Comment of the Day: Graydon: Tyrannies: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century": "'a reasonably egalitarian distribution of income, yeah, no, people do not want that...

...It'd be a good thing if people did want that, but people want a stable hierarchy that they're not at the bottom of.

The events of the 19th century, culminating in the Great War, destroyed the legitimacy of pretty much every previous stable social hierarchy; nothing that could end in the Great War could possibly be legitimate, on the one hand, and the power relations and relative economic standing of societies, already disordered by economic development, got utterly scrambled by trying to continue prosecuting the war. It took... well, really, I can argue that people STILL can't cope with going off the gold standard/money is not a thing in any material sense, and that got done during the war in months. (This is much weaker in the US, the only major industrial power not involved. Japan wasn't a major industrial power for the Great War, wasn't much involved, and then had the roughly equivalent "all past is dust" experience when the US crushed them in the Great Pacific War.)

So there's a view of the 20th century as a scramble to establish a new basis for legitimacy. (I think this entirely failed, and that the problem has if anything become more acute in the present.) The various attempts try to be sciency; the various attempts try to use economic language because the thing that creates legitimacy is general prosperity, and there's this vague sense that getting the economy right will do that. But they're new, and no one involved knows a system from the hidden name of God, so no only are there no customary social constraints, no one is thinking in terms of needing constraints. (Old moral thinking has usually developed a few caveats as a consequence of persisting; new moral thinking is trying to enact absolutes.) Lack of constraints, post-industrial populations, and post-industrial resources in situations where there's an attempt to create legitimacy through force lead to very large death tolls. No one knows what they're doing in an if-this-then-that sense and no one knows how to stop.