The name of the blog, Creative Destruction, is correct, but only partially. The definition offered at Wikipedia, drawn from Austrian economics, is a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” The term proposes an ongoing process of birth, death, and rebirth. With U.S. presidential election results a little more than a month old and the inauguration a little over a month away, we have embarked on the path of political, economic, and cultural transformation with few clear objectives other than jettisoning progressive ideology and instituting radical conservatism. It will be the reverse of the last change of administration: hope without change (Obama) vs. change without hope (Trump). Thoughtful consideration would suggest we will get only the destructive part of creative destruction and that revolution, mutation, and creative rebirth will be long delayed, if indeed they ever come at all.
December 13, 2016
September 5, 2007
A recurring obsession of mine is the belief that the internet will facilitate works of scholarship and scholarly discussion.
Tyler Cowen’s review of A Farewell to Alms is a case in point. Marginal Revolution’s longtime blogger is of course more than your average Joe himself; he’s an established Economist with a solid reputation. His perspective alone is valuable.
In the comments section, however, you will find a debate of quite high caliber. Participants include Daniel Klein, who is another GMU Economist like Cowen, Gavin Kennedy, a semi-retired Economics professor in Edinburgh who specializes in writing about Adam Smith, and of course, the author of A Farewell to Alms himself–Gregory Clark.
I had briefly contemplated purchasing the book, but had put it off as I’ve enough to read already. After looking through this intellectually rich discussion, however, I have changed my mind and decided to acquire it. The debate has added a value to the book that would not have been there without it; I will not be reading the book in isolation but in the context of an ongoing discussion on the issues that it addresses.
Truly, the internet offers fantastic opportunities for this sort of event.
May 14, 2007
Today is the 400th anniversary of the founding of the English colony at Jamestown. Although earlier attempts at colonization/settlement were made by the Vikings centuries earlier, those came to naught. Jamestown, although itself not a successful colony, marked the real beginning of the conquest of the continent; North and South America began to slowly slide into the “European” column, where they remain to this day.
February 11, 2007
…I didn’t blame the people who made up all that crap about rape rooms in the Kosovo war. They were playing to their audience. The west doesn’t care about men dying so let’s give them women raped. Much more effective.
(I do blame the muslims (KLF) for starting that whole war of course and it’s possible the rape room propaganda idea was actually hatched in an American focus group)
The victim populations unquestionably played the “women and children” card, but the underlying allegation about mass rape wasn’t made up. The most authoritative source on the subject of rape in the Balkan wars, and quite possibly in any conflict, is Annex IX (Summary) of the Bassiouni Report, which documents these crimes meticulously. Claims by the victim populations (and by feminists) about the severity of the atrocities perpetrated against women are not exaggerated – indeed it would be hard to exaggerate them. For example:
There are reports of one more camp in the primary school in Kalinovik. *252 On 2 July 1992, drunk Serb militiamen reportedly broke into the school. One witness reports that they said, «Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Cetniks.» They reportedly selected 12 women, took them to the Hotel Kalinovik, forced them to clean the hotel, and then raped them. The women were then returned to the school. Reportedly, 95 women were raped in the next 26 days. Pregnant women were spared, and women who became pregnant were reportedly thereafter spared. One witness stated that the first night, the militiamen randomly selected teenagers and raped them in bathrooms next to the gymnasium. After that, they selected women by name. On 29 August, the detainees were exchanged, and at least 15 women terminated their pregnancies in Mostar and Jablanica. *253
That example wasn’t deliberately chosen. All I did was move the scroll bar to a random place within the report and cut&paste the first paragraph I came to. It’s a typical, not an extreme example.
However the simple picture of men raping women isn’t the whole story. There were a small number of female perpetrators, and not just in minor or incidental roles:
The victim selection was reportedly well organized at Luka camp. Several reports suggest that young Serbian woman was responsible for its administration. *115 Reportedly, she brought a nurse to Luka to «prepare the girls and make them calm». According to the nurse’s report, she watched as the Serbian administratrix stabbed a girl in the breast and vagina with a broken bottle for resisting instructions. The girl subsequently bled to death….
