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C A R R O L L   Q U I G L E Y   6

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Quigley's Shadows

Those already familiar with Carroll Quigley may be wondering how his historical theories relate to his other work. An Excite search on "Carroll Quigley" revealed some oddities. Apparently Quigley's long association with Georgetown University (a nominally Jesuit school) have led some conspiracy theorists to conclude that he was part of a shadowy group determined to create a globe-spanning "New World Order," complete with references to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Knights of Malta and the Pope. A couple of other books Quigley wrote (Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time and The Anglo-American Establishment) are also cited as evidence of a Cecil Rhodes-based organization to conquer the world (though whether for utopian socialism or for Western capitalism is unclear). The fact that Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton has praised Quigley several times only adds to suspicions of the Georgetown professor.

Honesty requires me to note that Quigley did seem to express the view that a single world government based on Western civilization was the only way that our civilization could reform itself and avoid the fate of extinction produced by becoming a Universal Empire. As Dr. Harry J. Hogan says in his foreword, "... Quigley perceives--correctly in my view--the possible termination of open-ended Western civilization. With access to an explosive technology that can tear the planet apart, coupled with the failure of Western civilization to establish any viable system of world government, local political authority will tend to become violent and absolutist." (The Evolution of Civilizations, p. 19.)

But this viewpoint, it seems to me, fails to realize that a world government--Western or otherwise--would of necessity be a "Universal Empire," since by definition there would be no surviving external cultures, and no periphery. A single world government is no panacea for fractious human nature. Messy though it may be, human freedom requires disorder--systems that are too rigid cannot last. Both liberal economic planners and conservative social organizers seem to ignore this.

Quigley was too independent a thinker to be neatly classifiable as an ivory-tower intellectual or doctrinaire leftist. There is, for example, his observation (on which he had been working for ten years at the time of his death) that military technology was closely related to democracy. Specifically, Quigley was of the opinion that complex weapon systems tend to create armies of specialists (such as the Swiss mercenaries and Italian condottieri of the Medieval period), which are most easily used by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. By contrast, simple but powerful weapons--such as the mass-produced, breech-loading rifles that anyone could acquire and use--actually promoted democracy by giving individuals the power to resist authoritarian coercion.

As Quigley put it, "The hope of the future [rests] in the invention of new weapons and new tactics that will be so cheap to obtain and so easy to use that they will increase the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare so greatly that the employment of our present weapons of mass destruction will become futile and, on this basis, there can be a revival of democracy and of political decentralization in all three parts of our present world." (The Evolution of Civilizations, p. 403.) This common-sense affirmation of the importance of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is (it hardly bears saying) not in line with the beliefs of left-leaning gun-control advocates. This makes it difficult to pigeon-hole Quigley politically.

So, what to make of The Evolution of Civilizations? Does it stand on its own, or is it a thinly-veiled and speciously argued rationalization for a single World Government?

Until I see credible evidence for the latter, I think I'll just treat Quigley's scientific study of history as another in the long line of attempts to understand our society and predict its likely future. The success or failure of this attempt rests solely on its own merits.

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