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Why Being Pals With Israel is Okay (and doesn't hurt at all!)

by cskendrick Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:32:22 PM EST

I'm blissfully ignorant of the particulars of the recent Walt/Mearsheimer paper casting aspersions on the extant US-Israeli alliance. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to weigh in on the general topic.

Being something of a number-cruncher with some test models on the alliance-forming tendencies of states (I've posted diaries on this in the distant past), I thought I'd give it a go....for better or worse.

Though I have a penchant for steering clear of the hot topics, I thought I'd break with tradition and jump right into the deep end of the pool today.

PS - It's the same set of models that generates all my future history prognostications, in case you're interested. :)

Abstract just below the break.

Frontpaged by Sirocco, with one typo corrected.

Abstract: Using a set of scaled indicators (population, water supply, infrastructure, education, technology, economic prosperity, military power) applied to all political territories of the world, and adjustable across time, the variables and inferences based on same are presented, then applied to a 'structural compatibility' model, a filter for a realist, power-maximization minded model of state alliance formation, to predict which states of a given subset would be the most appealing candidates for allliance to a given state or entity, and which would not, based on the model.

Worldwide, the most appealing matches (states that fall within one standard deviation of the United States' scaled scores in the most categories and possess the highest aggregate power ratings within that band) are Japan, Australia Poland, among the strongest proponents of the 2003 American-led Invasion of Iraq.

In the case of the Middle East, the best matches are Turkey, Israel...and Bahrain, and in that order, and cordial ties exist with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as well, though remain more sensitive to concerns about the extant Mideast (non)peace (non)process than Turkey.

The same criteria also predict the greatest risk of misunderstanding and conflict between the United States and Iraq, Libya and Lebanon -- all three of which have been on the receiving end of American military might in the past, and may yet again.

The strongest anomalies are Iran and the West Bank, which per the model are structural compatible with American interests (and have been in the past) and yet most certainly are not treated as such, definitely as regimes, and to some extent as societies, by successive American governments and generations...and this derision is getting worse, and is predicted to get worse in the years to come if nothing is done to amend the trend.

Rating Countries, Rating Potential Allies

I keep a database of (kind of, sort of) current data on population, water supply, technological level, level of education, infrastructure saturation, economic prosperity, and aggressive propensity as a function of the variance between available weapons tech and education (well-armed, ignorant societies = bad), which is then multiplied by overall power to derive an estimator military strength. Since it's a real chore to update this, I've done it exactly twice since I started this little project, once in 1998, then again in 2003, after the Invasion of Iraq.

Since this is so idiosyncratic, I suppose I should give you guys some snapshots, in order to assess the data's credibility to you.

The model makes estimates in no finer than 10-year intervals. Sorry. It's the way the population estimates are set up.

Population - in millions, as of 2010, we're showing the top 10 countries as:

  1. China 1255.056

  2. India 1068.199

  3. United States 300.118

  4. Indonesia 259.743

  5. Brazil 186.823

  6. Pakistan 168.741

  7. Bangladesh 150.392

  8. Russia 142.328

  9. Nigeria 139.877

  10. Japan 127.252

Population should be the least controversial. It is also the elemental building block of power within and among human societies. Other factors apply, as well, but they require that you actually spend money on your citizens. Some societies aren't with that.

Water supply This is a proxy estimator of carrying capacity -- the maximum population that a given country could support assuming all other considerations can be addressed. Water is the absolute bottleneck on growth. The is no negotiating around it. If you're out of oil, you got options. You can't drink wood or camel dung if there's no water in the well. Water supply is also degraded in the presence of overpopulation (which just makes matters worse and worse over time). The base score (it's logarithmic) is 10 for China, assuming no overpopulation. As that's just not so in our era, here are the top 10 countries by water, and their scores:

  1. Brazil 9.57 Amazon, Sao Francisco, Paraguay, et cetera

  2. China 9.17 Hwang He, Yangtze, Liao, Song Koi, Mekong

  3. India 8.31 Ganges, Brahmaputra, Godavari

  4. Russia 7.72 Volga, Ob, Dneipr, Yenesei, Amur Darya, Lena, Don, Kura

  5. United States 7.60 Hudson, Mississippi, Missouri, Saint Lawrence, Rio Grande, Red, Platte, Colorado, Columbia, Yukon, San Joaquin

  6. Indonesia 6.52 ....

  7. Bangladesh 6.15 Ganges, Brahmaputra

  8. Canada 5.96 Saint Lawrence, Mackenzie, Yukon, Nelson, Churchill

  9. Venezuela 4.11 Orinoco

  10. Zaire 3.99 Congo

Only one of these countries does not boast at least one world-class river basin, and that's Indonesia, which gets two monsoons a year, I do believe. If I missed a name-brand river system, let me know. :)

Carry Capacity Utilization This, ultimately, is what matters. Are you over or under budget? I've discussed this, and there was a big seminar in Mexico City earlier this year on this topic: water scarcity is a national security issue.

Here are the 25 most water-scarce countries, by this criteria (being over 100% = bad)

  1. Qatar    173%

  2. Singapore    161%

  3. Jordan    142%

  4. Saudi Arabia    136%

  5. Oman    131%

  6. Libya    131%

  7. Yemen    131%

  8. Israel    130%

  9. United Arab Emirates    128%

  10. Bahrain    126%

  11. Algeria    126%

  12. Tunisia    125%

  13. Cape Verde    124%

  14. Belgium    120%

  15. South Africa    119%

  16. Lebanon    118%

  17. Egypt    117%

  18. Morocco    117%

  19. Peru    116%

  20. Poland    115%

  21. Gaza Strip    114%

  22. Korea, South    114%

  23. Cyprus    113%

  24. Nigeria    113%

  25. Kenya    111%

Some of these countries are more city-states than nation-states (Qatar and Singapore among them), and cities are usually, even comfortably net water-debtors. The problem comes when somebody cuts the tapwater off. It is no accident that most of the countries on this list are among the most restive to be found.

