Rob Wiblin asks about historical contingency

by on January 24, 2013 at 7:47 am in History, Philosophy | Permalink

A while ago I suggested this question for the MR readers,
  • What could a very clever person in 1500 (not a monarch) have done if they wanted to make the future better and help people living today?
Here’s an alternative you might like to ask
  • Which avoidable/contingent event in history did the greatest harm? (e.g. the burning of the library of Alexandria)
Or
  • If you wanted to push history in a positive direction, which contingent event from the past would be best to be a participant in, and what could you have done? (e.g. support Deng Xiaoping inside the Chinese Communist Party in the 70s)

It’s tough to have an impact from 1500, but better monetary policy in the 1930s — across the world — would be one place to start for the second part of the question.  Yet I worry that any pre-Manhattan Project intervention could end up upsetting the order in which various countries come to obtain nuclear weapons.  What if a non-Hitlerized Germany built them first?  How does that turn out relative to the status quo?  Does avoiding 9/11 mean we are victimized by a larger and more serious attack later on?  Safe bets in this game are hard to find.

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