did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Guest Post - Sovietology

1

I'd never heard the word Sovietology before

That makes me feel so old...........


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 12:08 PM
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Well, I've probably heard it and not retained it! Does that help? I'm pretty flaky.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 12:18 PM
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2: Thanks, heebie! That does help!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 12:20 PM
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Have you considered a thread about your flakiness?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:46 PM
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Saying that the economy is tanking and things are awful is a long way from predicting collapse.

The USSR collapsed slowly and then all at once.

Does the linked article explain why CIA economic analysis was strikingly accurate while its military analysis was crap?

If not, I have theories to offer!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:48 PM
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Does the linked article explain why CIA economic analysis was strikingly accurate while its military analysis was crap?

Which bits of military analysis do you have in mind?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:50 PM
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Mostly that their military was reasonably well-trained, -maintained, and -equipped. More specifically, I know that each generation of MiG was supposed to be far superior to its US counterpart, until each one was flown into our hands by a defector, revealing that it was a poorly engineered, worse-built bucket of bolts.

That said, it's entirely possible that CIA estimates of Russian military strength weren't as wrong as I recall; that's one thing for which I have a theory.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:18 PM
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Paging apostropher!


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 4:40 PM
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So whats the theory?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 4:44 PM
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5.2: No.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 4:50 PM
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Heebietake: they basically did predict collapse, but couldn't say exactly when. The paper has several analysts saying survival required substantial reforms, but there was no clear way to make such reforms without making the whole system unravel. That, plus OP.4, is about as good a prediction as anyone could make.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 4:56 PM
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But people seriously predict collapse here, too. What makes that prediction more useful besides hindsight? I'm prepared to read the article if I start losing the argument too badly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 5:53 PM
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"More specifically, I know that each generation of MiG was supposed to be far superior to its US counterpart"

True, provably, for the MiG-15 , as demonstrated over Korea. At least until the Sabre got involved. But did anyone at the time believe this about the MiiG-21? Versus I suppose the Century series or the Phantom? Or the F-15 against the Su-27? I'd need to see some actual contemporary examples.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:11 PM
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I can only give Top Gun quotes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:13 PM
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Anyway, the Reagan administration wanted to do a big military build-up. I'm guessing any CIA bureaucrat who wanted to do well, career-wise, wouldn't highlight the reports that say the Soviets are about to collapse and would highlight the ones that said it was strong.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:15 PM
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I thought the idea that Soviet military technology was terrifyingly advanced was pushed mainly by proto-neocon types who thought the CIA's analysis was insufficiently hawkish. But I'm no expert on this at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:18 PM
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Very famously, the CIA had a "Team B" that rated the Soviet military capacity at somewhere between "touchless orgasm for Tom Clancy" and "Voltron, but not just five."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:19 PM
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Which seems fair given that everybody who thought Star Wars would work was either Ronald Reagan or a Soviet leader.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:28 PM
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That misses the whole point of Team B. They were explicitly not CIA! They were a group of outside "experts" brought in by Bush and Rumsfeld to challenge the CIA's (accurate) assessment of Soviet strategic capability because Bush and Rumsfeld thought that the reality must be scarier than the CIA said.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:34 PM
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They were "outside" but Bush was running the actual CIA then.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:37 PM
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15: OP link addresses that and denies it: Reagan wanted a build-up, but not because he thought the USSR was strong. He thought it was weak and could therefore be pushed into concessions. (In addition to generalized moralistic posturing.)