For comparison, let's look at who has it best, and you will see my point:

  1. Iceland    1%

  2. Suriname    2%

  3. Guyana    2%

  4. Congo    3%

  5. Papua New Guinea    6%

  6. Gabon    6%

  7. Canada    8%

  8. Norway    8%

  9. New Zealand    9%

  10. Solomon Islands    9%

  11. Liberia    12%

  12. Equatorial Guinea    14%

  13. Belize    14%

  14. Venezuela    14%

  15. Panama    15%

  16. Paraguay    15%

  17. Bhutan    17%

  18. Laos    17%

  19. Brazil    18%

  20. Central African Republic    19%

  21. Uruguay    19%

  22. Cambodia    20%

  23. Bolivia    21%

  24. Russia    21%

  25. Nicaragua    22%

Now, there's more than a few names from past wars here, too; human actions, certainly not violent ones, are not determined by whether everyone's getting enough fluids. On the other hand, if I had to live at random in one of the countries on the first list, or on the second, I could do worse than go with the second list.

Technological Level When I first calibrated the scoring, back in the day, I was aiming for a score of 25 for the United States. The scorings have drifted somewhat, but here you have the Top 20, per my estimates:

  1. Japan 26.58

  2. United States 26.15

  3. Canada 25.78

  4. Sweden 25.57

  5. Austria 25.22

  6. Australia 25.17

7.(tie) France 25.08, Taiwan 25.08, Netherlands 25.08, Switzerland 25.08

  1. (tie) Ireland    25.07, Luxembourg    25.07, New Zealand 25.07

  2. Norway    25.06

  3. United Kingdom 24.89

  4. Hungary 24.67

  5. Greece 24.60

  6. Denmark 24.57

  7. Germany 24.35

  8. Israel 24.23

Some might raise hell at the last two being so long, chief among them the Germans and the Israelis. Well, Germany's score is diluted by its absorption of the former DDR, which lags behind the former west in development evne still. A similar condition, albeit de facto as opposed to de jure, exists in Israel's case. The gap is far greater, but the relative weight significantly less, and most of both West Bank and Gaza are rated separately.

For comparison, here are the lowest 20 on the list:

  1. Mozambique 12.26

  2. Rwanda 12.67

  3. Eritrea 12.71

  4. Chad 12.76

  5. Afghanistan 12.78

  6. Ethiopia 12.79

  7. Burundi 12.87

  8. Sudan 12.96

  9. Somalia 12.98

  10. Zaire 13.11

  11. Central African Republic 13.20

  12. Mali 13.65

  13. Burkina Faso 14.13

  14. Angola    14.27

  15. Togo 14.42

  16. Malawi 14.60

  17. Senegal 14.61

  18. Kenya 14.62

  19. Congo 14.63

  20. Niger 14.65

This is not to say that there is no electricity, or running water, phones or Internet. It's just that such things are on average very rare in comparison to life in the United States...and even fewer such things are manufactured locally. That and in some of the above countries, a sign of an advanced fighting force is possession of battle-trained horses or camels. The Darfur situation in Sudan, for example. Afghanistan, for another.

Infrastructure Saturation At a given level of technology, there is only so much capital you can sink into a given piece of real estate. It's a measure of the intensity of development, the room a domestic economy has to grow, all other things being equal. It's also a sign of how 'developed' a society is, in terms of road, rail, telephone, cell phone towers, fiber-optic cables, Internet access, plumbing, electricity, et cetera.

The top 15:

  1. France 9.37 (yet another reason to hate 'em, heh heh)

  2. Austria 8.83

  3. Netherlands 8.82

  4. United Kingdom 8.59

  5. Germany 8.52

  6. Italy 8.09

  7. Taiwan 8.08

  8. Japan 8.08

  9. Spain 8.01

  10. Belgium 7.85

  11. Denmark 7.80

  12. Bahrain 7.44

  13. United Arab Emirates 7.35

  14. Korea, South 7.35

  15. Israel 7.26

In case you're curious, the United States scores a 4.31.

And for comparison, here's the Lower 15:

  1. Papua New Guinea 0.51

  2. Central African Republic 0.71

  3. Suriname 0.75

  4. Guyana 0.81

  5. Angola 0.84

  6. Zaire 0.85

  7. Mozambique 0.88

  8. Congo 0.91

  9. Niger 0.93

  10. Mali 0.97

  11. Rwanda 0.99

  12. Afghanistan 1.03

  13. Ethiopia 1.03

  14. Somalia 1.04

  15. Chad 1.04

So buy some telecom shares in Papua New Guinea and get in on the bottom floor.

Education - The max for 2003 is 10. Some countries have built on that since then.

  1. (tie) New Zealand, Iceland, Chile, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Taiwan, Netherlands, France 10.05

  2. Cuba 10.04

  3. Italy 9.97

  4. Spain 9.95

  5. Denmark 9.88

  6. United Kingdom 9.82

  7. Germany 9.80

  8. Korea, South 9.73

  9. Belgium 9.61

  10. Bahrain 9.48

  11. Israel 9.41

Both the United States and Canada are among 15 countries tied for 21st.

On the other end of the spectrum...

  1. Rwanda 3.43

  2. Eritrea 3.45

  3. Afghanistan 3.46

  4. Ethiopia 3.46

  5. Burundi 3.49

  6. Central African Republic 3.51

  7. Zaire 3.51

  8. Mozambique 3.51

  9. Congo 3.51

  10. Somalia 3.51

  11. Sudan 3.51

  12. Angola 3.98

  13. Mali 4.44

  14. Chad 4.44

  15. Burma 4.44

  16. Yemen 5.03

  17. Kenya 5.24

  18. Uganda 5.35

  19. Laos 5.38

  20. Brazil 5.38

Other statistics are derived from the above.

Reason for Sharing All This With You

It is my observation that countries with similarities in one or more of the above characteristics are much more likely to be friends than in cases where significant variances occur. Why? On account it is, time and effort-wise expensive to conduct transactions, peaceful, personal and profitable, between societies that simply do not share priorities. Differences of culture, race, religion and opinion are bad enough without having structural barriers to understanding, negotiation and compromise. And without, that you either have strangers, vassals or enemies, and risk of confusion, resentment and betrayal are always lurking behind the corner.

"Structural Allies"

For other countries, the United States is a difficult country to establish sympatico with. Why? Few countries have the combination of technology, room for population growth, room for internally-driven economic expansion, aggressive predisposition and high average quality of life. Uneven distribution or not (it's not), this is an astonishingly rich, well-developed, well-educated (not the best, but decent and getting better) and (for a while longer) roomy country.

Now, friendships aren't guaranteed... in fact, countries just like individuals who run in the same circles can as often be rivals as pals. Still, it's a place to start. Let's take a lot at what we got.

