Why doesn't somebody make the world a better place?
Well hurrah for some common sense. It was this kind of thinking that led me to Buddhism and its fabulous Four Noble Truths, the first of which is of course s**** happens, get used to it (I summarise). Once we realise that, the world suddenly becomes a much brighter and more hopeful place because there isn't the constant disappointment that 'someone else' hasn't in fact made it all better.
An excellent article and conclusion! Thanks for writing these articles. I enjoy reading them very much.
While I agree with a lot of what you write, I'd point out that do-goodist inverventionsim is far from limited to the current Elites *).
You can start from "we're saving the pagans/unbelievers for their own good", via Inquisition (who believed they were risking their own souls for the greater good), to bringing culture to barbarians/savages (which wasn't only European perdisposition, you can go as far as Zhuge Liang bringing [proper] culture to Nanman), to more modern doo-goodism of 20th century (too many to list here, but some sort of do-goodism can be traced in pretty much any regime to some extent).
IMO, the important part here is that "But the world is suddenly revealing itself to be a rather different place from that which we had thought it was."
Because as you say, our beliefs (as societies) and thus institutions etc. are not set up to cope with that. A large part of it is IMO because the West was so sucessfull for 150 odd years, and history tells us each success carries the seeds of its own end. Yet, as humans, we're unable to learn from history, insisting again and again "but it's different!". Yes, it always _is_ differnet, but rarely _significantly_ different.
*) I hesitate to label them liberals, as it tends to corrupt the historical line. Liberalism for me is about political rights (although, to a non-trivial extent it had historical overlap with rule-of-law and private-property protection stuff). Many liberals were, historically speaking, conservatives with a small c, deeply opposed to social reforms - and many were for the social reforms as a continuation of the real liberty. While many socialists were pro some form of autocracy.
Plus I hate wide-label them-and-usisms.