[Reprinted from: The Georgist Journal, No.76
- Summer 1992]
Today there is an attitude toward Christopher Columbus and the
European discovery of America in 1492 that contrasts sharply with that
prevailing 100 years ago.
In 1893 (one year late. for the 400th Anniversary), the Columbian
Exposition in Chicago extolled the discovery and development of
America. Optimism and belief in continual progress were strong -- "all
sail and no rudder." Today, at least in some quarters (the "politically
correct"), it could be said to be "all rudder and no sail."
Even among the less politically correct, celebration of the
Quincentennial is more muted.
Although it had been known that European comers to the Mew World had
been less than kind to American natives, introduced African slavery
and built land-grabbing colonies, these seemed to be secondary to the
great enterprise of discovering, exploring and settling a fantastic
New World. But the sins have obtruded themselves and it is difficult
to look at the matter without then. The belief in progress has dimmed,
worries about the environment have increased, concern for Third and
Fourth World denizens are more pronounced.
All to the good. And yet it is possible to go from one extreme to
another. Within this outlook lie some premises we had better watch out
for: productive progress must be stopped, population must be
controlled, free trade is a snare, the market is wicked and we must
move backward. Instead of solving the problems that come with
progress, this philosophy says that we must retreat from progress and
We cannot do this. Admittedly, the world's problems are stupendous
and a messy move to a global economy seems overwhelming. Yet we cannot
be asked to remain in a cocoon until we become perfect human beings
who will always do the right thing when we venture forth. There is not
even any agreement on what is the right thing.
So we're stuck with the world, ourselves and the approaching year
2000. Our best option is to have full frank discussions with all
parties, work things out, seek to improve some of our situations, try
to solve problems... and move forward.