The closest structural matches we have out there are Japan, Australia, Poland, Colombia, Greece, Czech Republic, Samoa, Brunei, Trinidad and Tobago, where the scores for each are with a standard deviation of those for the USA in four out of five categories (technology, infrastructure, education, aggression, prosperity). Quite a few of these countries participated in the recent unpleasantness in Iraq. The top three were key supporters.

The major European powers all line up on three categories, likewise Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Argentina, Turkey, Ukraine, and quite a few others. These are all countries that enjoy close alignment with the United States on some but not all issues.

China matches up for two full categories, and provisionally on prosperity, and the later is likely to improve in the near future.

"Structural Enemies"

There are countries for which there is no significant affinity of any sort with the Americans, and vice-versa. Such states are strangers at best, enemies at worst.

The most powerful of these at present is Brazil, which is in a different place than the United States on all counts, not as rich, or developed, or technology advanced -- or as aggressive toward other countries.

The next most powerful just happens to be Venezuela, which is less developed infrastructurally than the USA, but falls within the compatibility band on this one score, and with which the United States enjoys an ongoing war of words. Venezuela and Brazil happen to be really good friends, so any hypothetical war with Venezuela is very likely to inconvenience and annoy the Brazilians.

The third country on the "structural enemies" list just happens to be Vietnam. That war was long ago, and yet seems to be on everyone's mind lately.

And just so you don't miss it: Iraq is on the same list, with one structural compatibility (infrastructure). Likewise Afghanistan (no compatibilities at all). Likewise Somalia. Likewise Sudan. Likewise Rwanda.

Iran, interestingly enough, is not; neither is Korea (both have three categories). Nor is Pakistan (two matches, somewhat dicier).

Israel, the eventual focus of all this backstory, rates three compatibilities. A tie with Iran which, by the way, was once among America's best allies. A little something we have taught ourselves to forget these past three decades.

Alas, there are no guarantees for good friendships, just good predictors. And human beings make the choices, not their predispositions.

Focusing on the Middle East

On account that was where we were headed with all this.

By classic balance of power theory, you look for the most powerful alliance partners you can hook up with. Using the above criteria as a guide, let's see what the United States would be likely to end up with

We're going to start with the most powerful (per my estimators) and work our way down the list:

Turkey - Infrastructure, education and aggression estimators match up with the Americans'. Overall technology level in society is significantly higher than in India, levels of prosperity far below those in the United States. In conventional forces, more than twice as powerful as Israel. A good friend to have, and via the NATO alliance Turkey has been just that...up to a point. Turkey balked at hosting an invasion of neighbor Iraq.

Iran - Once a close ally, now an explicit enemy of the United States and the feeling goes both ways after almost three decades of animosity. Structurally, a near-twin of Turkey. The two countries -- Iran and Turkey, that is -- have tentative security agreements with one another, highly focused on Kurdish issues, but Turkey has allies it would prefer to keep, over getting cozier with Teheran. Likewise the Iranians. As for the Americans getting along, well, that particular horse has long since left the barn. next...

Egypt - Since the Camp David accords, the United States and Egypt have been official allies, cordially cooperative, but that's about the extent of it. The society at large is like most in the more modern-minded regions of Islam: impressed with what American society offers, unimpressed with what Americans do with their blessings. And yet the alliance has held, and old tensions etween Egypt and Israel have settled such that the prospect of war between the two is highly unlikely. And that, ultimately, was the only reason that war with the Americans was ever likely.

Israel Technologically advanced, highly educated, a touch more aggressive than the Americans but not signficantly so, prosperous so long as one is a citizen, developed to the point of bursting, very overcrowded population-wise, though that problem could be mitigated if only a means of bringing more water to Israel could be found, rather than expansion into the one remaining water-rich area (the West Bank) with room to support more population that remains in the Levant. And unlike the Turks, the Israelis have no qualms about Americans' use of war as a mode of foreign policy in the region, and unlike the Iranians, the Israelis remain fond of Americans.

Which sort of wraps the discussion up for this diarist. Once we had allies of all four of the top four players in the Middle East. Now we're two out of three, in those very countries where we did not interfere in local politics in order to toss aside an elected regime in favor of an imperial one. Had that error not occured, or if Iranians had no memory, we would not be having this conversation. But the Shah happened, therefore the Revolution happened, therefore we are.

Cost-Benefits of Hangin' With Israel: Just Fine, Thanks.

From where I'm sitting, the only way Walt and Mearsheimer could possibly be right about the trade-off, ie. distancing from Israel as a means of making strategic policy gains in the region, would be if Iran was in a highly charitable mood, along with any other Muslim country with which we weren't already on good terms.

But that's just it.

Fifth on our list is Saudi Arabia, with 2 compatibilities (infrastructure and education; for all its oil wealth and education the society at large is technologically unsophisticated and passive, but this could change on a time if the water supply ever failed; the country is dangerously overpopulated. The arrangement with the United States is strictly economic, outside of oil and natural gas, the two societies have very little in common, and perhaps more to dislike of one another, and this is separate from any other consideration. But so long as the oil flows, the Saudis are mostly content, and those who are not have the well-armed Saudi regime to contend with, and that government will need friends someday, as the Shah of Iran once did. Perhaps they will be more fortunate. But then again, what dynasty never fell?

And all of this is independent of whether we are friends with Israel or not.

My thinking of the topic: Don't Change How America Thins About Israel. Change How America Thinks About Palestine.

If there is a key to transforming the Middle East, it's less one of changing the relationship with Israel and more related to changing the one with the Palestinians. Elementally, the West Bank has all the pieces to integrate nicely into federation with Israel. That is, if that were a good idea. I'm not so sure it is.

The problem is obvious: no one who wants to be sovereign in the occupied territories is allowed to be. The ambiguous status of the West Bank is the problem, as there is no shortage of skilled hands and minds in the area, just oppportunities to pursue constructive ends. And that is a formula for mischief and devastation.

I, for one, feel that the choice should be one or the other. Either the so-called Occupied Territories should be quit by Israel completely, or formally annexed. Either way, responsibility for order will fall clearly on either the Palestinian Authority or the government of Israel.

In my opinion, the talk of federation is absurd, as federation is an arrangement among equals, impossible in the absence of sovereignty for both parties.

Which brings us to the other, and riskier option: formally recognizing the de facto control of the entire Holy Land by Israel, and Israel accepting responsibility for the entire population, for better or worse, and making accommodations (or reaping the whirlwind) in regards to citizenship and property rights for the Arab residents.