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:41 PM
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I meant to read the link.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:41 PM
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12: You'll have to cite specific claims before anyone can evaluate that question. And I point out the the US is in fact currently collapsing, as Puerto Rico apparently can attest.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:43 PM
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23.last: Good point. I was thinking of that because the news is so fucked up. And earlier today I saw this report at 11D.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:46 PM
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When I say specific, I mean something like this, (emphasis added):

It would be hard, he pointed out, for the Soviets to make sure that their capital stock continued to grow at even its present rate, since that would mean a constant rise in the share of national income devoted to investment. The share allocated to consumption, he thought, would have to decline correspondingly.48 For if investment as a share of national income remained constant, investment and national income would grow at the same rate. Since in the long run the growth rate for investment determined the rate at which the capital stock grew -- indeed, the two rates tended to converge -- sooner or later the capital stock would grow no more quickly than national income as a whole.49 Yet it would have to if the present rate of economic growth were to be sustained simply by expanding the capital stock: Given that the workforce was growing less rapidly than the economy as a whole, the capital stock would have to expand more rapidly, since those two growth rates together (assuming no increase in productivity) essentially determined the growth rate for the economy as a whole.50 The fact that, with a large and aging capital stock, an increasing amount of investment would have to go toward replacing worn-out plant and equipment simply compounded the problem.
(referring to an economist in the mid-1960s.) The USSR therefore had to improve productivity, but it showed no signs of doing so:
"total factor productivity" -- a measure of the part of the growth of output not accounted for by growth in factor inputs (essentially labor and capital) -- was not increasing at anything like its earlier rate. A 1964 CIA study had revealed that the annual growth rate for factor productivity in industry had fallen from almost 5 percent in the late 1950s to only about 2 percent in the early 1960s.53 Three years later another CIA study pointed out that the decline in the Soviet growth rate (from about 6.5 percent in the last half of the 1950s down to about 4.5 percent in the first half of the 1960s) could "be attributed primarily to the sharp drop in the rate of growth of productivity" in the economy as a whole (from 2.8 percent down to a mere 0.6 percent in the same period).54 According to an important July 1977 CIA study, the growth rate had turned negative: factor productivity actually declined in the early 1970s.
The upshot being roughly that the USSR would be unable to deliver improved quality of life to its people, on account of the inevitably declining share of GDP going to consumer goods. And the consequence of that would be loss of faith in the system:
Yet the Soviets' justification for their system, and for all the sacrifices the Soviet people had been forced to make, was that it would produce material well-being in the future. It was hard to see how they could give up on that, but it was equally hard to see how they could give up on the command economy. One could see the Soviets' problem: Their dilemma, Greenslade thought, was "that the causes of the slowdown and the party's tangible raison d'ĂȘtre are rooted equally deep in the system."76 But no one could tell how they would resolve it.
One could have drawn a similar point about contradictions in Republican ideology, and drawn it a long time ago, but been unable to predict The Presidency, produced by Mark Burnett .


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:13 PM
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23: vague assertions are really more my calling card.


Posted by: Heebie | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:16 PM
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And I point out the the US is in fact currently collapsing, as Puerto Rico apparently can attest.

Also someone's now sending bombs through the mail.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:21 PM
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The upshot being roughly that the USSR would be unable to deliver improved quality of life to its people, on account of the inevitably declining share of GDP going to consumer goods. And the consequence of that would be loss of faith in the system

I don't recall many people in the middle to late 80s thinking the Soviet people had much faith in their system. Still surprised when it fell apart so soon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:22 PM
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28: Again, these are analyses from the 1960s and 1970s; and again, no-one ever tried to predict the exact course of events.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:24 PM
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Did anyone predict that the Soviets would destroy liberal democracy in the United States and free trade in Europe without firing a shot, just, just some agitprop, a few targeted bribes and a bit of blackmail?

(OK, Richard Condon)


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:27 PM
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I think if they had tried that kind of prediction, they would have expected Gorbachev (not that they would have known it would be him in the 70s) to have shot and jailed just enough people for the system to muddle on without communism. Like Putin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:28 PM
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31: I think that's the kind of muddling through they specifically said (AFAIK correctly) was unsustainable in the long run. Not politically unsustainable but economically: there was just too much of the economy tied up in fundamentally loss-making plant.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:48 PM
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Leaders have collapsed economies far worse without losing power for decades, like North Korea or Zimbabwe. I suppose that's not really "muddling", but it sure isn't reform.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:52 PM
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33: True, but I think those are weak comparisons. Both of course are drastically smaller; DPRK is vastly more oppressive than the USSR was by the 1980s; Zimbabwe had and has a totally different political economy to the USSR, AFAIK the large majority of people always having been subsistence farmers.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:56 PM
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But 34 is actually beside the point. The CIA wasn't predicting reform, it was predicting crisis, with various conceivable results. DPRK and Zimbabwe have most certainly had crises.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:58 PM
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The U.S.S.R wasn't as oppressive in the 80s as it was in the 60s or 70s. The Soviets sent tanks into Prague in '68.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:00 PM
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37

