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The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die – Niall Ferguson

  • June 21st, 2013

A nice piece in the Wall Street Journal is effective advertising by Niall Ferguson for his latest book. It scarcely mentions The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die but as a teaser conveys a sense that the issues are important.

The crispness of Ferguson's analysis of the West's dependence culture, together with re-reading last night  Vietnam helicopter pilot Mason's classic "Chickenhawk",  put Ferguson's book on my must-get list.

Chickenhawk highlighted the effectiveness of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese (and the tough ROK troops' on the anti-communist side in Vietnam), and contrasted it with the lack of equivalent mental toughness of the troops and people who lost despite superior technology. It set me  worrying about just the issues which I understand Ferguson covers in his book.



There are two forces at work here. One is Government over-reach. Elected representatives cannot help but engage themselves in solving problems that Government has no business engaging in. The second is the increasing abandonment of personal responsibility, and the outsourcing of decision making in our personal lives to the State.

The comfort of slavery is that your meals are guaranteed. The risk of personal responsibility is that you have to fend for yourself.

In a risk averse culture, soft slavery (with meals guaranteed) appears preferable to the uncertainty of personal responsibility.

  • Robert M
  • June 24th, 2013
  • 4:11 pm

I regard Niall Fergusson as like a lot of the more noted British academics and journalists who take up posts with US universities or magazines, as more pro USA and supportive of US cultural values than any real Americans. I recently listened to Niall Fergusson on Chinese Tv9 in an interview about whether the US would accept China rising to equal status and Niall answered that America’s core value was liberty not equality and I would agree, as would many other members of my family, but few others NZers, would.
In terms of the extract from Wall St Journal the reality is most people and most intelligent people haven’t got time for community and professional organization as they prefer to devote most of their time to work related activity or the pursuit of sex. The days of the big society, clubs and cultural organisations was partly of a simpler time where people wanted less and less was allowed. However many of these professional organisations and even church groups were really clubs where the elite could segregate themselves from the rest of society and far less about good works, big brother society or religion.
Also my own view is that many able and intelligent people and intelligent women prefer individual life and really only want to meet people, even possibly their husband for sex and coffee. My own view is many women do not really want to marry, but do so only for social acceptability and for the father to be a sort of cuckoo bird regardless of whether he is the real father, who the women will tolerate for just long enough as she see’s as necessary for her son’s and occasionally daughters interest.
In terms of the Vietnam war, my own view an d I think McNamara’s, the war is not really fought to win or for NZ or Australia’s interest- but to give a ferocious indication to China and Russia that the US was really prepared to fight and hit them hard if necessary. To me the Vietnam war is fought by the US on a percentage atrocity basis, so the kill ratio, is the real criterion and ultimately Nixon wins the 1972 election by the ferocity of Operation Linebacker where Le Mays plans for the smashing of Nth Vietnamese military infrastructure is partly implemented, the dykes smashed and last USN gun cruisers conduct a massive gun assault more ferocious than D day, the power of gun cruisers like the Newport News hitting ruthlessly and giving massive gunfire support to the last US troops. McNamara deliberately decided to downgrade the intellectual and social capability of the US forces for Vietnam and post Vietnam because they would not complain about the savage way Villages and towns would be systematically destroyed – in the percentage atrocity war plan although of course the Rand Corp would never have been so literal. The sons of the elite were still present in the US military and for Vietnam , McNamara was right the likes of John Kerry and many of those who later served in the senate were essentially appalled and sickened by the way the war was fought. It was cold war calibrated escalation not a victory plan. However since Vietnam, the lack of really able middle and upper classes throughout the US military is increasingly disastrous as the war against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is a war to defend middle class interest and the right to unlimited freedom, it is a war against egalitarianism and the power of ordinary men and ordinary man can not really fight it well.

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