I’m reading Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World right now. I’ve not read Ferguson before, and I have to say he’s a rather good prose stylist. Though dense with data & concept The Ascent of Money is a page turner, though perhaps it says more about me than the gripping narrative.
But the most interesting aspect for me right now is how dated some of the observations made are. The final touches on the book were put into place in late-Spring of 2008, so you have Ferguson referring to the “Financial Crisis of 2007.” I’ve heard him on the radio and he ruefully has admitted that events are so volatile that despite the timeliness of his book, in some ways it is almost quaint in terms of the perspective which it offers. Despite the fact that here in the United States we are on the precipice of verging to the Left, I can’t but help wonder if the ultimate results of the current crisis will be conservative. Not conservative in specific ways such as the election of conservative governments or greater faith in modern capitalism, but a deep conservatism of disposition which is nourished by the jaundiced skepticism which is in the air. Skepticism of the efficacy of government in the face of corrupt capitalism. Skepticism as to the virtue of the free market. Skepticism of engineering, financial and social. Skepticism of the goodness of one’s fellow man and the inevitable ascent toward the pinnacle of progress.
Though prehaps you’ll find it ironic that my pessimism about the current state of affairs makes me optimistic, so to speak, about conservatism.