Blood and Leviathan

A Stanford historian thinks war is the engine that drives civilization. Is he right?


Detail of Trajan's Column, Rome
Ken Welsh / Alamy

War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots, by Ian Morris, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 495 pages, $30

Is war good for anything? In the long run, the Stanford historian Ian Morris argues, it's good for almost everything. In War! What Is It Good For?, Morris makes the case that war has played an essential role in mankind's development and in the growth of human well-being. The book endorses not just strong government but imperialism; as applied to recent history, this translates into strong support for the historic role of the British Empire and the current global policies of the United States.

Morris isn't one to shy away from big, sweeping theses. In Why the West Rules—For Now (2010), he took on the much-studied subject of why modernity first appeared in northwestern Europe and has been dominated by that part of the world and its offshoots. Its sequel, The Measure of Civilization (2013), proposed a metric for assessing how "developed" any particular historical culture was.

His new book's argument is rich and subtle. That is not to say it is convincing. It has a number of crucial ambiguities and at least one central thesis that is very controversial and, like all good theses in history, subject to empirical disproof. The story also has an important missing element, one that makes sense of things the author otherwise has difficulty fitting into his argument. Adding that missing element—the way that resource constraints limited human options until innovation took off in the 17th century—gives us a different, more accurate picture.

The book's thesis is Hobbesian, as Morris explicitly lays out. Human beings, he writes, are naturally territorial and aggressive; Lord of the Flies is a better portrait of our nature than Coming of Age in Samoa. Consequently, the default setting for human society is one with little or no large-scale, organized conflict but lots of persistent small-scale violence, such as fights, brawls, and raids.

The result is a very high rate of violent death, amounting to as much as 20 percent of all deaths in hunter-gatherer societies. (This claim is disputed, as Morris notes, but he is correct that the evidence supports this reading of the Stone Age past.) In this, human beings are like one of our two closest biological relatives (chimpanzees) but unlike the other (bonobos). The amount of chronic interpersonal violence means that complex social institutions and trade do not develop—not among chimps, and not among humans for most of our history as a species.

Unlike chimpanzees, Morris continues, human beings have the ability to evolve socially as well as biologically. Our ancestors invented agriculture in those parts of the world (the "lucky latitudes") whose flora and fauna were particularly suited to domestication. This led to a rise in human numbers, to more division of labor, and to greater pressure on resources. The initial response to that pressure was migration into empty lands. Meanwhile, high levels of violent death remained the norm. Eventually, Morris argues, population pressure changed the incentives and led to a major innovation: war.

The obvious immediate result of war is a sharp rise in the number of violent deaths as the scale of killing increases. But war also creates bandit groups that control the means of violence and use it to organize people. The incentives facing these predatory groups initially encourage them to plunder and kill others, but soon it becomes clear that the longer-term incentive is to conquer them (often brutally) and incorporate them into an expanded social unit. Once this is done, the roving bandits become stationary bandits: a polity's ruling class.

This Leviathan then reduces the level of chronic violence in society, Morris writes, by punishing violent conduct and getting the predatory groups to change their behavior, so they become cultured gentlemen rather than coarse warriors. All of this leads to a rise in population and a marked growth in wealth and trade and the division of labor. The consequences include technological development, the emergence of cities, and higher levels of comfort and consumption. Although the number of people killed in the wars that create the Leviathan is high, the rates of death per capita decline, because of both the change in people's behavior and the resulting growth in numbers.

Morris thinks that war is essential for this good result and that it is the primary motor, with the other social phenomena consequences. The Leviathans created by war (such as the Roman Empire, which stands as a proxy for Leviathan states in general in the early part of the book) tend to expand their territory until they reach a point (determined by the interplay of geography, technology, and military organization) where the costs of expansion are greater than the benefits. In the modern world, this is the entire planet, and so we see the development of a global hegemon, initially the British Empire and more recently the United States, that while not directly controlling the entire world provides a legal order for it as a "globocop."

Clearly this is a direct challenge to many cherished libertarian ideals and ideas. If Morris' argument is true, order is not spontaneous but something that can exist at a tolerable level only after powerful states have been created by war; empires are in general a force for good; and human flourishing, innovation, and prosperity depend on a strong, active government. In terms of current policy disputes, it means that the United States should enhance its global role rather than pulling back.

Yet the argument's clarity lays bare several ambiguities that in turn reveal its weaknesses. The major problem that Morris faces is explaining what was going on from roughly the 2nd century A.D. through the 15th century. Up until that point, his long-term story was one of wars leading to ever larger and more settled empires, with a corresponding growth in human development and decline in interpersonal violence. (There was in fact a major intermission of several hundred years at the end of the Bronze Age, but he glosses over this.) In the Middle Ages, this long-term trend stalled. There were still empires and powerful states, but these regularly collapsed completely or, more often, saw a decline in strong central power and the growth of a decentralized, usually feudal social order. The new long-term trend was for the size of effective political units to shrink.

Morris sees all of this in dark terms. He argues that there was a revival of personal violence (although not a complete return to the pre-state level), and he uses the term "feudal anarchy" to describe the society of medieval Europe, as though England during the reign of Stephen were the typical case.

We may leave aside the question of whether this dark picture is an accurate one. As Morris says, this is an empirical question, and more research must be done before it is settled. His difficulty is how to address it in a model where war is the ultimate explanatory factor. His answer is to say there are actually two kinds of war, "productive" and "unproductive," with the second kind dominant between the 2nd and 15th centuries.

It is not clear how we are to distinguish between these two kinds of war and what the criterion is for making this distinction. Much of the time, it seems simply to be about result: Productive wars result in stable and effective states while unproductive wars undermine or destroy them. But this threatens the entire thesis, because it makes the beneficial effects of war either purely contingent or dependent on some other variable factor, which would mean that war would lose its position as the sole root enabler of social development.

His solution is to imply that the distinction rests on the form of military organization and technology. Morris comes very close to saying that cavalry-based warfare is intrinsically unproductive while infantry-based and naval warfare are productive. The horsemen of the steppes, he claims, were the destructive force that repeatedly brought about episodes of unproductive war and so stalled the process described in the first part of the book.

This is highly problematic, to put it mildly. In terms of Morris' own argument, it is never made clear exactly why steppe nomads were not subject to the same incentives as other roving bandits and did not themselves create stable polities after they conquered large areas. The argument appears to be that they would themselves be overthrown in turn by further waves of nomads. Yet settled civilizations did repeatedly defeat nomads and showed they could exploit the nomads' great weakness, their fragmented and tribal social order.

There are also simple concrete objections to this story. For it to work it has to apply right across Eurasia's "lucky latitudes" for the whole of this period, and it simply doesn't. It applies in the Middle East and India, but in Europe there was no major nomad incursion following the defeat of the Magyars at the Lechfeld in 955 until the Mongols briefly invaded eastern and central Europe in 1240. The following year they withdrew and never returned. The Vikings (who do not fit this narrative anyway) also stopped being mobile bandits in the 10th century and followed the pattern of settling down and becoming stationary bandits. Given this, Morris' model would lead you to expect medieval Europe to see the growth of a single large empire. In fact the tendency was toward more fragmentation, not least in Germany and Italy.

It also does not work at the other end of Eurasia. In China, the period saw two classic Leviathans of the earlier kind, the Tang and Song dynasties. Morris claims that these were "zombie" empires that in some sense did not compare to the earlier Han and Roman examples. Yet given the length of time they lasted and the degree of social development they saw (particularly in the case of the Song), this simply does not make sense. In Japan a similar process of weakening and ultimate collapse of central power took place under the Ashikaga Shogunate after the 14th century, but Japan as an archipelago was not substantially affected by events on the Eurasian landmass. There has to be some other factor that explains what was happening, even within Morris' own narrative.

The second ambiguity casts more light on this problem. Morris gives innovation and the human capacity for it a central part in his account. He also explicitly argues that the kinds of innovation that lead to economic growth and social development can happen only after productive war has created a Leviathan. But it is our capacity for innovation that led to the development of war itself. Clearly, innovation is an independent variable and not a simple dependent one. The story of the interplay between governance and war on the one hand, and innovation, exchange, and voluntary cooperation on the other, is complex, with causal arrows running in both directions. Both domains of human conduct are autonomous, and neither is only a consequence of the other.

Moreover, it is obviously not the case that Leviathans are the only kind of political order that emerges from this interplay between conflict and innovation. Repeatedly we see an alternative: a self-sustaining network (sometimes an actual federation) of small political units, particularly city-states. The largest-scale instance of this is in Southeast Asia from the 7th to 15th centuries, but the ancient world and medieval Europe also saw many examples. The evidence of the Hellenistic era between Alexander and Actium shows that this kind of political order is actually associated with high levels of innovation. Morris would argue that it also saw an unacceptable level of chronic small-scale warfare. But how destructive that actually was is an empirical question where the jury is still out.

This brings us to the book's third ambiguity, which becomes apparent in its account of the 500 years since the medieval period ended. For Morris, humanity escaped the trap of the Middle Ages with the military revolution of the 15th through the 17th centuries. In most of the world, this led to a rerun of the ancient Mediterranean or Warring States China, with one state establishing a large empire (Russia, the Ottomans, Safavid Iran, Ming and then Qing China, Mughal India). But in Europe, for largely contingent reasons, no hegemon emerged. Instead of an empire, we got the Westphalian system of sovereign territorial states.

Morris misses a trick here because of his focus on war and relegation of innovation. He concentrates on what he calls the Five Hundred Years' War, in which Europeans (who had pushed the military revolution further because of internal competition) expanded their political control to the rest of the planet and created a world order dominated by Britain. But of course it was not only in warfare that Europeans became more innovative.

Seeing innovation as an independent variable makes events more clear. States' ruling elites have an interest in trade and innovation, because they create wealth that can be taxed. But trade and innovation are also threats. By giving non-military and non-ecclesiastical groups greater economic independence—and by simply enlarging the range of options open to ordinary people—they undermine elites' control.

Furthermore, innovation is risky when resources are finite, because most innovations fail. Consequently, most elites act to check innovation or even reverse it. Empires and large states may give a boost to economic life by providing public goods on a stable basis over a large area, but in the long run they cause stasis by checking innovation.

In Europe from the 17th century onwards, the failure of a hegemon to emerge and the interstate competition that resulted changed the incentives facing rulers. They now had more reasons to encourage innovation and growth, and increasingly they did so. The social status and rewards to innovators and people engaged in exchange rose sharply. The result was the sustained, intensive growth that is a central feature of modernity. For Morris this was a result of the renewal of productive war brought about by the military revolution, but if that were so then the benefits should have been even greater had Europe become united under the Habsburgs or Bourbons—and they should have been greater still in China or the Middle East. They were not.

The most interesting part of the book may be the final chapter, which looks forward to the next 50 years. For Morris, this is a time of great possibility but also great risk. He worries that in the absence of an effective globocop, war will once again become unproductive and we will see a repeat of the middle years of the 20th century (but with far more destructive weapons) or, even worse from his perspective, a relapse into "feudal anarchy."

Morris is optimistic, though. He thinks we still need war and an effective globocop, but only for a little while. Innovation, he argues, promises to so completely transform the human condition that war will finally become redundant. So we need Leviathan just long enough to allow something (the Singularity?) to finally transform the incentives we face so that violence no longer makes sense.

There are two things to say to this. The first is that the evidence suggests a global hegemon is more likely to strangle the innovation we need. It was competition between the states in Europe that led to the sudden upsurge in innovation, as had arguably been the case earlier in the Hellenic world. We should aim for a more decentralized world, perhaps of city-regions, not a planet with a single globocop.

Second, the reason for Morris' optimism comes from his earlier work on measuring social development. He showed just how much more developed the modern world is than any previous civilization, and simply extrapolating that development leads to the conclusion that we are indeed on the verge of a fundamental transformation. The other side of that, however, is that all of the previous "peaks" in human development were not merely much lower than where we are now; they were all at about the same level as each other. Why was this?

The answer is the missing factor in Morris' story, the persistence of Malthusian constraints. After the development of agriculture, our ancestors lived in a Malthusian world. Periodically, civilizations would get one-off gains from one source or another, leading to growth, innovation, and also wars, which led to the formation of large, stable states. Eventually, the Malthusian limits would be hit, and at that point a process of breakdown would begin.

In the long period from roughly A.D. 200 to 1450, the civilizations of settled Eurasia kept hitting Malthusian limits. It is this rather than horsemen that explains why the process that had gone on in the ancient world was not sustained as long as it had been then. After the 15th century, the New World gave Eurasia another productivity-increasing natural windfall, and the process resumed.

Since about 1720, we seem to have escaped from the Malthusian girdle. If we have, then the reason is not simply, much less only, war. It is because of sustained innovation. Productive wars in Morris' sense played a critical part, but only in Europe and probably for highly contingent reasons. It may be that Malthusian constraints are starting to reappear. That and the continuing threat of war is why it really may well be "the Singularity or bust."

The question Morris poses is, "Do we still need the war system to do this?" The answer is not as clear as he supposes. His own evidence shows that it is actually innovation that is crucial, and that wars and the states they engender are more likely to hinder or even stop the process. Rather than Leviathan, we need a different kind of political order, one that is more open, more resilient, and not driven by power.

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  1. Three stories in a row that aren’t about gay marriage!

    Has Reason quit spunking all over SCOTUS, or has it just stepped out for more gay marriage Viagra?

    1. Way to ruin one of the few stories not about gay marriage. Thanks, buddy.

      1. Sorry, I can’t help it.

        My brain is just completely taken over by yesterday’s Most Important Advance For Freedom in Generations.

        If I don’t recover soon, I may just have to ditch Mrs. Dean, so I can have real marriage with another man.

        1. You’re not cheering hard enough. SOCON HATER!!

        2. Sorry, I can’t help it.

          Yes you can.

    2. I really could use an article about what Lou Reed is up to though.

      1. Lou Reed is back in the studio working on new material, last I heard.

        1. I heard he died from food poisoning at Rock N Fish.

          1. I heard it was from mixing Pop Rocks and soda.

            1. Lou Reed mixed pop rocks and soda!?!?

              1. No, Soda mixed pop rocks and Lou Reed.

    3. Luckily, our Glorious State Broadcaster is on the case:

      Gay marriage ruling a win for LGB, but transgender woes persist

  2. OT
    Greek Officials Warn “Some Banks May Not Open Monday

    Following Tsipras’ surprise referendum decision (and subsequent pulling of proposals by Troika the institutions), Greece’s bank jog has turned into a full sprint. ATM lines began to form at 2am, minutes after the announcement and now many ATMs are out of money and, as Bloomberg reports, some Greek banks are drastically limiting cash transactions. Despite all the reassurances that “banks will open Monday,” two senior bank executives have warned that some lenders will not be able to open Monday (unless more emergency liquidity is released).

    Many ATMs have been drained…
    Crucially, this is not just about banks being in trouble – drained of deposits electronically – this is running out of physical banknotes, there is literally no more physical cash left in Greek banks.

    1. Too bad the Greek banks didn’t keep 100% reserves (or some amount close to it); then the action of people retrieving their own property wouldn’t be such a crisis.

      1. The type of contract between the bank and it’s customer is a bailment, i.e. holder of one’s property, a sort of warehouse for money and other financial instruments. On that basis, fractional reserve banking is theft. If the bank were lending out it’s own capital from the proceeds of holding it’s reserves only, that would be a non-criminal enterprise all else being equal.

        1. Of course a bank that held 100% of your money would have no reason to offer interest to you for storing it there (since they wouldn’t be lending any of it out).

        2. No it isn’t. If a bank deposit were a bailment, you would get the exact bills/notes/coins deposited back.

  3. Thanks to war we got the M1 Garand, which General Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” And I have one and it’s a thrill to shoot. So yes, war is good for at least that.

    1. ditto = plus the1911

    2. I like the Garand’s sights and the stock fits me well, but I hate the damn clip. Detachable box magazine for me please.

      1. Simples.

        If you like the M1, you’ll love the M1A.

        My work here is done

  4. ” In War! What Is It Good For?, Morris makes the case that war has played an essential role in mankind’s development and in the growth of human well-being”

    I believe the case that “war is a major catalyst for human progress” has been made many many times before.

    Going back to Thucydides.

    who i believe pointed out that the political evolution of Athens was impossible without the need to organize resources for its very survival, and that there never would have been an understanding of the “benefits/liabilities” of Oligarchy, Dictatorship, Democracy etc. without the existential threat of war constantly pressing.

    I do not think that observation required any “endorsement” of war. Simply that it was a necessary prod to civic innovation that built strong societies, improved technologies, and brought talented people to positions of leadership.

    repeatedly mentioned, however, was how ‘success’, the unleashing of talents, often lead to over-extension of civic ambition, and crisis =

    “”Periclean democracy, which had the effect of liberating individual daring, enterprise and questioning spirit, but this same liberation, by permitting the growth of limitless political ambition, led to imperialism and, eventually, civic strife.[43]””

    Many historians have looked at the “story of great civilizations” as all being ultimately reliant on each society’s ability to make war (or avoid it responsibly) and the technological innovations they introduced into its practice.

    1. This.

      I think the same sort of dynamic applies to Spain/Portugal – when the necessities for war then gave way to exploration. Or Netherlands – when an 80 year war for independence also led to quite stunning peacetime/internal developments.

  5. My neighbor was talking about how she was blocking military recruiters from calling to talk to her son who was about to graduate from high school. She actually said she was “anti-military”. I’d never heard anyone say that. Not just anti-war, but anti-military altogether.

    1. In theory I believe a military of some sort is necessary to defend against invasion, but I fully oppose the military as it is currently constituted.

      1. Me too. Chipotle gives military discounts.

        1. You really don’t like Chipotle, do you.

          1. I dislike it as much as Hugh likes it, making this exchange worth my while.

            1. I don’t bring up Chipotle out of nowhere just to talk about how good it is. You’re the one with the weird hateboner.

  6. I kept reading about the missing element, and I kept waiting for it to be brought up–but it never was. The academic world has become so enthralled by utilitarianism, they can’t hardly even conceptualize qualitative factors anymore–even as they make assumptions about them in their work.

    Here’s an example:

    “This Leviathan then reduces the level of chronic violence in society, Morris writes, by punishing violent conduct and getting the predatory groups to change their behavior, so they become cultured gentlemen rather than coarse warriors.”

    Even if those consequences were accurately described, why assume that a reduced level of chronic violence in society is preferable?

    That isn’t the way I live my life. I have a qualitative preference for freedom.

    I prefer religious freedom and the freedom from unreasonable searches–even if it makes us more vulnerable to Muslim extremists. I prefer freedom of speech and association–even if it means Nazi skinheads spread hate filled propaganda and there is more gang violence. I prefer the freedom to won a gun–even if that did make me more likely to be a victim of violent crime. I prefer to ride a motorcycle–even if it puts me in much greater danger of being killed.

    And I prefer all of these things for qualitative reasons that this historian doesn’t even seem to have considered.

    Why presume that persona safety and less violence is necessarily what everyone wants?

    1. “Why presume that persona safety and less violence is necessarily what everyone wants?”

      Good point.

      Also important is understanding that – regardless of how peaceful, enlightened, and beneficent any given society may be… that is only ever (less than?) half the equation. Because its hardly ever the priority of the other guy, who is often pissed off in equal proportion to how well-off you folks seem to be, and sees a lot of appeal in a Barbarian-Gate-Crashing, or suicide bombing, or whatever the current tactic du jour happens to be.

      You don’t get things like the “Great Wall of China” because people were too lazy to engage in effective diplomacy

      1. “Why presume that personal safety and less violence is necessarily what everyone wants?”