The report also includes many, many cases of men being sexually abused and tortured by male and, in a small number of cases, by female perpetrators (italics are my comment.):
…The most graphic of the reported castrations [at the Strolit Camp in Odzak] involved a named Croatian woman. She is reported to have ordered a Great Dane to attack naked detainees and bite off their genitals.
Several reports describe a camp in a shoe factory in Karakaj. There a female guard, a member of Arkan’s troops, ordered men to have sexual intercourse with her. (Good thing she didn’t try to rape them). When they refused, she shot them. *628 One report called the factory the «Glinica» factory, and stated that 48 girls and women were raped there. *629
Another camp was at a theatre in Celopek, where 163 men were housed. One day, three «Cetniks» came to the camp. One called out the names of seven pairs of men. The men were mostly fathers and sons or close relatives. The guard forced seven of the men to kneel down and bite off the penises of the other seven. Three of the men died. *630 The other prisoners were forced to watch. A week or 10 days later, another of the guards cut off a man’s penis with a knife. *631 According to another source, the guard made this man eat his severed penis. *632 The same source reported that this guard beat a prisoner with a wooden stick and shoved the stick into the man’s anus, causing the victim to bleed profusely. He stated that the guard, who was often drunk, forced prisoners to perform sex acts with each other. The prisoners were taken to Batkovic in late June and finally released in February 1993. *633
Finally the report also notes that sometimes men acted to protect women:
There also are many cases where female victims are protected by someone from the same ethnic group as their attackers. Men take women out of the camps to protect them from rape and sexual assault, tell other guards or soldiers that the women are «taken», or help them escape. Women hide other women or bring them contraceptives. There is insufficient information on the sexual assault of men to determine a similar pattern.
My emphasis. These details disappear when you look at mainstream and feminist derivative sources which whitewash anything which doesn’t fit into the ‘men are perps, women are victims’ mould. But for this whitewashing, we would perhaps been less surprised at the pictures of Lynndie England abusing male prisoners in Abu Ghraib, to which some of the above accounts bear a remarkable similarity. On the other hand, had those pictures not emerged, England’s involvement in the abuse would most likely have been similarly whitewashed.
The Kosovo war didn’t break out until after this report had been published, but the patterns of male detention, torture and slaughter were similar, and I’d be surprised if the treatment of women was any different. Antifeminists and Feminist Critics are rightly incensed by typical feminist propaganda, such the claim that “men make war and women are the victims” and “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.“, which, in the light of the overwhelming burden of torture and murder borne by non-combatant males, is not just victim-blaming, but holocaust-denial.
But that’s no excuse for replying in kind. The best response to falsehood is truth.
(Also posted at Feminist Critics)
February 5, 2007
I remember watching the street in front of my boyhood home being repaved. The bulk and power of the construction equipment made a lasting impression on me, as bulldozers, cranes, steam (or hydraulic) shovels, pavers, and dump trucks are pretty imposing pieces of machinery. But the one that really fascinated me was the steamroller. What the steamroller lacks in majesty, compared to the glacier anyway (a natural process, I note), it makes up for in fanciful temporal reconceptualization. Watching the steamroller work requires one to think in terms of slow process. It’s also a well-worn cliche in cartoons that villains and heroes alike are frequently flattened by steamrollers only to reappear in the next scene no worse for wear. Roadrunner, Tom and Jerry, The Naked Gun, A Fish Called Wanda, Austin Powers, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? all have steamroller bits in them, always slapstick in tone.
The implied threat of the steamroller, which is different from other heavy equipment, is not merely the specter of death but a slow, agonizing, bone-by-crunching-bone crushing accomplished not by stealth, strategy, or speed but by slow, steady, obvious, undeterred, mindless force. I don’t know of any sort of irrational fear that stems from steamrollers, though, unlike the silent scream or catatonia some experience faced with other looming threats. Because the steamroller works in slo-mo, one feels safe knowing that it’s possible to play in the streets and alight out of harm’s way at the last moment. So being caught under a steamroller represents either a grave miscalculation or the mark of rather extreme stupidity.
