8/28/12 questions and discussion
1-so, what do we think of civilization?2
2-has our republic been sold?4
3-does punishment truly fit the crime?5
4-should we care if athletes use drugs or other artificial methods to enhance their performance?3
5-is no government preferred to bad government?7
6-if one state is going bankrupt or rogue how should the other 49 states respond?6
7-is America becoming more or less religious?6
is no government preferred to bad government?
John: I ask this because I think people generally prefer a government even if it's a bad one. People growing up in the 20th century would say all previous governments were bad/not democratic. Arab peoples are allowed to live by their governments; this may be why they tolerate their bad governments. Hitler/Mussolini are big exceptions. the Arab Spring? Things there are tipping over the edge, the more they learn about the rest of the world and how much better people live elsewhere, the less they will tolerate their bad government.
David: the Balkans too?
John: yes. After Tito died -- which coincided with the falling of the Berlin Wall -- there was no danger of intervention from the Soviet Union. Tito's government was tolerated by many diverse groups because compared to its neighboring countries it was much better in Yugoslavia.
Dick: bad governments happen when they break their own laws which then spreads into the populace, then comes anarchy.
John: I think people fear anarchy more than crime committing government.
Dick: what people do we know of that have no government?
Jon: which is better?
Dick: the government that doesn't exist.
David: if we hadn't gone into Iraq that bad government would still be there because there was no chaos and there would likely be none there now.
Julene: author Pinker thinks that government in general -- both the bad and the good ones -- is one of the things that has helped decrease violence worldwide.
John: Pinker would say that the more government there became and the more powerful they became the more violence declined and civilization rose. A big innovation was in making murder a crime against the state instead of a civil crime. It's Hobbesian to say that without government human life becomes dog eat dog. Jefferson said that governments ought not change for "light" reasons, but when abuse reaches a tipping point as England did rebellion is right. This was how he justified the American Revolution.
Kevin: what about Pol Pot? He killed many once he gained power. Using your explanation for the Arab Spring I would have expected the Cambodians to rise up against him.
John: he came to power in '75. He no doubt argued his predecessors were bad government. Compared to what he brought about though, it couldn't be much worse. Pol Pot was an ideologue.
David: compare that country to Poland. All educated/military types were executed and eliminated by the USSR. It was the same in Cambodia. By killing off potential leaders and those who were able to facilitate opposition, Pol Pot could hold power.
John: Hitler did it to prevent his overthrow.
Kevin: did Mao in China?
John: he was more ideological. The Great Leap forward killed 30-40 million unintentionally. So killing his opponents wasn't part of his plan. Even though all those deaths weren't intentional, he was indifferent to their deaths.
Jon: why has the Arab Spring taken so long to occur?
John: it takes a long time. Not everybody would think democracy is better.
Julene: might the internet and other media access facilitate such change?
David: Soviets go into poland in 39. All those soldiers were uneducated. Mao's armies were ignorant too. Maybe the Arab Spring happened because they were not ignorant. For example Egypt, where it all began, has long had a highly educated populace.
John: Pinker points to the printing press as significant. Dick, have we ever had a government sufficiently bad here to rebel against here?
John: the rule of law is a more recent phenomenon.
Jon: could governments be better now because it's so hard to keep secrets?
John: some Southern states wouldn't enforce laws against blacks.
Jon: is our Civil War an example of a government -- America's federal government -- that got so bad it required rebellion?
David: Southerners wanted to be able to expand slavery. Their rebellion was really that limited. The actual first act of violence in the Civil War was committed by southern forces. They were not being imposed upon or forced to change their slavery based economy, they were forbidden to expand their slave based economy. The Industrial Revolution in England caused lots of poverty in the cities; there they suffered in silence. In America's Depression the people also suffered in silence because it was preferable to no government.
John: the Industrial Revolution created a general rise in quality of life. Poverty in cities is easier to see than poverty in the countryside. People thought government was legitimate.
Jon: what about our colonial rebellion?
John/David: taxation without representation was their inspiration. Life otherwise wasn't really that bad here. This is why the Colonies were so closely split on the issue of revolution.
John: where is there no government? Africans seemed to have had better organizations as colonies. Pinker would say tribal societies were far more violent.