Mstation Book Reviews
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Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Powerful Times

Eamonn Kelly, Powerful Times: Rising to the challenge of our
uncertain world, Wharton School Publishing

Eamon Kelly here outlines a fair list of present and looming problems -- sacred and secular, science and non-science, rich and poor. One of his first exhortations is to stop being digital. The nature of the solutions are frequently not on/off or either/or, and the first steps to wisdom include the aquisition of intelligence, and so, unsurprisingly, solutions are not going to be found amongst people who are, wilfully or otherwise, stupid.

Eamon Kelly doesn't actually say that. What he does say is aimed more at the business community and consists of strategies and ways of thinking about things that might be helpful. Of course it goes without saying that maximizing shareholder's wealth is frequently sub-optimal from a macro point of view, in terms of the quality of life of society in general. The "free" market doesn't supply common goods (parks, libraries) and doesn't, except in the extreme long term take care of externalities (pollution for one).

So this actually a very hard place to be. If you have socially conscious statist direction or adhere to strong moral imperatives then companies in other parts of the world will undercut you and unless your area has the critical mass to enable you to survive, you will perish. This is being played out right now in Europe and China.

In the end though, our solutions depend on intelligence -- of leaders, the people who put them there, and media. Intelligence without wisdom or humanity, though, can be just a nasty parlour game, so it's fairly clear what a basic education should consist of if the planet should be saved. What would happen if shoppers used moral imperatives to boycott, for example, China?

An aside here are the last two elections in the USA. Apparently, some twenty percent of people vote. So, somewhere in the region of ten percent of people in the USA gave the world George W. Bush. This is sub-optimality at a high level, and in the book Kelly posits various futures where the USA has lost its preeminence in moral, military, and trade terms on a continuing basis. We'll see how it plays out.

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