[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Fri Apr 27 23:11:02 UTC 2007

At 10:08 AM 4/27/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>Keith writes
> >>How is the point made that modern European nations any time in the 20th
> >>century faced economic deprivation?
> >
> > It's not absolute deprivation but *relative* that trips the detectors.
>Okay, then you have to make the case that the *relative* deprivation was
>greater around 1940 (or 1914 or June, 1950), and so on, than at other

Relative to immediately *previous* times.

>Actually, prosperity *usually* leads to greater inequality (and, true,
>envy of those who are better off).  My remark applies to both people and

The theory says nothing about inequity at least I don't know what to make 
of it.  It was probably not much of a factor in hunter gatherer 
bands..  What is the effect of the GNP going up but a substantial fraction 
of the middle class dropping into the lower class?

That's been the developing situation as the US becomes more like a third 
world country in terms of income distribution.  Does this make the country 
as a whole more likely to support a war?  Any thoughts?

> > classic example were a bucket of warm water feels cold to one hand and 
> hot to the other when left and right hands have been
> > presoaked in cold and hot water.
>We've all experienced this.
> > Even more significant (or so I think) is *anticipation* of bleak 
> conditions.  My case for this is the logic of gene selection.  It
> > would pay genes for the warriors to kill neighbors *before* they were 
> gaunt and weak from hunger.
>Yes, that is so. And yes, some of the causes of WWI are related to this:
>Unlike the late 1930's, the Germans were filled with foreboding (first 
>Paul Johnson's "Modern Times: From the twenties to the eighties"), brought
>upon by an irrational fear of the slavs. I don't know if the common people
>were so afflicted, but the philosophers and perhaps the government leaders
>were. The "doom and gloom" philosophical school had won out.   And by
>1914 the English were very apprehensive of being overtaken by Germany,
>and were led to their making certain moves that made the outbreak of war more
>likely (though the actual beginnings, of course, can scarcely be laid at 
>their door).
> >>In what ways did resource scarcity
> >>contribute to WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or Vietnam?  Things were
> >>booming in Germany before both WWI and WWII, and no one else was
> >>much pinched either.
> >
> > "At the time of Hitler's release [from jail], the political situation 
> in Germany had calmed and the economy had improved, which
> > hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation."
>Jeez.  That was in the early 20s!  By the late thirties economies had begun to
>recover from the depression, especially in Germany. The people were buoyed
>with optimism, and the hoi polloi believed that Hitler and the Nazis were the
>best thing that ever happened.  The wikipedia link on Hitler you mentioned 
>               On April 1, 1924 Hitler was sentenced to five years' 
> imprisonment
>               at Landsberg Prison. Hitler received favoured treatment 
> from the
>               guards and had much fan mail from admirers.[18] He was pardoned
>               and released from jail in December 1924, after serving only 
> nine
>               months of his sentence, or just over a year if time on 
> remand is included.[18]
>In an earlier post, you said that the Hitler invasion of the Soviet Union 
>did not go
>against your scheme for the reason that a war was already in 
>progress.  But there
>was *utterly* no reason whatsoever that made any sense to invade Russia; not
>militarily, not economically, nothing.

That was my point.  It *was* irrational.  Leaders in "war mode" do things 
like that and their followers don't stop them.  Consider the current 
situation in Iraq if you want another example.

>(Well, yes, if the Germans conquered Russia
>then they'd have their own oil; but Stalin was acting like Hitler's stooge 
>in the real
>war that was going on.)  The invasion of the Soviet Union was one man's 
>crazy idea.

My point exactly.

> > "The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression 
> hit Germany in 1930."
> >
> > snip
> >
> > "Brüning's measure of budget consolidation and financial austerity 
> brought little economic improvement and was extremely
> > unpopular. Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of 
> German farmers, war veterans and the middle-class who had
> > been hard-hit by both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment 
> of the Depression."
>That's how he came to power, yes.  But the cause of the European WWII
>is pretty simple (as compared to WWI):  one small German party sought the
>total conquest of Europe or perhaps the world.  When Hitler and Stalin took
>Poland, they didn't really think that England and France would declare war---

That is correct, and yet another example of people in "war mode" having 
their rationality impaired.

>all this is much more particular than generalizations about relative 
>birth rates, and so on.  And it is particulars like these afford the true, 

I disagree.  There are proximal and ultimate explanations.  It is one thing 
to say "Hitler was a madman," and quite another to ask why a madman came to 
power.  I am looking for the deep causes, things rooted in human biology.


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