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Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Roger says:

    Awesome post, Christopher.

    Just to keep it interesting though, let me offer a small quibble or add on. I believe this (perhaps intentionally) oversimplifies the concept of competition in a few ways. Specifically, it asserts that competition leads to both parties losing. Before stating my concern, I agree that zero sum games often lead to an extremely destructive or negative sum dynamic. I will skip the details, as I assume we are in complete agreement on this point.

    However, I believe it is not correct to assume that competition is always destructive (or the inverse that cooperation is always constructive). Competition can be, and often is, in a form which is constructive in nature. In other words you can design or construct a zero sum game to have positive sum externalities. Science is one such competition. Scientists compete with each other to be the first to publish new facts, explanations or rebuttals. It is a zero sum game with huge positive sum outcomes. Businesses competing to provide better customer service, lower prices or to design better quality is another zero sum dimension within a broader positive sum dynamic. Even most sports, the classic zero sum game, are usually played for the positive sum externalities of player enjoyment, fan enjoyment, player salaries and so forth.

    In summary, the problem is not competition, it is destructive competition, and since competition can be channeled in constructive ways, then the real issue is not with competition, it is with destruction.

    By the way, the same dynamic plays out in cooperation. Cooperation can be destructive in nature. Consider group think, or monopolies.

    Long way to say that I think the competition/mutualism division can lead us astray at times. We need to supplement it with the constructive/destructive division.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Aristotle presumed everything served a higher purpose. His viewpoint dovetailed nicely with the Church’s view of things: that’s why it lasted as long as it did, imho. When the Church began to make war on science, it was on the basis of this Higher Purpose. If the stories told about Galileo are true, even the Pope knew Galileo was right. It was the Higher Purpose business which got him in trouble.

    Christopher Hitchens once said “We owe a huge debt to Galileo for emancipating us all from the stupid belief in an Earth-centered or man-centered (let alone God-centered) system. He quite literally taught us our place and allowed us to go on to make extraordinary advances in knowledge.”

    Wars always need some justification. And where do we find justification for war? In some Higher Purpose. Religions have admirably served this purpose for many centuries. Now it’s the Nation State. There really is no difference: both demand allegiance. Day was when you were born into a Christian Nation, that’s what you were.

    Here I will resort to Latin. Of late, certain folks around here have taken me to task for my inveterate use of Furrin Languages but I feel the urge for a Latinism coming on.

    Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Outside the Church there is no salvation.

    These days, any pledge of allegiance, for any nation, serves the same purpose. Troops go off to war, not from any sense of personal enmity with the Enemy du Jour but from sworn oaths to defend the nation from enemies, foreign and domestic. And who is our enemy? And who gets to make this determination? And who could possibly countermand such a declaration?

    Outside the State, there is no salvation. And above the State is only Aristotle’s Ether.

    People are organisms, very properly stated. If there’s anything to learn from Kenneth Waltz, it’s this: the anatomy of each state determines its nature. Would that I could get Nob to expand on this further: he’s the go-to guy for International Relations.

    Many of the longest periods of peace and prosperity in human history were seen under horridly despotic emperors. These autocrats had the luxury of dealing with insurrections as they saw fit: no need for getting anything through a legislative body. No constitutional niceties for them, nossir. It’s all in Leviathan: Hobbes said it all better than I could. And Kenneth Waltz brought it all into modern times for us, restating the obvious.

    Your sorting-out of the various sorts of interactions makes sense to me. I would beg to differ with the Colonial bit though: every empire treated its colonies differently. The English saw savages. The Spanish and Portuguese and Dutch and Belgians saw slaves. The French saw people (though Lord knows Haiti was a snakepit of slavery). It’s true, the local authorities were all subjugated, that much is on target, my point is this: the colonies were in many ways a reflection of the Colonial Authorities, for both good and ill.

    Free Trade Agreements are a good step forward: I’m always glad to see them appear. But they’re not quite the solution they appear to be: they only serve to simplify the signatories’ bureaucracies.

    Waltz does account for power imbalances. Seen at a glance, I suppose Waltz could be interpreted as you’ve done. But he’s not the last of the Structural Realists. Not that I’d wish to lump anyone else in with Waltz, but you might find Bruce Russett a worthy follow-on to the problems you’ve described.

    I am only sorry I haven’t posted this comment before. I wanted to see if anyone else would bother to respond to your post. This is good stuff, Christopher. Write more along this vein.Report

  3. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Roger and BlaiseP: Thank you for the insightful comments. I’ll take two intelligent comments like these over 500 electronic snot-rockets any day.

    I’m going to have to go away and think for a while before I have anything else to say on this topic. One of the great weaknesses of the blogosphere is that it is not conducive to lengthy contemplation.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Thanks for the initial post and the comment. I almost didn’t respond at all for fear that I was reading into it things that were too far off topic. Your emphasis on mutualistic relationships really resonates with me.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Mutualism certainly makes sense if you look at the second half of the Twentieth Century from the U.S. perspective as generalizable and instructive: mutualism is what held the alliance together during WWII; mutualism is what ultimately broke the Soviet Union; and mutualism is what probably prevented (and will continue to prevent) violent conflict with China.Report