History is Not Boring discussion


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Boreal Elizabeth | 145 comments on the latter, my opine is resources, exploitation of resouces, favorable climate as well as serendipity

message 2: by Marian (new)

Marian (gramma) | 98 comments The book "Guns, Germs, & Steel" by Jared Diamond answers this question in a way that is easy to understand.

Servius  Heiner  | 20 comments population control...

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

One reason for differential development is the difference between government policies of various sorts. Some governments create friendly climates for business by educating, building infrastructure, and establishing the rule of law. Others don't and prefer to blame the results of their failures on foreigners or minorities. You can see both tendencies in the history of almost every nation on Earth, but some governments are doing a better job than others right now.

message 5: by James (new)

James I'd like to see some of these ideas tried out:

1. Education - aid both to poor countries, and to poor people in all countries, in the form of merit-based scholarships to train engineers, doctors, scientists, teachers, etc. To make it fair to people who would otherwise have a hard time competing for the scholarships due to poor schooling or no schooling as children, set up programs open to any applicant who can show that his/her childhood education was substandard, which would give them a year or two of intensive preparation for the exams to qualify for the regular scholarships (I cribbed that one from the Marine Corps - it not only offers lots of opportunities for enlisted Marines to go to college and become officers, as I did, it offers a prep school for Marines who went to lousy schools as kids to enable them to compete evenly for the commissioning programs.)

2. As Servius says, population control - and rollback - is vital. This planet just does not have the resources to support this many people at anything like a healthy standard of living. On the one hand, no country or super-national body can or should be able to force population control on any country that doesn't accept it willingly. On the other hand, a lot can be done with things like some incentives India has offered men to get vasectomies. And if we can improve global public health and reduce infant/child mortality to 'first world' levels everywhere, it might go a long way toward helping people get comfortable with having fewer children in the first place. The rich countries could, by trimming our military budgets moderately, provide inoculations to every child in the world, and safe drinking water to every human being.

I fear, though, that overall things are going to get much worse before they get better, if they ever do, because of:
a. environmental change reducing food production, increasing the number and intensity of natural disasters, and allowing tropical diseases to move farther from the equator;
b. continuing population growth, which no one is going to turn around before the Four Horsemen do it for us;
c. the growing power of large multinational corporations, which have more power than many governments and use it to function in a sociopathic way - witness the current trend toward trying to privatize and exploit water resources the way they've long done with oil; and
d. depletion of a lot of the things on which we've built our current industrial civilization, to the point that resources that have always been cheap will become much more expensive.

If there's anything that might offer hope for crating enough change in the ways people see the world and what we're willing to do to make things better or keep them from getting worse, it will most likely be the perception of a common threat - that seems to be about the only thing that pulls large numbers of people together for any length of time. In the past it's usually been a war, occasionally some other event like the flu pandemic at the end of World War I. Lacking that kind of unifying external threat, the large majority of humanity will probably refuse to face reality or to voluntarily share the wealth until it's too late.

message 6: by Will (last edited Dec 30, 2008 08:01AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments "Fairness" in itself is an entire discussion. Is there, will there, can there ever really be fairness? Johnny Carson used to do a bit on the subject. I won't repeat it here but it made the point that life is not and will not be fair; fairness creates its own problems. The punchline was, "..and that's why we don't wake in the morning to find lobsters putting butter on our butts."

James: I agree with your idea on education, kind of. Cecil Rhodes established the Rhodes Scholarship for the best and brightest to get educations they wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. Scholastic scholarships in general are for that purpose. Yes, the problem lies in the inability of some to reach the rung on which they can qualify for scholarships. I support two years of national service for all to find those bright young minds, among other reasons.

Over population has been an on-going discussion my entire life. We seem to be doing better supporting our masses than we thought possible many years ago. China made one-child-only mandatory; that has created other problems.

What I've noticed is: When things are good, few really care. When things are bad, we all care but few have good answers.

Sharing wealth is a communist principle; not a bad principle, but not a great way to reward innovation and acknowledge humanity's desire to improve, to rise in success. Some will always do better than others. How can that be kept fair?

In America, we found that answer, but we often lose sight of it. We don't try to make it fair, we try to offer fair opportunity and let the realities of life sort out who does well and who doesn't. We fail, often, to provide a fair and level playing field (in business, education, etc.), but we adjust and try again.

Global corporatization of resources (labor, water, minerals, etc.) has been a growing concern for me. Someone in an under-developed country, who has the chance to make a dollar a day to buy food for their family, siezes that opportunity and is glad for the chance to succeed. Meanwhile, that job previously belonged to someone, who lost their ability to feed their family on $12 an hour (or more). The corporations make a profit and prices go down, enabling those who haven't yet lost their jobs to buy products cheaper. [sigh:]

It's a difficult subject. Good luck. Me, I gave up on fairness, long ago. I'm a realist. Life is difficult. Within reality there is opportunity for failure and success. Those who play fairly often lose. Those who play mean often win. Time sorts it out in the long-run; tides turn and winners lose, losers win. That's why we study history.

Marco: Why do nations fail or succeed? Look at Costa Rica; they pulled themselves from poverty to moderate success with virtually full employment and literacy by investing in education with former military funding; they did away with their miltary. Their national motto is "Pura Vida!"

