Future

A U.S. Department of the Future Is a Really Bad Idea

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of would-be Secretaries of the Future.

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TechnoCrystalBall
ncloutier

"I'll tell you…one thing that no Cabinet has ever had is a Secretary of the Future, and there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren," the novelist Kurt Vonnegut groused in 2005. Vonnegut's comment came up on the public radio show Marketplace this month, when the program asked, "What if we had a Secretary of the Future?"

My quick answer: It's a really stupid idea. Human beings are terrible at foresight, and it would be especially terrible to try marry our purblind premonitions to government power.

Vonnegut was far from alone in pining for some sort of far-seeing federal planner. For the past half century, the chief motive for establishing planning bureaucracies has been an allegedly impending ecological and economic castastrophe. For example, in the 1968 book The Population Bomb, the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich proposed a new Bureau of Population and Environment. The tasks of this "powerful governmental agency," he wrote, would include determining "the optimum population size of the United States and devis[ing] measures to establish it." One such measure would be research on sex determination, so as to guarantee that first-born children were always male, thus satisfying the cultural demand for male heirs. Needless to say, male heirs by themselves don't produce male grand-heirs.

Ehrlich doubled down in Ark II: Social Response to Environmental Imperatives, a 1974 book that called for a Federal Planning Branch. Ehrlich and his co-author wanted to headquarter the new agency "not in the nations capital but in some relatively pleasant location that would induce talented young people to choose careers in public service." The planning board would, as Kirkus Reviews noted, be "composed of enlightened fellows" like Ehrlich. Its overall goal: to "curb individual appetites" and persuade the population to adopt "the lost tribalism of preindustrial society."

Two years later, in The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global Survival, climatologist Stephen Schneider endorsed the creation of a "Truth and Consequences Branch," a fourth branch of government whose members would be appointed for 20 year terms. The Truth and Consequences Branch would work with the Institute of Imminent Disasters, founded to "assess the probable costs of avoiding any and all perceived disasters impending." The fourth branch would also engage in propaganda, pushing the public to "question present value systems and adopt a new political consciousness. Such a consciousness would move us away from narrow and immediate economic-interest policies and redirect our efforts and resources toward the creation of a stable equilibrium world order."

The fraught 1970s were capped off with two ominous federal exercises in crystal-ball gazing: The Global 2000 Report to the President commissioned by President Jimmy Carter, and the National Academy of Sciences' Energy In Transition: 1985-2010.

In 1977, Carter directed the Council on Environmental Quality, the State Department, and 11 other federal agencies to analyze "probable changes in the world's population, natural resources, and environment through the end of the century." He added, "This study will serve as the foundation of our longer-term planning." The head of the study was one Gerald O. Barney, who insisted that the study could only establish a "useful and meaningful" planning foundation "if, to the fullest extent possible, the Study was performed by U.S. Government personnel using U.S. Government data, and U.S. Government Models."

So what did the Global 2000 Report prognosticate? Let me quote Newsweek's stark summary: "The time: the year 2000. The place: Earth, a desolate planet slowly dying of its own accumulating follies. Half the forests are gone; sand dunes spread where fertile farm lands once lay. Nearly 2 million species of plants, bird, insects and animals have vanished. Yet man is propagating so fast that his cities have grown as his nations of a century before. The bleak scenario is not science fiction, but a detailed look at the real world's future." That was just a slight journalistic gloss on the Report's own preface: "If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Serious stresses involving population resources, and environment are clearly visible ahead."

CartoonCrystalBall
buyersmeetingpoint

Global 2000 projected that world population would be 6.35 billion in 2000 and 10 billion by 2030. In fact, it was 6.1 billion (not too bad) in 2000 and is now projected to be 8.2 billion in 2030. By the way, the U.S. was projected to have 248 million people by 2000; instead we hit 282 million. The Report's projections that world gross product would increase by 145 percent and global per capita income would increase 53 percent were also fairly accurate.

Yet the percent of people living in extreme poverty—defined at a per capita income of less than $1.90 per day—has not increased but dropped, from 52 percent in 1980 to less than 10 percent today. The report also predicted that real food prices in 2000 would be 95 percent higher than they were in 1970. In fact, according the Food and Agriculture Organization, world food prices were almost 40 percent lower.

