Links and Remarks

  1. Your feel good story for the day. (HT)
  2. Mr Schraub shows is partisan bent … in that it was very partisan of him that he twigged on that and not, say, birth citizenship queries aimed at Mr Cruz (or the somewhat silly NYTimes “expose” pieces demonstrating Rubio had (gasp) some parking tickets a few decades ago).
  3. A freaking felony? Truly!! Stupidity squared.
  4. I think what underlies this post is one of the things separating the left from right. The left thinks our civilization is robust and strong. The right knows it is not … tell me what caused the decline and fall of Rome? How do you know that won’t happen to us too? Read too the Dominic Flandry novels by Poul Anderson for a vision of life during the decades and centuries of the decline. As goes the predominance of the our Protestant work ethic and our can-do attitude about what is possible so goes our future.
  5. Pointing out the problem with we’re not charging you with a crime, but your response to our investigation … that was criminal.
  6. Squid farmers on Mars, “so who should have won the Hugo?” Hmm. The Martian never won. That was in the top 3 best sci-fiction novel of the last decade or two. How’d that get missed?
  7. To cheer up the conservatives, a reminder … the failure and fall don’t happen over night.
  8. Freedom of speech on campus … and a confused girl.
  9. The Urkainian conflict as war as UFO.
  10. Big data and the government. The author the linked letter has trust in the government. Look, Google and lots of big retailers know lots more than you’d expect about you and so does the government. But for myself, I’d trust Google further with that then the state. I know why Google (as proxy for commerce) wants that data. They want to sell me stuff, but not randomly, they want to be able to sell me stuff that I actually want when I actually need or want it. Just recall the recent IRS partisan attack on conservative groups and ask yourself if you really think our state can be trusted not to abuse their data, haven’t abused that trust already.
  11. Considerations of Pacific conflict and geographical implications on the same.

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24 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    #5 I’m not seeing a problem with him being charged. I think a defense that he didn’t know ‘structuring’ was illegal is not very plausible as he no doubt was part the Congresses that wrote the law and its various amendments.

    Can you commit a crime without an underlying crime? Sure, evading/resisting arrest is a classic example. The cop puts his lights on, you have no reason to be arrested but you decide to flee anyway. You can end up in jail even though you had originally did nothing to merit anything more than a ticket.

    A requirement to ‘create reportable data’ does fall within interstate commerce if we are talking about the banking system (and there’s no banks that are not interstate). I’m surprised at all this concern. Where were these characters during the Clinton impeachment? Again remind me what was the relevance of whether or not Clinton slept with an intern to whether or not there were any problems with Whitewater billings decades earlier or whether or not he sexually harassed Paula Jones?

    #2 Dual citizenship may be a bit perplexing without some context. During the fringe Obama birther debate, one theory among birthers was that Obama held dual citizenship since his father was from Nigeria. In their opinion dual citizenship was a disqualifier. This solved their problem of having absolutely no evidence that Obama was not born in the US. However, it was on very shakey Constitutional grounds since the Constitution says almost nothing about US citizenship and never mentions dual citizenship so their arguments ‘derived’ a Constitutional ban on dual citizens in various ways. Of course this is a problematic idea since the US doesn’t control the citizenship laws of other countries so what would prevent countries from exercising a veto on the US election by granting citizenship to candidates they don’t like? Also there’s a bit of antisemitism in this idea too since Israel automatically gives citizenship to Jews so if we took this idea seriously it would be impossible to have a Jewish President.

    #10 “The author the linked letter has trust in the government. Look, Google and lots of big retailers know lots more than you’d expect about you and so does the government. But for myself, I’d trust Google further with that then the state.”

    I think you are confused about the meaning of the word ‘knows’.

    Let’s consider, you are accused of killing your ex-wife in Ohio. You assert you live in Chicago and were no where near her home when she was killed the night of the 15th. Excellent, you got away with it. No wait, your defense lawyer lays out the evidence in discovery.

    They pulled your bank records, your atm card was used to get gas at a station two blocks from her house not 30 minutes before the killing. They pulled the surveillance video from the gas station. There you are in the store ringing up a coffee, some duck tape and a hammer! They pull your cell phone records, your phone was pulling down tweets from the cloud every 5 minutes leaving GPS coordinates with the nearby cell phone towers.

    That’s quite a bit of information. It is almost as if the gov’t had assigned a personal drone to follow you around 24-7 watching almost everything you do! But did the gov’t ‘know’ any of this about you?

