Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Lazy Man's Way to Blog


        I've discovered a new way to avoid work with lots of effort.  Introducing recycled blather.

At Length:

        I have a Canadian penpal, Mike Q., and from time to time he sends me letters asking what think about various things political.  Surprise, surprise — I'm as willing to gas on in letters as I am in blog postings.

        Anyway, as I was looking over some of my correspondence with Mike recently, I decided some of it just begged to be recycled as blog postings.  So here's the first installment of the Mike Q./Steve St. Onge correspondence.  By putting it up, I'll save lots of time and effort — or at least, I would if I didn't rewrite and expand as I go.  My original answer to this question was far shorter.

        In what follows, Mike's questions in italic, my answers in regular font.

          Regarding globalization and the spread of democracy as foils to possible global war:

        Do you agree with Thomas Friedman's assessment that international economic integration will tend to favor stability and peace, or do you share Robert Kaplan's view that it will tend to re-kindle competitive nationalism leading to greater instability?

        I regard the question as oversimplified, but to answer it, Kaplan.  Change always brings instability, by definition.

        I am curious how you would rephrase the question to make it more precise.

        That's difficult, because the subject is inherently imprecise.  Things may be stable in one respect (a country's language staying the same), and unstable in others.  Something that was stable today may become unstable ten years from now.  Long term effects may differ from short term effects.  And context can override everything.

        An example: at the time of the USAmerican Revolution, Czarina Catherine the Great supported our cause.  The result was friendly relations with Imperial Russia, a country politically different from ours in almost all respects.  Commercially, though, we had few relations with them.  In the 19th century, there was growing trade with Russia, and economic integration -- and the result was growing hostility towards Czarist tyranny, and worsening political relations.

        Of course, the USAmerican Revolution was directed against England, and involved the English invading us once, in 1814, and us invading Canada twice.  Yet over the decades, the U.S. has become very friendly with Canada and Great Britain, and I think trade helped a lot in that.

        Meanwhile, throughout the 19th century, we had no hostility with the people in the highlands of New Guinea.  That's because we didn't know they even existed!

        Hostility and competition pre-suppose contact, and economic integration increases contact, while causing change.  Thus there is always some hostility.  But other factors are always in play, and they may override the hostility.

        Finally, the whole idea of "competitive nationalism" is a relic of the days when European nations decided that besides stealing each other's territory, there might be some other way to do each other dirt.  It also connects with mercantilism, military grand strategy, and other things.  The United States spent the years after World War I trying this nonsense, and the result was the Great Depression.  But after World War II, we opened up our economy, to build up our allies in the Seventy Years War.  While we were generously putting the interests of Europe and Japan ahead of our own, they took vicious advantage of us, exporting, exporting, exporting while we nobly agreed to import.  And who was it who ended up as the world's first and only hyperpower, and who was it who saw their economies go into the toilet?  I think competitive nationalism is a great strategy for our enemies to pursue, but even France isn't loathsome enough to deserve the results.

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