The forecasters' energy production projections were also wide of the mark. "Engineering and geological considerations suggest that world petroleum production will peak before the end of the century," the report declared. "A world transition away from petroleum dependence must take place, but there is still much uncertainty as to how this transition will occur." Americans were expected to increase their per capita energy use from 286 million British Thermal Units (BTUs) in 1980 to 422 million BTUs in 2000. Using updated figures from the Energy Information Administration, Americans were instead using essentially the same amount of energy per capita in 2000 as they were in 1980, about 345 million BTUs. By 2011—the latest figures available—energy use in the U.S. had fallen to 313 million BTUs per capita. The report's medium scenario projected that in 1995 (the models didn't go further) the price of oil would be around $95 per barrel (in 1979 dollars); instead the inflation-adjusted figure averaged around $8 per barrel.

The report made yet more alarming assertions. By 2000, it said, "40 percent of the forests still remaining in the [less developed countries] in 1978 will have been razed." Since forest measurement techniques change frequently, it's hard to get a consistent trend on deforestation rates. But using worst-case data from a 2008 review article on forest trends in 90 tropical countries, tropical forest cover declined by 10 percent between 1980 and 2000. The Food and Agriculture Organization has noted that the global deforestation rate greatly decelerated since 1990 and may soon reverse.

And contrary to the report's prophecies, 2 million species did not go extinct between 1980 and 2000.

In 1980, the National Academy of Sciences' Energy In Transition: 1985 to 2010 more modestly tried to estimate how much and what type of energy Americans would be using over the next 25 years. In the middle of the road scenario in the 1980 NAS report, Americans would be using 150 quads of energy by 2010. (A quad is a quadrillion BTUs—the amount of energy in 45 million tons of coal, or a trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or 170 million barrels of crude oil.) The analysts projected that energy consumption in 2010 would be divvied up between 16 quads of crude oil, 14 quads of natural gas, 8 quads of synthetic liquid fuels from coal, 5 quads of synthetic gas from coal, a total of 50 quads of energy from coal, 41 quads from nuclear, 5 quads from hydropower, and nearly 11 quads from solar energy.

What actually happened? Americans in 2010 were using about 96 quads, split between 27 quads of crude oil, 22 quads of natural gas, 22 quads of coal, 8 quads of nuclear, 2.5 quads of hydropower, 10 quads of other liquid fuels such as natural gas condensates and ethanol, 3 quads of biomass, and 1.5 quads of renewable fuels like wind and solar. In other words, the middle-of-the-road scenario was off by 50 percent. U.S. energy consumption in 2012 (the latest figures we have) was also still around 96 quads.

What if U.S. government had heeded Ehrlich's warnings about overpopulation and impending famine? For an inkling of how this might have played out, check out Ehrlich's 1978 update of The Population Bomb, which praised China's incipient one-child population control program as "remarkably successful." Earlier, he had wistfully speculated about putting sterilents in the water supply, the effects of which could be reversed only by an antidote that officials would dole out to the deserving.

Or consider the Carter administration's energy policies, which were based on prognostications that the world was about to run out of oil. As countermeasure to the "energy crisis," Carter announced that he wanted 20 percent of America's energy to come from solar energy by 2000, costing a predicted $3 trillion—$8.6 trillion in 2016 dollars. In 1980, at Carter's behest, Congress created the Synfuels Corporation, endowing it with $20 billion with the goal of eventually building as many as 22 enormous coal gasification plants, each producing 300 million cubic feet of synthetic natural gas per day. That's enough to supply the daily needs of about 800,000 households. Only one half-scale pilot plant was ever built. It cost $2.1 billion ($6 billion today) and was later sold to a local utility for 4 cents on the dollar.

Had the Synfuels Corporation built all 22 of the coal gasification plants, their carbon dioxide emissions would have amounted 264 million tons per year. That would have boosted U.S. emissions of that greenhouse gas by 5 percent over current emissions. In other words, energy planners in the 1970s would have made the global warming problem worse for climate planners in the 2010s.

Why rehash these predictive failures? Clearly, people are always trying to discern the future so as make good decisions in the here-and-now. Private companies invest a good bit in trying to figure out future economic, social, and technological trends. Surely there's nothing innately wrong with that.

But if a private company gets its forecasts wrong, the worst that happens is that it goes out of business and is replaced by competitors who made the right calls. Markets are superb at marshaling vast quantities of information, and they amply reward foresight and good guesses.

The problem with government planning is government power. A Secretary of the Future would use dubious models to issue orders on how many children citizens may have or how much energy they may use. Given ineluctable human fallibility, the best thing we can do is to let our children and grandchildren make their own plans for the future.

