Where We Are (And Where We Came From)

In his latest essay Rick Turnquist takes a look at where humanity came from, where we are, and how it is all at risk from the regressive Left. Don’t take your modern life for granted!
Kim Monson Featured Articles
Kim Monson Featured Articles
Where We Are (And Where We Came From)

Most of us in the West take our modern life for granted. We enjoy the ability to live in structurally sound, aesthetically pleasing, comfortable dwellings – single family houses, condos, townhouses and apartments. In these dwellings, we enjoy on-demand heat and cooling, hot and cold running water, the ability to flush our bio-waste away and the ability to sleep securely in our comfortable beds. We enjoy (mostly) safe and effort-free transportation, whether that is driving a car to the grocery store or flying in a jet to the far side of the world.

When it comes to food, we don’t have to spend our days foraging and hunting for our next meal. Unless you are one of the 1.3% of the population who works directly on a farm, you don’t have to rely on your own direct efforts to feed yourself. The quality and variety of foods we eat today are unrivalled in human history. It is worth noting that our modern food system supports a population of 8 billion human beings and while food insecurity is still too high at 9%, more people that at any time in history are able to get enough to eat, and with more variety.

When it comes to energy, we don’t have to spend our days foraging and collecting bits of wood and piles of dung – as all too many people still have to do – to heat our homes and prepare food. When it comes to climate, we enjoy what writer and philosopher Alex Epstein has dubbed “climate mastery” – the ability to use fossil fuels to mitigate and manage the risks posed by the weather.

When it comes to how we support our lives, instead of being serfs tied to some lord’s land, we have a rich variety of choices in vocation and income potential to suit our natural talents, interests and abilities.

When it comes to how we worship the Almighty, we don’t need to fear being burned at the stake because we believe one interpretation of a particular religion. And while religious animosities exist in the modern world, they are largely non-violent and comparatively tame. We are free to worship how we want, when we want, or even not at all. We don’t have modern nations (in the West, anyway) fighting wars over religious beliefs.

Women in Western society are freer than they ever have been. Not so long ago, women were considered chattel property – second class citizens who were subservient to men. By law and by culture, women were less free than men. Now, Western women have full civil and property rights, and by some measures are thriving more than their male counterparts. Women enjoy longer life expectancy as well.

The ways in which we can occupy our comparatively vast leisure time are almost infinite. We can sit quietly reading a book. We can listen to almost any music we want on demand. We can watch entertainment on screens as small as 5 inches to 80 or more anywhere including in the comfort and privacy of our homes. The variety of sports to participate in or watch is amazing -from football to hockey to badminton to curling – if we can imagine it someone is probably playing it.

For most of us in the West, our personal freedom – while still not as comprehensive as it should be – is greater than at any time in history. We don’t live at the pleasure of another person; we don’t live in a society that tells us what we will do to support the State. We have choices, and the lives we build are the result of those choices. All other things being equal, better choices result in better lives, but that’s up to us, not to the State or anyone else.

While each individual’s circumstances may vary at a point in time or over time, taken as a whole, we in the modern day Western world live better than any cohort of human beings has ever lived on this planet. We live longer and healthier lives than others in our current world who are less fortunate, and than our ancestors did.

Even people who are lower on the economic spectrum live better longer and better lives than “the rich” of previous centuries. The poor in Western civilization live better than many in Africa and the Middle East today.

The circumstances that allowed for the population growth shown in the graph below is due to the confluence of three things, which I call the Pillars of Modern Life. The life we have, compared to how life was before modern times is an inestimable benefit.

Unfortunately, for reasons which are quite difficult for rational people to understand, it is all at tremendous risk of being destroyed.

Life Expectancy

A lot of factors play into life expectancy, including genetics, diet and geography. And while any one individual could live to well over 100 years, as of this writing, according to one source, worldwide life expectancy for both sexes combined is 73.2 years. That’s considerably higher than even 73 years ago in 1950 when it was only 47 years for both sexes combined.

Back in medieval England, the average life expectancy during the Middle Ages was in the low to mid-40s. Infant mortality was much higher, and a woman had a much higher chance of dying in childbirth. Families had large numbers of children, because it was a given that some would not make it to adulthood. People married young, had children young, and died young. Life, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it, was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Indeed, as the popular TV miniseries Game of Thrones depicted, life in pre-modern times was extremely difficult. Leaving aside the obvious fantasy elements, the series shows how people lived in hovels they built with their own bare hands or cold and dark castles that were built by others. Uncertain food supplies, dangerous and scarce energy sources, lawlessness and disease were the norm in those days.

Energy Poverty

In pre-modern times, and even in some parts of today’s world, people have to forage and search for biomass fuels to burn in their homes to provide heat, light and for cooking. When we talk “biomass”, we mean wood and other plant matter (which means deforestation, long replacement times, and short-term scarcity), and animal waste, or “dung”, the euphemistic term for excrement.

Imagine having to leave your hovel to scrounge for bits of wood and animal dung to carry back to your home to burn in an open fireplace for cooking, heat and light. This is how – today – over 3 billion people in our world live. In fact, as Alex Epstein points out in his excellent book Fossil Future only about 1.5 billion people live in “the empowered world”, meaning that they use at least one-third of the electricity of the average American. The majority of our world, even today, lives in some state of energy scarcity or poverty.

Water and Food

We enjoy our on-demand hot and cold running water without giving it a second thought. But it is not that way for everyone today nor was it in the past. In the past, people had to get their water from streams, rivers, lakes and wells. They had to get it themselves, it was not delivered to their homes and aside from heating it over open fires, there was no way to get warm water. Because of contamination, it was unwise and unsafe to drink water without boiling it first, which is why people in pre-modern times were susceptible to water-borne diseases.