        As Ben said:

        They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

        The question is, at what price security? The safest motherfuckers in America right now are in SuperMax prisons, caged in a concrete box under constant video surveillance 24 hours per day. Hell, they’re even safe from the guards.

        If my protection against random violence by strangers is to submit myself to a regime that exposes me to random violence by large armed gangs of men backed with unimaginable resources, immune from nearly any consequence, am I safer, really?

        1. Depends how much random violence the large armed gangs want. Hopefully in the long run they seek an equilibrium by which they extract enough from you by taxes to satisfy themselves, yet not so much that they cause you to revolt & thereby destroy your ability to pay taxes because they kill you, & also that leaves you free in matters that don’t involve their looting you. It definitely works for animal husbandry, & allows the animals greater effective freedom than they would’ve had on their own.

      2. China only built the Great Wall then because that was one of The Donald’s previous reincarnations. The Donald also built the Pyramids, the Nazca Lines and Notre Dame Cathedral

        1. I think he co-wrote an album for Pink Floyd.

    2. It’s not just utilitarianism. Most historians believe (usually subconsciously) that society should evolve (or, um, progress). Just as signs of societal evolution are moving from religion to rationality, from slavery to civil rights, etc. so, too, is peace a sign of progress. They honestly believe that most, if not all, humans, share the same concept of rationalism that they do. And, therefore, if you negotiate with them, you can have peace. Whatever they think of him now, most historians would have been cheering Chamberlain on in 1938. And, they truly believe that the leaders of Iran share their rational preconceptions.*

      *Should not be taken as an endorsement of military action against Iran.

      1. Yeah, I appreciate that, and I’ve got a couple of posts below about why I think academics like to substitute their own personal preferences for the rest of society’s…

        Again, there’s an academic bias out there that anything that isn’t well quantified isn’t academic. But they don’t bother quantifying their own qualitative assumptions, but then they go ahead making their calculations. So, even from a quantification standpoint, they’re starting out all wrong.

        How many people out there are exercising their gun rights might be a better measure of how much people value their freedom over their fear of violence–certainly when compared to some academic’s persistent assumption that we all value safety over freedom. You can add to them, all the people who value their freedom (to own a gun) but choose not to exercise it themselves. You can subtract people who wouldn’t buy a gun if they weren’t afraid of so much violence, etc. Then the question to look at is whether the level of violence in society appropriately approximates society’s tolerance level–not whether it matches some academic’s personal preferences.

        1. Agree. One of the reasons academics don’t bother quantifying their assumptions is that many of their assumptions about political structure/s have moved from being assumptions to foundational presuppositions. No proof is required since everyone (well, at least all the smart people) agree on them being true. So, when academics all agree with each other and when their research supports their presuppositions, this is taken as further proof that they are correct, rather than as a possible warning about (usually) unintentional bias.

          On the other hand, when the unwashed masses all agree with each other, this is a sign of a lack of critical thinking.

      2. If I could go back, I’d’ve cheered on Chamberlain too. Saved us from a world that would’ve been dominated by Nazis &/or Reds for much longer than occurred.

    3. It seems to me that some amount of violence may be a good in and of itself. I imagine that raiders and looters look at over-civilized weaklings the same way a wolf looks at a lamb with a broken leg.

      1. When I was young, we used to go out lookin’ for trouble.

        I enjoy watching hockey players fight–it makes me think they care about each other and the game! (unlike basketball and football players).

        I like watching Ronda Rousey fight. Damn!!!

        I’ve been in a ring. I’ve landed some punches, and I’ve been knocked out.

        I’ve lived in what they used to call South Central Los Angeles. I used to hear gunshots and screams every week at least.

        I think it was Cavanaugh that wrote here one time about how authoritarian societies are the politest societies on earth. You don’t have to worry about crime in North Korea. When my Grandfather went to China back in the 1970s, he said he’d left something in his hotel room, and some bag handler followed him all the way to his next destination to get it back to him.

        I’d rather live in a society with more violence and more freedom. It’s a personal qualitative preference. I’d say it’s what makes me a libertarian, but there are hundreds of millions of Americans just like me that way, maybe it’s just that I’m conscious of it.

        How many Americans in our major cities want martial law?

        1. When was the last time you were at a PTA meeting?

          You might learn something. From the way my brother and his wife behave, we live in the most dangerous society on earth and there is no limit to how much time and money should be spent sheltering their kids from even unpleasant thoughts.

          I think there are a lot of people who think like this.

          1. I’m sure there are, but the point is, that in addition to people like that, there are hundreds of millions of Americans who do not want martial law–and would rather tough it out with the current violent crime level instead.

            I was in South Central LA during and after the riots. I saw martial law. I had to drive a gauntlet of M16s and APVs on the way to work and back.

            All the crime went away under martial law!

            Very few people want that. Not even the people who are most likely to be victimized by the chronic violence. Isn’t there something in there somewhere that seems to fly in the face of this historian’s argument?

            1. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t read the book, and i’m not sure critical reviewers always provide the most accurate characterizations of books they fundamentally disagree with. Not suggesting anything negative about the reviewer here – just that it is very rare that critics will go out of their way to highlight an author’s best points in the process of trying to dismiss their entire thesis.

            2. Very few people want that.

              I’m not so sure of that.

              There are a lot of people cheering on our paramilitary police when they roll out the APCs, crew-served machine guns, grenades, fully-automatic weapons, and snipers.

              1. They may want that done to other people, but they don’t live in those areas.

                The people who live there don’t want to live under martial law.

                And the people in the suburbs don’t want to live under martial law–themselves– either.

                They may be concerned about their safety, but they have limits to how much of an imposition on their own freedom they’ll tolerate–just like everybody else.

                The reason Philadelphia isn’t like North Korea is because the people there would rather suffer the crime rate there than live under a government as invasive and pervasive as the one in North Korea.

                Being willing to settle for less safety and more freedom isn’t as uncommon as people think–everyone who isn’t calling for all out totalitarianism is that way to some extent.

                1. Gated communities. People live there by choice, too.

        2. You don’t have to worry about crime in N. Korea because there’s nothing to steal.

  7. It’s all an extended exercise in post hoc ergo propter hoc.
    The argument is simply not one that can be made in good faith or good conscience.

  8. “we need a different kind of political order, one that is more open, more resilient, and not driven by power.”

    Does anyone else think this sounds an awful lot like the Shaker contention that we need a new kind of reproduction, one not driven by lust?

