I watched an amazing programme about the development since the First World War of a range of death-dealing technologies: bombers, fighters, bouncing bombs, machine guns, missiles etc. The ingenuity of the boffins has been, and remains, extraordinary. One example was the device which allowed a fighter pilot to fire his machine gun without destroying his propeller. We are very clever creatures.
What, though, about the devices that the said boffins might have created if their ingenuity (and the astronomical costs of developing and manufacturing these systems) had been devoted to peaceful ends?
What is it about human beings that makes us waste ingenuity and resources on killing each other instead of constructing a world without hunger, in which work would be creative play because machines were doing all the drudgery? Who can doubt that we could have built such a world in the last hundred years? We are very stupid creatures.
The Catholic answer is: Original Sin.
There are observable facts about Human Nature – which as a species we choose to ignore.
One of these facts, well documented by Rudolph Rummel and others, is that democracies don't go to war with each other. They just don't do it.
Another fact is that Capitalism has proved to be the only way by which societies have ever become richer.
If from the beginning of the twentieth century the democratic capitalist West had spread the word about these facts as energetically as the scientific West spread the word about hygiene, what a world this would be.
Democracy and Capitalism are under threat. Envy has undermined Democracy in Europe and the USA. The electorate demands of the government ever more generous state provision. This has, in turn, put the economy under intolerable pressure: regulation and taxation. Marx said that Capitalism would collapse because of its inherent self-contradictions. He was wrong about this, as he was about everything. The relentless rise of Social-Democracy has hamstrung the economies of the European Union; and Obama wants to copy the EU!
The looming financial disaster will have consequences that no-one can predict. We can only hope that in the aftermath we re-discover that Democracy and Capitalism are the only hope.