So what steamrollers are figuratively bearing down on us at the dawn of this new millennium? I can think of a few. (more…)
December 27, 2006
President Gerald Ford, dead at 93.
It’s almost alien to our experience of politics now, but Ford – an unassuming and by all accounts decent man – was viewed with such relief by most Americans after the Nixon debacle that gentle parodies such as this one were viewed as somewhat unfair and hitting below the belt. He lacked stature as a policy leader, but he brought the country back together and did so with humility and grace.
In speaking to the country following Nixon’s self-exile, he told America “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.” He was denied the former accolade when put to the test, but none can doubt that the latter request was fulfilled.
God bless you, President Ford, and thank you.
October 18, 2006
Are there are certain thresholds necessary for the operation of democratic institutions? The founding fathers certainly thought so. Our participation in the electoral process, public debate, and other community action is predicated on being informed and educated to at least, say, a high school level. One acid test performed periodically is polling Americans to see how many believe that the sun revolves around the earth. The number changes a bit depending on how and when the question is asked, but the usual finding is that 1 in 5 believe that the sun revolves around us.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the scientific community muddies the waters by periodically redefinining planets and stars or introducing evidence that the earth has a second moon. But still, a fifth of Americans have a basic concept of our place in the universe discredited centuries ago by the Copernican Revolution?
One of my favorite authors, Morris Berman, has a new book called Dark Ages America. I’ve not yet read it, but the blurbs and reviews say that Berman paints a picture of America’s entry into a new dark age and its imminent collapse, at least in part because of its inability to maintain the very democratic institutions that brought it to prominence. It isn’t just the dominance of the Right Wing in politics or fundamentalism in culture, though; it’s that we’ve returned to a sort of shuttered mind characterized by magical thinking and outright denial of scientific knowledge.
There is good evidence that logic, reason, and other Enlightenment values may not be all they’re cracked up to be, that for all their utility they don’t provide substantive human meaning and lead only to a soulless, technocratic society. However, American-style democracy cannot survive without them. If there is a new paradigm forming around us — and many believe there is — it cannot plunge us into a mindset that foresakes what we have learned and achieved in the last 400 years. Rather, we need a synthesis that reincorporates human value, not one that irrationally places man again at the center of the universe.
June 7, 2006
And he saves children, but not the British children.
Contains some strong language, but – as Jeff says – if your boss complains, ask him or her why they HATE AMERICA.
H/T Protein Wisdom.
April 25, 2006
April 25 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated here with a series of photographs and links. (Warning: disturbing images and text.)
All too timely a memorial, as the spectre of another Holocaust looms over the Jewish people.
March 31, 2006
My research paper has me looking into Lenin's ol' article, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, as well as that old book by the Scottish "capitalist" himself, and a fair amount of the history of the British Empire.
I have to say, I'm stumped. I can't see the connection between Imperialism and free market economics in the slightest–in fact, even a brief glance at the history of European empire demonstrates the opposite of the commonly supposed notion.
When people talk about British Imperialism, they aren't referring to the American colonies. They mean Cecil Rhodes, The East India Company, and so on. And what could be more capitalist than these examples, right? I mean, the British didn't even send in an army to invade anywhere half the time–they gave guys like Rhodes a charter for what amounted to a private company dedicated to grabbing land to turn a profit.
But this is exactly the kind of thing that Adam Smith argued against in his day. In the very first book of the Wealth of Nations, Smith makes reference to the "despotism" of the East Indies.
In fact, the kind of imperialism that occurred in Africa and in the Near and Far East is much closer to the merchantilism of American colonization. The word itself was coined as part of a criticism of the system made by Adam Smith, who argued that spending money to hold on to the colonies was wasteful, and it would be far more beneficial for everyone if they simply traded with an Independent America.
