Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

David Horton Headshot

Francis - you're history

Posted: Updated:

Remember Francis Fukuyama? You probably don't. He's a purely historical figure now, from the distant past. But once upon a time he was famous as someone who wasn't an historian making pronouncements about history, rather in the way that Bjorn Lomborg was famous as a non-environmentalist pronouncing on the environment.

Well, Bjorn and Francis also have in common the distinction of being among the most wrong academics of the last 100 years. Francis of course became famous for pronouncing the "death of history" as a result of what he saw as the triumph of capitalism. This was as silly as if Cicero had announced the death of history as the Roman Empire became established. The establishment of the American Empire no more spells the death of history than did the establishment of any of the other empires that litter the pages of history books.

To Fukuyama it seemed, the triumph of the capitalist will had taken place in a kind of ultimate American Idol, in which the public voted for their favorite economic system week after week until only George Bush's trickle down economics was left standing. If you believed this then you should certainly read Naomi Klein's new book "The Shock Doctrine". A better title would be "An encyclopedia of all the things the mainstream media didn't tell you in the last 100 years." The American Idol being played out here was played out not with the triumph of good singing but with the brute force of superior weapons. As Naomi Klein shows, in detail, rumors of the death of history have been greatly exaggerated.

But Dr Fukuyama certainly had his 15 minutes of fame for announcing the death of history, and I have decided to follow his lead. I will even write a title so the media don't have to worry about thinking of one "Dr Horton announces the death of history is coming, in a little while". They could think of it as one of those announcements of a cure for cancer (always 5 years away) or success in Iraq (always 6 months away). "So, what is your prediction?" I hear you ask? Well, I think the death of history is coming in the next 20 years.

You see rather than modeling his announcement based on the start of the Roman Empire, there was a much better analogy that could have been used. "Yes, correct, that student at the back, the END of the Roman Empire". The period from about 500AD to 1000AD marks what has often been called the Dark Ages, not because nothing was going on, and not because life was particularly brutish and short (though it was), but because of the lack of historical records from Europe at this time. The fall of Rome created such collapse and chaos that people had little time to worry about creating history departments in universities (and if they had done there would have been few literate historians). So a Horton ancestor, sitting in a muddy peasant's hut in, say, Jutland around 500AD, might well have declared the end of history, and been right. Unfortunately (the Hortons never get their timing right) there were no morning television talk shows for him to appear on, so his name goes unrecorded (along with everything else).

Well, you all know me well enough by now to see where this is going don't you? The slow motion, but accelerating, train wreck that is global warming is going to reach a point before too long where, just as when the Romans withdrew, their capital of empire destroyed by terrorists (sorry, that should read barbarians), civilization is going to collapse. A new Dark Age is coming, and history will come to an end, once more.

And Lomborg and Fukuyama are different in one big way. Lomborg is just wrong, and his wrongness becomes more evident with each passing year. Fukuyama was right (though for all the wrong reasons), just about 20 years premature. But tough luck Francis, timing is everything in show business and history, you should have waited for me.

I wonder if, in 500 years time, a Horton descendant will look back and think about his ancestor sitting in a dry peasant's hut in 2008? Well, only if history has restarted by then.

Like Oliver Goldsmith in 1770 , on the Watermelon Blog we believe "Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey"