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Does Our Age of Marvels Bode Good or Ill for Us?

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Ralph Benko By Friday, 12 April 2024 01:29 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

A spurious Chinese proverb says “May you live in interesting times.” It’s a supposedly sardonic curse. 

And here we are. Let us now pause our hysterics for a moment to recognize the marvels of our era.

I am defining arbitrarily “our era” to be from the birth of my father Max Benko, in 1910, until today. When my father was born something like 80% of the world was governed by imperial dynasties.

Between Dad’s first birthday and his becoming a teenager, four of the five dominant northern hemisphere empires fell. Chinese, 1911. Russian, 1917. Austro-Hungarian, 1919. Ottoman, 1923.  The British empire, the least authoritarian, went into terminal decline.

America’s military contribution to overthrowing a 5-millenia-entrenched political system, imperialism, of course, via World War I, did not “make the world safe for democracy” as proclaimed by America’s most progressive and worst president ever, Woodrow Wilson.

We had to wade back in, in World War II (in which my father heroically fought, including storming Normandy Beach on D-Day), to implant (small l) liberal (small r) republicanism in Western Europe and Japan.

Followed by World War III, the “Cold” war, in which America implanted liberal republicanism in Eastern Europe, much of South America, and moved the tyrannical metropoles of Moscow and Beijing from totalitarian to authoritarian.  Hooray us!

Despite this past decade's setbacks, the recent election in Turkey (the successor to the Ottoman Empire) trouncing the party of the authoritarian Erdogan gives more than a glimmer of hope that the tide of liberty may again be flowing the American Way.

That’s just the geopolitics.  

When Dad was 13 (and my mother, Rosalind, a tender age 4)… Edwin Hubble made the discovery that galaxies were … massive collections of stars.  The universe suddenly got, in the immortal word of a controversial former president, YUGE!

Now, thanks to the telescope named after Hubble and another, even more advanced one positioned a million miles from Earth (4 times further than the moon!) named in homage to James Webb, it is estimated that there are maybe 50 sextillion stars encircled by exoplanets in the “Goldilocks Zone” that could support life. 

We used to think of a trillion as “a lot” before Uncle Sam went on his current drunken sailor spending spree. Although as President Reagan observed, that was unfair to drunken sailors.  A sextillion is one thousand million million million.

From nine (now, adieu Pluto, eight) planets to sextillions? 

A marvel.

My father used to help drive his uncle’s horse-drawn butcher wagon to make deliveries in New York City.  Freihofer’s Baking delivered its baked goods in my beloved hometown of Albany by horse-drawn wagon until I was 10 years old. 

Now? Instacart. 

A marvel.

The end of Albany’s horse-drawn deliveries was the very year that President Kennedy promised to send men to the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade.  Which, of course, we did. 

I watched, on a fuzzy, black-and-white, cubical TV broadcast over the 3-channels, our heroes climb down the ladder of the Eagle and tread the moon. 

A marvel.

Radio became widespread within my father’s lifetime.  TV in mine. 

Color TV was invented when I was 2 years old.  Flat panel TVs became ubiquitous over the past 20 years.

Marvel upon marvel.

A mere 66 years prior to the moon landing, only seven years before my father’s birth, a couple of bicycle mechanics launched the first self-propelled heavier than air flying machine.

A marvel.

Fast forward to 1953 – I was one year old – Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary summited Everest.

A marvel.

Visiting the wreck of the Titanic?  1986.

A marvel.

In 1974 Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf invented something called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) more generally known as the internet. 

A marvel.

Followed by Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web in 1989, soon followed by the first great Web browser, MOSAIC, released in 1993. 

And the cyberspace race was on!

A marvel.

Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution (not the phantasmagorical “Green New Deal”) reduced famine from something that killed between 70 million and 120 million during the 20th century to approaching nil today, famine expected to disappear.

A marvel.

So … while merrily scrapping with one another about, well, everything, let’s put it in context.

The fall of empire and the rise of a Jeffersonian world “empire of liberty.” 

Horses to automobiles.

Flight, space flight and deep space telescopic exploration.

An age of food abundance and, until recently, dramatically reduced warfare. 

An era of heroic world exploration.

From telegraphs to radio to broadcast TV to 500 channels by fiber and infinite content on the Web.

And so much more. Marvel upon marvel.

We live in interesting times.

We live in an age of marvels.

Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of the 200,000+ follower "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $104T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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A spurious Chinese proverb says "May you live in interesting times." It's a supposedly sardonic curse. And here we are. Let us now pause our hysterics for a moment to recognize the marvels of our era
Friday, 12 April 2024 01:29 PM
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