Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts on History and the World (not Obama)

Theres two parts to this, if you get bored with the first speculations then please skip to the second part I think it might be interesting too.

A simple question in class got me swirling around in a possible today that never happened. What if the British had appeased the colonists by giving them representation in Parliament? Seriously think about that for a second. There was no way the colonists would allow themselves to be taxed if they didn't have a voice, and there was no way England could afford to not tax them. Had they given in and said ok every British citizen gets some (probably not equal) voice in Parliament. That probably would have shut us up. If we hadn't sparked the era of revolution, this might be a very very different world. Imagine us (at least the east coast and Canada), India and huge parts of the world still under the flag of England. Spain would still control Mexico and the entire western half of the country. I'm pretty sure England and Spain would have squeezed France out of North America. Slavery might have been ended earlier. I then get into the twentieth century, would we have had the world wars? Maybe England and Spain would have duked it out in a massive world war during the 19th century. Maybe not, maybe they would have had a cold war back then where they both knew the cost would simply be too great even then.

This probably would have prevented democracy from rising. But it might have made the Parliamentary system more democratic. Would one of the superpowers have completely taken over? I'm all for a world government but thats not really how I want to see it take place. The 20th century would have been very different. I'll make an assumption that I shouldn't make and assume that science and technology would have progressed at the rate it did. In reality much of the science of the 20th century was invented in the US because we had a combination of education and upward mobility that encouraged entrepreneurship which may not have happened under the British flag. Although if they allowed us the same degree of autonomy that we had enjoyed prior to the start of the revolution then just maybe it would have happened.

I guarantee WWII wouldn't have happened. Germany might have invaded parts of Europe in WWI but never would have dared to encroach upon England or Spain, and who knows France may have still been quite the world power, or have been previously taken over by one of the aforementioned powers. And without the treaty of Versailles the Nazi's never would have risen to power.

Who knows what the world would be like, but it is kinda fun to think about. I also like to do thought experiments like this because I think of them as psych experiments. The person I work with who I mentioned this too immediately shot back with slavery would have ended earlier. Theres a reason I like her, shes smart and an optimist, and I think that answer shows it.


This also makes me think of a comment by a friend. We have very similar radical views on the world in general, but he has a diametrically different solution, that makes me take pause and think. He's old school, he wants to go back to local rule. This would dramatically increase the democracy of our system, which is really really good. I've always been of the idea that we need a true world government. A UN with teeth. But the only way you can do that is without encouraging tyranny is with a very high degree of democracy and more importantly public involvement. The problem is that the whole world under a single democratic system might become simply too cumbersome for its own good. The legislative branch might simply need to be so big in order to give representation that it simply becomes impossible to get anything done. But I think a solution could be found, and hopefully without resorting to two party politics.

Maybe there is a way to combine the two ideas. I think having significant strength at both ends of the system makes sense. The local communities can deal with their own very specific problems quickly, while the world government deals with basics like human rights and prevention of violence. But how do you define the groups under the world government, do we simply use the rather arbitrary lines of our current nations? Do we start from scratch? I don't know, but its something I'd like to think about further.

I'm curious what other people think of these ideas.


rob said...

Okay Kilgore, I LOVE these "what if" games.

First point.... what if the British had given US a seat in Parliament? First, they would have been screwed, because it wouldn't have given them the autonomy they were enjoying under salutary neglect. It would have been one or two votes against the entire British Parliament. Second I don't think representation in parliament is what the Americans really wanted. The American elite wanted to replace the British elite. One of the big reasons was debt. George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson to a greater extent were up to their eyeballs in debt, just as many American elites were. Representation in parliament wouldn't have cured that. Also, the American colonies were an important cog in the British mercantilist system, and parliamentary representation wouldn't have done much about that.

For world government... a wonderful idea, but as long as there are imperialist hegemons like the United States who step all over world governments, it won't be successful. Maybe future world powers will play nice. I hope so.

Kilgore Trout said...

First off I'm glad you enjoy this, I guess that shouldn't surprise me, your a history buff too.

I should point out that I totally underestimated the power of the French in this, oh well.

While I agree that the elite would not have been happy with just getting a few Reps in the house of commons. It would have taken a whole lot of steam out of their arguments to the masses.

"NO taxation without representation!"
"Uh, we have representation"
"Well I still don't want to pay taxes"
"Quit ye bitching"

After the 7 years war (or french and indian war) we were feelin' pretty damn british, we just wanted to be equally british. The only way this could have worked would have been very early on. Once we made them cave on the stamp tax I don't think it could have been undone, but maybe. Even after the Intolerable Acts even after Lexingtion and Concord, there was still a large body of colonists who wanted to reconcile. Again, yeah the elite had made up their minds but without support from at least a fair number of the people it never could have happened.

Daniel said...

Oh most definatly we need a re-structuring of government. The native americans had a federation of independant states that lasted nearly if not a bit more than 4000 years. then white folk came.... but to quote NOFX dont call me white! rock it like a huricane kilgore.

Kilgore Trout said...

Hey is that DP in the Hizzie?

Ummm... I haven't done a whole lot of searching but from initial finds it looks like the Iroquois Confederation started on August 31, 1142 when the hold outs the Senecas joined. That still makes it arguably the longest running democracy in the world, but well short of 4000 years. I assume you were talking about the Iroquois, I don't know of any other similar confederations.

As for re-structuring I actually think the constitution is still a damn good starting point, it's not perfect but it's pretty good. A lot of our problems today stem from the fact that we've stomped all of the thing. Shit within 12 years of writing the fucking thing we decided to look the other way and pass the Alien and Sedition acts.

"Freedom of the Press! Freedom of Speech"
"Yeah! unless they talk about the government."
"Yeah! Wait what?"

We can change all the laws we want, even the constitution, without changing the will of the people to stand up for their rights we're still going to run into the problems of Despotism. Without will power a law is just a piece of paper.

Daniel said...

from what i have been listening to lately the groups that first populated the continent, they theorize, had somthing along the line of an agrement to not destroy each other. but it may have been more out of neccesity than comunity. and of course that inferances from fossils and hundreds of digs. can u imagine a time when people worked together to survive, sadly i have a hard time these days. as for despotism and the problems with law we shall quote the mighty doug adams

"a common mistake people make when trying to design something completly fool proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

and secondly this one is a demotivator and a half

"the whole problem with the world is that ffols and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts..."-bertrand russell