America wasn't conquered by British troops either, you will recall–it was taken by chartered companies as well.
Between the time of American independence, and the period that has come to be known as the Scramble for Africa, a lot happened in Great Britain. The industrial revolution increasingly gathered momentum. The so-called Laissez-Faire politicians–the liberal reformers like Gladstone–came to power. Under their direction, the British Empire was greatly restructed, and many colonies were phased out of direct English control and given their own representative bodies under a principle of Responsible Government. This was in keeping with economic policy as Smith and others had recommended it; it made no sense to try and grab massive amounts of land because maintenance would empoverish rather than enrich the empire. So Gladstone's government gave a large degree of self-governance to the British colonies, the only real tie to the center being an agreement of free and open trade that was to the benefit of all parties involved.
Also, during this time, the East India Company's monopoly was made illegal, first in its business dealings in India, and then, later, with its standing in China.
National leaders are fickle when it comes to convictions, however, and many lusted for empire. One of the most influential figures of this batch was Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the conservative party and longtime rival of Gladstone.
Under Disraeli and his party, the British Empire turned backwards. It indulged in the Scramble, among other things. It brought back the chartered companies and, though it never outright banned its colonies from trade with other countries as they had with the Navigation Acts two hundred years prior, they did establish a number of tariffs aimed at discouraging anything but trade internal to the empire.
Small-minded fools like Hobson, the British economist who inspired Lenin's famous essay, tied this new imperialism to capitalism because of the prevalence of industrial technology in the military and because of the use of resources in the colonies in British factories.
But the exact same system was being used at the time of the American colonies. It was expected that Americans would produce, and the mother country would refine and consume. The only difference is that the industrial revolution had had more time, and had grown exponentially faster under laissez-faire policies, by the time Disraeli and his peers turned to reactionary policies of expansion. So the technology of weaponry gave them an unopposable advantage in places such as Africa, and under notions of wealth that had been debunked a century earlier, they proceeded to set up shop and leech off of the most expansive and costly empire in their history, and perhaps in the history of any modern European nation.
It should be noted that throughout most of the 19th century, the British were at the top of the food chain, but by the end, others were muscling their way in. I believe there is a connection.
Otto von Bismarck, though certainly no dove, frequently made the case that his only goal was the unification of Germany, and he very much opposed foreign empire. It is no coincidence, in my mind, that it was during his time that Germany became the world's leading and fastest growing industrial power. Nor do I think it is a coincidence that his successor, Wilhelm II, was unable to outmuscle France in World War I. After Bismarck, the Germans had embarked on a quest for empire, spreading themselves thin and falling victim to the meaningless desire for the status brought on by having the most area of your nation's color on the world map. Had they stayed out of it, and focused on a free trade policy, I won't say that they definately would have won, but they certainly would have stood a better chance.
Marxism is a very narrow doctrine. Just as many schools of theology interpret their faith in such a narrow manner that they cannot see a place for Darwin's findings within it, so were Marxists left without the analytical tools to grasp what was happening in Africa and elsewhere. Marx had given them a naively simplistic progression which follows very specific stages. Merchantilism, which had already occured by the time of his writing, was left completely out of the picture entirely. So when it reemerged at the end of the 19th century and went on well into the 20th, Lenin could do nothing but be perplexed by it and declare it just another element in the next to last stage of Marx's progression, which he had put under the blanket term "capitalism".
Stalin was similarly perplexed by the rise of fascism, and decided that it, too, was just another form of capitalism.
It's time for us all to grow up. Calling Imperialism an extension of free market economics is like calling quantum physics just another stage of newtonian physics. It makes no sense. The Wealth of Nations is ripe with blatant criticism of everything that its brand of economics is often blamed for creating. So please, please, please, try to take the time to learn something about economics before making irrelevant accusations about it. Or at the very least, learn something about its history.
Cross Posted at: Sophistpundit