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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:27 am 
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All perfectly true, Kirby.

Now show me how that's inconsistent with my original statement that the USofA has a pretty strong amount of cultural diversity already, in spite of having only one language. Or how spreading a uniform political and economic superstructure over the whole planet would destroy that kind of diversity, whether it were based on the US's present system or not.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:35 am 
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Eh, Ninja'd by kirby, but I can't be arsed to insert a quote box. I'm replying to Duke.

Now you're just nitpicking. What I meant was that the EU doesn't seem to have made the Swedes and Italians forget about being Swedish and Italian.

Being a small minority absorbed by a much bigger culture (either because you're an immigrant or because they invaded you) is a very different thing from staying in your own cultural bloc and voluntarily joining some external political organization. The Malaysians aren't going to forget how to speak Malay because they're sending a couple of senators to the World Parliament. More of them might be motivated to learn languages with more of a presence at the international level, (a lot of them are already doing so because you can already earn a better living that way), but they aren't going to completely abandon their own language and customs in everyday life.

A hundred years of colonial rule didn't make most people here in Hong Kong forget how to speak Chinese, which is not to say that the Brits had no cultural influence on us. They did, and the result is a hybrid little island of cultural idiosyncracy, not disappearance into globalized homogeneity. Considering that the Brits at one time ruled quite a lot of the world, and imposed their own political structures on most of these places, you've got a pretty good natural experiment there. Are Hong Kongers now culturally the same as Indians or Jamaicans or Australians, even? Nope.

It's actually not that easy for an invading power to wipe out indigenous cultures - either they have to colonize a country in such great numbers that the original inhabitants become outnumbered, or else they have to engage in a campaign of deliberate cultural suppression. The English had to ban the use of Welsh in public office and in school, for example.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:38 am 
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Duke Leto wrote:
Now show me how that's inconsistent with my original statement that the USofA has a pretty strong amount of cultural diversity already, in spite of having only one language.

America doesn't have only one language, not by any stretch of the imagination. Never did, in fact.

Duke Leto wrote:
Or how spreading a uniform political and economic superstructure over the whole planet would destroy that kind of diversity, whether it were based on the US's present system or not.

I can't see how it possibly couldn't cause significant damage to the diversity of the world. At the very least, different and diverse banking regimes would vanish with economic uniformity (since Islamic banking systems are quite different from western systems, as they don't practice ursury), and a lot of social effects are caused by distinct political systems. Make the political systems uniform, and you lose the social impacts, thus causing less diversity. Further, political systems are directly affected by the culture that spawns them anyway, so imposing a political system on any culture is to insist that they put your social values first, which would fairly clearly cause detrimental effects to cultural diversity around the world.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:49 am 
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Ya know Kirb, I think I said uniform superstructure. Local political customs can still be in place in such a system.

And frankly I don't see how disinterested banking is any great loss. We used to have it in Old Europe and it did nothing except inhibit the supply of credit. Diversity is kinda pointless if you keep it in non-communicating compartments, at least from an evolutionary standpoint.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:51 am 
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Islamic banking has interest. It's just hidden in a bunch of shadow transactions so that it isn't out in the open.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:05 am 
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Duke Leto wrote:
Malice has a point, SJ, I'm not at all fond of Cults of Personality and even as a card carrying Obama revolutionary, the amount of hagiography drifting around him right now gives me the willies.
Thing is, there's a key requirement for the "charismatic strongman" role that Obama doesn't have, so far as I can tell. The strongman has to be willing to overthrow the political system, to break the rules or bend them into unrecognizable pretzels, in order to maintain and enlarge his power.

Obama isn't about that.
_____

Of course (just to show I haven't completely missed the point), the fact that Obama gets such a vigorous reception from some Americans indicates that a real charismatic strongman would probably have real support if one were to turn up.

But the historical evidence indicates that the US simply doesn't have anything like the same level of vulnerability to Strongman Syndrome that we see in many other democracies that were founded by the overthrow of a colonial empire. We've been a republic for so long that for a politician to seriously suggest overthrowing the basic rules of the system is almost unthinkable. We've gone through emergencies of almost every type a nation can experience while holding regular elections with peaceful transfers of power.

I don't think that's going to change in the foreseeable future (50 years or so on this issue). And I don't think Obama's enthusiastic personality cult is sign of real danger.

Duke Leto wrote:
Ya know Kirb, I think I said uniform superstructure. Local political customs can still be in place in such a system.