    Not really. The data was stored in various systems and databases but before any investigation was conducted, the gov’t knew nothing. For example, the gov’t couldn’t tell you how many people used ATM cards at that gas station that night. They couldn’t tell you how many purchases of duct tape there were in Ohio. The gov’t could put this together with time and effort (and warrants in many cases).

    Now Google is more interesting in that in a very real sense it does ‘know’ you. It can collect huge amounts of data about you from other databases and then from you as you use Google. Even if you don’t use Google, various apps can secretly feed your actions to Google. At the end of the day Google is almost like a personalized drone dedicated to following you around and building up an extensive profile of you. Which is how in many cases Google is better able to guess you want than your own wife and kids.

    So here’s where your gov’t angle comes in. In the previous example, none of the databases were especially private (except maybe your bank files) and to really investigate you the gov’t would need to make multiple requests from different people (some of whom are under no obligation to store this data), collect the data and then analyze it. But once information is collected and stored, it is subject to gov’t demanding it by warrent. If Google has built an extensive profile of you, knowing you have a penchant for studying ways to get away with murder, that profile seems subject to gov’t search just as much as the tape from the gas station’s camera is subject. Your ability to have meaningful privacy is under threat even if it is just a ‘private’ entity like Google collecting everything about you. In fact the threat from the gov’t is probably greater. The NSA probably does NOT have a great database analysis system. If the NSA was limited to just everyone’s phone ‘metadata’ there probably isn’t a lot it could really do with it. But since it can ‘outsource’ to Google, Facebook and others the potential is actually much greater.

  2. I’m not sure it’s necessarily partisan evidence that I, a Jew whose blog maintains a particular focus on Jewish issues, would focus more on a specifically Jewish iteration of this problem.

    That said, I actually have interceded in several discussions to make clear that Ted Cruz is absolutely a natural-born U.S. citizen and therefore eligible to run for president. See, e.g., here, where I attempt to educate some surprisingly recalcitrant readers on the intricacies of 8 U.S.C §§ 1401 et seq. and how they apply to someone in Senator Cruz’s situation (specifically, how federal law establishes that he was U.S. citizen at birth even though he was born in Canada).

  3. Boonton says:

    The ‘natural born’ discussion linked is interesting but I think it demonstrates what is mean by ‘living document’….or a better phrase is Holmes’s “The Life of the law has not been logic. It has been experience.”

    The purpose of ‘natural born’ citizenship requirement seems to have been to prevent rich Europeans from setting themselves up in the US and then buying their way into the White House (remember for much of our history there was no such thing as an immigration service…to be a citizen of a particular state you had to show up there and possibly buy property…no one could keep huge databases or trackpeople by social security numbers or birth certificates so the concept of citizen as a status you walked around with was probably not very strong). That has not been our experience and it does seem not in keeping with the spirit of the law to nit pick over whether someone is ‘natural born’ if they were born while their parents were on vacation in Canada or whether one parent was a foreign student.

    Another area where the Constitution has changed through experience IMO is residency requirements. The Constitution actually does require the President and Vice President to be from different states, yet somehow Dick Cheney and George Bush got into the White House despite clearly being from Texas.

    IMO residency mattered more when the Constitution was about a geographic union but matters less now that the country is more a union of individuals who live in states that they may change multiple times in their lives. As such a provision that was once probably very important in preventing civil war has become a quirky technicality that requires politicians to periodically change their mailing address.

  4. Mark says:

    David,
    I’ll grant you that (being Jewish). Although I thought race and race relations was one of the issues you followed, the Democratic attacks on Cruz seemed quite anti-Hispanic in nature.

    And alas, I don’t “facebook” (I think it can be construed as a verb these days) … I’ve opted to ration my time and it got axed.

    How about the NYTimes matter with Rubio? I wasn’t clear whether the “doing that thing again” was specifically place of origin and birthplace/citizenship or if the thing was raising as possible issues gauzy ephemera (like the NYTimes making a headline of a few traffic tickets).

  5. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Re #5. You do realize that police can invent crime in this way from nothing. They take you in for questioning. After many hours and days of investigation and questions over a period of weeks they realize that under questioning your story has changed, memory is a funny thing. So they charge you with perjury and obstructing justice. Alas, that thing they were investigating you for well, you didn’t do that so no problem. They got on perjury.

