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05-18-2012, 06:03 AM   #1
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"What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."

While getting my Krugman fix I came across this comment (by 'Tim Cane'):
"What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history." - Friedrich Hegel, (and many others).
I took a class on the history of property rights. In it we read a book written by Douglas C. North, Nobel Laureate and Economic historian. On pages 100-115 we read the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire: Wealth had concentrated, six senators owned half of North Africa. The Wealthy and Powerful used their power and influence to avoid paying taxes. The tactical advantage of the Roman Empire had thinned, but still held an advantage over the barbariians - to secure its borders, Rome needed to enlarge its army, but lacked the political will to do so. Rome, which controlled all the resources of Western Civilization, lacked the political will to raise funds to defend itself.

What's more striking is, the people who had the most to lose, the wealthy and powerful, were the ones least willing to fund the perpetuation of the state.

This pattern is repeated through out history as the main cause of the collapse of Ancient Egypt's New Kingdom, Byzantium, Medieval Japan, Hapsburg Spain, Bourbon France, Coolidge/Hoover America, and Bush II's America and collateral to it, the European Union today.

05-18-2012, 07:33 AM   #2
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That is an interesting parallell and observation... and goes with the 'insane' thread too.

I have noted this myself, from the brief time I was in the 1% (or very close): one's perceptions and concerns change completely, to where what were issues before no longer resonate. Psychologically, you have to work hard at remembering and retaining the perspective of those making less money.

Therefore I can imagine what the changes are when one gets true megabucks, especially coming from an already priviledged background. Unless one truly immerses and emphathizes with the lower economic levels (e.g. RFK for example) there's really absolutely NO sense of the realities of the less wealthy. The only people one sees who are not in the top 1% category are either servants/employees or young comers who are working towards the top 1%. And both are clearly subservient.

Thus as a group there tends to be isolation and insulation from the common populace, and the primary interests are around conserving one's position and wealth. And due to the wealth the group tends to have outsize influence and thus get their way more often than not.


I remember one of the times I saw Lou Reed on the street - he had a group of syncophants walking around him, clearly all of them focused on Lou and obsequeus...kissing ass... This is the normal condition for such individuals and I'm certain makes for changes in psychology.
05-18-2012, 09:48 AM   #3
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Somewhat related, you may enjoy reading these books.
Jared Diamond: The Rise and Fall of Civilizations : NPR

I believe WW 1 is recent classic example of the 1% not acting in their best interests, but there is honor to consider, harumpf!
05-18-2012, 10:12 AM   #4

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My take....

The problem with history...and science for that that it is always interpreted by people, many of who happen to be trained historians or trained scientists.

What I'm saying is that the human element collecting the 'fact's' are always subject to the bias,prejudices, belief systems held by the particular scientist or historian...who is doing the collecting.

Many will deny and maintain they are completely objective...they are historians or scientists of course...but in the end their interpretation of a set of circumstances ...or just interpretation.

I would advise against seeing too much profundity in anybody's opinion or matter how well respected they maybe by the masses...or even little elites that seem to spring up.

05-18-2012, 11:33 AM   #5
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Some things in life are constant.

Last edited by Parallax; 04-10-2013 at 08:30 AM.
05-18-2012, 04:23 PM   #6
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One could flesh out the French Revolution analogy with the fact that the government was being funded exactly the way the Libertarian Right favors--with all kinds of consumption and capitation taxes. Louis XV and Louis XVI were unable to get the nobles to kick in to eliminate a deficit.
05-19-2012, 09:13 AM   #7
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It would probably help if people actually learned some relatively factual history. History textbooks and education are yet another political tool, one has to dig for, and carefully evaluate data to really learn enough of history in order to apply it's lessons to the present and/or future. While it focuses on the U.S., I suspect this is a universal phenomenon and is a fairly interesting read:http://
05-19-2012, 09:38 AM   #8

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america has not learned much from history. It's interesting that a majority of the buildings in places such as Washington Dc are built in an architectual style similiar to that of places such as Greece and what once existed in throughout the Roman empire.

A country copying two cultures that ended quite suddenly (due mostly to ignorance). Recently, (during Wall St & banking crisis, etc...) america came within days of complete economic collapse. All while the united states bails out corporations that do not deserve it; also leaving countless americans to live out the remainder of their lives as not much more than modern day surfs.


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