An economic crisis that is survived with the regime still in power would have to be at least somewhat a sustainable situation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:06 PM
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36 is fair, WRT predictions made in the 1960s.
37: Sustainable, but not in the same form; in this case, sustaining both the Soviet regime and its foreign policy posture would have been increasingly difficult.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:09 PM
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39

Imperial decline. That makes sense.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:13 PM
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40

Maybe the thing about empires is they collapse and now its America's turn.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:13 PM
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Yes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:14 PM
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One is inclined to remember Rebecca West and "I hate the corpses of empires, they stink as nothing else."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:15 PM
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NMM to Pete Peterson.

|>


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:22 PM
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40: I don't buy that the American world order is an empire in any meaningful sense, at least with regard to relations among first world countries. We've been been before (35.2).


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:24 PM
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It's collapsed either way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:26 PM
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It smells like popcorn and Yeungling. I have no idea why.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:28 PM
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I don't buy that the American world order is an empire in any meaningful sense

Well, regardless of whether it meets your definition of an empire, it seems to be collapsing.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:37 PM
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48

Pwned by Moby, I see.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:41 PM
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49

Because nobody believes in the system, because the Democrats didn't keep the government away from the peoples' Medicare.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:42 PM
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If only we had voted for Bernie, he could have saved us all. <ducks>


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:03 PM
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47: If America can't be described as an empire "imperial decline" is not a useful analysis. 40 implies apathy at best: America is collapsing; America is an empire; empires collapse; empires are bad*; [shrug]. If you think American decline is actually a matter of indifference then say so, and defend it.
*Implicitly; I believe you've said so explicitly in the past.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:11 PM
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Both America and the Soviet Union represent hegemonic military powers collapsing from internal causes. That's a useful comparative analysis, and I think imperial decline is a reasonable way to describe it.

I don't think American decline is a matter of indifference, but I don't actually have a good root-cause analysis for its decline. I was merely observing the pattern of collapse, not explaining it.

Is it economic destiny? Is it our structural inadequacies catching up with us? A failure of institutions to adapt to change? Is it just because there are too many assholes?

All of the above, probably.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:41 PM
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American prolapse


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:53 PM
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52: The internal causes have nothing to do with imperialism in either case. Another thing pointed out in the OP link is that military spending wasn't the decisive factor in Soviet economic performance; military and foreign policy certainly isn't a decisive (on the face of it not even a significant) component of any of America's internal problems. The military component of American hegemony is so much smaller than the Soviet that I don't think they even belong in the same category. The end of Soviet military support resulted in the instant collapse of every Eastern Bloc regime. Termination of American support wouldn't result in collapse of any first-world allied government; indeed it wouldn't result in any certain collapses at all, except probably Afghanistan.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:56 PM
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"American prolapse" is definitely more on the money than "Kali Yuga."


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 9:56 PM
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Termination of American support wouldn't result in collapse of any first-world allied government;

