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Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion 
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Post Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion
This thread is for discussing Chapter 4 - The Grand Illusion. You can post within this framework or create your own threads.

Chris O'Connor

"For Every Winner, There Are Dozens Of Losers. Odds Are You're One Of Them"




Sat Jul 03, 2004 9:48 am
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Post Harris and Biology
On page 64, Harris writes: ". . . If you live in a world where nations are willing to risk total war over minor issues, then you too must be willing to risk total war over minor issues--such as parading into the Rhineland. On the other hand, in a world where everyone else is accustomed to making rational economic choices, the man who is prepared to fight to the death will normally be appeased. The same logic applies to whole societies.

The result is an unsettling paradox: the more the spirit of commerce triumphs, the closer mankind comes to dispensing with war, the nearer we approach the end of history, the greater are the rewards to those who decide to return to the path of war, and the easier it will be for them to conquer. There is nothing that can be done to change this fact; it is built into the structure of our world."

This is a fascinating insight. What he is describing here is what is known in biology as an ESS: Evolutionary Stable Strategy. A balance is maintained between cheaters and cooperators, because as the number of cheaters goes up, the payoff gets less, until it pays to be a cooperator. In a world dominated by cooperators a cheater does very well. In one dominated by other cheaters his ass is handed to him.

The balance of the sexes is explained in a similar manner. The more men in a society, the more it pays to have girls; but if girls predominate, it pays to have boys. Over time evolution has struck the balance we see in many species, with roughly 50/50 mix of sexes.


If you make yourself really small, you can externalize virtually everything. Daniel Dennett, 1984




Thu Jul 22, 2004 7:47 pm
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Post Re: Harris and Biology
So can we ever break out of this? Are we doomed to exist as predator and prey? That is what Harris seems to suggest. I find that very upsetting. I guess I am a utopian dreamer.

What we learn from history, according to Harris, is that there will always be an enemy. He cites the Great War and the failure of the League of Nations to prevent future wars due to their inability or refusal to see that the enemy is not playing by the rules of the rational player. With all our intelligence, why can we not learn from history in ways that would bring about freedom from war, instead of anticipation of war?

It is very sad.

Mr. P.

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Wed Jul 28, 2004 11:45 am
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Post Re: Harris and Biology
I was thinking about ESS as well when reading this. It is a very pessimistic view of the future but it may be too simplistic. Western Europe is a counter example.

Europe has been ravaged by war for centuries but after WWII it has been very stable. The threat of Russia was a big factor early on but not definitely after the end of the cold war. I think that the economic integration brought about by the EU is the primary reason for that.

According to Harris a single nation willing to wage total war has the advantage among a group of rational players. I don't think that this is true if the economies of these nations are highly integrated and interdependent as in the case of Western Europe. Imagine a single nation attempting and even succeeding to conquer the rest of Europe. The war would devastate the economies of the other countries and since the aggressor depends so heavily on them would be worse off. Capitalist economies depend on a highly motivated workforce and people directly or indirectly forced to work for an occupier would perform poorly. The military force required to keep a large population subjugated would be a huge unproductive drain. Finally people in Europe are educated enough to understand this so an imperialistic movement in any of these countries would probably not gain much support.




Thu Jul 29, 2004 9:36 am
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Post Classic Empire
Classic Empire building is, I think, a non issue anymore.

The grabbing of vast land masses are a thing of the past for the reason you suggest costas.

The way to empire today is to spread your ideals and way of live...kinda like the US is trying to do and also like the EU. The EU has interested me. I see it as such, (amongst other reasons): What NATO was to Communism, the EU is to US ambitions. Since no one nation can constrain us, they will band together.

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The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain




Thu Jul 29, 2004 9:46 am
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Post Re: Classic Empire
Hmm..Even so..this question was posed in another forum I check...

In a hypothetical situation, if all of Europe were to declare war on the US...and neither side using nuclear weapons (because we know how THAT would end up)..who would win?

I'm confident that the US would eek out a small margin against all of Europe. As of now most operations are carried out by the US, in a joint environment, not because we don't want their help, need their help, or are too arrogant to accept their help (although THAT day may be fast approaching)...It's that the European nations can't come close to keeping up with our Operations. While we've maintained at least a nominal (Clinton years) focus on defense, they haven't advanced, almost at all, in nearly 30 years.

All of this is moot because it's hypothetical. But in response to the assertion that the EU is the Russia of the past (in a less aggessive way).

Not only that, the more recent additions to the EU are very Pro-American...

In Vino Veritas




Thu Jul 29, 2004 6:21 pm
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Post Re: Classic Empire
No...I did not mean the EU is the Russia, but they are the NATO against the US (US playing the Russian role...of course not literally, I do not compare the US to Russia).

