Some Thoughts

Some of the first entities to develop successful (merchant) capitalism, the cutting edge as it were, were the small city-states of Italy and the surround region, and the Netherlands, another very small country. But as time went on much larger entities, like united Spain or France became dominant, and these Italian city-states desperately struggled to keep up – which they were eventually able to do only by fusing together into a united Italy in the 19th century (Germany was also doing a similar thing, of course).

Some of the first entities to develop successful, industry-powered, global-reac capitalism, the cutting edge as it were, were the nation-states of Europe, like Britain, France, Spain, Portugal. But now, much larger entities, like the United States of America, the People’s republic of China, or the Russian federation – organisations that are, let’s face it, no nation-states, each covering about half a continent – seem to have become dominant. Those European nation-states are desperately sturggling to keep up – which they are managing to do (?) only by fusing together into a European Union(?).

Is there a general tendency for small entities to be the cutting-edge, before falling behind as entities on a qualitatively different scale replicate their structures, leaving them trying to form a larger-scale entity through combination?

I know very little about Ancient history – is there any link with Greece and Rome here?

3 Responses to “Some Thoughts”

  1. Rob Says:

    Jared Diamond, in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel posited that Europe’s disunity caused a sort of “natural selection” among states due to competition. Earlier on, the fact that Eurasia had large domesticable animals and high-protein crops allowed it to develop high technology, which in combination with its disunty, allowed it to be at the cutting edge. Of course, the disunity there also caused centuries of vein-opening warfare. So that’s Diamond’s theory. It’s been years since I read the book and hence I don’t remember what his explanation of China’s situation is. If you want it, you’ll have to read the book. That’s all I can answer with.

  2. rumblegumption Says:

    Long long quotation from Plato’s senile ramblings in The Laws:

    How then can we rightly order the distribution of the land? In the first place, the number of the citizens has to be determined, and also the number and size of the divisions into which they will have to be formed; and the land and the houses will then have to be apportioned by us as fairly as we can. The number of citizens can only be estimated satisfactorily in relation to the territory and the neighbouring states. The territory must be sufficient to maintain a certain number of inhabitants in a moderate way of life-more than this is not required; and the number of citizens should be sufficient to defend themselves against the injustice of their neighbours, and also to give them the power of rendering efficient aid to their neighbours when they are wronged. After having taken a survey of theirs and their neighbours’ territory, we will determine the limits of them in fact as well as in theory. And now, let us proceed to legislate with a view to perfecting the form and outline of our state. The number of our citizens shall be 5040-this will be a convenient number; and these shall be owners of the land and protectors of the allotment. The houses and the land will be divided in the same way, so that every man may correspond to a lot. Let the whole number be first divided into two parts, and then into three; and the number is further capable of being divided into four or five parts, or any number of parts up to ten. Every legislator ought to know so much arithmetic as to be able to tell what number is most likely to be useful to all cities; and we are going to take that number which contains the greatest and most regular and unbroken series of divisions. The whole of number has every possible division, and the number 5040 can be divided by exactly fifty-nine divisors, and ten of these proceed without interval from one to ten: this will furnish numbers for war and peace, and for all contracts and dealings, including taxes and divisions of the land. These properties of number should be ascertained at leisure by those who are bound by law to know them; for they are true, and should be proclaimed at the foundation of the city, with a view to use. Whether the legislator is establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in respect of Gods and temples-the temples which are to be built in each city, and the Gods or demi-gods after whom they are to be called-if he be a man of sense, he will make no change in anything which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or the God Ammon, or any ancient tradition has sanctioned in whatever manner, whether by apparitions or reputed inspiration of Heaven, in obedience to which mankind have established sacrifices in connection with mystic rites, either originating on the spot, or derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus or some other place, and on the strength of which traditions they have consecrated oracles and images, and altars and temples, and portioned out a sacred domain for each of them. The least part of all these ought not to be disturbed by the legislator; but he should assign to the several districts some God, or demi-god, or hero, and, in the distribution of the soil, should give to these first their chosen domain and all things fitting, that the inhabitants of the several districts may meet at fixed times, and that they may readily supply their various wants, and entertain one another with sacrifices, and become friends and acquaintances; for there is no greater good in a state than that the citizens should be known to one another. When not light but darkness and ignorance of each other’s characters prevails among them, no one will receive the honour of which he is deserving, or the power or the justice to which he is fairly entitled: wherefore, in every state, above all things, every man should take heed that he have no deceit in him, but that he be always true and simple; and that no deceitful person take any advantage of him.

  3. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Sadly, even tiny Nauru has more than double the magic number of inhabitants, 5040, that Plato prescibes. I guess that explains why so many bad things happen.

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