    1. I was thinking more of the new type of socially responsible corporations, not driven by profits.

      1. The thing is, there HAVE been corporations with agendas that weren’t profit-driven. There are accounts of quite a few Post-Civil-War companies that provided subsudised housing and other benefis for workers, and imposed many social-engineering type restrictions, such as official teatotalism and limited contact between the sexes. Because these restrictions were mostly driven by Victorian Christian Buttinskiism, the modern Liberal Intellectual Radican Progressive establishment tends to deride them. And then they turn around and do pretty much the same thing, or demand that modern corporation do the same thing (along LIRP lines, of course) on pain of being coerced by the State.

  9. Utilitarians have become so predominant in academia (I suspect mostly because they can now quantify things they could never measure before), that they often insert their own qualitative biases into their work almost completely unexamined.

    And I think that’s getting it backwards–because the relative desirability of more or less of something is always subject to qualitative considerations. Yes, quantitative analyses are all subject to qualitative criteria!

    If I’m coming out of the desert for two days without water, I’ll give you everything I have for a glass of the stuff. If I’m being water-boarded I’ll give you everything I have if you promise not to give me another glass. Who can ever say that having more water is always better to everyone in all situations? And violence works the same way. From Sparta to the Thirty Years War to the American Civil War to the Al Qaeda in Iraq, there have always been people who qualitatively preferred violence and possible death on the battlefield.

    1. “From Sparta to the Thirty Years War to the American Civil War to the Al Qaeda in Iraq, there have always been people who qualitatively preferred violence and possible death on the battlefield.”

      People? Don’t you mean young men? Or do you think that older women are just as eager to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield as the young men?

      1. Why would I make that distinction?

        Just to appease the potential concerns of a troll–on a question that no one else would ever ask?

        Why don’t you go yell at yourself in the mirror for a while? Maybe that’ll make you feel better.

        1. “Why would I make that distinction?”

          In the interests of intellectual honesty. I think you are correct when you say an old woman or a young man coming out of the desert would desire a drink of water. Or prefer not to be waterboarded. I think you are wrong when you say violence works the same way. This preference for violence you stake your argument on is only a passing phase for some in society.

          1. You think people are being intellectually dishonest if they don’t care about the same things you care about–and don’t anticipate what you care about, too?

            You’re not that important–to anybody.


            1. “You think people are being intellectually dishonest if they don’t care”

              I was going by what you wrote.

              1. Do you even know what you’re complaining about?

                Congratulations! You’re more obtuse than Tulpa.

                1. “Do you even know what you’re complaining about?”

                  Something about how given the choice we embrace violence.

  10. There’s a reason why utilitarians tend to embrace authoritarian and socialist solutions to our problems. Once a utilitarian substitutes his own preferences for those of everyone else in society, everything else falls into place nicely. It’s to the point where trying to account for other people’s preferences has come to be seen as unscientific–because they’re hard to quantify.

    If something is unquantifiable, that might make it less subject to falsification and, hence, less scientific, but science is simply a method of inquiry–it is not the truth itself. There a million things in this world that rational and reasonable and true–that are not scientific. And anyway, qualitative preferences aren’t unquantifiable; they’re just harder to quantify.

    How much are people willing to pay to fly between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? That’s an example of a qualitative question, but it isn’t unquantifiable.

    When individuals are free to make choices for themselves, apart from Leviathan’s influence, they take their own qualitative preferences into account–including their own tolerance level for violence. When people are free to make choices for themselves without having the state impose someone else’s preferences on them, society’s qualitative preferences are optimized. I suppose that’s another reason why academics trend towards utilitarianism–the free world doesn’t need academics to impose their preferences on the rest of society. Who wants to admit they’re part of the problem?

    1. science is simply a method of inquiry–it is not the truth itself.


      Time to find out if you weigh as much as a duck.

      *starts gathering kindling for bonfire*

  11. War and conquest put civilizations into contact with one another and this, inevitably, led to an exchange of ideas, trade, and intermarriage. In this way, I reckon, it’s not a strange it played a significant role in the advancement (and in some cases the regression – the jury is sorta out on the Mongols and the Huns as to what exactly they left behind) of peoples and civilization. Place like Italy gained enormously through its merchant class led by the Venetians and Genoese as well as being placed a pawn in the the balance of power acts among the great powers for centuries having been exposed to French, Austrian-Hungarian and Spanish rule; never mind the Germanic tribes, Greek colonists and Arab in Sicily that preceded it. The influences seen in attire and cuisine. Although, it’s been suggested the natives influenced their rulers more than the other way around.

    Then there’s the whole case of Renaissance Italy (and even China before it) where its greatest period of achievement was made during a state of perpetual war.

    1. Have you ever heard of a Venetian tradesman called Marco Polo? Venice was a place that benefitted greatly not from perpetual war, but from the peace of the Mongols who guaranteed the safety of the Silk Road. The Mongols oversaw a trading network that rivalled the British of the 19th century. It was peace with the Mongols, not perpetual war, that enabled Venice to take advantage of a vast trading network.

      1. Never heard of him.

        Venice never warred. The Ottomans, Genoese, the Italian Wars and their commitment to the Crusades were all exclusively trade pacts.


      2. Isn’t Marco Polo the guy who showed Italians how to make spaghetti?

  12. “Morris makes the case that war has played an essential role in mankind’s development and in the growth of human well-being. ”

    Uh huh. Liberty, to the extent it has been allowed, has done more human success and well-being in less than 200 years than anything in all of history combined.

    1. Not anything, everything else in all of history combined.

      You slackers need to catch up. It is past noon already and I am way drunker than the lot of you.

    2. “Uh huh. Liberty, to the extent it has been allowed, has done more human success and well-being in less than 200 years than anything in all of history combined.”

      Exactly. And war has declined significantly since WWII all over the planet, yet poverty rates during that period of time have fallen faster than at any time in human history.

      Plus, where this true, why is it that societies which are constantly at war are frequently less successful than societies that are peacefull? You don’t see a whole lot of innovation and progress coming out of Syria, unless you count innovative means of execution. I don’t think Silicon Valley would become more innovative in the event that someone invaded.

      1. I remember the general consensus in all of my history classes as being, “Peaceful nations prosper while warmongers lag behind and eventually get conquered themselves.”

        I wonder if the professor accounted for Sparta. How was this militarized society so far behind the more peaceful Athenians? What about feudal Japan? They were all about some war and they were in the Stone Age compared to the West until right before the 20th Century.

        Methinks I’m seeing some chinks in this guy’s armor.

        1. I couldn’t say how advanced (or not) Sparta was compared to its peaceful peer Athens, or even how relatively peaceful Athens was. Same for Japan and its peer China.