Maybe the Baltic States? You know Putin wants them, and who is going to prevent that if NATO is gone.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:13 PM
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54.1: "Nothing" is an exaggeration in the Soviet case. And there one should distinguish external (Soviet) imperialism from internal (Russian) imperialism. For the latter of course withdrawal of Russian support resulted in the instant disintegration of the USSR; there is no internal analogue for the US.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:14 PM
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54.last Propping up regimes, okay, but things might well get shooty in my neck of the woods. Possibly yours too.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:14 PM
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56: I said "certain collapse". The Baltics, and Taiwan would indeed face possible extinction. Note though the extinction would be at the hands of external enemies with little popular support; the Eastern Bloc regimes fell to their own people.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:17 PM
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I think it's more accurate to talk about republics collapsing when talking about the US than to talk about the ends of empires. A militarized, white-nationalist, anti-democratic, United States that rounds up immigrants for mass deportation and then launches into the ethnic cleansing of US-born people who aren't considered pure American enough for the arbiters of an increasingly narrow conception of what it means to be an American; that sends children to schools monitored by the armed guards who also are the authorities in their classrooms, and whose highest priority is to deliver the new curriculum issued by the Department of Education, which enforces said curriculum via manipulating the federal funding required to maintain the security level required to be certified as an operating public school; that pushes women as far as possible out of the workforce in the name of re-establishing proper respect for them, respect being defined as traditional gender roles, traditional being defined as an idealized conception of domestic womanhood built out of a mixture of mid-19th to mid-20th century ideals of femininity; that strips protections that cover everything from health and safety to grievance procedures and whistleblower protections from all workplaces of any size; that has consolidated the media into a few conglomerates that have just enough competitive freedom to creatively build from bullet points and press releases articles that don't look word-for-word identical but nevertheless say just about the same things, but not enough freedom to run stories that no one else will cover for fear of being shut out or shut down; and that legitimates state power in the eyes of formerly anti-government ideologues by enlisting them as enforcers of the state's monopoly on legitimate violence; a United States that does all of those things* wouldn't be a republic any more except maybe in hollow form, but it would almost certainly start to project the kind of power, on a global scale, that one associates with empires.

Depending on your definition of empire, and how far you think the US could go without a total collapse of the governing state, it might be accurate to say that the end of the American republic could usher in an American empire that has not existed before. Depending on your view of historical analogies, it might make more sense to use as a reference point the end of the Roman Republic, and not the more famous end of the empire.

*and more along the same lines, but there's only so much dystopian future I feel like imagining inside a comment box


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:26 PM
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Puerto Rico might decide to go its own way.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 10:28 PM
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There's not 100% agreement on this, but apparently economic historians think that the story of the Roman empire is one of almost uninterrupted economic decline. The economic indicators all peak in the early empire.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 3:01 AM
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"The U.S.S.R wasn't as oppressive in the 80s as it was in the 60s or 70s. The Soviets sent tanks into Prague in '68."

And into Afghanistan in 1979, where they killed roughly a thousand times as many Afghans as they killed Czechs in 1968.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 3:35 AM
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In the 2000s, America killed infinity times from people from Afghanistan than they did people from Czechoslovakia in 1968.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 4:40 AM
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||
I've had "My Yahoo" as my home page for a zillion or more years. This is because it has a lot of RSS feeds built in (NPR, BBC, etc.) and also weather, stocks, sports scores, and sundry other stuff. I'm sure you will all be shocked to hear that the RSS feeds have been getting more and more unreliable: they do exist in the real world, but My Yahoo doesn't actually succeed in getting them. As of last week they all seem to be down.

So I'm looking for an alternate front page with similar info on it. I hate the main Yahoo front page. The Google News page has a horrible layout and doesn't have the other panels I want (stocks, sports, weather, ...). RSS readers don't (afaik) have them either, or have much layout flexibility.

Does anyone know of a good browser front page?
|>


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 5:07 AM
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A blank tab.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 5:39 AM
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62: Interesting. Could you elaborate? AIUI coin finds increase steadily and dramatically over the course over the empire. Granted there was a lot of inflation, but on the face of it there was more and more money changing hands. AFAIK economic problems are more often accompanied by too little money than too much. (Not arguing, just curious.)


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 7:30 AM
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Would depend on your definition of "early". I'd be happy to believe that there was continuous decline either from the reign of Hadrian (117-138), when the decision to stop expanding geographically, or from the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212, which gave the citizenship to all free men in the empire.

