[ExI] Italy's Social Ca

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Jun 8 01:16:56 UTC 2007

Amara writes

> "Lee Corbin" <lcorbin at rawbw.com>:
>>I would say that what was wrong with it is exactly what was wrong
>>with American Indian's complete tribal loyalty to *their* own tiny
>>tribe.  Without unification, they were easy pickings for the European
>>colonists---at least in the long run.
> I don't see this logic, Lee. The more distributed the people, the harder
> it is to conquer them. For example, if Washington, D.C. (i.e. the U.S.
> Federal government) did not exist, the U.S. would be very difficult to
> control, would it not?

We have to be mindful not to confuse many different historical
situations. Indeed, when technological levels are equal, controling
a vast region full of unwilling subjects is mighty hard. The only
way that Ghengis Khan really could do it was with an immensely
strong and skillful army, and utilizing the expedient now and then
of simply depopulation one of those regions.

But with the advent of modern technology, the big advantage can
lie with the side with a base of (peaceful) organized factories that
can turn out firearms and tanks. So given that the Chinese, say,
(or in WWII the Japanese) do have a stable manufacturing base,
conquering and maintaining some form of control over a region
the size of the U.S. would be possible if the latter's industrial
capability, or infrastructure could be destroyed. Right now, yes,
I agree: taking out Washington D.C. would not do that.

But if the U.S. were divided into very small principalities (e.g.
counties) and could not achieve unification of war-aims and
consolidation of central control somewhere, then they could
not resist the Canadian Army, much less the Chinese Army.

>>>  The young people learn very little science in grade school through high
>>>  school. The Italian Space Agency and others put almost nothing (.3%)
>>>  into their budgets for Education and Public Outreach to improve the
>>>  situation. If any scientist holds the rare press conference on their
>>>  work results, there is a high probability that the journalists will get
>>>  it completely wrong and the Italian scientist won't correct them. The
>>>  top managers at aerospace companies think that the PhD is a total waste
>>>  of time. This year, out of 75,000 entering students for the Rama
>>>  Sapienza University (the largest in Italy), only about 100 are science
>>>  majors (most of the the rest were "media": journalism, television, etc.)
>>The most modern economists seem to agree with you. Investment in
>>education now appears in their models to pay good dividends. Still,
>>this has to be only part of the story.  The East Europeans (e.g.
>>Romanians) and the Soviets plowed enormous expense into creating the
>>world's best educated populaces, but, without the other key
>>factors---rule of law and legislated and enforces respect for private
>>property---it *was* basically a waste.
> Remember my previous words of how important are the families.
> The filtering process is the following. Given the:
> 1) (unliveable or sometimes nonexistent) salaries and,
> 2) lack of societal support for science and poor scientific work
>     conditions,
> those who do _not_ have
> 1) the possibility to live at home well into middle age, or do not have
>     a property 'gift' or something else of substantial economic value, AND
> 2) those who are unable to accept the lack of cultural support AND,
> 3) poor work conditions, AND
> 4) are not passionately in love with science,
> ... leave.

Such filtering could amount to a brain-drain, a motivation-drain,
etc. But have substantial numbers of Italians who did have
"what it takes" actually left for greener pastures?  Was there
ever a time in the 19th or 20th centuries when Italy produced
a strong scientific tradition?  (Surely Enrico Fermi and a few
others I could mention must have had very good academic
circumstances---but then, he did leave. :-)

We may be trying to talk about two different things: I'm 
was talking mostly about the entire scientific/technical/
economic package (of which Silicon Valley is the world
pre-eminent example), and you may be talking about
pure science.  Now the Soviet Union excelled in pure
science in many areas that did not conflict with Leninism/
Marxism, such as space science, physics, mathematics.
But they remained (and remain) an economic basket
case in comparison to their potential.

> It's a very strong filter, and off-scale to any of my previous
> experiences. I think that this filter has been working, filtering, for
> decades. I also think that once the Italian families stop their support
> then Italian science will stop. Italian science _needs_ the Italian
> families for it to continue.

If (as I surmised above) you are focusing on *Italian Science*,
then I take you to be saying that somehow the family culture
in which young Italians are growing up is inimical to science.
(On the other hand, as Serifino pointed out in a recent post,
there seem to be some colonies of Chinese growing in Italy.
They'll probably be true to form and get their children
interested in science and technology!)

In California, more than half the births are to Hispanic families,
and yet the politicians keep complaining that it's our schools
that are falling down in instilling interest in science and technology.
They make no reference to Hispanic culture. The California 
schools *don't* seem to be having a problem inculcating interest
in science and technology in Chinese and Jewish students. But
few want to face the difficult (but important and interesting)
questions.  But then, there is an I.Q. problem that makes this
more difficult, an issue that at least the Italians don't have to face.

Not even God (were he to deign to exist for a while) would
know how to convert Italian or Hispanic families into nurturing
an interest in science in their children, I fear.  But ideas are
welcome!  Maybe if we cloned BILLIONS and BILLIONS
of Carl Sagans, and put them in classrooms two or three to
a student, and in families two or three to a child, we could
arouse an interest in science in any culture.


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