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Opening Arguments


One of my favorite political books is Virginia Postrel's "The Future and its Enemies." I was so impressed by it when if came out in 1998 that I bought copies for all my staff members so we could discuss it (that was back in the heady days when I still had a staff). Naturally, they just put them on their shelves and never read them. Maybe some people who missed it will now check out the book after reading this George Will column in praise of it:

Creative destruction continues in the digital age. After 244 years — it began publication five years before the 1773 Boston Tea Party — the Encyclopaedia Britannica will henceforth be available only in digital form as it tries to catch up to reference Web sites such as Google and Wikipedia. Another digital casualty forgot it was selling the preservation of memories, a.k.a. “Kodak moments,” not film.

America now is divided between those who find this social churning unnerving and those who find it exhilarating. What Virginia Postrel postulated in 1998 in “The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress” — the best book for rescuing the country from a ruinous itch for tidiness — is even more true now. Today’s primary political and cultural conflict is, Postrel says, between people, mislabeled “progressives,” who crave social stasis, and those, paradoxically called conservatives, who welcome the perpetual churning of society by dynamism.

Stasists see Borders succumb to e-books (and Amazon) and lament the passing of familiar things. Dynamists say: Relax, reading is thriving. In 2001, the iPod appeared, and soon stores such as Tower Records disappeared. Who misses them?

Her basic premise is that there are plenty of people on the right, such as Pat Buchanan, who fear change because it threatens some revered past, and plenty on the left, such as Al Gore, who fear it because it can't be predicted or controlled. Her basic message is: Change happens, so deal with it.