And frankly I don't see how disinterested banking is any great loss. We used to have it in Old Europe and it did nothing except inhibit the supply of credit. Diversity is kinda pointless if you keep it in non-communicating compartments, at least from an evolutionary standpoint.
(underline added)

There's a problem with that last bit of reasoning. Diversity is also kind of pointless if you proceed to set things up so that only one system can spread at the expense of others.

When there is a single overarching superstructure that has enough power to dictate terms to any one region, that power gets used. The superstructure creates unified policies on many issues, and will use its official power as a lever to introduce other unified policies. Look at how the federal government in the US constructed a unified policy on the drinking age. The lever was highway construction funds, of all things. If I didn't know the details of the issue, that would come as a total surprise to me.
________

If you make a world government "with teeth," the result is going to be a de facto levelling of systems. That won't necessarily be because one system is objectively superior to another. A lot of it will be because of memetic drift. Is English a better language than, say, German? Hard to say. Probably not. But English is a world language spoken in places as different from England as can be imagined- while German is not. The reasons are mostly historical accident, from a linguistic standpoint. They have nothing to do with whether the world would be a better place if English were replaced by German the dominant international language, all else being equal.

Likewise, if you create a world government with the power to enforce environmental regulations and control what was once "international" commerce, the world system of international trade will become flattened. All interactions have to go through the structures created by the world government, which puts limits on the forms that those interactions can take.

That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing (some forms of interaction are bad). But the problem is that some of the limits will be things that weren't foreseen or intended by the people who created them. Some things will be illegal not because they are wrong, but because they are made too difficult by laws intended to stop something else from happening.
_______

When you knock down the walls of the compartments between diverse systems by imposing uniformity from above, you don't get the kind of competition that makes diversity worthwhile.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:17 am 
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Duke Leto wrote:
Ya know Kirb, I think I said uniform superstructure. Local political customs can still be in place in such a system.


Even a political superstructure has values included within it. The argument, I think, still stands.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:39 am 
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Well, SJ, at the risk of sounding trite... so what? Clearly some kind of unified response to Global Warming, for example, is needed no matter what, ergo some form of world governance is needed for issues that effect the entire world. Of course there will be inefficiencies and idiocies in any arrangement we could come up with to get that together, but as long as the system is transparent and subject to the democratic rule of law, then those idiocies and inefficiencies will eventually be spotted and fixed. Eventually.

Not inevitable progress but the best you can hope for given human nature.

And some cultural practices do, put very simply, suck, and are not going to be missed if they are wiped out in a flood of uniformitarian westernism. Foot binding, genital mutilation, just about anything in the traditional medicinal practices of any culture come leaping to mind.

Look, what are we talking about here? "Every adult human being should have a say in how their local government is run" is not exactly a non-controversial statement and imposing it globally would cause resentment amongst some cultures, but are we seriously saying we should avoid doing so because authoritarian regimes are valuable to worldwide political diversity? If we follow this to its logical conclusion the Civil Rights Act was a grave injustice because it imposed exterior cultural values on the American South. Are we really saying the British were tyrants for stopping Hindu widows from burning themselves with their dead husbands? There are PLENTY of other ways the British were tyrants in India, or just imbeciles, but is Suttee going to have to be one of them? Outrage at human sacrifice is a Western value that got imposed there.

Can someone please give me a concrete example of a valuable piece of culture that would be swept away by a democratic world government? It seems to me the most sucessful non-western countries have been the ones that amalgamated western and traditional culture to form something new that was stronger than either (Japan).

Please keep in mind that I started out this line of conversation by saying that English might benefit from adopting a Chinese numeration system.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:14 am 
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Duke Leto wrote:
Well, SJ, at the risk of sounding trite... so what? Clearly some kind of unified response to Global Warming, for example, is needed no matter what, ergo some form of world governance is needed for issues that effect the entire world. Of course there will be inefficiencies and idiocies in any arrangement we could come up with to get that together, but as long as the system is transparent and subject to the democratic rule of law, then those idiocies and inefficiencies will eventually be spotted and fixed. Eventually.

Not inevitable progress but the best you can hope for given human nature.
I'm inclined to agree, so long as you don't wave the "diversity" bait while you're promoting the system.

You'll get more of the benefits of diversity from decentralized government than from centralized government.

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Look, what are we talking about here? "Every adult human being should have a say in how their local government is run" is not exactly a non-controversial statement and imposing it globally would cause resentment amongst some cultures, but are we seriously saying we should avoid doing so because authoritarian regimes are valuable to worldwide political diversity? If we follow this to its logical conclusion the Civil Rights Act was a grave injustice because it imposed exterior cultural values on the American South. Are we really saying the British were tyrants for stopping Hindu widows from burning themselves with their dead husbands? There are PLENTY of other ways the British were tyrants in India, or just imbeciles, but is Suttee going to have to be one of them? Outrage at human sacrifice is a Western value that got imposed there.
Don't look at me, I'm not the one talking about cultural relativism.

