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Off Topic – Random historical thoughts on 2014
 
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As a Christmas gift this year I received the book The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War by Peter Hart. This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of that disasterous war, which in many ways marked the end of an age. Many people at the start of the twentieth century had high hopes that humankind was entering into a new era of progress, enlightenment, and wealth driven by ever increasing scientific knowledge, technology and, more slowly, political reform. Global trade was flourishing. People were becoming more interconnected. But then in 1914 the slaughter began.

 

Here we are in 2014, over twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, with market-oriented democracy on the rise in many parts of the world. Global trade has reached unprecedented levels. We are interconnected in ways that would have been inconceivable even just a few decades ago. Terrorism is a threat (as it was then), but global war seems unlikely.

 

So the question is: are there lessons to be learned for us today from what happened back in 1914? For example, with regards to the United States and China? The U.S. today plays the role that Great Britain did back in the early 20th century as the leading global power. Perhaps China could be cast in the role of Imperial Germany, it too seeking its place in the sun as a great power. And what would be your predictions for humanity for the rest of this century? More progress? More upheavals and great wars like we experienced in the 20th century?

 

Or perhaps we could cast our gaze back even further to Late Antiquity and the final years of the Western Roman Empire. Robert Kaplan had a recent article in Foreign Policy that tries to makes some parallels like these entitled Augustine's world.

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“Beauty will save the world”

 
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Phillip, I am sure you have read this book, but I really liked "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  Here is the description:

 

We've all asked, "What is the world coming to?" But we seldom ask, "How bad was the world in the past?" In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era yet. Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: the genocides in the Old Testament and crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals.

 

Now the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse - all substantially down. How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? Pinker argues that the key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away.

 

Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence. Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

 

 

 

Of course, I am reading a book on North Korea right now and that place it pretty f'd up.

 

I think a key in the book description above is "developed" countries.  Is China a developed country?  Is Iran?  Is Saudi Arabia?  Is Pakistan?........and what about Africa?  What can be learned from the more stable countries like Botswana?

 

It reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, econtalk.  You might like it Phillip!

 

 

Daron Acemoglu of MIT and author (with James Robinson) of Why Nations Fail talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book: why some nations fail and others succeed, why some nations grow over time and sustain that growth, while others grow and then stagnate. Acemoglu draws on an exceptionally rich set of examples over space and time to argue that differences in institutions--political governance and the inclusiveness of the political and economic system--explain the differences in economics success across nations and over time. Acemoglu also discusses how institutions evolve and the critical role institutional change plays in economic success or failure. Along the way, he explains why previous explanations for national economic success are inadequate. The conversation closes with a discussion of the implications of the arguments for foreign aid and attempts by the wealthy nations to help nations that are poor. 

 

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/03/acemoglu_on_why.html 

 

I would really be interested in your thoughts on the podcast.  I like what Acemoglu is saying about the importance of political systems in creating the right environment for economic incentives to work optimally and create a fair and healthy economy.  

 

Institutions and countries are not necessarily going to natually gravitate to being more efficient or to economically exploiting people less.  Acemoglu argues that an increase in the distribution of political power goes hand in hand with a country increasing the effectiveness its economic system in benefitting the members of the country.

 

I think there are many countries that need to still make great strides in distributing their political power in a way that can create healthier economies.  China, Russia, Mexico, North Korea, Zimbabwe etc.  When the economy of a country benefits few members of that country, I think there is an increase in the possiblity that the country could resort to war or violence in order to either preserve that political power or to perserve the agenda of that system benefitting the few.  Ironically, it is probably easier to get people whose lives receive little economic benefit to fight because their life sucks anyway.

 

I certainly don't think another world war is likely but I don't think we have seen the end of countries that have very centralized political power resorting to violence etc to preserve an economy they benefit from.  I hope in the next 100 years that we move from just having countries connected economically to having more people directly connected to benefitting economically between countries.

 

Bascially, I think if a Hooters could be opened up in Iran and be a viable businees, we would all be better off.

 

 

 

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You wanna leave me baby be my guest
All I’m gonna do is cry
And then I’m gonna find me someone else
And tear the stars out of the sky
You don’t need me anymore
They say storms are right for summertime
Well, baby I’m long gone
Whatcha gonna do
When you open your eyes?
It’s a brand new day and baby
No blue skies

 

No Blue Skies
Lloyd Cole
http://vimeo.com/92588634

 
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Lloyd Dobler:

 

It reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, econtalk.  You might like it Phillip!

 

 

Daron Acemoglu of MIT and author (with James Robinson) of Why Nations Fail talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book: why some nations fail and others succeed, why some nations grow over time and sustain that growth, while others grow and then stagnate. Acemoglu draws on an exceptionally rich set of examples over space and time to argue that differences in institutions--political governance and the inclusiveness of the political and economic system--explain the differences in economics success across nations and over time. Acemoglu also discusses how institutions evolve and the critical role institutional change plays in economic success or failure. Along the way, he explains why previous explanations for national economic success are inadequate. The conversation closes with a discussion of the implications of the arguments for foreign aid and attempts by the wealthy nations to help nations that are poor. 

 

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/03/acemoglu_on_why.html 

 

I would really be interested in your thoughts on the podcast.  I like what Acemoglu is saying about the importance of political systems in creating the right environment for economic incentives to work optimally and create a fair and healthy economy.  

