Musings on The Shape of the World

The legal system is always behind. It can only respond to what has already been done. An act must be committed before it can be recognized as contrary to the public interest, eventually defined as a crime, as being against the law (the law being simply what someone has decided is in the public interest).

Historic trends, like agriculture at the dawn of history, trade during the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, commercialism in the 1800's and early 1900's, the Information Revolution, and, most recently, globalization, cannot be resisted effectively. There are (at least) three responses one can make: futile resistance, attempted exploitation, or attempted shaping.

These historic steamrollers tend to flatten those who resist them. The nomadic hunter-gatherers who declined to join in the agricultural revolution were pushed out to the least desirable land, treated as uncivilized, and sometimes harassed or killed. The gentry who tried to control or limit trade in the Middle Ages found themselves outflanked -- if trade were disallowed here, it sprang up over there. The Luddites who violently resisted the Industrial Revolution are now a historical footnote.

In each revolution, some managed to exploit the trend of things effectively. Some became fabulously weathly by understanding the dynamics of the new way of things and aligning themselves to profit from it. Marco Polo, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison are examples of those managed to ride the wave of their respective revolutions and won big. Others tried but failed in one way or another.

In every revolution, there was the opportunity, not always taken, to moderate and shape the effects of the revolution to help those displaced by it find their way in the reconfigured world.

- The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman
- Protecting America's Health by Philip J. Hilts

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