I would hazard that the latter is never going to happen, as it has never happened before, for the chief reason that it's a bit challenging to have a 'Jewish' state, as many see Israel, including many Israelis, and have what may someday be an Arabic and Islamic majority therein. So, that's a bit of a problem.

Alas, the two societies are inextricable. However, maintaining one as part of global civilization and the other as a threat to same, or at best a nearby, heavily-guarded pool of cheap skilled and unskilled labor with a penchant for lashing out in frustration every so often, is downright dangerous, not only to Israel but to regional and global security.

I don't see any need for Israel to stop being what it is, or for the United States to stop being friends, especially since there are two Islamic allies in the region even more powerful (in conventional forces) than Israel in Turkey and Egypt, and one (Saudi Arabia) that is almost so, with little in the way of advantage farther down the roster toward either appeasement or antagonization.

But Palestine needs to stop being what it is: in Limbo. If federation is the eventual answer, sovereignty must come first, and some compensation paid for confiscated lands (and there are plenty of them) if relocation of settlements just isn't going to happen. If Israel cannot or will not underwrite it, seems to me it's a good time to call Uncle Sam, and/or the many generous oil-producing countries that have professed an interest in the Palestinian cause.

The way I see it, the Iraq War has cost $600 billion so far. The area of the West Bank is 5,860 square kilometers. Were all that Iraq War money spent on buying or paying for land in the West Bank, it would come out to $102 per square meter. That's $9.46 a square foot. For every rock, paving stone, pebble and puddle. So I'm thinking the funds to reach some accommodation are available for pennies on the dollar of what is likely, I would say inevitably, to be one final war if some peace is not obtained.


I have no illusions that this is a decisive argument. I suspect many will seize onto one phrase or the other, perhaps three or four if I am lucky, and castigate me for one reason or another even though the main contention of this piece is that Walt and Mearscheimer, whatever their methodology, whatever their framework, have simply but got the calculus of geopolitics wrong on American national security interests in the Middle East.

Hopefully, nobody missed that. As for commentary on a solution to the interminable Middle East conflict, a euphemism for delaying the final dispensation of land that was taken in war almost forty years ago but never formally annexed, and therefore still in limbo.

There is no path to peace from here without risk: either the risk that Israel can find a way to change in order to keep all of the so-called Occupied Territories, which I see as unlikely and unpopular; or the risk of letting the Palestinians go their way, then setting to the question of federation and the meding of fences.

As for those who doubt any such accommodation is possible: Ask them about Egypt, which post-Camp David is now one of America's top allies in the region. Ditto Jordan.

There's no reason why we cannot go for the hat trick with Palestine, via the same mechanism: negotiation of peace with Israel, through fairness and, yes, cutting a few checks.

Or we can continue building peace and freedom the new way, as in Iraq. Of course the meter's still running on that fare: $600 billion, three years, 100,000+ dead and counting.

Peace, like freedom, cannot be dictated. And as we have seen in Iraq, force is a poor deliverer of peace, and an even worse one for freedom.

There is no reason to expect that circumstances are so different between Iraq and Palestine, that what is obvious in one case is irrelevant in the other, and what fails at terrible cost in one place works to great profit in the other.

But maybe it's just me.

Appendix: Israel's Affinities (or, if Israel could pick its patron powers...

I decided to reverse the polarity of the compatibility model, to identify what countries would be most compatible from Israel's perspective, based on the same analysis.

The answer surprised the heck out of me at first. Why? Because the United States isn't the first choice Israel would make, if Israel were shopping for allies. In other words, the extant relationship is very advantageous for the Americans for its interests in the region, and the reverse is useful but there may be better opportunities elsewhere.

In other words, it might not be the Israelis who are pushing to keep the relationship going. Per my model, it's not.

So who, then?

The closest matches by the 'structral compatibility' model would be the Singapore, Belgium and Denmark. However, Singapore doesn't really have the oomph of a typical world power possesses. Likewise, Belgium and Denmark. So, who's in the next band?

South Korea, Spain and Ukraine.Korea is an awfully long way away. Spain's at the far end of the Med. How about Ukraine? Hmm...maybe. Still...we're looking for an ally with a bit more horsepower.

Which brings us to France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In other words: Europe. and we've seen quite a few other European players on our journey to this level of sponsorship.

And what of the Americans, and the much-vaunted Israeli-American alliance?

For the non-European major powers, the Israelis, per this interpretation, would prefer to go with Japan in its current format. Following that would then be the Americans....who are in the same compatibility bandwidth as the Russians, who are not among the most pro-Semitic societies on record and the Indians, who have their own territorial dispute with the Pakistanis.

Then comes China, which does not strike me as especially concerned with the disposition of claims on land and water in the Holy land, so long as it does not interfere with oil shipments to the Far East.

I am not sure exactly how events in the Levant would transpire, if Europe rather than America assumed the lead sponsorship in the Mideast peace process, or if such as trade-off would be welcome. On the other hand, the last crumb of good news I can recall on the topic came out of a place called Oslo. Something to think about.

But peace is coming to the Middle East.

Hopefully, we have time to choose friendship before we run out of time and the choice (for the grave) is made for us.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 10:49:47 AM EST
I have always understood that Finland has, per capita, among the best drinking water resources, along with Canada?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:52:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe so.  It also has, if I'm not mistaken, one of the most competitive economies on the planet, according to a fairly recent survey published in the WSJ.  The Journal, of course, ignored Finland's high ranking.  The Nordic states, in general, seem to rank high on these sorts of reports.  I think cskendrick did a great job.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:04:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:08:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To quote:

Nor has high taxation in the Nordic countries impeded economic performance. Rather than relying mainly on income taxation, as in the US, the Nordic countries rely on value-added taxation, which provides a relatively high amount of revenue with relatively low rates of evasion and few distortions to the economy.

The Nordic experience also belies conservatives' claim that a large social welfare state weakens incentives to work and save. National saving in the Nordic countries averages more than 20 percent of national income, compared to around 10 percent in the US

But we have to add in the inbuilt  Calvinist/Lutheran work morale

But how replicable are the Nordic successes? These countries have small populations, easy access to international trade, natural resources, and peaceful neighbours. Most notably, they are ethnically homogeneous, so that social divisions are more amenable to compromise. However, this means that the challenge of maintaining a strong social welfare state in ethnically and racially diverse societies such as the US is not economic, but one of promoting respect and inclusiveness

espect and inclusiveness -right on!