 

Institutions and countries are not necessarily going to natually gravitate to being more efficient or to economically exploiting people less.  Acemoglu argues that an increase in the distribution of political power goes hand in hand with a country increasing the effectiveness its economic system in benefitting the members of the country.

 

I think there are many countries that need to still make great strides in distributing their political power in a way that can create healthier economies.  China, Russia, Mexico, North Korea, Zimbabwe etc.  When the economy of a country benefits few members of that country, I think there is an increase in the possiblity that the country could resort to war or violence in order to either preserve that political power or to perserve the agenda of that system benefitting the few.  Ironically, it is probably easier to get people whose lives receive little economic benefit to fight because their life sucks anyway.

 

I certainly don't think another world war is likely but I don't think we have seen the end of countries that have very centralized political power resorting to violence etc to preserve an economy they benefit from.  I hope in the next 100 years that we move from just having countries connected economically to having more people directly connected to benefitting economically between countries.

 

Bascially, I think if a Hooters could be opened up in Iran and be a viable businees, we would all be better off.

 

 

Funny you should mention this book. I just finished teaching a course in which Why Nations Fail was one of the assigned texts. Acemoglu is a genius. Going to get the Nobel in economics one day. I agree with their argument that political and economic institutions are the primary long run determinant of most of the income differences we see around the world today, although in a few places I do think they push the argument too far. The farther back we go in time the less plausible this institutional hypothesis becomes however, and other factors like culture and geography come into play I believe (which they do briefly discuss in their book).

 

I actually haven't read that other book you mentioned, although it is on my seemingly endless to-read-list. I guess it depends on when and where you lived in the 20th century I suppose. And what's arguably unprecedented about the modern era is the real possibility of a large portion of the human population being rapidly killed from modern technologies like nuclear or biological weapons. Hasn't happened yet, but during the Cold War especially that was always hanging over our heads as a real possibility. But I do admit that as individuals most of us are living longer, healthier, and safer lives than ever before in human history. That's true in both rich nations and in most of the developing world as well.

 

And why would we be better off if they had a Hooters in Iran? Is the food there really that good?

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“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told”
 
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Great, I threw Amoceglu at you and it turns out you just taught about the dude.  Well, there went my one chance to impress you phillip.  However, I will say that if you click on the duncan sheik you tube link, you won't be disapointed.

 

here is to good people and good music for the next 100 years! 

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You wanna leave me baby be my guest
All I’m gonna do is cry
And then I’m gonna find me someone else
And tear the stars out of the sky
You don’t need me anymore
They say storms are right for summertime
Well, baby I’m long gone
Whatcha gonna do
When you open your eyes?
It’s a brand new day and baby
No blue skies

 

No Blue Skies
Lloyd Cole
http://vimeo.com/92588634

 
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Lloyd Dobler:

Great, I threw Amoceglu at you and it turns out you just taught about the dude.  Well, there went my one chance to impress you phillip.  However, I will say that if you click on the duncan sheik you tube link, you won't be disapointed. ! 

 

You always impress me Lloyd. You are one of the shining lights of PostMo.

 

Economics just happens to be my home turf, so to speak. Especially the kind of stuff that Acemoglu does.

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“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told”
 
“Beauty will save the world”

 
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Lloyd Dobler:

 

here is to good people and good music for the next 100 years! 

 

Some classic Cure in honor of one hundred years

     

A prayer for something better
A prayer for something better

     

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“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told”
 
“Beauty will save the world”

 
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Quiet opposite to what many American religions are teaching, the world does seem to be getting better in many ways.  The internet is connecting us and presenting positive and healthy thoughts and attitudes which many young people are embracing.This will make it more difficult for dictators and power hungry governments to thrive in the future.

 

The internet is causing Mormonism to stumble all over itself in trying to hide its dirty laundry and lies from the world.  The internet is most probably where Mormonism came to die.

 

Wonderful and accurate books showing LDS, Inc up for what it is can now be found on Amazon and in book stores.  A book is being written--even now--by someone most of us know.  Judging from this person's trail of excellence, this book will be enlightening to the world and should cause some remarkable changes for the better.

 

  For the world to break away from religion and mindless tradition and start concentrating on love, equality and respect will be a move in the right direction. Lots of reasons to expect that good things are coming.

 

 

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I laughed out loud and said “Thank you sir. And I hope every time you hear the name of JS you don’t think about him having sex with those girls and the women who were already married because if you’re going to start being honest with yourself then sooner or later you will also realize a real god would never do that, a real prophet would never do that, and it’s all just bull shit.”
Oh mercy, it just felt so damn good to say that.  —BOLD WISH

 
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Phillip (hagiasophia):
Lloyd Dobler:

 

here is to good people and good music for the next 100 years! 

 

Some classic Cure in honor of one hundred years

     

A prayer for something better
A prayer for something better

     

 

 Hagi, that cure vid was super bad ass.  wow.

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You wanna leave me baby be my guest
All I’m gonna do is cry
And then I’m gonna find me someone else
And tear the stars out of the sky
You don’t need me anymore
They say storms are right for summertime
Well, baby I’m long gone
Whatcha gonna do
When you open your eyes?
It’s a brand new day and baby
No blue skies

 

No Blue Skies
Lloyd Cole
http://vimeo.com/92588634

 
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History is always written by the victors. Novels are written by those who wished history wasn't.
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I’ve begun worshiping the sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There’s no mystery, no one asks for money, I don’t have to dress up, and there’s no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.” George Carlin

 
       
 


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