Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thoughts For Today About Tomorrow

A quotation form Wealth Of Nations of thoughtful interest, written by Adam Smith about the exploration of the Americas and the subsequent treatment of the indigenous inhabitants (formerly migrants from North Asia, c.9,000 year earlier) whose mode of subsistence was primarily low technology hunter-gathering, by the higher technology European migrants from the 15th century onwards:

At the particular time when these discoveries were made, the superiority of force happened to be so great on the side of the European, that they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice in those remote countries. Hereafter, perhaps, the natives of those countries may grow stronger, or those of Europe may grow weaker, and the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force, which by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another. But nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force than that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally or necessarily, carries along with it.’ (WN IV.vii.c.80: p 626-27)

Comment
Smith drew attention of possible long term consequences of those negative aspects of superior force when applied against people who cannot resist.

Hunter-gatherer tribes were no match for Agricultural/commercial societies with their technological superiority and habits of using such force against each other, when they clashed with the pathetic resistance of local inhabitants in colonies thousands of miles from their homelands.

The ‘natives of those countries [have] grow[n] stronger’ and ‘those of Europe [have] grow[n] weaker’, and ‘the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world [are arriving] at that equality of courage and force, which by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another.’

The working out of this new balance of force in the world is going to be the problem for this 21st century. It looks messy for now.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get much messier, especially with nuclear weapons spreading to more countries.

1 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

Smith did not realize that appropriation by the sword has generally preceded commerce in human history, and freedom of property is Milton Friedman's conception of free market capitalism. However, two recent articles in The Economist, one about the world order and the other about the collapse of US infrastructure have led me to open a new blog, though i has as yet made no contribution to it. stay tuned. look forward to your comments.

9:38 p.m.  

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