The same thing goes for food. People had to forage, grow and hunt their food themselves. Imagine how much of their time pre-modern people had to spend in acquiring food! Now, thanks to modern farming and our modern food supply chain, we can spend a miniscule amount of our time in obtaining food, leaving us free to pursue other interests. Things like the recent egg scarcity give us the barest hint of what life was like all the time for pre-modern people and for many people in today’s world.

Money and Economics

Instead of physical coins or banknotes that can easily be lost or stolen, our modern economy rests on electronic funds transfers and a sophisticated banking system. While there are still risks, and we can still lose our money (think about how the stock market has dropped since Joe Biden became president), it is safer than it was in pre-modern times.

Today, we have a semi-free economy – that historically did much better when it was objectively freer – that is loosely based on free-market capitalism instead of a command and control economy where everything is run for the benefit of the king and the elites.

As capitalism has expanded throughout the world, so too has gross domestic product, which is the measure of what an economy produces. The graph below shows how the global economy has grown since AD 1 through 2017. Notice a similarity to the world population graph?

As our economic system improves and becomes more friction-free, we have more free time to pursue other interests. For example, now, on the rare occasion I have to deposit a check, I don’t have to physically go to a bank and hand over a couple pieces of paper. I can just take a picture of it with my iPhone and tap a button and the money is deposited to my account, giving me more time, which is the most precious gift of all.

Easy, friction-free transactions is why Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the wealthiest man in the world for a time.

Why Talk About This?

I wanted to talk about where we came from, i.e. what most peoples’ lives were like before our modern era, to highlight how GOOD we have it now.

We live in an era when even the poor in a Western country like the United States are better off than the wealthy were as recently as 100 years ago. In fact, we have it so good that some of us feel guilty for how good we have it and are doing everything they can to tear it all down.

This is best typified by how every year, global elites fly their private jets to a little town in Europe to pat themselves on the back for how “enlightened” they are, indeed, “touched” to save humanity. The problem is that their way of saving humanity and the planet have nothing to do with actual human flourishing and everything to do with eliminating all three of the pillars of modern life: fossil fuels, limited government and free-market capitalism.

Fossil fuels, because they are the high clergy of the man-made climate change religion, and by their canon, fossil fuels are evil and must be eliminated. They ignore the fact that their suggested replacement technologies have proven in real life to be impractical and unsustainable. Their anti-impact agenda hinders not only more fossil fuel development, but even the development of more so-called “renewable energy” – wind and solar. Large scale hydro? Forget it. Carbon-free nuclear power, which is the safest form of commercial energy production? No way. The manic anti-impact Left will chain themselves to trees and glue themselves to floors (after trying to damage paintings they don’t understand) to prevent us from using technology to improve our lives.

The global elites and their ranks of “progressive“ followers really and truly believe, deep down in their hearts, that they know what’s best for all of us. They will use any means fair or foul to gain and maintain political power over us, and they will use that power to cram their dystopian vision right down our throats, whether we want it or not. This, of course, has nothing to do with constitutionally limited government, and we can see by the plethora of laws now before state and federal legislatures that the state and federal constitutions they all swear a vow to protect are nothing more than obstacles to be gotten around.

Further, in the words of climate envoy John Kerry, it will take “money, money, money, money and more money” to solve the “climate crisis”. He’s not talking about HIS unearned money either. No, he’s talking about taking YOUR money via government force in a massive wealth transfer from the developed (Western) world to the developing world. The end result of their plan, if you think about it, is that all humanity starves together, but they don’t care. In any event, taking money by force has nothing to do with free markets and capitalism.

The reason I write about this is also my call to action: to stand up against the modern elites, their ”progressive” shock troops, and the Democrat Party in your state and our nation. They are, by any measure, Anti-Life. With their support of abortion on demand to their promotion of the sterilization and mutilation of children via “gender-affirming” care to their soft on crime stances, they clearly don’t stand for human flourishing and, in fact, promote the exact opposite.

As I’ve written before, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Don’t take your modern life for granted. Don’t let the Davos elites take it away



2 Responses

  1. Sorry, but this article is nothing but a collection of straw men . While there are certainly elements of truth in it , it ignores the genuine and grave threat of mass pollution to the planet , something which the greedy oil executives in America could not care less about the mass pollution they cause , not only in the US but worldwide . Environmental regulations interfere with their ability to rake in the billions with impunity , so they have created a propaganda campaign to. fool people into thinking. pollution isn’t such a bad thing , and millions of gullible Americans have fallen for it .
    And it’s the regressive , anti-freedom, anti-equality and anti-justice right . which is determined to deny reproductive rights to American women and reduce them to baby-making machines . They just loooove fetuses, but once you’re out of the womb, it’s “You’re on your own , kid “. The American right could not care less if children starve and die on the streets along with their parents .
    The American right blathers endlessly about the need for “liberty” in America , for “smaller government ” and. “limited” government . But in fact, they want the government to be small enough to fit inside women’s reproductive organs . It also believes that “All men are created equal “, except for women , LGBTQ people, blacks ,Hispanics , the poor, the unemployed , the struggling middle class , those who are disabled and poor, people who are seriously ill but can’t afford health care , and for. non-christians etc.
    Only rich, white, heterosexual Christian males are created equal . The right demands “religious freedom ” -that is, freedom for Christians to discriminate against gay people and others whose lifestyle they “disapprove of . The right wants LGBTQ Americans to be treated as second-class citizens or worse .
    The right wants government to be small enough to fit inside the bedrooms of Americans .

  2. Next time please use the Orwellian dog-whistle “Democrat Party” in the first paragraph as a courtesy, so the reader knows straight off the bat that you’re a fundamentally unserious person with fundamentally unserious ideas, and doesn’t waste their valuable time any further.

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