I'm more interested in institutions, myself. A world with a hundred or more countries has a lot more room to experiment with new and cool ways of designing institutions.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:36 am 
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Oh, like the West never had/doesn't currently have any stupid cultural practices, like serfdom, or shoving women into organ-deforming corsets*, or slavery, or executions for petty theft, or rampant debt, anti-intellectualism, the glorification of drug addiction, football riots, subprime mortgages and a ridiculous Puritan hysteria over breasts. Oh, who invented school shootings?

Some Things Parts Of the Rest of the World Does Well:

- Family cohesiveness, three generations under one roof.
- High savings rate
- Math and science education
- Dearth of religious wars in Confucian Asia. We don't have a problem with contradictory belief systems.
- More openness to contraceptives (apart from where Catholicism is the dominant religion - thanks, Europe!).
- Lower crime rates and lower incarceration rates than in the West, especially the US.
- Cuisine - healthier and tastes better

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:00 am 
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For Chrissakes, SJ, who in god's name said I wanted centralized government? Decentralized governments can "have teeth" too ya know. Institutions are technically cultural artifacts, BTW.

And Kea, I would agree that East Asia has some cultural institutions that are better than the West, and particularly the US, just as versa-vice. I did mention the counting, right? Not so sure I'm with you under the extended family thing, we Irish Americans used to have that and the memories aren't all that rosy. Difference might be in the whiskey though.

I suspect that to some extent the Asian savings rate may be a corollary to the American hemorragic spending. You may not be able to keep up the one without the other. You can also make an argument that too much savings is a bad thing if there isn't enough investment for it.

FWIW, I'm pretty sure the Japanese invented school swordings.

EDIT: Oh and I think the Yellow Turbans might disagree on the religion thing, and the Boxers are a bit more modern.


Last edited by Duke Leto on Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:02 am 
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Kea wrote:
Oh, who invented school shootings?


Children, presumably.

Quote:
Some Things Parts Of the Rest of the World Does Well:

- Family cohesiveness, three generations under one roof.
- High savings rate
- Math and science education
- Dearth of religious wars in Confucian Asia. We don't have a problem with contradictory belief systems.
- More openness to contraceptives (apart from where Catholicism is the dominant religion - thanks, Europe!).
- Lower crime rates and lower incarceration rates than in the West, especially the US.
- Cuisine - healthier and tastes better


I don't think having a UN with the power to enforce limited economic and environmental policy will harm any of that. Nor would a United States of the World, since the US tends to incorporate the positive aspects of the cultures it assimilates.

--

Simon_Jester wrote:
I'm more interested in institutions, myself. A world with a hundred or more countries has a lot more room to experiment with new and cool ways of designing institutions.


So does a world with about 300 United States.

By the way, SJ, I don't know what you're getting at with that Charismatic Strongman thing. Since a world government wouldn't change local governments, they'd be just as susceptible to CS's as they are now, and since you admit that we're just as foolhardy as the rest of the world, it's not as though the world government would be any more or less likely to elect that sort of person. In mathematical terms, if group x has attribute b, and group y has attribute b, pooling groups x and y isn't going to make b any more prevalent.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:21 am 
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Duke Leto wrote:
And Kea, I would agree that East Asia has some cultural institutions that are better than the West, and particularly the US, just as versa-vice. I did mention the counting, right? Not so sure I'm with you under the extended family thing, we Irish Americans used to have that and the memories aren't all that rosy. Difference might be in the whiskey though.

It has pluses and minuses - minuses involving mainly your relatives driving you up the wall, but some of the pluses are that old people rarely get shoved into retirement homes as long as they can still walk, and there's some research showing that psychiatric patients do better in societies with extended family support versus the socially isolated revolving door of treatment prevalent in nuclear family societies.

Quote:
I suspect that to some extent the Asian savings rate may be a corollary to the American hemorragic spending. You may not be able to keep up the one without the other. You can also make an argument that too much savings is a bad thing if there isn't enough investment for it.

Compared to the current state of the American economy, I think over-saving would be a vastly preferable problem.

Quote:
Oh and I think the Yellow Turbans might disagree on the religion thing, and the Boxers are a bit more modern.