    Regarding Mr Clinton … back when I was growing up if a company President or exec slept with a worker or secretary that was called sexual harassment and was verboten on account of the power imbalance. But today’s Democrats figure it’s a perk of power. Times have changed. You do realize that your defense of fleeing the cops crime doesn’t fit with your exonerating Clinton for lying in court and tampering with witness testimony. Also, you do realize that Whitewater was a very very successful investigation. It make numerous convictions including a sitting governor.

    Re, #10. You do realize it’s not the information the government pulls with warrant but without. It’s like in Wisconsin how a government DA with an axe to grind decides to have SWAT teams break down the doors and hassle and arrest (and forbid from telling anyone) everyone who is on a donor list he is privy to. The aforementioned NSA metadata can tell the government without warrant who your close acquaintances are.

    If the NSA was limited to just everyone’s phone ‘metadata’ there probably isn’t a lot it could really do with it.

    Untrue. Network analysis could tell them an incredible amount. Google network analysis a bit. How do you feel about the NSA having backdoor information to the data that Google, the phone companies, and so on has collected (and without using a warrant). Like I said. I know why Google wants it. They want to pop up ads of stores I’m near to sell me stuff they have reason to think I’m interested in. And they want to sell to companies who want customers those targeted ads.

    In part the difference is that I’m not sure what “google misusing information” means, but if the government abuses theirs somebody crosses the Rubicon and we lose our freedom.

  6. Oddly, most (though not all) of the folks I encountered claiming Cruz was ineligible for office were Republicans supporting other primary candidates. Or perhaps not so odd — at the moment Ted Cruz is more of a threat to rival Republicans than he is to Democrats (few of us expect he’ll be the nominee). In any event, I called it out as erroneous when I saw it.

    The Rubio thing is, of course, not about “frivolous conspiracy theories over citizenship”. For what it’s worth, I thought it was ludicrously trivial (traffic violations? Say it ain’t so! Next you’ll tell me he drank in college!); and since I don’t read the NYT regularly I only heard of the :”controversy” through various liberal bloggers who also called in ludicrously trivial.

  7. Boonton says:

    They take you in for questioning. After many hours and days of investigation and questions over a period of weeks they realize that under questioning your story has changed, memory is a funny thing. So they charge you with perjury and obstructing justice. Alas, that thing they were investigating you for well, you didn’t do that so no problem. They got on perjury.

    1. Perjury only applies to testimony offered under oath.

    2. hours/days/weeks? Police are limited in the time they are allowed to hold you (12 hours I think). At that point they must set you free if they are not prepared to formally charge you with a crime.

    3. You have the right to refuse to answer questions.

    4. It is well known that eyewitness testimony is unreliable and memory often shifts. While it isn’t impossible, it would be very difficult for a prosecutor to mount a case for obstruction of justice against a person who had no reason to cover up a crime and only actions were minor shifts in irrelevant details during prolonged, high pressure, questioning.

    5. I’m not sure how this is an attack on the concept of ‘obstruction of justice’ as a crime. I believe Ferguson provided a case where a cop arrested someone at a park. The guy had no actual crime yet the cop charged him with providing a false name. He said his name was ‘Mike’ rather than his license name which is “Michael”. That’s an example of abusing an otherwise good law but I don’t think it is a criticism of the law itself. I don’t think you’d agree it should be considered ‘free speech’ to provide cops with a false name.

    You do realize it’s not the information the government pulls with warrant but without. It’s like in Wisconsin how a government DA with an axe to grind decides to have SWAT teams break down the doors and hassle and arrest (and forbid from telling anyone) everyone who is on a donor list he is

    At this point the Wisconsin story is considered debunked. Every opportunity has been available for months now for those who claim it happened to file suit and bring their testimony and evidence to court where they are legally obligated to testify truthfully. Instead the only people they are willing to tell the story too are low level internet pundits.

    Even if this story was true, though, donor lists are public and what you’re describing is simply an abuse of power. If a police chief or DA or other official wanted to harass people on the other side of a political issue, it wouldn’t require James Bond tech to figure out who to target.

    Untrue. Network analysis could tell them an incredible amount. Google network analysis a bit. How do you feel about the NSA having backdoor information to the data that Google, the phone companies, and so on has collected (and without using a warrant).