The point about geographical expansion was that technological development was very slow and external trade was low volume by modern or even mediaeval standards, so the main way of getting new wealth into the empire was by stealing somebody else's (and stealing somebody else while you were at it- each major pulse of expansion meant a fresh flood of slaves to sell and to set to work in primary production.)

The Constitutio Antoniniana was a short term and short sighted revenue raising stunt, since you could tax citizens more than non-citizens. The longer term effect was that provincial elites who had previously spent up in public works in order to support their bids to become citizens (so that their kids could get government jobs) didn't have to do that any more and tended to concentrate more on immediately profitable investments such as large scale agriculture, pushing infrastructural spending back onto the centre.

I don't actually believe the western empire was brought down by economic failure on its own, because then you have to explain why the eastern empire lasted another 1,000 years, having been subject to more or less the same economic pressures at an earlier date.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 7:54 AM
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which gave the citizenship to all free men in the empire

I don't want to concern troll, but has anybody ever pointed out the Roman Empire was sexist?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 7:57 AM
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I'm sure you will all be shocked to hear that the RSS feeds have been getting more and more unreliable:

This seems to be a thing that's going on right now. Digg Reader (replacement for Google Reader) just announced its closing up shop. I guess everyone has pivoted to video.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 7:57 AM
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68.2: Elvin makes a similar point about China: it hit its limit sometime in the Song*. After that the population kept growing, fed by more intensive agriculture, but per capita GDP seems to have stagnated or declined, and innovation pretty much stopped.
*The Qing added a lot more land, but most of it was drastically less arable.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 8:03 AM
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"I've been through the desert for a farm with no grain."


Posted by: Opinonated Qing America cover band | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 8:05 AM
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To a cruel war I sent him; from whence he returned, his brows bound with oak. I tell thee, daughter, I sprang not more in joy at first hearing he was a man-child than now in first seeing he had proved himself a man.


Posted by: Opinionated Volumnia | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 8:10 AM
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71. I'm rereading John Keay's "China: A History" and he says that the (early) Song dynasty is generally considered by Chinese historians to be the Golden Age.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 12:46 PM
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I feel like this is a pretty brilliant summing up of US decline: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/taibbi-the-legacy-of-the-iraq-war-w518193


Posted by: roger the cabin boy | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 4:09 PM
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Maybe I'll click through later on, but the contrast between the father's Iraq war and the son's is quite striking evidence of decline. The first time was about prudential limits, the second was about ignoring evidence and expertise and going forward based on feelings and faith in the power of intentional stupidity.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 4:32 PM
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62 - Peter Temin IIRC thinks that 2nd Century Italy probably had the highest average living standard of any pre-modern society before the Netherlands in 1600, and this mostly due to pacification and trade, not plunder, but also says that this was wiped out by the crisis of the 3d century and stayed wiped out thereafter.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 6:05 PM
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But I want to state for the record that my view is that comparisons of the contemporary US to ancient Rome are just handwavy blowharditudes that at best are only justified when drunk and being particularly pompous.

And comparisons to the Soviet *economy* of 1960-1994 seem unlikely to be in any way illuminating. For whatever reasons we suck, they aren't those reasons.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 6:09 PM
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Maybe Temin doesn't explicitly say that about the 3rd century (can't remember). But it's an obvious correlate of the idea that 2nd century Italy was world-beatingly, for a pre-modern society, rich, because if that's true there's no way that Italy was that rich again after 200 or so.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 6:13 PM
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I think there is a pretty good Trump-Caligula analogy that one could make, if one were allowed to make analogies on this blog, which, of course, one is not.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 6:40 PM
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The pee fresco was never found.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 7:06 PM
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I think it could be useful to study various republics that have come to an end*, but I haven't gotten much farther than checking out some books from the library and then returning them mostly unread a few weeks later.

*But not for analogy purposes!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-21-18 8:02 PM
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82. Analogy Value Scale 1-10.