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:27:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good find.  Thanks.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:40:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To say nothing of the drinking vodka resources.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:05:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just because you wear a greyhound owners cap, it doesn't entitle you to chase rabbits.

Please present your comparative figues for annual per capita comparative consumption of alcohol in Norway and Finland. The loser offfers the winner a night out in the local nightspot of choice,

Welcome to Helsinki...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:13:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the figures, but while we can't compete with you wackos (and please take that in an affectionate sense), we Norsemen do have a certain reputation on the continent for prodigious binge drinking. This despite the odds being stacked against us by an unholy alliance of social-democratic paternalists and pietist loons.

I'm talking here about £30-50 a pint and £40-50 for a decent single malt.

But you know Sven, unless we drop this subject (and yes, I am aware that I raised it), we'll be at risk from the air marshall, not for the first time.

So I'll pour myself one instead, and dream of Helsinki.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:28:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have we ever really disagreed? Or have we merely indulged in the standard Nordic ball-bashing.

Come to Helsinki and let me show you a good time. A little fisticuffs is merely part of a good evening out...In between we might solve the problems of the world...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:44:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, we haven't disagreed -- the air marshall was in reference to hijacking...

I'll see you in Helsinki before this lifetime is over, drink you pitifully under the table, and thump my chest!

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:58:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That depends on what we drink - but I must warn you that I once drank a Finnish general onto the floor.

You can still thump your chest, the moral victory will be clear ;-9

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:05:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, everybody knows Icelanders rule. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)
by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:05:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got Finland with enough water for 18 million, 71% of it available at the moment for export.

Sweden's supply, in number of people supportable: 22MM (70% available)

Norway: 55MM (92% available)

For comparison Canada has enough for 408MM (likewise 92% available for export)

These are all estimates, of course, and subject to revision.

Wouldn't want to shortchange Finland, if the Finns have more water on tap than that. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:27:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But does it taste good? ;.)

Note that these are all boreal regions. And I am fascinated by the apparent fact that not only does every cubic metre of timber sequester 210 kilos of carbon, but that the average 20 year old tree holds 200 litres of water. And that transpiration produces 2/3rds of atmospheric water.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:38:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...meaning to the question "Got Wood?" :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)
by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:40:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not going to mention Norwegian Wood because Sirocco will simply claim that the Beatles got their launch in Stavanger playing 8 hrs a night to drunken Norwegian North Sea oil workers.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:48:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Norwegians are heavily into mythology

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting...

Would you mind analysing the alliances among European Countries, and between the "core" european countries (whatever your model makes that core to be: I'd like to know!) and the rest of the world?

For the meaning of "European Countries" I suggest the member states of the Council of Europe, plus Belarus.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:02:25 PM EST
Core group (9 category matches): France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom

The next tier (7 matches): Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, San Marino

(6 matches): Ukraine, Poland, Greece, Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Lithuania

(5 matches): Turkey, Norway, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Moldova, Estonia

(4 matches): Romania, Sweden, Finland, Bulgaria, Belarus, Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia, Macedonia, Iceland

(3 matches): Serbia, Albania

Not bad for a rough-draft description of European unification, if I say so myself. :)

Relations with World Powers Elsewhere

(8 matches): South Korea
(7 matches): Japan, Taiwan
(6 matches): Israel
(5 matches): Canada, Australia, Cuba
(4 matches): India, Russia, Chile, Thailand, Mexico, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa
(3 matches): United States, China, Argentina, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Nigeria
(2 matches): Colombia, Malaysia, Venezuela
(1 match): Indonesia, Bangladesh
(0 matches): Brazil

Selected trouble spots, in European eyes (more zero matchers): Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Congo, Western Sahara

Seem plausible to you, Migeru? :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:38:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please make this a diary, then we can debate it.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:27:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia is a member of the CoE, though I agree it should be the centre of a separate analysis and not the periphery of Europe.

Missing Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, too.

If you do turn this into a diary, I'd like to see all other countries listed under "relations with powers elsewhere". In particular I'm missing Morocco and Mauritania (important because if the Western Sahara trouble spot).

I find it really interesting that the core has only 3 category matches with each of USA and China, but 4 matches with India, Russia, Mexico, Iran and South Africa, and 5 matches with Canada and Cuba. Makes the transatlantic relation's ride a little bumpy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:49:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Totally forgot Bosnia/Herzegovina.

But your forgot to fill in Kalinn as Russia. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 07:31:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You also forgot Cyprus (and the Vatican?) I left Russia unfilled on purpose: it's the centre of its own pole.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 02:38:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
asdf made a comment in your democracies diary which promtped my to think about within-group vs. cross-group differences.

Question: if you take the US states as units and do an analysis similar to what you just did for Europe, what is the "core" (or are there two cores: CA+NY v. TX?), what are the layers, and what is the international outlook from the core(s)?

It would be really interesting if you had two cores with different international allies...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 05:58:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll have to dig for the original setup, but I once performed a Red States v Blue States abstraction to test that very thing, albeit using a cruder comparison that the test presented here.

The purpose was to get a sense of how international allies would be parceled out in the event of a Second American Civil War.

As it turns out, you end up with the Blues pulling in help from Europe and the rest of the Americas, the Reds pulling in help from Asia.

Again, I'll have to re-test this with the new! improved model...but I thought you might be interested in some sort of answer now. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 08:53:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I found your post very intereseting, but (there's always one, hehe) I do want to ask you about game theoretic considerations.  Specifically, your model assumes that like affinity powers are more probable to form alliances with like affinity powers.  Yet doesn't that neglect completely the idea that organisms (I will use biological analogy since I am more familiar with this) which are similar are much more likely to compete for resources and therefore come into conflict?  

Moreover, is it not true that highly disparate relationships have just as much likelihood of being beneficial to critical parties, especially the ones with the upper hand?  History, especially colonial history (extending into modern imperialism), is rife with examples of powerful states using much less powerful states as their personal playgrounds for resource acquisition, etc.  Your analysis is in a way correct - your metrics are good indicators of similarity - but they also seem to suggest lists of incompatibility for exploitation.  That is, similar countries have a much harder time exploiting eachoter; you would expect exploitation to be very asymmetrical.  Any thoughts on this / attempts to use game theoretic approaches to determine which pairs would be most likely to exploit one another?  