    Network analysis can say quite a bit about how phone numbers are related to each other but that isn’t in itself a privacy right…especially if getting the name associated with the number requires a warrant or some showing of cause. From what I’m understanding, the problem may be that the alternative of requiring the phone companies to keep the data themselves makes analysis unwieldly. (OK terrorist A is calling these 6 numbers, who are they? Ohhh wait they are 6 different carriers, ohhh carriers 3-5 delete their data after 30 days and carrier 6 is supposed to keep the data but they had a flood in one of their server rooms and the hard drive got ruined). Keeping the data in one place eliminates the problem of putting different databases together manually (which can be a real pain). So why not keep the data in one place but require warrants for those who do the investigating to get to it?

    You seem to be changing your tune here. If the data is there, gov’t automatically has a ‘backdoor’ in the sense that if nothing else it can apply for a warrant to look at the data. This means Google collecting everything under the sun about you is not simply a private business trying to sell you stuff you want but is also the creation of something that could put you at risk that you have no easy control over.

    In the past this concept of privacy rarely had to be litigated because of what were essentially engineering limits on its violation. Yes your nosy neighbor might know what time you leave home every morning and what time you get home, but if he is watching you he can’t watch everyone else and it isn’t practical for him to meet with some Association of Nosy Neighbors, share his notes and keep track of everything about everyone.

    In part the difference is that I’m not sure what “google misusing information” means, but if the government abuses theirs somebody crosses the Rubicon and we lose our freedom.

    Here’s a question Richard Posner, I think, poised. Say you had a software system with voice recognition monitoring all your phone calls. The system does nothing but will alert the police if it hears something like “I kidnapped the kid” or “I put the bomb under the stands”. The system is able to recognize context so it will not do anything if, say, you’re talking about a TV show. Does this violate your privacy?

    If you say yes you are implying such a system is like a human listening to your phone calls. But unlike a human this system has no ‘human interest’ in you. It doesn’t ‘know you’ the way a human would get to know you, even if it did ‘who’ is it that is ‘knowing’ you? Some software?

  8. Boonton says:

    I think what underlies this post is one of the things separating the left from right. The left thinks our civilization is robust and strong. The right knows it is not … tell me what caused the decline and fall of Rome? How do you know that won’t happen to us too?

    Sounds like you’re saying a conservative is just a liberal whose travelling a bit faster in light. Instead of idealizing the present or the future he idealizes the past. He thinks the current age is crap, but ancient Rome was the bomb. But if ancient Rome was so great why did it collapse to begin with?

  9. Boonton says:

    And perhaps Rome is a bit unrepresentative in our sample of long term human history. While China’s changed governments multiple times, it has been a unique and easily identifiable civilization for thousands of years. A similar case can probably be made for India. Europe here might be an outlier in the sample, always filled with small, unstable states. That may simply be the norm of one part of earth rather than the norm of human civilization.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Now, perhaps I’ll quiz my daughter on this, but in interregnum China (and say Egypt) life may have been nasty brutish and short. If the rise of Europe in the 14th centuries on called themselves “Rome” would that still be the same nation? You might read this. During the fall period in Rome before things stabilized, archaeology tells us that looking at pottery shards and cow bones … that technology and living standards fell back to the middle Bronze age levels. If the we spend 4 centuries living in the middle bronze age most, if not all, of the world, but some retain their ethnic identity and call the nation that rises from the ashes by the same name, is it the same country. If so, why?

    Sounds like you’re saying a conservative is just a liberal whose travelling a bit faster in light. Instead of idealizing the present or the future he idealizes the past. He thinks the current age is crap, but ancient Rome was the bomb. But if ancient Rome was so great why did it collapse to begin with?

    This doesn’t make any sense to me. In a statement that says Rome was not as durable as it seemed, you interpret that as “current age, crap, Rome = bomb?” I don’t know what “bomb” means in this context. Is that a good thing or bad? What does that have to do with the notion that Rome was durable when it wasn’t as durable as people thought.

  11. Boonton says:

    During the fall period in Rome before things stabilized, archaeology tells us that looking at pottery shards and cow bones … that technology and living standards fell back to the middle Bronze age levels

    But does that tell us about the people or about the 1%? Consider https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy. Notice the table of life expectancy by era. The first big advance was moving from the neolithic to the bronze age (20 yrs to 26 yrs). Classical Greece added maybe 2 years to that, Rome probably at best took that away. The most advanced technology might have fallen back with Rome’s fall but did that impact the average person or just te elite? It’s the difference between the world’s iphones vanishing and the world’s private space ships vanishing.

