C&C / GG&S

Dave Long dl@silcom.com
Fri, 22 Mar 2002 11:46:13 -0800

> The principle point in C&C is to assert, that contrary to the natural
> determinist school from "Guns, Germs, and Steel", that the rise and
> superiority of the West has derived from their culture rather than
> biological diversity and geological fortune.
> He takes pains to note that this does not imply superior moral standing for
> the West.  Only that their unique culture has led directly to military
> dominance.

I hope that Hanson didn't claim
that contradiction; both theses
seem complementary.  (note the
"Guns" in Diamond's title)

Diamond's epilogue (p.410) says:
> Why, then, did the Fertile Crescent and China eventually lose
> their enormous leads of thousands of years to late-starting Europe?
> One can, of course, point to proximate factors behind Europe's rise:
> its development of a merchant class, capitalism, and patent protection
> for inventions, its failure to develop absolute despots and crushing
> taxation, and its Greco-Judeo-Christian tradition of critical empirical
> inquiry.  Still, for all such proximate causes, one must raise the
> question of ultimate cause: why did these proximate factors themselves
> arise in Europe, rather than in China or the Fertile Crescent?

(short answer: the "Fertile"
crescent was not sustainably
so, and China's unity served
to discourage innovations)



> The idea of civic militarism.  Think 'yeoman farmer who can vote' as the
> foundation for the infantry.

I tend to believe that causation
works in the opposite direction:
when infantry is powerful, so is
the common man.

The Swiss had democracy early due
to their topography; most of the
rest of Europe waited until after
the rifle was developed.


from "[Stupid Idea Series] mythoconsumer & Re: Vacation!"
> [1] Now, if the development of the armored knight meant that only
> those who controlled sufficient landed property[2] to field knights
> had any political power, and the development of gunpowder meant that
> all those who could fire a rifle could acquire political power, how
> should we expect political power to be divided in an age when
> military forces are reckoned in carrier groups and stealth bombers?
> [2] The measure of land was called a knight's fee; it seems to have been
> about 800-1600 acres, depending upon the quality of the land.  So
> supporting a single knight probably took revenues on the order of
> USD millions a year, when scaled to the current economy.

But Orwell*:
> Military dictatorships exist everywhere, but there is no such thing
> as a naval dictatorship.

So perhaps the carrier groups and
stealth bombers don't pose much of
a threat to general liberty, and
we only need to watch out if land
forces become capital-intensive.

1) "Re: Magic Kinkdom, for sale, sold (fwd)"
I think that a modern platoon only
budgets USD millions a year, so we
are a long way from the regimes of
the 11th century.

2) (in memoriam jb)
The difference between billionaires
and the rest of us is that they can
support such a unit as a hobby.


* in "The Lion and the Unicorn",
which also ties into another thread:
> Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply
> dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements,
> and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do
> not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly
> bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a
> very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter
> like so many pounds of cheese. Public life in England has never been
> openly scandalous. It has not reached the pitch of disintegration at
> which humbug can be dropped.