          I do look at Western Europe in general, which leapfrogged ahead of other societies while it was in a state of near-constant warfare, Islam during its golden age, also characterized by near-constant warfare, and the British Empire, also a society that was constantly fighting wars while surpassing its peers, and think that this is probably a very complex issue.

          1. The trick seems to be to fight the wars no someone else’s land so it’s not your shit that gets burnt down.

          2. I do look at Western Europe in general, which leapfrogged ahead of other societies while it was in a state of near-constant warfare,

            That was because of Europe’s rapid decentralization. It was under the yoke of centralized empires and states for as long as there was civilization, then suddenly with the fall of Rome and the onset of Germanic invasions and their law (common law et al), Europe decentralized.

            That decentralization was it’s strength and we are the lucky benefactors of that small government tradition today, even in our technically central states of the modern age, there is always at least a pretense of law ruling even the rulers. The warfare one associates with the early medieval period was born out of the same fires as that decentralization, not because of it. And they weren’t large scale mobilizations as we’re taught to imagine them.

            1. “That was because of Europe’s rapid decentralization.”

              I think that’s related to their use of the Roman alphabet, which led to the fragmentation that other empires avoided, China for example.

      2. It seems that Morris’ argument is that war which produces large, stable empires is the “good” kind of war that results in innovations. So, the last couple of centuries are the result of the establishment of a large, stable empire somewhere in the world, which allows people to innovate.

    3. As I recall, the steamboat, the railroad, the automobile, and the airplane were all developed during times of peace for purely scientific and/or commercial purposes.

      War may have induced people to make certain improvements in these technologies, perhaps.

      I will observe that guns, which have played a large role in establishing liberty, were mostly developed for warfare purposes.

      1. Certain technologies certainly benefited from war spending – nuclear power (WWII) and space exploration (Cold War) to name two. By the same token, government involvement in these technologies has caused stagnation.

    4. Morris makes the case that war has played an essential role in mankind’s development

      This strikes me as fairly accurate but I wouldn’t use it to endorse war. It’s the same as saying, “infection has played an essential role in sickness.”

  13. I wish cytotoxic would show up in this thread before it dies.

    1. Sure he could tell us that as a Canadian, we Americans should fully support perpetual war in the Mid-East and Eurasia. We should all gladly sacrifice our sons and dollars to the war machine and give our President unlimited killing authority.

      Why as a Canadian he fully support the responsibilities of Americans to sacrifice their young men on the altar of free…..I almost made it through that without shitting myself from laughing so hard. Now I gotta change my undies.

      1. The reason, and I’m just guessing, why not just Canadians but pretty much anyone who considers liberty a key component of humanity regardless of where they’re from, is because the United States is – supposed to be anyway rightly or wrongly – expected to lead this charge.

        It’s almost as if they lead a civilization – in this case the West – on this march towards maintaining freedom.

        1. So because someone is born in the U.S. they are supposed to willingly and without question march to war for the honor of the whole West? I’m pretty certain that if the Euro countries and Canada joined forces they could field an army just as strong as ours. Not to mention this is asymmetrical warfare so there’s no need to field a large army.

          I’ve read many of your posts and I know you can’t actually believe what you wrote. If you were angered because you thought I was digging on Canada, then you’re mistaken. I’m making fun of Cyto volunteering our people to fight a war that he wants. Also, I am aware that Canadian troops have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan as long as Americans have been.

          1. I think you misread my post.

            I’m just surmising about how it seems people outside the USA talk as if the American army is the world’s army.

            BUT, If Canada were to *ever* join an army it would be the U.S. not Europe. For obvious reasons.

            1. It’s psychological. For example, during the Cold War you’d hear things like “do you think the Americans would allow a Russian invasion of Canada?’ and ‘the Americans would be the first country to rush in to help Canada in a time of war’.

              Again. I can’t speak for Cytotoxic but it IS an interesting thing about perceived U.S. responsibilities globally – which, as we all know, the nation has chosen to take as its track much to the pleasure of conservatives I think.

              1. One last point. As the biggest player on the block – and I still maintain admired nation – American foreign diplomacy is put in a precarious spot whether they like it or not because they are part of the global system through trade and their own rhetoric of ‘policing’ civilized nations.

                What do you think people say whenever something bad comes up? ‘The Americans ought to…insert x’. Remember Kosovo? To me, that was a telling and clear example of how the world operates vis-a-vis the USA. The French, rather than take the lead in their own backyard, were making noises and demanding something be done and that it was the U.S’s responsibility to do it. And what does Clinton do? He goes in! Leaving the U.S. open to criticism (likely from the French naturally) should things have failed.

                Again, not making a claim it’s right or I agree with it, just mentioning what I think many people already know including yourself. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

                1. To oversimplify things, the rest of the world sees the US like a teenager sees a parent. They resent the intrusions, but when shit happens they can’t wait for the adult to clean things up.

                  1. “To oversimplify things, the rest of the world sees the US like a teenager sees a parent.”

                    I think that it’s Americans who like to look at the US as the parent and the rest of the world as a teenager. It’s Americans who most readily fall for the myth of American exceptionalism.

                    1. Really? So the Europeans didn’t demand that the US show up and clean the mess in Kosovo? They didn’t demand help in Libya? You can continue to show your petulance but when push comes to shove you’ll be tugging on the US’ skirt.

                    2. “you’ll be tugging on the US’ skirt.”

                      That’s exactly my point. US sees itself as the parent, and the rest of the world is the child, tugging at the parents; skirt.

                    3. Here’s a hint: stop tugging and we’ll notice.

                    4. “the myth of American exceptionalism.”

                      by “myth”, you mean other countries also have constitutions that protect people from tyranny by their own govt (and their peers)? I never knew. Who’s the other one?

                    5. “‘by “myth”, you mean other countries also have constitutions that protect people from tyranny by their own govt (and their peers)?”

                      No. I meant that Americans seem to be uniquely prone to believe themselves to be the parent to a world of teens, but I’ll also as that Americans are exceptional in thinking that their constitution is awesome.

                    6. ” Americans are exceptional in thinking that their constitution is awesome.”

                      This was from your survey of Iranian/Cuban political prisoners?

                    7. Just my experience that adoration of the constitution is a particularly American trait. For example, the way you go on about the constitution, you must be an American. Most non-Americans are a lot more cynical about how their governments legitimize their domination over their people.

                    8. I think that it’s Americans who like to look at the US as the parent and the rest of the world as a teenager. It’s Americans who most readily fall for the myth of American exceptionalism.

                      You obviously didn’t understand anything that Rufus wrote. Instead, you’re just spewing forth your unsubstantiated opinion of what others think.

                    9. “You obviously didn’t understand anything that Rufus wrote. ”

                      Very perceptive of you. It’s probably because I never read it.