NEXT: States Make Good Progress on Rape-Kit Testing, But Other Efforts To Secure Justice for Victims May Go Too Far

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  1. It’s just common sense that we have a federal dept of the future. I mean, no one in the private sector is thinking about it.

    1. It’s a market failure!

      1. Well, not yet. But it will be.

    2. I think that is the biggest difference with libertarianism and everything else. There is no direction or point in the future we are trying to achieve. All others are really a gnosticism that claim to know where humanity should go. That always bend towards regimentation and authoritarians. Just let people be free and whatever happens happens.

      1. You know what happens?

        Somalia.

        1. Somalia is NOT libertarian. Somalia is tribal feudalism bordering on anarchy.

      2. What happens in the future, stays in the future.

        1. Just like practical nuclear fusion.

          1. And flying cars. And jetpacks.

            1. And Libertarian Moments.

          2. Well, you know they’re building the ITER in France right? I’m not sure how ‘practical’ it is, but it’s still pretty interesting.

            http://www.iter.org/

        2. But it’s where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb6H14gVWjM

          1. And the children. You can’t forget about the children.

  2. We could just stop spending all their money before they’re even born. That is if we’re really concerned about their future and not just interested in creating more government power under the pretense of such.

    1. you don’t understand. it’s a crime against the future to stick them with $trillions in global warming bills for today’s consumption while it is simultaneously a crime against the future not to stick them with $trillions in interest payments for today’s consumption.

      1. Everyone is a criminal, just the way the government likes. Enforcement must be arbitrary to keep the sheep cowed.

        1. cowed sheep?

          Isn’t that some of that turrible “genetic engineering”?

      2. Its weird thinking from these people.

        Hey, we must bankrupt ourselves now so that our children won’t be incredibly rich and more than capable of mitigating the effects of climate change.

        But, deep down, its all a power thing. There’s no money to be made in letting things take their course. There are always people willing to give money to any dude who screams that he has a plan.

        Better poor in a cold world than rich in a warm one. So sad.

  3. OT, but speaking of the future, Tom Brokaw is officially in ‘yelling at clouds’ territory. He does some radio minute on the talk station. Today he said that when people say “have a good one” to him, he replies “have a good WHAT!?”.

    1. Funeral

      1. I almost sprayed my drink all over my phone. Well done sir.

      2. *stumbles over chair, rising to applaud vigorously*

        1. You wouldn’t stumble so much if you widened your gaze a bit.

          1. Don’t be racist. He’s Chinese.

    2. What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?!
      Or was that Dan Rather.

    3. “Have a good DAY”, you fucking idiot.

      1. Better yet, “Have a good DAY, you fucking idiot.”

    4. Yes, tom Brokaw with “An American Story.” They run that on my local gab radio as well. It’s hilarious. The stuff he croaks on about pushes Andy Rooney’s stale quips into genius territory.

      1. Maybe, but at least we don’t have to look at Rooney’s eyebrows and that creepy angler fish-like growth dangling from his upper lip.

    5. Have a good ONE, meaning anything your choice. For Brokaw, the “one” is a hissy fit.

    6. George Carlin said his response was, “I already have a good one. Now I’m looking for a longer one.”

  4. This sounds like the kind of thing that reddit and salon would be all for.

  5. Hey, forget all these predictions and societal planning. I’d be happy if we just got to the point where government is funded by the people who live under it instead of their great-grandkids.

    1. Having your money linked to scarce commodities is primitive, man. Central banking cartels with unlimited inflationary power is the way of the future.

  6. I must admit at times I have pined about the fact that nobody seems to want to reason a way of stopping the Yellowstone super volcano from assuredly going off and sending man and all his gains back to the cave, or more likely its grave.

    It freaks me out at times that we squabble about legislation etc. when doom is on the horizon. But I guess that is just death in a nutshell, because you will die doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live I guess… Trouble (or maybe not trouble idk) is that individuals approach to death how we collectively approach shit as a society. Were just going to keep on going on and some unlucky generation is just going to have to deal with apoc when it comes. C’est la Vie.

    1. Whoops. I shouldn’t speed type without edit buttons. Super Volcano’s get me fired up hue hue.

    2. Well, Elon Musk is sort of working on a solution. Can you drill a hole that will alleviate the pressure? If so, after you’re done, I’d like to hire you to drill another hole in the ocean floor somewhere in the tropics to create a Hawaii-like hot spot island I’ll call Libertopia.

    3. Honestly, Yellow Stone freaks me out too. It’d be great if someone could bring it up in one of the national debates.

      “Speaking of coming environmental disasters Mrs. Clinton. What do you plan to about the impending disaster at Yellow Stone. The one threatening to kill everyone in the country?”