Finally, bringing the Israeli example back into this, would the disparity argument perhaps resolve the reason for which the US is actually so close to Israel?  When the Egyptians started the 1973 war, from what I understand, it was American supplies of arms which proved critical in allowing Israel to repel the attack.  It also allowed Washington to essentially dictate the peace.  There has been a popular theory that Israel is exploited by the Americans as a mechanism of introducing a degree of volatility into the region as well as providing a strike force of last-resort (e.g., in the current Iranian showdown, it may be advantageous to have the Israelis strike Iran so that Americans can avoid the retaliation - I do not think this is necessarily true of the current situation, just musing, but I think the strike on Iraqi nuclear facilities in the 80s is probably a real example of this at work).  

Anyhow, I find your model very interesting - especially the post above this one (or maybe more above, by the time I hit "Post"!) which revealed the accuracy you have of predicting the tiers of European Union expansion.  But I think perhaps it is limited to conditions of true cooperation, and perhaps the mismatch in your model for the US-Israeli relationship indicates that it is not applicable.  If the US-Israeli relationship is basically one where a weaker country is forced to be dependent on a stronger country (consequently the weaker is therefore more subject to exploitation), then perhaps your criticism of Walt/Mearsheimer is outside the scope of the model.  

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

by speron (speron1 at yahoo dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 09:34:33 PM EST

1. Assumption that like affinity powers are more probable to form alliances with like affinity powers.

This is derived from human psychology, which is strongly inclined to form, maintain and expand relations among affinity sets than across such boundaries. This tendency, of course, is directly counter to microeconomic theory, which in a nutshell models similar roles (producers v. producers, or consumers v. consumers) as adversarial, while dissimilar roles (producers and buyers) at least have the potential for non-zero-sum gains (the concept of comparative advantage).

Economic theory is next to useless in explaining breakdowns in communication, sharp increase in aggression following such a breakdown, and decisions to break rather than make goods and services (and the human beings that both produce and consume them).

We try to focus on efficiency in communications here.

Or let's try a different topic: Why democracies don't fight other democracies...usually. Why? Because cross-border constituencies form --- civilian leaders, military leaders, pen pals, Internet chat rooms, all the wonderful blending of diverse personal, professional, political and economic interests that happens with two open societies with the Kantian freedoms of movement, expression and association enshrined.

Why democracies work at interstate state peace with other democracies? Because the openness facilitates the formation of these affinity groups across boundaries.

And if you do well enough at it, you wind up with something that looks a lot like, well, a federation of closely-entertwined representative democracies, an identity that transcends nationalism.

To a weaker extent, this same affinity process occurs among similar modes of nondemocracy, but sans full openness and protection of basic political liberties (movement, expression, association), the affinity is more likely to break down.

Now, in the exercise here, we're discounting the regime variable entirely, and focusing on power components as gauges of affinity, as determined by gross sociological characteristics or local geographic or eonomic endowments (some good, some bad). The premise is that more similar circumstances generates more probability of affinity.

Now, if two peas in the same pod, as it were, happen to have chosen radically divergent modes of constitution or public policy (ex, two portions of the same country, one abolishing slavery, the other clinging to the so-called peculiar institution), well, that's different.

What's interesting to me is that despite an original interest in regime and religion-based dyad pairs as a predictor of war and peace (I wrote my master's thesis on this topic), that the affinity criteria used here predict as well as they do.

One suspects that combining the approaches would yield especially interesting advice -- for example, that of the countries that structurally line up best with Israel in the Middle East, one of them happens to be Iran, which is clearly not in danger of being a friend of the state of Israel, and vice-versa, due to longstanding constitutional and public policy choices.

Still, I think such wars tend to be rare, as the lines of communications are less prone to amibiguity and misunderstanding (I imagine Iran and Israel understand each other close to perfectly), therefore miscues are less likely to become missteps, and crises less likely to erupt into warfare. However, when such wars occur, they are far more likely to be serious conflagrations.

That, in summation, is how I'd reconcile the matter of affinity tending to produce alliances, with fewer breakdowns among the club but once serious differences in policies emerge and continue, some sort of resolution has to occur. More often than not, states with a structural (especially those with both structural and regime) affinity will work it out. When they do not, the recriminations, perception of moral affront and betrayal exacerbate the violence should the hypothetical war occur.

That is also, in my opinion, why civil wars in structurally homogenous states are exceptionally bad in terms of loss of life and property. But that is definitely out of scope.

On the game theory angle

I think, contrary to conventional wisdom, that Israel in fact is making do with a next-best alternative in its current alliance relations, by having the United States as a patron power. I think Israel is in many ways more aligned with Europe, not only by the gross criteria that I utilize but by subtype of democracy. Finally, the Europeans have valuable (and expensive) experience getting once-hostile ethnic and religious groups to coexist.

What the Americans bring to the table, of course, is an unmatched power to make annoying nation-states go away. What is not realized is if the legendary post-World War II skill of the Americans to refashion old enemies into fast friends is still alive and well and living in Baghdad...because much of the world thinks not.

However useful a tool to have in the kit, this is not an asset that Israel needs exclusively, and what I think Israel needs far more is resources to engage its neighbors in matters of mutual importance -- bringing more water out of the earth, or the sea, or from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. On such projects, Europe has proven skill, as well as the ability to send troops to the aid of allies, both in Europe and farther afield. In comparison, the American contractors have had negligible success in getting Iraqi oil production back to prewar levels; this does not raise confidence, either from a technical or a security standpoint.

Ergo, I think the Israelis are standing to look around for a new set of best friends.

If I understand the game corectly, it is now a question is what the Americans will do, on their own recognizance, to 'win' the game, with the outcomes being that either America remains the first, dominant ally of Israel, imposing Israel's second (actually, third) choice on it, or becomes what Europe is currently vis a vis Israel: a second opinion, and a not always welcome one.

Or, set a different way: I think the way Israel thinks of the United States now is probably on par with the level if not kind of mild distrust that characterizes how America and the core European countries feel about one another now. From the Israeli perspective, it's astonishing that the Americans once openly debated whether or not troops should/would be sent to help Israel in event of attack by its Arab allies, when no such question (to Israel's perception) was ever voiced if the Warsaw Pact had ever broken through the Fulda Gap and marched on the Rhine.

It's the sort of hearsay that makes a country's government want to hedge its bets.

Regarding limits of applicability

No construct with human decisionmaking can possibly be applicable to all cases, combination of cases, circumstances, or eras. Human beings are volitional particles, and as such prone to make decisions just to flout predictability, once the rules of the game are recognized.

