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Peter Howard Foges

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  • Republican Iott a Reenactor of SS Panzer Div. Wiking
    • Does it take a European transplant like me (British born, and a resident for thirty years) to remark on the odd affinity between Prussian society and contemporary America. Voltaire a one time friend and admirer of Frederick the Great postulated that Prussia consisted not so much of a "state with an army", as "an army to which a state had been attached". The admiring Congressman from Ohio should read a little history (and dip into Clausewitz perhaps) before he demonstrates his ignorance and offensive bad taste in donning, of all things, the uniform of the criminal Waffen SS. Germany's romance with all things military, as he should know, pre-dated the Nazi Wehrmacht by some two hundred years. German, and prior to 1870, Prussian feats of arms were a source of angst throughout Europe for centuries. One only has to think of the elder von Moltke cutting through the French army at Sedan in 1870 like a hot knife through butter, or Field Marshall Hindenburg and General Ludendorff reducing the Russian second army to a rabble at Tannenberg in 1914, to understand the superiority of the Prussian and German General Staffs over all other European commands well before Rommel, Guderian and von Manstein began to knock inexperienced US, British and French generals about on the battle fields of France and North Africa in the early 1940s. As hubris turned to nemesis in '45, the German people somewhat understandably fell out of love with armies, marching bands and flags. There is no people more skeptical of its military, or more pacifistic, than today's Germans. It is America, it seems, that has inherited that martial Prussian tradition once so feared in the chancelleries of the world, of glorifying its generals and enlisted men and in extolling war. I wonder whether in this transposition of roles, there's a lesson to be learned?

  • Hellegers: American Income Inequality is the Cause of our Crisis
    • September 9, 2010 at 7:42 am

      CORRECTION: (The earlier version of this post was sent with several typos and small errors for which I apologize).

      It is obviously correct (per “The Spirit Level” and other studies) that a lower Gini co-efficient correlates with something akin to welfare and a sense of well being within societies. Northern European countries — Scandinavia in particular — are reported to have higher levels of “happiness” than the US, however “happiness” is defined. In the longer term, income and wealth inequality may be the single best metric for charting the rise and fall of great powers.

      Looking at this chart, the question is: What led to the dramatic drop in US income distribution in the early 1940s? The obvious answer is war. And what accompanied the coming of war? Big government, higher taxes and all manner of controls, acceptable only at a time of national emergency when divisiveness — class, ideology, geography etc. — dissolved overnight into unity. Thus the discombobulating possibility arises that the “normal” political cacophony of America, the virtues of which are enshrined under rubrics such as “democracy” and “liberty” in the standard civics text-books, may in fact be bad for the health of a republic, and that the key variable in determining the willingness of this or any other society to endure income and wealth “compression”, may be unity of purpose and a shared national consensus — essentially “un-American” values. In other words, America, built as it is on notions of pluralism and diversity, may be preternaturally doomed to remain at the "summit of power" for a shorter stretch and descend more rapidly than other super-powers have in the past. Absent major external threats, it looks from these charts, as though that could be the case. If so, the only hope of salvaging this great nation and reversing its precipitate path toward "second-rateness may be war. Not small expeditionary colonial wars like Afghanistan, Granada, Panama or Iraq. But big war, real war, all consuming war, like the one in 1942. What a depressing thought.

    • Peter Howard Foges 09/09/2010 at 7:42 am

      It is obviously correct (per "The Spirit Level" and other studies) that a lower Gini co-efficient correlates with something akin to welfare and happiness within societies. Northern European countries -- Scandinavia in particular -- are reported to have higher levels of "happiness" than the US, however "happiness" is defined). In the longer term, income and wealth inequality may be the single best metric for charting the rise and fall of great powers.

      Looking at this chart, the question is: What led to the dramatic drop in US income distribution in the early 1940s? The obvious answer is war. And what accompanied the coming of war? Big government, higher taxes and all manner of controls, acceptable only at a time of national emergency when divisiveness -- class, ideology, geography etc. -- dissolved overnight into unity. Thus the discombobulating possibility arises that the "normal" political cacophony of America, the virtues of which are enshrined under rubrics such as "democracy" and "liberty" in the standard civics text-books, may in fact be bad for the health of a republic, and that the key variable in determining the willingness of this or any other society to endure income and wealth "compression", may be unity of purpose and a shared national consensus -- essentially "un-American" values. In other words, America, built as it is on notions of pluralism and diversity, may be preternaturally doomed to last longer at the summit and descend more rapidly than other super-powers have in the past. Absent major external threats, it looks from these charts as though that could be the case. If so, the only hope of salvaging this great nation and reversing its precipitate descent toward second-rateness may be war. Not small expeditionary colonial wars like Afghanistan, Granada, Panama or Iraq. But big war, real war, all consuming war, like the one in 1942. What a depressing thought.

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