      Just through ’em completely off script, and then force the news anchors to explain what they where being asked.

      1. Please don’t because I am sure that Mr Krugman will have a few suggestions that every politician on both sides of the isle will back.

    4. We’ve got a few ten thousand if not hundred thousand years to think about that one. I’m sure our much more technologically competent great^10 grandkids will think of something.

      1. Or it happens tomorrow 🙁

        Geological events, like jobless stoners, get out of bed when they choose to, not when the clock tells them to.

        I’ve seen the time frame listed as any moment from now to 700,000 years from now, but sure as shit it’s coming.

        1. So are:

          1) Another Carrington event. (Probably much sooner than the Yellowstone Caldera blows.)
          2) The Cascadia 9.0+ megaquake. ( 0 – 200 years)
          3) An undersea mega-subsidence in either the Canary Islands or Hawaii. (10,000 year time scale)
          4) Other calderas that could blow: Long Valley, Vesuvius, Iceland, Toba, Tambora, and about a dozen others.
          5) The New Madrid fault.

        2. It should be earthquakes and volcanoes are generally (there are some exceptions) time independent, so saying the idea of a volcano being “past due” doesn’t actually make sense. If a given volcano erupts an average of once every 100,000 years, the chance of it erupting this year is the same whether the last eruption was 99,999 years ago or 1 year ago.

          1. So volcanoes, like wizards, are never late.

            1. Bigger fireworks, though.

            2. I thought that was the CO.

          2. Given that strain energy is monotonically increasing minus the small, occasional relief quakes that is simply not true. Similar issue for accumulating hot spots.

        3. “I’ve seen the time frame listed as any moment from now to 700,000 years from now, but sure as shit it’s coming.”

          Sure, and if it happens in the later 85% of that time frame, humanity will probably already be extinct from some other cause.

          1. But will someone please think about the Neosapien mole people who evolve from us.

    5. I would prefer to do nothing about the Yellowstone Caldera.

      Except put Congress and the White House right on top of it.

      Also, would you mind if we Canucks rented a little space on it for our Parliament?

    6. If we get sent back to the caves we will all be equal and nobody will be concerned about runaway government spending. It is the endgame.

      1. When the end times come, and we desperately long for just a tiny scrap of half-rotten meat, the FDA will STILL be there to prohibit us from eating it… We will have to STARVE to death, because, um, well, that rotten meat, and the Koch Brothers, and greedy capitalists, and, if just ONE life is saved, by keeping us from eating half-rotted meat…

  7. It’s a great idea. Government cronies could direct money at their private-sector cronies into the future. What could be better than graft in two tenses of time.

    1. Better solution: government crony directs money to the company that pays their future self.

      Or just skip the middle man and direct the money to their future self.

  8. I nominate Vonnegut for secretary of cultural irrelevance.

    1. Two words: Harrison Bergeron

      1. I used to teach that story every term when I was at UC Davis in the late 90s, early 2000s. My students would get really uncomfortable and have no idea what to make of it.

        1. I remember learning it in like 10th grade & nobody was uncomfortable. Of course that was back when people said stuff like “it’s a free country” without irony.

          1. 10th grade would be too young to think through the implications. You would just see the truth of it. UC-trained students (some of them anyway) recognized that he was pointing out the cognitive dissonance inherent in making people of different abilities all the same in the name of “equality.”

            Affirmative action was a big topic of debate at the time (UC had just been told to stop giving favorable treatment to certain minorities), and they just weren’t sure what they were supposed to think of it.

  9. I heard this interview. It was so dumb I didn’t think it was worth even exploring. But since it’s being explored… EVERY POLITICIAN EVERYWHERE is essentially a department of the future. The ideas may be stupid, corrupt, lies or just plain naive, but everything policy makers do claims to be in service to the future. Why we think that we could use politics to create a department (that somehow WOULDN’T be political) but would really really only think about the future (and in this one government department ‘do it right’) is incredibly stupid.

    1. One word: Teledildonics. Although, that might be the Department of Right Now.

  10. Foresight? Politicians do not even have very good hindsight.

    1. Going by his glasses, Bernie doesn’t have very good sightsight.

    2. True. They couldn’t their own asses if they used both hands.

      1. You couldn’t the word.

        1. Word!

      2. That’s because their hands are always in someone else’s pockets.

        Except when it’s cold outside. That’s how you tell it’s cold outside, they have their hands in their own pockets.