    One fact I do recall about Rome, the city’s population had a negative growth rate. The city killed people faster than could be born in it. Rome thrived because it pulled people from beyond to replace those that died. Once replacements stopped having a reason to visit the ‘big city’, collapse was no doubt rapid.

    Your argument was that conservatives see civilization as very fragile, hence they worry about it and Rome is an example. Do the facts teach this lesson? I see Rome taking itself very seriously and yet it collapsed nonetheless. Worrying about civilization may therefore be pointless. After all, even if you are really smart and good, what’s to stop your great grandkids from f’ing it up?

    Perhaps if you consider China and India in your sample, perhaps the ‘lesson’ isn’t so much about collapse as about sustainability. Rome’s model was conquer and loot a new land, bring it into their ‘system’, then go out and repeat. That works as long as there’s endless lands with riches to take, but what happens if you run out? Even worse, Imperial overstretch takes over after a certain period of time. Europe seems to have missed this lesson over and over. Consider Nepolian and Hitler, for example. Both seemed to encompass Rome’s history on fast forward, taking over a huge land area only for it all to fall apart. Always trying to get the ‘great leader’ rather than a sustainable system.

  12. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    My daughter was recently touring in the UK (Ireland and Southern England). In Bath she noted that the quality of masonry of the Roman ruins was not eclipsed in Britain until the Victorian era (late 19th century). The book I quoted noted that pottery qualities were similar, that Western civilization didn’t eclipse pottery quality until the 19th century.

    You’d also note that your global warming alarmists find our oil as the unsustainable “thing” in our civilization. Peak oil has been a moving target for a few decades now.

    In Rome the average poor schmuck infantryman was literate. Charlemagne … a noble and an important King … was not. Somebody noted in the Golden age of Greece (some centuries earlier) Greece was getting most of its grain from the Eastern coasts of the Black Sea. This wasn’t just luxuries. This was large scale mercantile import/export of staples. This sort of thing is what broke down at the fall (well, in the North and Western half of Europe … Eastern Rome dodged much of it until later).

    After all, even if you are really smart and good, what’s to stop your great grandkids from f’ing it up?

    What? Exactly. It’s not as non-fragile as you think.

  13. Boonton says:

    What? Exactly. It’s not as non-fragile as you think.

    Here is a problem, why exactly are you worrying about it then? If it is as fragile as you imagine, then it is basically doomed, sooner or later it is going to get f’ed up. Worrying about this presumes that at some level it is non-fragile and stuff you do today can have positive impact far into the future.

    My daughter was recently touring in the UK (Ireland and Southern England). In Bath she noted that the quality of masonry of the Roman ruins was not eclipsed in Britain until the Victorian era (late 19th century).

    Romans had little idea of tolerances so a lot of building was over-engineered. Many new buildings today would not last a century without constant refurbishments but the pyramids have gone thousands of years without even needing a paint job. That isn’t decline, though, it’s resource allocation. The Egyptians got to have one pyramid or so per generation, we build thousands of useful buildings every year.

    The book I quoted noted that pottery qualities were similar, that Western civilization didn’t eclipse pottery quality until the 19th century.

    Is this important? The lifespan metrics seem to indicate that Rome’s advanced pottery had declining ability to improve lifespans. How important is pottery anyway? Think about all the junk coffee mugs that litter you home and workplace.

    In terms of perspective, the key question is “Does Rome represent the normal pattern of human civilization or a local data point?”. On a global scale it seems to be a local datapoint. Technology (as measured by pottery or other ways) may have declined in Europe during some periods of history but is there any evidence of a global tech decline ever in human history?

    Consider modern day measures. If you told me electricity was more reliable in Afghanistan or Syria in, say, 1965 than today I might buy that. Yet that represents a local decline due to various problems (civil wars, corruption, religious fanatics). Globally electricity is more plentiful today and put to more interesting uses than it was in ’65.

  14. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Romans had little idea of tolerances so a lot of building was over-engineered.

    ?? Are you saying that Victorian England over engineered masonry and prior to that Europe did not do that?

    That isn’t decline, though, it’s resource allocation. The Egyptians got to have one pyramid or so per generation, we build thousands of useful buildings every year.

    Newsflash. Ancient Egyptians did not actually live in pyramids. They in fact, also built thousands of useful dwellings (and lived in them) every year.

    Is this important?

