Competition and conflict force our advancement more than anything else. And so Genius of the Beast is a logical next step. In his most recent book Bloom takes his science-centric perspective to new ends: defending Western civilization and the “beast” that fuels us, capitalism. (For Bloom’s analysis of the force most threatening us check out this excerpt about Islam from Lucifer Principle.)
Bloom has the single most compelling, original explanation I’ve encountered for the great economic crash of 2008. Tweaking the economists who thought the crash could be contained, Bloom writes,
“Why did economics prove so useless? Why was monetary policy so helpless to stop the downslide?
Because economic crashes are not the fault of bad guys. They are not the result of obscure things like credit instruments and subprime mortgages gone hog wild. They are built into our biology. They are driven by a mass emotional engine. A mass perceptual engine. A search engine with which the cosmos feels out her possibilities. Booms and crashes are driven by a breakthrough generator-a transcendence engine.
What is a transcendence engine? It’s a mechanism that takes the ephemeral and turns it into hard and fast reality. In the inanimate universe a transcendence engine takes what’s imminent from nothingness into the realm of being. Among humans, a transcendence engine turns the whisperings of the spirit-visions and imaginings into everyday things, into commodities. A transcendence engine is a secular mechanism that does the job often credited to a divinity.
Booms and crashes make you and me the agents of an evolutionary engine-a thoroughly secular engine-that does something only gods were once thought to do. The act of creation.”
Then, much as he put war in the context of biology, Bloom does the same for capitalism and the boom and bust cycle that we seem damned to forever repeat:
“Boom and bust cycles are not unique to human beings. They arose when life itself began 3.85 billion years ago. They showed themselves among our first ancestors, bacteria. Then they reappeared in every other beast that lived in flocks, swarms, colonies, crowds, and herds. Why? Because boom and bust-the cycle of good times and depressions-performs a vital function for a society. That purpose? Exploration, consolidation, and repurposing-using something old in a very new way. Learning, thinking, and creating. Functioning as an evolutionary search engine that does something only the gods were once thought to do. Functioning as an evolutionary search engine that brings new creations into being.”
Yes, capitalism too is natural. Love it or hate it, it’s as innate to us as our need to reproduce. And we can either condemn it – and thus reject ourselves (which is what leftism is at its heart) – or embrace it and thrive. Throughout further chapters in Genius of the Beast Bloom lays out the case for how capitalism and Western Civilization has advanced the quality of human life more than any other force we’ve known: “Every religion promises to raise the poor and the oppressed. Every religion-including Marxism-promises to feed the hungry and to uplift the downtrodden. No religion that I know of has ever paid off on its promise. But a nonreligion, a pluralist system-the Western system-has.” (A point echoed by Walter Williams last week in these pages when he explained how the poor in our society today have luxuries surpassing what the wealthy a hundred years ago could imagine.)