Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Did anyone predict?

THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY Antonio Tejero's military men invaded the Tribunal del Congresso in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid to stage a Coup D'Etat. That act, because it failed, had the unintended consequence of both cementing the Spanish democracy and preserving the Spanish Monarchy. Who would have predicted that? This week, we received a letter from Laurens Otter disputing George Orwell's claim (see 'Political Prediction, Egypt & the Arab World' below) that 'so far as I am aware no intellectual on the Left' predicted the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939: Laurens claims: ' was not as rare as all that for people to have predicted the Stalin-Hitler Pact (though obviously not the precise date).' It is our intention to publish Laurens's letter in full later but mindful of what been said in the comments below about the failure to predict the French revolution let's consider what Karl Popper said in his essay 'Prediction & Prophecy in the Social Sciences'. Popper in an address to the International Congress of Philosophy in Amsterdam in 1948 said: 'It is a fact that we can predict solar eclipses with a high degree of precision, and for a long time ahead. Why should we not be able to predict revolutions? Had a social scientist in 1780 known half as much about society as the old Babylonian astrologers knew about astronomy, then he should have been able to predict the French Revolution.'

It's a cute idea and the Marxists and others have pinned their faith in it and they think that once these predictions can be made, knowing what is about to happen their job is easy and they and their parties can operate like midwives lessening the 'birthpangs' of the new society about to be born. If only it were so easy, it just doesn't seem to work like that, for both the Marxists and the U.S. intelligence community seem equally flummoxed by each new social revolution and development such as the current 'Spring in the Arab World'. Every move that they make seems fraught with unintended consequences.

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