- Various Greek poleis. Overthrown by expansionist Macedonian monarchy. Analogy value: 0
- Roman Republic. Constitution designed for a city state ultimately unworkable for a massive empire; immediate cause Marian reforms of the army, necessitated by the above. Analogy value: 6
- Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. i. Military coup by radical faction motivated by incompetence of Parliament. Analogy value at this point: 4*; ii. Restoration of monarchy due to incompetence of dictator. Analogy value at this point: 2
- Republic of the United Provinces. Civil war and external military intervention. Analogy value: 0
- French 1st Republic. Military coup by conservative faction due to extreme radicalism of government. Analogy value: 5*
- French 2nd Republic. Coup by elected President because he could. Analogy value: 8*
- 1st Spanish Republic. Military coup prompted by entrenched monarchism of armed forces. Analogy value: 2
- French 3rd Republic. Military defeat. Analogy value: 0
- Deutsches Reich, constitution of 1919. Rise of political extremism due to economic circumstance, failure of left and democratic forces to present united opposition. Analogy value: 8
- 2nd Spanish Republic. Military coup and civil war prompted by entrenched monarchism of armed forces. Analogy value: 2

* May increase rapidly.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 6:46 AM
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chrisy is banned for 37 comments.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 6:53 AM
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74: Definitely, in terms of technology at least. AFAIK the Tang are generally thought the golden age of art (correctly, based on the exhibits I've seen).


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 6:58 AM
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Tang was invented by NASA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:00 AM
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84 Why? 83 is an excellent comment.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:01 AM
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I'm right here, racists.


Posted by: Opinionated History of South and Central America | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:12 AM
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Restoration of monarchy due to incompetence of dictator. Analogy value at this point: 2

"AT THIS POINT", SURE. YOU WAIT.


Posted by: HM Queen Elizabeth II | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:14 AM
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68: No, much earlier than that. Possibly as early as Augustus.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:26 AM
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90: What exactly does "decline" mean here? Frex in China the economy grew dramatically in absolute terms through the Ming and Qing (growing steadily more monetized too) but the state's tax-raising totally failed to keep pace. Not that that resulted in collapse, at least not to the same degree as Rome.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 8:23 AM
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70
I guess everyone has pivoted to video.

Ugh. This is the media trend I hate the most these days. More and more media is moving to video which is harder and harder for me to consume. When I'm at work and reading stuff to kill the time, video/audio is a lot harder to pass off as being work-related. When I'm at home and killing time, I can read an article on my phone or computer 30 seconds at a time while doing other stuff, but video/audio would be harder to pick up and put down and would disrupt other people. When I'm at home and able to focus on something, it's usually either a game or a TV show. When I'm commuting, I don't want distractions while biking. I guess I could watch or listen to stuff on the bus, but I do it so little otherwise that I don't think of it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 8:53 AM
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93

83 really is great.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 9:32 AM
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ii. Restoration of monarchy due to incompetence of dictator. Analogy value at this point: 2

"Restoration of monarchy" seems unlikely. Though a monarchist movement for instituting an Obamist dynasty could get a lot of support.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 9:48 AM
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OT: Does anybody live in Houston? I need somebody to go slap somebody. I don't have his address, but I know his employer and can provide a recent (five years old) picture.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 10:29 AM
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On the Roman economy, IMO you can't talk about it without addressing climate and disease. Those factors swamp pretty much everything else that happened post-Augustus.

That said, wouldn't the simplest explanation for an Augustan peak be that the century* prior to Actium featured some of the highest value expansion Rome ever managed? I dunno, maybe it's really only Egypt and I'm trying to wrap other stuff into that, but in terms of bang for the buck, adding Egypt for the cost of the civil war, as opposed to adding Carthage in exchange for 3 Punic Wars, seems like a huge wealth gain.

*possibly less


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 12:01 PM
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96.1: Other things Elvin says are that increasingly good inter-regional water transport buffered against local environmental disasters, but also seems to have magnified epidemics. Both points apply in principle to the US; but in practice they haven't (so far) mattered much.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:07 PM
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Living near a navigable waterway is the best.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:19 PM
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As is living near a disease vector.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-18 7:27 PM
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97. Yeah. To good inter-regional water transport, add air, road and rail. Invasive species have fucked up a bunch of local environments in the US and everywhere else, but in America so far they don't seem to have impacted humans too much so far. Magnified epidemics? a handful of cases of Zika that probably wouldn't have happened in antiquity, but nothing like the impact of the replacement of Plasmodium malariae by P. falciparum in 3rd century Italy. Doesn't mean it won't happen, of course.

