Fragile State of Things

by MW Cook

Have you ever stopped to think about what civilization is actually built on?

I was thinking about that today. What is our mighty, human empire founded on? What is the foundation that we continually are adding to as we build up to the skies. What one thing, if it were gone, would send us over the edge into anarchy? What is the ‘official’ that keeps us from killing society?

I thought it might be the economy, but then realized that paper (or digital) money has no real inherent value. So I started wondering where money got its value from, and the answer was a little surprising. General Agreement.

The only reason a dollar is worth a dollar is because you, me and everyone else I know agrees that it’s worth a dollar. The dollar is an empty symbol. A picture of value, rather than value itself. It is a request that begs ‘Please accept this instead of something valuable.’ And we all honor it, because if we didn’t there would be nothing to base our commerce on.

And I think, in our age of democracy and freedom, that is how government works, too. Government is run, by and large, by public agreement. The general public decides (generally) who runs the show, what laws to have, and other such things. For the people, by the people, and all those other democratic slogans we chant.

But I start to wonder, are we, as a mass of people, really qualified to run our own show? I have been reading a bit about some of the anti-intellectual trends in the western world over the past thirty years. And I start to wonder, are we wise enough? Are we good enough? And if we’re not…then what?