Sunday, August 24, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Well, I'm back.

While I was away, China held an extravagant and protest-free Olympics, Russia invaded some separatist regions of Georgia, Barack Obama's lead over McCain continued to shrink, Pervez Musharraf agreed to do what might have been the honourable thing in 2007, the US and the "Iraqi government" came to an agreement on permanent US bases in the country, the CMA elected another pro-privatization ideologue to its presidency, and everybody and his dog wrote a review about how deep The Dark Knight was.

Rather than commenting on a current event, though, today's post is about how history repeats itself, and more importantly, how its observers do to. I touched on this a bit in a previous post.

Some of you might have heard of the Democratic Peace Theory, or the Golden Arches Theory, of conflict prevention. For those who haven't, the theories respectively state that nations that are democratic or have liberalized economies (symbolized by McDonald's) don't go to war. Obviously, both theories are nonsense. Georgia and Russia are both democracies with parliaments and elections, and both have McDonald's, as did the United States, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and the Israelis.

People who believed such drivel, along with those who wrote and published it, no doubt believed that it was based on sound empirical data and an objectively derived rationale.

I would assert though, that the real line of thinking is more like this:

"My country follows system X and I am safe and prosperous, therefore everybody who follows system X will be safe and prosperous. If only everyone were as virtuous as my people were, they too would enjoy the benefits. P.S. Support the Troops!!!"

And it's not a new line of thinking either. The 19th century British theorist Henry Thomas Buckle thought along similar lines, arguing, amongst other things, that "Civilization" decreased the desire of a people to go to war, and that

. . . as the intellectual acquisitions of a people increase, their love of war will diminish; and if their intellectual acquisitions are very small, their love of war will be very great.
It would be interesting to count just how many wars the British empire was engaged in during Buckle's lifetime, that he was able to write that so glibly.

Buckle at least had the rather plausible causes of "Civilization" and "Intelectual Acquisition" to support his theory. Today, we have the "Golden Arches" and "Democracy."

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