    1. dammit, @ Mickey Rat

  11. OT

    ?@wikileaks
    Clinton email reveals that Hillary worked with Google CEOs to keep #Bengazhi video blocked

    1. This twitter response is… well, just read it for yourself.

      Joao Arnolfo
      ?@joaoarnolfo
      @wikileaks keeps helping fascist Trump by attacking Hillary, the one who can beat him.

      1. yeah, i tried searching for more enlightened commentary after reading that.. you won’t find it at ycombinator.

        1. What did I tell you about covering my beat?

          And yes, they have lost it completely over there. I think most of the old hats don’t comment anymore. Too many leftist twits.

      2. So, voters are supposed to beat one fascist by electing another?

    2. Disappointing if Google CEOs weren’t hanging up on her ass.

  12. Not a bad article. If only someone would write a book about how things are getting better. Just don’t make it too doomy or gloomy.

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  14. Didn’t Jean Claude van Damme already do a movie about this?

  15. I think a Secretary of the Future is a wonderful idea and Paul Ehrlich should hold the position in perpetuity, right after his corpse is stuffed and monumented on display somewhere on the Mall with a selection of his best (worst) predictions on bronze plaques around the monument. We would not call him something so plebian as “Secretary of the Future” of course, something more noble and grandiloquent – I’m thinking “Ozymandias”. Make the monument a nice, peaceful, shady, restful place, a place where people might wish to sit and reflect on things for a moment.

    1. Or they could behead Paul Ehrlich and mount his head on a box that keeps it alive so he could be the Head of the Department of Future.

      1. +1 life of quiet dignity

    2. And his staff should be composed entirely of bioethicists and located in Svalbard.

    3. Wouldn’t we just need his feet?

      1. Well, they are made of clay.

  16. Because they do such a fantastic job with “The Now“, and take such responsibility for “The Past

    1. “We’re building bridges to the future!”

      1. “but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

  17. It’ll be like Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, soon it’ll resemble 1985

  18. OT: Marco Rubio Says He’s Leaving Government
    http://time.com/4263474/marco-…..overnment/

    Marco Rubio said Thursday that he plans to leave the government after the end of his Senate term, and that he’s not interested in being anyone’s Vice President.

    “I’m not going to be Vice President,” the Florida Senator told reporters Thursday. “I’m not running for governor of Florida, I’m going to finish out my term in the Senate over the next 10 months? and then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

    1. I’ll be a private citizen lobbyist.

      1. The way his career went he’d be lucky to be a private dancer.

        1. curse you for the Tina Turner flashback!

          1. I would think young, swarthy and Latin would make one very qualified for such a position.

            1. I’ll be in my bunk.

        2. He was snookered by the evil Chuck Schummer Susan. Poor little Ricky never intended to sell out his supporters on amnesty, honest. Chuck told him it was a bill about amity. He was just trying to win friends you big meanie!!

          1. Eh, probably a fault in Mr Rubi-oto’s firmware. Whatever the case, he will not be missed.

            1. He really won’t be. There is a reason why the Republicans in Florida apparently hated him. His support for amnesty was part of it but not all of it. He apparently never bothered to show up and vote in the Senate and do the basic constituent services that Senators are supposed to do.

              I think the public is just tired of these guys who have never been anything but political hacks. That helped doom Rubio and will doom Cruz, who is nothing but an old Bush hack who has never done anything except politics.

    2. So… think tank, lobbyist, or both?

    3. Sounds like Adam LaRoche. Good riddance.

  19. There’s a wonderful timeline (which i can’t find at the moment) out there on the intertubes showing the USGS and whatever the IEA used to be called “Estimates of future petroleum reserves” (in both bbl-m and # years till depletion)

    this isn’t it, but its close. This is good too, however it ends with the Gawkertard writer drawing exactly the wrong conclusion from it

    The short of it seems to be that the business of future-prediction is *always about insisting doom is just 10 to 20 years away*

    Just long enough to have a ‘career’ using those predictions to justify wielding influential regulatory powers.

    Any government “department of the future” would obviously fall prey to exactly the same pattern.

    Take whatever the “worst case” forecasts you can find, and use those ‘”just far enough away to be quasi-plausible, but just soon enough to Demand Urgent Action!!”-predictions to justify some epic-scale boondoggles and empower all the people who helped get you this peachy Oracle-of-Delphic Job.

