aug 7 2007

August 7, 2007 § Leave a comment


Lots of comparative history this time. 

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia

Note created August 7, 2007


PART 1: Readiness for endless war

Not long ago, expectations that Europe might step up as a counterweight to US imperial policies focused on Germany, as a known moderating, non-military force in international politics. But now “Old Europe”, led by Germany with France close behind, is in a hurry to kiss and make up with Washington after their estrangement. There are “old hands” within the German establishment who are looking with dismay at this evolution of German policies. Their warning voices, though, are largely unheard amid the narrative of the terrorist menace, which serves to propel and legitimize Germany’s readiness for endless war. “Axel Brot” speaks for them.

Erich Fromm said in a seminar that social character is poewrful and however Germany looks different, it probably isn’t. yet I sense that Bushco have given opportunities for militarism that were unexpected.  Perhaps the wiser historian sees currents more clearly. The German of Goethe and bach, and of resistance to the Iraq invasion…?

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times…

Note created August 7, 2007

Many commentators point to a failure of political and social institutions as the reason that poor countries remain poor. But the proposed medicine of institutional reform “has failed repeatedly to cure the patient,” Dr. Clark writes. He likens the “cult centers” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prescientific physicians who prescribed bloodletting for ailments they did not understand.

 Great metaphor! I have lots of quotes.

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times…

Note created August 7, 2007

“Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

 I have lots of doubts here. Capitalism now narrows the top rther than spreads it. We are a the end of a phase, not riding an arrow.

What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer. Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

 Need to compare this to Fromm and Maccoby, Social Character in a Mexican Village.

A break for

No Comment (Harper’s Magazine)

Note created August 7, 2007

In the end Pat Tillman was a real person. And by concocting a myth about his death, the Administration was not trying to honor his memory—it was attempting to substitute a forgery for a very real person. It was attempting to usurp his memory for its own political agenda. Pat Tillman, we now know, was a patriot. He didn’t think much of George W. Bush or his politics. He was openly critical of the way the war had been cast and peddled. Was the Bush Administration attempting to liquidate that Pat Tillman? That’s a conclusion that hangs close over this entire affair.


The Writer’s Almanac from American Public Media

It was on this day in 1912 that Teddy Roosevelt was nominated by the Progressive Party to run for President, an election that went on to define the Republican Party for the rest of the 20th Century.

Republicans had dominated politics ever since the Civil War. A Republican had been in the White House for 44 of the previous 52 years. They were the party of civil rights and, under the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party became the party of environmental conservation, antitrust laws, and consumer protection.

Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in history, the youngest too. He was 42 when he took office. He was the first president to ride in an automobile and in an airplane, and the first to visit a foreign country while in office. He was a naturalist. He was an author of history. He published almost 50 books (books by this author).

After he’d served two terms, he announced that he would not seek a third term. He handpicked his successor, William Howard Taft, and then went off on an African safari. But when he got back, Teddy Roosevelt found that Taft had moved away from progressive principles and aligned himself with the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Teddy Roosevelt ran against Taft in the primaries, won the primary in Taft’s home state of Ohio, but eventually it was party insiders who picked the nominee, and they gave it to Taft. And so Roosevelt called for the creation of a new progressive party and accepted its nomination on this day in 1912. It was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party because Roosevelt said, “I am as strong as a bull moose, and you can use me to the limit.”

He was in a three-way race with Taft and Woodrow Wilson, campaigning on a platform that called for income taxes, inheritance taxes, the eight-hour workday, and voting rights for women. He drew huge crowds wherever he went. In Milwaukee, October 14, 1912, on the way to give his speech, he was shot by a man six feet away, the bullet deflected by the speech in his pocket, along with a metal eyeglasses case. Roosevelt went on to give the speech, but Woodrow Wilson won the election. Despite Roosevelt making the best showing of any third party candidate in American history. He came in second.

And one of the results of his Progressive Party campaign was splitting the Republican Party between conservatives and progressives, and the progressives have never been in charge since.

An important piece of history, putting the republican party in perspective. It has a progressive side, and still does. it is just submeged. Inteesting how both parties have progressives, and the progressives lose to power and militarism. Now, back to

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times

“He deserves kudos for assembling all this data,” said Dr. Hoffman, the Caltech historian, “but I don’t agree with his underlying argument.”

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts.


Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.


The basis of Dr. Clark’s work is his recovery of data from which he can reconstruct many features of the English economy from 1200 to 1800. From this data, he shows, far more clearly than has been possible before, that the economy was locked in a Malthusian trap _ — each time new technology increased the efficiency of production a little, the population grew, the extra mouths ate up the surplus, and average income fell back to its former level.

Review – A Farewell to Alms – Industrial Revolution – Human Population – New York Times…

Note created August 7, 2007

This income was pitifully low in terms of the amount of wheat it could buy. By 1790, the average person’s consumption in England was still just 2,322 calories a day, with the poor eating a mere 1,508. Living hunter-gatherer societies enjoy diets of 2,300 calories or more.

“Primitive man ate well compared with one of the richest societies in the world in 1800,” Dr. Clark observes.


Malthus’s book is well known because it gave Darwin the idea of natural selection. Reading of the struggle for existence that Malthus predicted, Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “It at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. … Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work.”


Dr. Clark started to wonder whether natural selection had indeed changed the nature of the population in some way and, if so, whether this might be the missing explanation for the Industrial Revolution.


In support of the disease-resistance idea, cities like London were so filthy and disease ridden that a third of their populations died off every generation, and the losses were restored by immigrants from the countryside. That suggested to Dr. Clark that the surviving population of England might be the descendants of peasants.


Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.


Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.


It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

 I would add that China for example did not have land title separate from the ruling bureucracy. The European landholders had a kind of security that made families successful. In China i was constant warfare.


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