Nations succeed when they develop strong middle-classes. That can be accomplished several ways. The government has to make it their goal or the money rises to the top and to power, while the poor grow in numbers but not in wealth. In America, recently, we have been shrinking the middle-class and growing the poor-class's numbers, while the upper-classes flourished and we celebrated. See? The tides do turn. We quit celebrating.

Now, we must restore our middle-class. Other countries must find ways to grow their opportunites for workers. How can we help? By setting a better example, sharing some of our wealth to develop their potential (but first we must restore our wealth), help them educate their masses, and not try to make them pawns of our greed and excesses. Good luck with that!

message 7: by James (new)

James The most prominent problem with the one-child policy has been that, due to the much higher value placed on male children than females in China, huge numbers of infant girls have been killed by their parents so they could try for a boy again. This has gone far enough for the government to be concerned about the gender ratios being skewed in the future, affecting the availability of potential wives for men who would want to marry and start their own families.

message 8: by Will (last edited Jan 15, 2009 04:56AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments It has been established that as societies increase in wealth, they have fewer children. So, to improve the population problem, focus on making middle class jobs pay well; two birds with one stone.

Marco: "Will the price be cheaper for goods if all the money in the world were shared out?" According to communism, it would. I doubt it. If we apportioned all the money in the world evenly to all the people, within a few years ten percent of the people would have most of the money (either legally or illegally). It happens; it's the law of human nature. That's why America blends capitalism and socialism; it works better than either, alone.

We moved away from socialism toward more capitalism and let the market take its course. Now, look where we are. Now, we'll move more toward socialism and it will eventually cause problems and then we'll adjust again.

message 9: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments I'm not sure why family size decreases as societies' wealth increases, Marco. It may have to do with access to contraceptives. It might have something to do with decisions to concentrate their assets into fewer children for their best chance at success. I don't know; it's true, though.

Education is where societies win or lose, I think. Re-reference Costa Rica: They transferred their military budget to education and their economic situation, living standards and literacy improved.

I think America is currently losing in the public school system. I disapprove of vouchers. I think they further dillute public schools for the many to improve the conditions of a few. I'm at a loss to know how to improve our schools, though. My children attended public schools and received excellent educations, as did I.

You are writing about fairness. Good public schools for ALL is fair; how to provide that, is difficult. With computers and the internet, everyone might have equal access to educational material (if they have access to computers), but there is no substitute for good teachers. Maybe educational improvements should start in teachers' educations, incentives and motivations/rewards. I don't know.

message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Will wrote: "...Good public schools for ALL is fair; how to provide that, is difficult. ... but there is no substitute for good teachers. Maybe educational improvements should start in teachers' educations, incentives and motivations/rewards. I don't know...."

A big place to start is putting some responsibility & consequences back on the students. The 'No Child Left Behind Act' is just icing on the cake. There are too many kids that don't want to learn ruining the experience for those who want to or are on the fence.

These kids need to be disciplined but the schools can't do it except in the worst cases, not even then sometimes. Personally, I'm all for making them work (something like the Job Corp or WPA) & giving them a chance to earn a GED or go back to school if they straighten up & won't disrupt class any more.

The current idea in our society that kids can do no wrong, that we should appeal to their better nature & that punishment is 'cruel & unusual' are garbage. The pendulum has swung way too far & we're not doing them any favors. Once they hit the real world, they found out there are consequences & it's pretty bad sometimes.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, Marco, you can probably think of good answers to those questions, but here are some brief answers:
1. Some people will get sick of paying to make it free.
2. It doesn't.
3. More used condoms lying around, more jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.
4. Some people want to have many children.
What do you think?

message 12: by Will (last edited Jan 15, 2009 05:15AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Part of the problem with free education is that it is free. We appreciate that for which we pay (or earn), not that which is free. I was taught that I earned my (free) education through striving for excellence.

Jim: In answer to yours: I still support (quite alone) mandatory service for all. If they drop out, they go straight to boot camp; if they continue their education, they postpone the service and get better duty, but eventually all serve a minimum of two years service to their country. It serves many aspects for most people; not perfect for all people, I admit.

Marco: We see the problem with free education; it becomes too "free" and too expensive (see Thomas' comment), undervalued and unfair as wealthy vs. poor areas' systems. I'm not big on federal intervention into local school systems, but there is a place for federal leveling of opportunities.

If there is a finite amount of resources but increasing population, then there are diminishing returns for all. If there is increasing productivity and no population growth, there is more wealth for all to share. What we have is in between, with increasing productivity and population growth, both. I'm not sure they are staying exactly even.

Thomas is correct that some cultures, religions and individuals prefer large families with many children; they will always oppose any attempt to limit family size.

Kelley is right: sex is very entertaining. That is all the entertainment some cultures have. I guess if you have only one entertainment, sex isn't a bad one to have. Those same cultures usually have little access to and familiartity with contraceptives.

message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim I think THE WORLD WITHOUT US makes a pretty convincing case for a world with 1.5 billion human inhabitants as optimal so that the Earth can be a better place and a much more enjoyable place for us humans despite our predilections toward extraction, polluting and generally not caring about the consequences of our lifestyle on Nature/each other.

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