Woo. It's getting late here in the eastern USA. I gotta wrap this up.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 12:14:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First off, thanks for the very nice answer.  I am going to throw out some comments - basically talking out loud here.

I am guessing you would say that WWI was an example of breakdown of communication in a relatively stable system with catastrophic consequences due to the strength of the involved and relatively well matched players.  

Interesting to hear the arguments from the "other side" - i.e., why Israel would find it less and less beneficial in the current situation to befriend the Americans.  

I am curious about your opinion on governmental decision making and optimization thereof.  Specifically, do you feel that democratic societies are capable of producing optimal decision making due to the system of checks and balances inherent in such governments, or do you feel that this is not the case?  I ask because outside of true "realists", many elite groups typically base decisions (or at least appear to from my observation) on seemingly non-optimal grounds.  For instance, while it may be to the long term detriment of Israel to have a ethnically pure Jewish state in the middle of a traditionally mutli-religious "micro-region" and generally Muslim region (especially when her neighbors are all too keenly aware of how she was born), it seems there is a large faction in Israel for whom ethnic purity IS the modus operandi.  There are factions in Israel which support abolishing completely the Jewish identity and essentially establishing a new "Palestine" (the communists, for instance), and then there is the middle who wish for some kind of two-state settlement and reduced aggression.  Is it fair to say that these positions are dictated by the reality, or would you think it is more correct to say that the reality dictates the positions of these groups?

As a neuroscientist, I am quite shocked at the simplicity that both economic and social models assign to the functioning of the human brain - and I unfortunately always find a lack of completeness in the models.  As you say, the economists tend to over-emphasize the competitive, "perfect" decision making capacity of humans, neglecting the severe lapses in judgment built into our nervous system.  However, I am also somewhat inclined to say that your model also suffers from some over-simplification.  I am sure you would agree with this.  

The one thing I did not see you reply to - maybe I did not understand properly - was the notion of competition engendered by having similar needs.  Specifically, industrialized economies are much more likely to compete with one another for resources than they are with less advanced economies.  No one would suggest that the US and Chad will clash over things that matter to them - but the possibility of a US-EU competition is already a frequent topic in policy journals.  

And this gets me back to the group v. individual decision making perspective: ultimately, all social processes are the manifestations of the interactions of thousands of individuals.  The allocation of decision power is highly skewed - probably a distribution with a very long tail which comprises the elite.  In such a situation, the affinity model does have some power.  But I would suggest that since people at the highest eschelons typically are some of the most aggressive and competitive members of society and since they hold much more of the power than the rest of us, competition should indeed play a more central role this problem is approached.  Especially now that we are entering a period of increasing resource scarcity and the erosion of global unipolarity.

by speron (speron1 at yahoo dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 02:20:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Notion that  Israel would find it less and less beneficial in the current situation to befriend the Americans.

I think Israel likes the Americans best when American troops are not in the Middle East, at which point the US becomes less of a facilitator for Israeli security and more a competitor for influence and attempted control of events. Since the Europeans are much more hesitant to do any such thing in the current era, and possess significant military resources of their own, this might make moving Europe closer to the head of the negotiating table a good move for Israel. The risk, of course, is that any such switch (Americans leave, Europeans move in, as it were) will invite testing the strength and resolve of the alliance.

opinion on governmental decision making and optimization thereof

Transactions costs are high; once locked in, alliance partners tend to stay `married to the position', as they say in stock trading, and what was optimal at the time, or based on the information available, may grow stale very quickly, and yet the `marriage' persists....until it falls apart catastrophically. Or lets go back to the affinity model: As with human individuals, states and societies in a relationship maintain an irrational attachment that persists long past the point at which information justifying close ties is revised downward.

Peer competition among Human individuals

I'd say that strong players in the same affinity set vie for dominance and influence within the group, in order to direct policy in competition with other groups. Within the affinity set, there exist mutually-recognized limits, accepted modes of discourse, conflict and escalation, incentives for behaviors that are profitable or at least benign toward the interests of the group at large. There are also means of discipline, demotion, sanction and eviction of persons who either do not or will not respect the customs and norms of the affinity set...or simply cannot compete, therefore cannot contribute. There is an inertia, supported by the sunk cost of acceptance and recruitment of a given individual, and an expectation (or perhaps irrational, due to the social attachment), that makes human affinity sets hesitant to kick people out the door even in the face of repeated evidence that perhaps it would be a good idea to do so. One reason is the latent of emotional, even physiological discomfort at the prospect of stress related to the eviction of a member of one's team, or staff, or church, or class, or country. The other is a stress at the prospect of an angry and destructive reaction on the part of the person being cut loose; entire books have been written on how to dispose of political enemies, deal with incorrigible relatives or relationships, or terminate employees.

Peer competition among Human societies

The frequency of new alliance opportunities is far lower, the costs of detachment of one alliance and switching to another far greater. Many moving parts (human beings) are involved, all of which will be migrating from an old alliance preferences to new ones at different speeds and intensities...some will be moving even more closely to the old regime. Thus, changing interstate relationships generates peril of crisis within the affinity set, as well as uncertainty about motives, risk of miscues, misunderstanding, missteps and war between states as an old alliance is set aside and a new one taken up. Think of human gossip as a live-action quantum simulation, trying to parse out the implications of the prom king and prom queen breaking up. Then apply this metaphor to the flurry of diplomatic and intelligence-gathering activity in the wake of any shakeup in either the politics of a major world power, or the implications of a falling-out between, say, the United States and Iran following the ouster of the Shah. It is of a piece...simple at face value, but massively complex in practice. I mean, have you ever had to deal with hearsay? There's no more intricate and frustrating a phenomenon to model in all of social science.

Risk of policy shift = risk of alliance shifts

It's ever been the case; that's why governments, especially democracies, country-watch so intensely. Even more than human individuals, governments do not like surprises, are willing to spend a great deal of their socety's time, money and if need be lives to get the information it feels entitled to in order to avoid surprises. In other words, states are incredible busybodies, the least of which has a wide array of means at its disposal to get its questions answered by subjects and foreigners alike. This information flow goes both ways, as governments, like human individuals, process data and contribute suggestions and incentives, not always solicited or welcome, to other governments, about how they should/should not do such-and-such if they really want to get the most value out of a given deal, or piece of legislation, or public statement. Smaller groups than nation-states do this exact same thing, too - corporations, religious organizations, expatriate groups, professional associations, the Boy Scouts...and of course, the various and sundry cliques at the local high school.