Water in Flint still seems to be fucked, and efforts to do something about it seem to be implicated in an outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease (I've only read the abstract). And that's not even starting on Puerto Rico. Still not an existential crisis for the Republic.

96.1. I believe it's a mistake to look for a single explanation for the collapse of imperial authority in the west. That's what's wrong with Peter Heather's "It was all down to the Huns" approach. The Huns were a factor. So was epidemic disease, so was economic stagnation, so were all kinds of things such as decisions about where to locate imperial capitals. The 5th century really was a perfect storm, and the western empire might well have survived any one part of it, at least for a while.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-23-18 6:34 AM
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I remember mentions of Soviet internal weakness in the 1970s, but no real predictions. For example, there was a book of maps that highlighted ethnic tensions in the USSR that predicted many of the schisms of the 1990s. I took a course on Soviet economics in the early 70s, and it was hard not to note their problems with productivity. I read a few papers on attempts at introducing incentives, aside form not getting sent to a gulag, and it was seriously, they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.

Emmanuel Todd wrote a book, The Final Fall, back in 1979 in which he outlined the failures of the USSR in terms of lack of dynamics. He was a historian, so he treated the USSR as if he were studying historical sources. He felt that the need for political repression was strangling the Soviet union and gave it another 10-15 years. He wasn't too far off.

I missed Todd's book in the 1970s, but I did catch a 1985 paper in Science on The Costs of the Soviet Empire. The empire moved into the red around 1973 or 1974, possibly related to its need to subsidize its client's oil use. By 1985, the empire had been bleeding the USSR for a full decade with no sign of improvement. I wondered why the Russians moved into Hungary in 56, Czechoslovakia in 68 but not Poland in 80. The article hinted at collapse, but was a bit coy and scientific as befit a scientific journal.

In other words, the signs were there for anyone who bothered to look. I remember wondering how long the USSR could keep propping up its empire. The answer was maybe another 3-5 years. It turned out the only thing holding the USSR together was the US military build up under Reagan. As George Kennan, the man who invented the Cold War, put it, "...the general effect of cold war extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s."


Posted by: Kaleberg | Link to this comment | 03-24-18 9:43 PM
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I wondered why the Russians moved into Hungary in 56, Czechoslovakia in 68 but not Poland in 80
IDK if this was knowable at the time, but the main answer was that the USSR thought it couldn't bear the Western sanctions that would result*; initially it was also unclear whether the Polish military would resist. If the Poles hadn't had a coup and contained Solidarity on their own the abandonment of the Brezhnev doctrine would have been revealed and the Warsaw Pact may well have come down in the early 1980s.

It turned out the only thing holding the USSR together was the US military build up under Reagan.
Could you elaborate? That doesn't really square with what I know. As the above indicates, the empire was going to collapse with the next crisis that required Soviet intervention, as in fact happened in 1989; the old guard was going to die off whenever it died off, regardless of the US; Andropov tapped Gorbachev in the early 1980s, during peak Reagan bellicosity.

*Sanctions anticipated largely (mostly, IIRC) from Western Europe, not the Reagan administration.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-25-18 12:50 AM
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102. I don't know if it was knowable, but it wasn't generally known. The most widespread interpretation as I recall was that Jaruzelski had calculated that if Poland "invaded itself" before the Soviet Union could, they could limit the negative impact better. Which they seemed to have done.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-25-18 2:50 AM
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103: That's the story he spun, yes. It emerged from the archives though that he was bullshitting: he actually agitated for Soviet intervention, so they would do the dirty work. He staged his coup after they refused, and then blamed the Soviets anyway, as you mention.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-25-18 2:56 AM
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