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Will

Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Eagle Driver says:

    G. K. Chesterton that is simply one of the best arguments I have ever read. I have attained nirvana today – the meaning of life is summed up with your words:

    “… and that is why a history of cows in twelve volumes would not be very lively reading.”

    Well put, I still can’t stop laughing. Very profound.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    I would no sooner turn to Chesterton for a clear understanding of economics as I would turn to Milton Friedman for a sonnet. And yes, I do see markets in everything – even in the Crusades, even if many men who fought in the Crusades had noble intentions. Even if the Crusades were wars taken on behalf of God, they were none the less wars taken to capture supposed godless lands and turn them over to Christendom. How that can be seen as anything short of plunder – even spiritual plunder (though there was, if I recall correctly, a ‘land’ component to the spiritual plunder) – these were still wars of conquest. And conquest is plunder. Or, if you prefer to view them as protecting lands rightfully belonging to Christendom, you could justify them as wars of defense. You could easily do this at the time, less so now.Report

    • Avatar Rob says:

      @E.D. Kain, Ah, nothing like word dilution. It’s a bit slick equating plunder to the spirit. I’ve been told the start of an immoral world is moral relativism, and that moral relativism is rooted in the destruction of words’ meaning and concepts to the point that the spirit can be compared to plunder, that Mao can be compared with Mother Teresa, taking equated to giving and in the end game life is seen as equal to death. Even as an atheist I see the folly in trying to claim “spiritual plunder” as being the same motive as hitting a man on the head and taking his wallet.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        @Rob, @ Will –

        So if a bunch of people threw together some armies today, and took them over to say – Jordan – to conquer that country and overthrow its government in order to restore it to its natural state as a part of Christendom, all because they were religious zealots, what would you call this? Because of its religious nature, would it somehow no longer be a war of conquest? Would the taking of that land not be plunder?Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @E.D. Kain, I wouldn’t turn to Chesterton for econometric analysis, but I daresay he was a fairly perceptive observer of human nature.

      And “spiritual” plunder? Really?Report

    • Avatar John Henry says:

      @E.D. Kain, I would no sooner turn to Chesterton for a clear understanding of economics as I would turn to Milton Friedman for a sonnet.

      Chesterton wasn’t opining on economics in the cited passage; he was opining on being human. Human motivation is more multi-faceted than your philosophy appears to permit.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        @John Henry, He was opining on both, and was basically saying you can’t understand what it means to be human through the study of economics. But really – what’s the point of that? You can understand a great deal of what it means to be human through the study of economics – but no field can encompass every aspect of what it means to be human. I’m not sure anyone (at least anyone here) is saying that.Report

  3. Avatar M. Farmer says:

    E.D. — When you have to stretch definitions to win an argument, you might want to revisit your premises. Human motivations are too rich to reduce to basic desires, although these basic desires might be heavily present in human interactions. This is why Keyenesian economics can never match Austrian economics, and why Marxism fails to be a valid theory — they miss the richness of the human mind.Report

  4. Avatar Katherine says:

    E.D.’s moving left at the speed of light. 😉 Having decided he’s a liberal, he’s now adopted the Marxist doctrine of history.

    I love the Chesterton passage.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @Katherine, Heh. Well put, Katherine.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      @Katherine, I haven’t moved leftward at all in my foreign policy views actually. And I don’t think I’m taking a Marxist view of history here either. I think armed conflict is always about power – either exerting power to take or lay claim to something or exerting power to prevent something from being taken. Whether this boils down to actual treasure being plundered, or whether we are talking political domination, spreading Christ by the sword (or Allah for that matter) is immaterial. These are still forms of plunder. In any case, there are obviously a myriad different reasons each individual actor in a conflict chooses to join. But the wars themselves all still end up falling into these broad categories in the end in spite of good or ill intentions.Report

  5. Avatar M. Farmer says:

    Many wars of old were fought for glory and domination — it’s been established that economic reasons which originally fueled imperialism were quickly refuted by the reality of incalcitrant natives and the costly maintenance of domination. Most imperialist countries quickly relinquished control of conquered territories the first chance they got to save face. We can question stated motives, but the motive to “civilize” certain groups of people, claimed by the British, makes more sense than any profit they gained. They could have eliminated the people they conquered, and it would have been easier to plunder the resources of the land and create more opportunties for people of their kind.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      @M. Farmer, British imperialism led directly to a huge global trading empire and much colonization was done both to open up new trade routes and new places to exploit. Civilizing the natives was beneficial to the Brits for numerous reasons and was also an act perceived as Christian.Report

      • Avatar M. Farmer says:

        @E.D. Kain,
        Colonization was a burden for the British — It was the beginning of their downfall — all that you say happened could have happened without imperialistic wars. This was realized after years of struggling to maintain their empire, and to spread their form of civilization, which was not profitable in the long run.Report

        • Avatar M. Farmer says:

          @M. Farmer,
          But even with trade routes opened up, there is a big differene between plunder and advancing trade between countries which become mutually beneficial. A war to remove obstacles to trade is neither plunder nor defensive — it’s creating economic activity based on trade that didn’t exist before.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @M. Farmer, Gotta disagree Mike. The strength of the British empire was her colonies. Far from being the start of her decline, the era of colonization was the beginning of Britain’s ascent. In war after war the strength of the British empire lay in the resources she could call from overseas. That’s why naval dominance allowed Britain to win a war again Napoleons continental hegemony. That’s why submarine warfare was so deadly against her in the world wars. Bereft of her colonies Britain was merely a small European country (albeit one with first mover advantages from the industrial revolution [which was, of course, itself a product of colonialism]).

          The colonies didn’t really become a burden until the economies and ethics of the modern eras. Prior to that they were integral to British might and economic relevance.Report