of xenophobic reactionary terror - a bit like a certain group now in power in the USA who was waiting in the wings for 9'11 to happen, manifesto in hand and 'i told you so' on ready their lips.
posted by rawfishy at 2:02 AM on September 1, 2005


Utopia : shows us an ideal arrangement; what things might be like if better

Dystopia: shows us the silliness, unworkablility, failures of broken utopias.
posted by Postroad at 4:33 AM on September 1, 2005


God, Loquax, I can see why you like it, but that argument against Utopianism is just one giant fucking straw man. I expected better from Foreign Policy, y'know?
Aid agencies and NGOs (aside from the World Bank and IMF) have changed their operating procedure from that of a top-down imposition to site-based micro-projects. That's what the chocolate communes in Ghana are doing; that's what the tsunami relief agencies are doing right now in Aceh (I have a friend there); that's what the MIT greenworks team is doing with the screenless hammermill and the ballast-based water treatment; that's what the sustainable agriculture (and Hmong craft export) projects in Thailand are working on.
The reason why global debt relief is getting so much press is because places like Ghana have massive debts run up by dictators that they're trying to have forgiven now that they're democracies. And one of the biggest problems isn't "utopianism," but rather "conservatism" (in attempting to maintain a status quo) where the WTO, IMF and World Bank all work to meet the goals of their funders: the global rich countries.
Even the successes that this guy lists at the end of his paper have been through large aid organizations working on a smaller level. Sure, he may have some beefs with "The End of Poverty" (I honestly haven't read it), but in the aid community his complaints are about as relavent as worries that Sovietism is going to destroy Eastern Europe: they're a generation out of date.
(Oh, and despite his throwaway line, communal farms work great when they're locally controlled and planned. Weirdly enough, China had great success with this during the '80s, but has lately been breaking up the communal farms into parcels that are too small for any one family to farm, thus leading to the semi-private Chinese companies buying the farms and paying a lower wage to the farmers to work it. That started happening in the mid-'90s, and there have been several riots where a lot of rural folk got killed by the government enforcing order.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:55 AM on September 1, 2005


Klangklangston: I think the focus of the article were the very agencies you excepted from your first point, the IMF, the world bank as well as the G8 and UN megaprojects and initiatives. Nowhere does he state that all aid is bad, or that all aid is inefficient. Quite the opposite, he points to "bottom-up" initiatives that have worked and encourages more. Unless I misread the article, the criticism was not of the big aid delivery agencies, but the attitudes among the rich countries towards aid and how the real world effectiveness of that aid is affected. I think the crux of his argument is best typified by the following excerpts:

The biggest problem is that the rich people paying the bills do not share the same goals as the poor people they are trying to help. The wealthy have weak incentives to get the right amount of the right thing to those who need it; the poor are in no position to complain if they don’t. A more subtle problem is that if all of us are collectively responsible for a big world goal, then no single agency or politician is held accountable if the goal is not met.

The irony of the situation is tragically obvious: The cosmetic needs of the rich are met easily, while the much more desperate needs of the poor get lost in centralized, utopian, comprehensive planning.


The utopian plans satisfy the “something-is-being-done” needs of the rich-country public, even if they don’t serve the needs of the poor. Likewise, the Bush Doctrine soothes the fears of Americans concerned about evil tyrants, without consulting the poor-country publics on whether they wish to be conquered or democratized.

posted by loquax at 6:45 AM on September 1, 2005


Altruistic cooperation sucks. What we need is a good old-fashioned God-King to whip the people into line. Now where did I leave my tank of sandtrout...
posted by darukaru at 10:50 AM on September 1, 2005


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