    I assure you = if the Climate Change panic ever starts to subside (due to increasing evidence that there’s little real threat at all)… there will be an understudy “new planetary crisis” waiting in the wings to take over immediately. Because this scam is just way too easy and profitable.

    1. In a similar vein, take a look at predictions in the late 1940s of how long it would take the Soviets to build an atomic bomb.

      It was always ‘five years away’.

      Right up to August 29, 1949.

    2. “Any government “department of the future” would obviously fall prey to exactly the same pattern.”

      ^ This.

      It could never be anything other than the Department of Hypothetical Crises. And we really don’t need any more of those.

    3. And those predicting doom based on ‘running out of resources – the dwindling *reserves* prove it!’ always conveniently leave out the fact that reserves are only calculated for 20-40 years in the future in the first place as that’s the economic point where it makes sense to go out and confirm that what we think is there is actually there.

      So if you go by the usage of ‘reserves’, of course we’re always going to be in trouble in 2-3 decades.

      1. You’re pretty damn sure of yourself aren’t you? Don’t you realize that the world is catastrophically short of whale oil? Just what are you planning to use in your lamps when we finally run out?

        1. Ho! Ho! Bah!

    4. Back in the 1970s the Carter Energy Department was convinced that US natural gas supplies were on the brink of extinction. It launched the $5 billion Synfuels Corporation, a state-owned enterprise with the mission to convert coal into transportation fuels. It created various disincentives to use natural gas and strongly favored coal as the fuel for generating electricity. Of course, all of this insanely wasteful and short-sighted energy policy led to a more carbon-intensive energy economy, and now the same bunch of bozos, and their no-count successors, say that’s a bad thing. (Lo, and behold, the 80s and 90s demonstrated that government interference in the energy markets was the cause of supply shortages to anybody with an IQ above room temperature.) The Department of Future can never get its story straight, but that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to justify government action in the interests of its cronies.

  20. I’ve never understood why people think Vonnegut is interesting or worth listening to, myself.

    1. +1 Diana Moon Glampers

    2. He wrote some great stuff circa 1950-1970. After 1970 he went into a steep nose dive, and his stuff from the 80s is unreadable.

      1. ^this

        His best book IMO – “Welcome to the Monkey House” – is mostly stories he wrote in the 1950s and early 1960s. Player Piano, Cat’s Cradle, etc. from that same time period are really good as well.

        When he wrote “Breakfast of Champions” (1973) he basically admitted he had nothing else left to say, and then proceeded to churn out 2 dozen piece-of-shit books anyway.

  21. “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

    Until some scientist actual cracks the code to the science of psychohistory they can keep making their predictions but no one should be forced to act on them.

    1. I would love it if all the doom and gloomers had to live by the prescriptions they make for others.

      I do not see Al Gore living a particularly ‘low carbon’ lifestyle.

  22. As always, Deadwood did it best:

    “Fuck the future!”

    “You can’t fuck the future. The future fucks you!”

  23. No no no! Its a really GOOD idea! Just think of all the people who could be given offices in such a department and told “You’re just a little ahead of your time. Wait here quietly and we’ll call you when your time has come!”

  24. +1 BuSab

  25. “Given ineluctable human fallibility, the best thing we can do is to let our children and grandchildren make their own plans for the future.”

    Fuck the future. We have every right to live our lives as if we were the last generation.

  26. remember this is the guy who wrote harrison bergeron. It sounds to me more like one of his wry semi jokes about how nearsighted we all are than a literal suggestion that we have a bureaucracy try to control the future.

  27. As usual, the bad idea in question literally comes out of left field, along with the usual torrent of abuse of both the english language and logic.

  28. While we don’t yet have a Secretary of the Future, we have a whole government working to create a Secretary for the (Destruction of) the Past, so that people can’t hark back to history to show that government policies are monumentally stupid or violate the Constitution (that old piece of paper).

  29. The conjunction of ruling and dreaming generates tyranny.
    – Michael Oakeshott

  30. Is there anyone whose mind doesn’t immediately jump from this to “chef of the future”?

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  32. The report made yet more alarming assertions. By 2000, it said …

    If you try to challenge these people on their predictions, they will attribute everything that agrees to their superior intelligence, and everything that hasn’t turned out as bad as they predicted to the beneficial effects of government intervention. You simply can’t win.

  33. RE: A U.S. Department of the Future Is a Really Bad Idea

    1. A US Department of the Future is a great idea providing no one breaks their crystal ball.

    2. Americans need more bureaucrats like they need the clap.

    3. Only college professors, socialists and other fools would be stupid enough to want more government.

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