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain




Thu Jul 29, 2004 7:01 pm
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Post Re: Classic Empire
I think, perhaps, a better way to phrase what you said would be: The EU could become to the USA what NATO was to Russia.

In Vino Veritas




Thu Jul 29, 2004 7:04 pm
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Post Re: Classic Empire
WhatEVER...you picky bastard! ;)

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain




Thu Jul 29, 2004 7:09 pm
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Post Re: Classic Empire
Indeed. :)

In Vino Veritas




Thu Jul 29, 2004 7:33 pm
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Post Re: Classic Empire
How about this scenario Rick:

The EU gets very strong and very united. The new Arab Democracies are welcomed into the fold. The EU controls the oil and we find ourselves in not a strict military conflict, but an economic one as well.

With the EU so strong, could they not fuck with US big time?

Mr. P.

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I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain




Fri Jul 30, 2004 8:12 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion
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The only place I think people agree on is Saudi Arabia, except that they don't want to offend Muslims and invading the country with Mecca and Medina in it would be EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE. I'm willing to wage the wars, fight in them, pay for them and make the hard choices about the Federal Budget that will occur over them. Are you? Are you prepared to do the Kennedyesque thing and "pay any cost, bear any burden"?


Well, the problem with this is that Bush opened his tough-guy mouth and basically said that he would get to the root no matter what...but we can see that it is easier to talk tough than to actually take action. It should not matter, in Bushworld, whether or not we would offend anyone in prosecuting this war.

I would be willing to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of all this, but I feel that the direction the administration has taken is wrong. I do not support the current situation as is. The terrorists have us running around in circles. Afghanistan was good, Iraq was a distraction. So now we are paying alot, in lives and dollars, and just where has the progress been? And I mean regarding stopping the terror, not the ancillary benefit of liberating the Iraqis. And saying that 'we have not had another terror attack on our soil' is not valid. We have only had two (from al qaeda) over the last 10 years, tragic as they were. If we allow Bush to claim that he has made us safer because we have not been hit for 3 years, well then Clinton deserves alot for keeping us safe for 8. I am talking world wide.

The war on terror could have been better served by focusing our efforts elsewhere. Iraq was the weakest link in the terror chain, but when the weakest link is at the end of the chain, striking it and destroying it does nothing to compromise the strength of the chain. It is just a case of the administrations 'fantasy ideology'. We had so much support after 9/11, and it was all squandered, not because of what we had to do to respond, but simply in the despotic way in which it was dictated to the world.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 8/19/04 11:11 am



Thu Aug 19, 2004 10:10 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion
I think we're living in a world where the logic of power is slowly destroying the soul of man.

Sanity depends on having a sphere of experience that is not determined by a dog-eat-dog game, a context in which a person can be a person rather than a machine. Individuals who stay sane will be those who can honestly experience their emotions, rather than locking them up in the dissociated right hemisphere, terrified of showing weakness or indecision. When games of power require that sincere feeling be replaced by cold, analytical thinking, insanity follows because the mind becomes split, the analytical left brain attempting to dominate the entire system rather than working in fluid harmony with the right. In any individual or nation, this produces a state of mind which eventually results in suicide.

We will follow our enemies into the abyss, and we won't realize our mistake until the game defeats itself and there are no more playable moves that sustain a feeling of control and security. When everyone, everywhere, feels insecure and unsafe, a sea change will occur. Whether that produces a rennaissance of creativity and real solutions to difficult problems, or whether it leads to species suicide, depends on the choices made along the way.




Thu Aug 19, 2004 8:24 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion
Quote:
Whether that produces a rennaissance of creativity and real solutions to difficult problems, or whether it leads to species suicide, depends on the choices made along the way.


I, of course, take the more pessimistic view!

Excellent analysis Michael!

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain




Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:21 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Grand Illusion
Quote:
What we learn from history, according to Harris, is that there will always be an enemy. He cites the Great War and the failure of the League of Nations to prevent future wars due to their inability or refusal to see that the enemy is not playing by the rules of the rational player. With all our intelligence, why can we not learn from history in ways that would bring about freedom from war, instead of anticipation of war?


I hold it to be pretty self-evident that poverty, war, barbarism, etc., are mans natural state. So is utopianism, and interestingly, anti-semitism, but that latter would require an whole 'nother thread.

I also hold it to be self-evident that reason has played very little part in the affairs of men, both to our great detriment, but sometimes to our good as well. Reason (as practiced by man, anyway) alone is no more a sufficient governor of men than anything else. It is terribly important, but not in the end, ultimate.




Fri Sep 03, 2004 5:49 am
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