                  2. the rest of the world sees the US like a teenager sees a parent. They resent the intrusions, but when shit happens they can’t wait for the adult to clean things up.

                    That doesn’t oversimplify things at all that is exactly how Europe treats America.

                    1. “That doesn’t oversimplify things at all that is exactly how Europe treats America.”

                      And it’s American’s belief that they are daddy to the world that makes this possible.

                2. Touche

          2. I haven’t ‘volunteered’ anyone you dolt. I have repeatedly crushed people in arguments here that they must resort to this strawman.

    2. Right here.

      I agree with what Irish said above: we’ve had more and more peace since WW2 and less and less poverty.

  14. I suppose another question to ask is, are these advancements worth it? I’m reading “The First World War A Complete Edition” right now and I’m not quite sure the advances were worth the bloodletting. Was the destruction of the old order worth the millions dead? What about WW2? The amazing military advances achieved during and after the war, were they worth it?

    Would these advances have come around on their own in due time, just at a slower rate? I believe the answer to this is yes and I believe the answer to the above questions is no.

    I’m not saying that some wars aren’t justified or morally right. I’m just saying that from a pure advancement stand point I don’t believe war is a good thing. I believe the professor is a dumbass who is pushing his views of global domination and filtering it through the purifying waters of academia.

    Would the professor gladly sacrifice his sons and grandsons so somebody can gain an advancement in preservatives or better navigation?

    1. Was the destruction of the old order worth the millions dead?

      God no. The old order was already rotting from the inside due to technological advancement. Anyways, in addition to the horrific casualties, the debt overhang from WWI led to the Great Depression and the complete Progressive/Keynesian takeover and destruction of classical liberalism.

      1. Especially considering that the new order resulting from WWI gave us Communism, with its tens of millions dead, Fascism, with its millions dead, (arguably) the Japanese Empire, with its millions dead, an utterly destabilized Middle East, etc.

        Of course, WWI is mostly the story of how one of those empires, the Ottoman Empire, fell apart and was dismembered with dire consequences. Since that seems to be the fate of all empires, over the long run it calls into question whether these big, stable (until they’re not) empires are really a net plus.

        1. Since that seems to be the fate of all empires, over the long run it calls into question whether these big, stable (until they’re not) empires are really a net plus.

          THIS. “Stability” is a very funny thing. The ‘stability’ of the Roman Empire bereft of competition from another entity lead to its destabilization and ultimate collapse. The Roman Empire sucked and is one of the worst things to happen in history.

      2. Old order rotting is what lead to WWI, so you can only haggle about the price. And, given that the new states that grew out of carcasses of old were clearly better, I’m saying yes.

        Comparison chart:

        -Czechoslovakia, democracy to the end vs. Austria, had to bloodily put down Communist then Nazi coup
        -Poland, democracy going into mild dictatorship vs. Germany, democracy going into You Know Who
        -Yugoslavia, democracy going into dictatorship vs Hungary, starting out as a dictatorship.
        -Finland vs Russia, do I even need to elaborate. You can also insert any of the Baltic states.
        -In only an apparent paradox, Ataturk’s Turkey vs Ottoman Empire, modernized in two decades more than the empire in century before. Freedom-wise, a wash between paternalistic one-party state with some freedom of speech and politics and an empire too incompetent to be truly oppressive with occasional bout of bloody violence. Oh, and fucking Kurds over coming and going.

      3. Agreed. A strong case can be made that science, technology, and ultimately society, suffered significantly during and post-WWI.

        1. considering the first world war, which itself would have been possible at that scale without central banking, wiped out pretty much all of the accumulated capital of the last two centuries, I’d say that’s a fair assessment. It’s the broken window fallacy on steroids.

  15. War does not, in itself, advance a nation in anything but the practice of warfare. However, nations that are insufficiently advanced in the practice of warfare quickly cease to be nations at all.

    1. Nowadays, all a nation needs is nukes. Nobody is fucking with any nation that has them. We will never go to war with N. Korea and once Iran gets them, you’ll quickly see an American diplomatic shift.

      The worst you’ll get is some tough talk and maybe a few sanctions that obviously don’t work for shit.

      1. Nowadays, all a nation needs is nukes. Nobody is fucking with any nation that has them. We will never go to war with N. Korea and once Iran gets them, you’ll quickly see an American diplomatic shift.

        Well, you need nukes AND the will to use them. Nukes didn’t stop 9/11.

        And we would go to war with North Korea, if they make the miscalculation of initiating it.

      2. You’d think.

        But then, there are satellites that can shoot down nukes. And subs that can shoot anti-ballistic missile weapons.

        I really don’t think Nukes represent quite the ‘end of history’ people might think.

        1. Yeah, most of these rinky-dink countries won’t possess enough nukes to destroy humanity anyway. They can do major damage sure, but not something to the point of an apocalypse. The U.S. and Russia on the other hand, now they have the fire power to make people nervous. Luckily, they’re rational players in diplomacy and no one believes they’d use them just because.

        2. But then, there are satellites that can shoot down nukes.

          No…there aren’t. At least not yet.

          1. on paper at least?

            my point was more to noting that missile defense is certainly possible via a variety of methods, few of which we even bother with because the threat is so minimal.

            1. I think your point was that superweapons don’t stay super forever. Eventually there’s a countermeasure. And you’re right. But there will be future superweapons as well, e.g. orbiting kinetic reentry vehicles on stealthy platforms. Thus a new equilibrium is established until the next innovation which is incentivized by the competition of war.

              1. I think one of the most significant “National Security” events within my lifetime was when china demonstrated (over the objections of just about everyone) the ability to shoot down satellites

                i think the significance was not so much ‘technological’, as it was really just so much high-altitude skeet shooting for show… but rather demonstrating that they understand that in any actual global conflict…they have the willpower and the means to bring down Satellites, and in the process knock out global networks that enable a huge amount of our modern technology/communications advantages.

                Basically, “no matter how sophisticated the military technology gap, we create new vulnerabilities to our enemies”… and they simply showed that they understood where those vulnerabilities were.

                1. Well they mostly demonstrated that they can pollute an orbit as much as they can a countryside.

                  We rely on space access more than anyone, but our nuclear deterrent is still capable without it. And we’ve always got those bombers! (sarc) The CEP of D-5’s noticeably degrades and possibly makes them ineffective against hardened targets, but the real threat of a nuclear exchange has always been to obliterate the civilian population/infrastructure. It doesn’t take much accuracy to do that.

                  But, I think your point is that there are always asymmetries to be exploited. And again you’re right.

                  Just wait. The most significant national security event is going to be the OPM hack. That one is going to linger for decades and will end up being much worse than Walker.