Regarding democracies and optimal decision making

Optimal decisionmaking is first and foremost a function of clear, abundant and accurate observations of reality, reinforced by two-way discussion of mutual interests, values to derive at a set of choices. Then comes the decision itself, keeping in mind the talents, resources, connections, energy and creativity of the rest of one's affinity set, be it a company, political party, or nation-state. Reconciling a priori and post priori dissensions about policies and implementation and lessons learned and distribution of responsibility, risks and rewards among group members is just the mechanics of management; important - and impossible without good data and good, open discussion of its value to decisions based on same.

Short form: Closed, autocratic societies possess relatively high costs to decisionmaking; information is often gathered by unreliable means or, out of fear of punishment for gaps in coverage, simply made up by gatherers. Analysis is curtailed by an orthodoxy of interpretation that incentivizes telling the leadership cadre what it wants to hear. This both contrains and distorts the range of options provided to the leadership. Ergo, only exceptionally wise kings and dictators thrive/

Whereas within or among open, democratic societies, the cost of intelligence gathering is low and the quality of coverage high, open debate of interpretations and validation of assumptions takes place on an ongoing basis, and the leadership is given (a) more options and (b) since responsible to the citizenry, they have a high incentive to go with externally-validated reason rather than viscerally satisfying impulse. That, and in systems where checks and balances exist, there is even less likelihood of even mediocre leaders produce a dangerous outcome. Thus, in an open and democratic society, the chief danger comes not from lazy fools, who can be contained or removed readily enough, but from energetic and dedicated enemies of the very mechanisms that give democracies a higher likelihood of positive policy outcomes, because such mechanisms work against the policy preferences of the leadership.

In such instances as these, we see democracies go mad, and under the cover of the general assumption that such `mad republics' are still free and operating under democratic norms, much mischief is set in place, many concessions granted, until the time comes to dispense with the fiction and subsequently even the illusion of freedom.

We have seen this process unfold before, the most infamous and thoroughly-studied case being the rise of the National Socialists during the 1930s. There is no reason to expect that the rise of Hitler was idiosyncratic to Germany, as democracies have failed worldwide many times since, and in about the same fashion. In weaker states, the threshold of failure in democratic institutions is easier to cross, but that does not mean that strong democracies cannot go mad, as well.

However, better to live free and run the risk of madness, than be born insane, and endure in chains.

On the simplicity of economic and social models - Simple in mechanism, complex in execution

Human behavior is elementary in mechanism, complex in execution. We are volitional particles, that can partly change the `physics' by which we respond to stimuli, and partly cannot. En masse, this character can be more safely abstracted, and the changes in direction and resultant invalidation of old rules of thumb and predictive models, and the hurried development and introduction of new ones, are episodes that happen far less frequently than with human individuals, on the order of years and decades, rather than days and months. But never for a moment can human social behavior be safely assumed as wholly deterministic, or wholly discretionary, nor can the behavior of societies and states, as they are composed of human individuals who operate in this fashion.

The chief lesson of social science, one that most social scientists miss, and by that I mean everyone from economists and psychiatrists to sociologists and public policy wonks, is that no model is universal in scope, that all paradigms are in some manner case, time and parameter-specific, and that this applies even to the much-vaunted notion that democracies never fight other democracies.

Regarding US- EU competition, and emergent large-scale strife among democracies.

Under the old paradigm, if countries long recognized as representative democracies begin to discuss the risk of conflict, even war, among themselves, it is perhaps a sign that one or both sides of the dispute have since ceased to be functional democracies. And that is a matter of grave concern.

Yet there is also another theory, that the robustness of the so-called democratic peace is in significant measure dependent upon a heterogeneity of regime types. In other words, that in a world where all states were functional democracies, human beings being the irascible and contentious creatures that they are would fall upon some other mode of discrimination, to differentiate between who was friend and who was foe, that in the absence of juxtaposition with a clear and present danger the cohesion within an affinity set, even among democracies, begins to break down.

If so, Immanuel Kant's prediction of Perpetual Peace would be frustrated, as a world of elected regimes produces, say, a pair of irrendentist regimes quarreling over the same piece of land, with majorities in both democracies fully supporting policies aimed at the subjugation or destruction of the rival state, with the constituencies of each highly intolerant of elected leaders who even raise the possibility of partial or complete abandonment of territorial goals, no matter what the compensation for doing so may be.

In a world with hundreds as opposed to dozens of democracies, democracies will go mad at about the same rate, but for a larger population, and therefore instances of democracies fighting one another will happen, a track record of breakdown will be noted, and the tacit trust that free peoples have in the good sense of other free peoples will wear down, as well. And at that point, the distrust, preparations for war, even with other republics, will creep in, and in time whether or not a given government was voted into power will not matter much.

After all, back in classical Greece, it was not an issue at all. The wars happened, regardless...though less often than between democracies and oligarchies.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 10:56:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
sure, let's be pals with all, why not?

jerusalem should be made into an international city, and while we're at it, why not seat the un there?

it sucks that it's in ny, imo.

maybe it should rotate locations, in this e-age.

when i visited israel in 2000, i was struck with how early the kids are taught to hate, on both sides.

the sins of the fathers...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:38:57 AM EST
There is a book called Nature's End< by Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka, in which a doctor-turned-guru is advocating that on a given day, at the same time, everyone on the planet take a pill...and one out of three of them will be cyanide.

Ostensibly, it's a solution to overpopulation and the ecological collapse of the Earth under the weight of human numbers and human consumption.

The thing is, the good doctor isn't really interested in sacrificing one-third of Humanity to save the other two-thirds. He's out to kill off the whole species, all at once, to save the Earth itself. He's convinced that sans Humanity, the natural processes will heal the planet.

The thing is, he is just plain wrong, that the consequences of past destruction are too great for the Earth to heal itself, that either Humanity finds a way to live and take its trusteeship far more seriously, or the Earth, the living Earth, not the rocks underneath, will die.

Oh, the point

The real name of the doctor, who hides behind an alias called Gupta Singh, is Augustus Melo. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 08:09:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hi csk, (most numerate of all numbercrunchers, i salute your prodigious left hemishere),

melo is just italian for 'apple tree'

tho' as you may have understood by now, i have a tendency towards melodrama.
and as a recovering hippie, i like the idea of living 'mellow'!

as for being 'august', i alsways liked that word, but it's still too early in the year....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 11:06:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All this, and I'm left-handed, too. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)
by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:02:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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