    It is a metric of civilization. If the best pottery you construct is no longer spun on wheels and is just hand smooshed together and fired in a local campfire … it’s an indication that you no longer have the infrastructure to have people dedicated to making pottery, potter as occupation no longer exists. You’ve lost an awful lot when specialization at that basic a level drops off the map. Likewise when you can’t feed your cattle regularly and stock grains at all and care for them through drought and winters … then it’s a sign that ordinary people are now starving often and suffering shortages tied to local conditions. You know that too if you’d think about it for a moment. What are the consequences of a loss of specialized common occupations? How can you see signs of that in archaelogical digs (hint: pottery). How about local food resources and labor availability, how might you see that in the record (hint: size of hip bones of cows is one good proxy). When potter and cow bone size drops to middle bronze age levels from a state not matched until the 18th and 19th centuries you can realize this isn’t about coffee mugs, but a good proxy measurement of quality of life and health of economy.

    Technology (as measured by pottery or other ways) may have declined in Europe during some periods of history but is there any evidence of a global tech decline ever in human history?

    Certainly. And weren’t not exactly talking about just a tech decline. if you remember how to make an arch or paper, but there are not specialized occupations … then what will the “non-loss” of tech buy you? Show me the recipe for Greek Fire. We don’t today, know how it was made. And the only reason a “global tech decline” wasn’t seen was that there never was a global economy … The Chinese/Asian economic region didn’t overlap the Western Roman and so on. But today we don’t have independent economic regions. If the global economy collapses … then everyone in it will be affected. So your question should be “has there ever been evidence of prosperity/economy collapses” in multi-regional economies. The answer is yes and I’d bet Rome isn’t the only example (investigate inter-dynastic life in your examples of India and China).

  15. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    And “worry” is a bad term. Conservatives are not “worried” … it’s just that we are more cautious about taking large whacks at our economy and cultural foundations … because we don’t believe it is as non-fragile as you pretend it is.

  16. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Romans had little idea of tolerances so a lot of building was over-engineered.

    Cite? Why do you think this wasn’t economically sound? In the absence of heavy combustion engine driven machinery and other automated manufacturing techniques … and everything is built by hand … does making spending twice as much now to make it last centuries vs having to rebuilding every 40 years make sense economically?

    Or is the short term thinking a consequence where decisions are made, From short term electoral politics and economics moving away from a dynastic-driven one? Or is the difference one of zeitgeist? Our age is short term oriented where their (Rome) notion of how long they were building for was centuries not decades?

  17. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Look at it this way. The Romans built their stadia (the Colosseum for example) to last centuries and it’s still there because it did because they thought Romans would be watching games there 500 years later. The better question might be why don’t we think we’ll be playing still baseball or football in our cities in 500 years?

  18. Mark says:

    Boonton
    Oh, a reminder. Pottery is not a “technology metric” it’s a measure of occupational specialization. Are people around who just to pottery? How long and how big is this arena of specialization? It’s an economic not technological metric.

  19. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    What proxy is the lifespan metric measuring? What is the takeaway?

    Global medical technology did not have serious advances until the mid to late 19th century with Lister and Pasteur and so on which was the primary driver of life span measures. Or am I missing something?

    Also, lifespan measures are typically non-trivial to read. There was a very high mortality rate in the “before 1 year” region which skews the perception of average adult ages. Similarly the lack of good simple surgical and lack of antibiotics meant that a infection or bacterial disease could kill a healthy person in their 30s whereas suddenly in the 20th (Fleming) that stopped being a problem. The distribution wasn’t a normal distribution, which is what you’d naively expect when someone says (“average” 26 year lifespan). The point is it was less unusual for people to live to their 70s than you’d expect, which is why for example a 1k BC text can state the normal span of a man’s life was 3 score and 10 when the “average” lifespan in the region would be reported by anthropologists as 25 years.

  20. Boonton says:

    Look at it this way. The Romans built their stadia (the Colosseum for example) to last centuries and it’s still there because it did because they thought Romans would be watching games there 500 years later. The better question might be why don’t we think we’ll be playing still baseball or football in our cities in 500 years?

    Why not build a new Colosseum after 100 years or so? I’m sure they did think they would be watching games in 500 years but they also lacked knowledge of tolerances so as a result they tended to ‘over-engineer’ things. Not just trophy buildings like the Colosseum but more mundane things too.