Religious wars were the exception rather than the rule though. I don't know anything about the Yellow Turbans rebellion, but Wiki says it was motivated in large part by rural famine and political corruption, and the Boxer Rebellion was mainly anti-Imperialist with a side of supernatural belief. There's no real equivalent of the Thirty Year's War, or heretic burnings.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:09 am 
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How about Turkish-German minority? And the Wends? And the Sorbs? What about the Bretons and the Provencals? Or the Welsh and the Scots for that matter.


Funnily enough, EU legislation has all sorts of measures to do with preserving minority cultures; and you'll find that Brussels is more popular in Glasgow and Barcelona than London or Madrid. If you drive around Wales nowadays, all the road signs and what have you are written in Welsh (although still hardly anyone speaks Welsh, leading to this sign. The Welsh portion reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."

On the question of the vital significance of maintaining individual cultures; it's not going to be a unified government that causes the problem. Even without world government, culture will become more homogenised simply because of the ease of communication in today's world.

If people want to keep their traditional cultures, they will. If they don't,a dn they assimilate into other cultures and lose their old identities - so what? Certainly we shouldn't be forcing people to change their language and way of life, but nor should we be preventing people from doing so because someone thinks they have a duty to live the same way as all sorts of dead people. The only way to ensure you can maintain a traditional culture as it was in the face of an interconnected world is to forcibly cut people off, which I doubt anyone would agree with.

It reminds me of a programme I watched about some refugees living in Nepal, remnants of some tiny traditional culture whose ancestral land was now Chinese. Many of them were taking advantage of opportunities offered to emigrate to the Americas and Europe to begin new lives; but this brought outrage from those intent on preserving their culture. The idea that someone should pass up the chance to live, work and raise families in a free society and instead stay fighting a lost battle in a refugee camp in the mountains for a culture and a 'homeland' they've never even seen is abhorrent to me; as is any idea that people should be denied opportunities for fear it might dilute their culture.

You may be upset that the Chinese Jews assimilated and lost their Jewish identity, but were any of those doing the assimilating? And if not; who cares that the culture is lost?

Kea wrote:
Religious wars were the exception rather than the rule though. I don't know anything about the Yellow Turbans rebellion, but Wiki says it was motivated in large part by rural famine and political corruption, and the Boxer Rebellion was mainly anti-Imperialist with a side of supernatural belief. There's no real equivalent of the Thirty Year's War, or heretic burnings.


All religious wars are motivated in large part by such simple economic concerns or political manoeuvring - have you never noticed that Catholics fought on both sides in the Thirty Years' War? Didn't somebody here post some study linking the timing of major religious wars in Europe to food shortages brought on by climatic change?

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:12 am 
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If people want to keep their traditional cultures, they will. If they don't,a dn they assimilate into other cultures and lose their old identities - so what? Certainly we shouldn't be forcing people to change their language and way of life, but nor should we be preventing people from doing so because someone thinks they have a duty to live the same way as all sorts of dead people. The only way to ensure you can maintain a traditional culture as it was in the face of an interconnected world is to forcibly cut people off, which I doubt anyone would agree with.

It reminds me of a programme I watched about some refugees living in Nepal, remnants of some tiny traditional culture whose ancestral land was now Chinese. Many of them were taking advantage of opportunities offered to emigrate to the Americas and Europe to begin new lives; but this brought outrage from those intent on preserving their culture. The idea that someone should pass up the chance to live, work and raise families in a free society and instead stay fighting a lost battle in a refugee camp in the mountains for a culture and a 'homeland' they've never even seen is abhorrent to me; as is any idea that people should be denied opportunities for fear it might dilute their culture.

It's their choice to assimilate into new cultures or not. But it wasn't their choice to have their land stolen by the Chinese. If some countries want to have more liberal immigration laws that allow the entry of new people and assimilation, good on them, and good on the immigrants who go to seek new lives in new cultures. I just oppose forcibly absorbing countries into a larger culture, which pretty much gives people no choice but to assimilate or struggle for a lost "homeland" (who thinks which land belongs to whom is its own bloody-gigantic problem) in what can end up, AT BEST (observing modern history), a peaceful revolution through nonviolence (India) or, at worst, a ridiculous war of attrition powered by suicide terrorism (no need to name names there).

Now, as to cultural customs that can be destroyed through the cultural imperialism of a large nation in the name of Western values or human rights or such, take circumcision as an example. People in Europe and many parts of the USA think of it as "genital mutilation" and want it outlawed. My culture, and others, perform it as a religious rite. If a circumcising culture joins the United States of the World, do we have to stop binding covenants with God? I assert that this sort of issue is best settled by leaving control and sovereignty in the hands of individual nations. Jews, Muslims, some African Christians, and a few other cultures can thus continue circumcising our boy-children, and the European cultures can continue thinking of it as barbarism.

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