                  1. & that’s why you should target only civilians, w any kind of weapons, if you can help it. Your bodyguard is expendable, you are not.

      3. all a nation needs is nukes

        Bzt wrong. If Ukraine had nukes it still wouldn’t be able to do jack all about Russia’s mischief in the east.

  16. OT: Remember the brouhaha about “sexist” scientist Tim Hunt? Turns out that his remarks were taken out of context, and his accuser has a dodgy CV.

    1. Nobody cares. Social justice was done.

      Ungoodful thoughts were exposed, and the speaker had his career destroyed and was banished from the public square.

      1. I don’t know. He might get reinstated, and having a faked CV is a bigger offense than telling a questionable joke, so his accuser is likely in hot water.

        1. He might get reinstated

          Not as of yesterday:


        2. Why are people trying to destroy the accuser’s life??

    2. This is a classic example of sexism. Rather than defer to the accuser’s feelings, these logocentric, phallocentric people are looking into which version of events is the quote-unquote “true” one. Providing an excuse to allow the underrepresentation of women in science go unaddressed.


      And it’s true that English people (with notable exceptions like Benny Hill and Monty Python) can have an understated kind of humor, using irony which may not be obvious to stupid people.


      And why does there continue to be Rashomon-level disagreement about what happened at a public event witnessed by a roomful of journalists?



    3. Why are all modern accusers f’ing psychos?

      It’s almost like we shouldn’t take people who are easily offended, one could say chronically and hysterically offended, seriously. It’s almost as if they have an agenda which they place above any real dedication to a field of study or art.

    4. “‘Why are the British so embarrassing abroad?'”

      Why is saying stupid collectivist shit OK whenever you’re pretending to set yourself apart from them?

      Its super-common for regular, suburban American kids to be like, “ugh, ‘Murica! country of fat racist redneck white trash! sooo depressing”

      as though they really have a lot of experience meeting people all over the country and have some kind of accurate appreciation of the range of the ‘American Experience’. What’s actually more common? the stereotypical fat racist redneck? or the person who’s constantly decrying them, but has never actually spoken to one in the wild?

      And re: the ’embarassing’ nature of Tim Hunt’s comments = i doubt anyone would have noticed but for the dramatic flopping made by professional victims on the twitter.

  17. Hopefully you can forgive me if I’m curmudgeonly enough to be skeptical of the assertion that prosperity is the result of murdering and plundering by The Right Kind of organized gang — with said assertion being posited by a court apologist paid with proceeds of the looting by the Right Kind of gang.

  18. OT: Just when you thought “art” couldn’t get any fucking worse (and I dare Warty or Sugar Free to top this NSFW or NSFSanity item)


    1. My first thought was: “What is that glove for?”

      It’s exactly what I thought it was going to be for.

    2. Love Wins?

  19. Interesting. A couple things:

    innovation is risky when resources are finite

    Other than derp and stoopid, resources are pretty much “finite”. So – innovation’s ALWAYS risky to some degree. NOT innovating tends to be riskier over time, however. See also, Dodos, Studebaker, buggy-whip manufacturers…

    He worries that in the absence of an effective globocop, war will once again become unproductive


    1. Fuck yeah!

  20. I can accept the premise but that doesn’t mean future wars will provide the same or any benefits.

    See:Past performance does not guarantee future results.

    1. We should steal their oil, at the very least.

  21. Is war good for anything?

    Good for listening!

  22. I think the point left out was agricultural productivity. When it declines – more wars.

  23. OT: I’ve been out most of the day, but between Gay marriage articles, was there any discussion of the IS attach in Tunisia?


  24. War creates surplus war goodies that can be donated to police forces who in turn use them to keep people away from harmful drugs which leads to greater human productivity…
    I thought that was the official narrative. Didn’t he get the memo?

  25. innovation is risky when resources are finite

    Wait, what?
    That is a phenomenally dumb claim.

    1. I’d get that on a T-Shirt… and then only wear it in my house because I’d be too cowardly to leave

    2. That’s fucking awesome.

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  27. Is this book covered under my Broken Window Fallacy insurance ??????

    1. Fallacy?

        1. Cytotoxic. Please do not tell me that you buy into modern intdDERPrataion of Keynesian economics ????

  28. If Morris’ argument is true, order is not spontaneous but something that can exist at a tolerable level only after powerful states have been created by war; empires are in general a force for good; and human flourishing, innovation, and prosperity depend on a strong, active governmen

    Just because evolution depends on death and natural selection doesn’t make death something good.

    Furthermore, just because human progress has depended on war in the past (and I think it has) doesn’t mean that it needs to do so in the future. War has taught humans all we need to learn, now there are other challenges.

  29. Only real flaw with the war=progress idea: Nobody who ever lost a loved one in a war believes that shit.

  30. Commerce is the engine that drives civilization. Morris is a twat.


    1. Yessiree !!!! =)

    2. I don’t think anyone would dispute that.

      But – while not defending the author, not having read his book – I’m not sure that’s a “rebuttal” to any point he made or didn’t make.

      Any state throughout history that did brisk trade did so while engaged in regular conflict, protecting itself, its routes of trade, and its trading partners from being overtaken by force.

      Trade happened only when states had first resolved basic questions about respecting one another’s respective independence. When feasible, if a stronger state could simply take what it wanted, and suborn the weaker to its needs. When not, trade relations were always intertwined with other competing security interests.

      Most often, war and trade were 2 sides of a coin.

      1. You are forgetting something Gilmore. War creates “Black Market Corrections”

        1. It’s like Price discrimination on steroids.

          1. i’m not sure what your point is other than to verify that Statecraft has never conformed to ideal economic models.

            1. Gilmore. Human beings never conform to ideal economic models. =)

              1. of course. same point.

                My point was that ‘free trade’ has only ever viable in conditions where security interests have been made irrelevant. and that has been rare up until fairly recently. and even now its very much a factor.

                Russia’s recent policy vis a vis Eastern Europe has required fewer Tanks, but very much involves the ability to manipulate how natural gas is delivered to them, and at what price. Trade has always been subservient to power relations.

  31. Okay. The “Golden Age of Piracy” came about after seafaring merchants were encouraged to engage in Privateering,and then were denied legitimate free trade under the mercantile system.

  32. The Mercantile system was a precursor to both modern “Crony Capitalism” and Socialism.

  33. Kind of Babylon 5-ish from the “Shadows” point of view

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  36. What effect on humanity do you think it’ll have if/when psychothanasia is perfected? When someone can kill another without the target’s knowing any attack was under way, & without anyone’s being able to tell after the fact that the person was the victim of someone’s death-thought, or if they do, where the death-thought came from?

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