Elgar original reference
Edited by Tony Fitzpatrick
Humans are incredibly adept at solving problems: ingenious, imaginative, resourceful, cooperative. It is not simply about individuals, of course. Over the centuries we have developed political and social systems conducive to problem-solving. In a liberal society the 'separation of powers', designed to respect the sovereign authority of 'the people' and ensure that political control is dispersed and decentralized, allows institutions to make mistakes and to learn from one another. In a democracy the civic culture is one conducive to active citizenship, critical reflection and protest, mutual trust, public debate and an ethos in which people accept responsibility for their lives and social environments confident in the knowledge that they are the ones ultimately in charge of both. In an era when some commentators have begun to envy the strong, technocratic, weight-carrying muscles of China's authoritarian capitalism, the nimble, interlocking fingers of liberal democracy still possess the resources best able to cope with collective problems. But humans are incredibly stupid at allowing so many problems to develop in the first place and worsen to such a point that the species often seems to flirt unnecessarily with danger, speeding like reckless teenagers to the edge of a cliff in order to throw the brakes at the last second and experience the thrill of a disaster narrowly averted. It is not simply about individuals, of course.