    Cite? Why do you think this wasn’t economically sound? In the absence of heavy combustion engine driven machinery and other automated manufacturing techniques … and everything is built by hand … does making spending twice as much now to make it last centuries vs having to rebuilding every 40 years make sense economically?

    They probably found labor to be much cheaper back then so its hard to compare costs.

    Even so its not obviously more economical. If you had to replace your roof, would you spend twice as much for a roof that would last 50 years versus a 30 year one?

    You are correct in pointing out that if your building is made to last 500 years, you won’t have to build a new one. But there are costs associated with that. Since things change after 500 years, you may find yourself spending money to adapt to the building rather than having the building adapt to you. For example, if the population center shifts, then you may end up having to spend more on transit so people can get to the old building and home again easily. It gets harder to retrofit older buildings to new services like water and sewer as time goes on. Old buildings can also hold back a civilization. Compare new baseball stadiums to ones from a half century ago. Do the new ones indicate a sport that’s declined since then? Imagine if we had to be locked into the stadiums of 1950 for 500 years? Japan, which has a moderately old and successful civilization, is not premised on trying to build 500+year buildings but buildings that can easily be torn down and rearranged on the fly.

    What proxy is the lifespan metric measuring? What is the takeaway?

    Global medical technology did not have serious advances until the mid to late 19th century with Lister and Pasteur and so on which was the primary driver of life span measures. Or am I missing something?

    It’s measuring the difference between private spaceships and private iphones. We have private spaceships today, but our civilization is not a spacefearing one. Our civlization is a mobile communications and computing one, though. If you were looking back from 10,000 years in the future you could check a box that said yes we had space travel but it wouldn’t be the same as saying space travel was an integral part of our civilization. If ten years go by with no new manned space launches, few would notice. Make no new cell phones/tablets for ten years and our world would go haywire.

    To what degree was Rome’s collapse a problem for the ‘1%’. The urbanized elite who made use of the most that Rome had to offer. To what degree was it an issue for the regular people who made up the bulk of the population? Average lifespan is my attempt to measure this since one would imagine improved sanitation and more dependable water and food would show up as a benefit over the entire population.

    I get what you’re saying about modern medicine but just ignore the last two entries on the table (early 20th century and 2010 world average). Ironically the higher point appears to be the Paleolithic and going to agriculture lowered our lifespan (but increased our populations). Medieval Britain & Medieval Islamic Caliphate both scored in the 30’s. Classical Rome was 20-30…even Pre-Columbian North America which had nothing like a Rome in it was 25-30.

    Early Modern Britain (which covers up to maybe the end of the 1700’s) sets the top bar at 20-40. Absent major medical discoveries and their applications, we can say a highly functional civlization should be expected to achieve a lifespan near 30-40. Rome from that POV was not that impressive and rather than being a norm of civilizations might simply be an outlier…a James Dean of Civilizations that had a reputation for being splashy and playing hard for a while but burned out somewhat quickly in historical standards.

    This implies then the obsession with collapsing civilization might be a product of historical blinders on the part of Western conservatives. The norm might very well be Civilization has more or less been a constant of human history since a few thousand years ago and all that changes is a usually slow shift in the geographical layout.

  21. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    They probably found labor to be much cheaper back then so its hard to compare costs.

    As far as I can tell, only two things have ever affected the costs of things vis a vis labor, how large you can push the pay differential between skilled and unskilled labor and automation. Since Rome had no automation and we do now, costs of production were lower now than then, not higher.

    I still don’t understand what your lifespan metric is supposed to measure when comparing civilizations.

    To what degree was Rome’s collapse a problem for the ‘1%’.

    Uhm, it was an extreme difference. Before the fall most of the 99% where literate. After even the 1% were not, only monastics could read. Before the fall, the 1% could eat fruit iced on snow carted from the Apennines and imported from half a world away. After … they were eating bad meat on wooden plates. Before they had baths and indoor plumbing. After they shat in the street. I could continue but perhaps you get the point. Life was very different for everyone.

    Rome wasn’t a “James Dean” of civilizations. It lasted for almost a thousand years. It’s peak period was 4 centuries long.

    This implies then the obsession with collapsing civilization might be a product of historical blinders on the part of Western conservatives.

    Or it might be the confusion of liberal historians who can’t tell the difference between the cathedral at Chartres or Hagia Sophia, the music of Beethoven and a hand carved wooden mask from Africa. (or apparently being fluent in two languages eating iced fruits and being illiterate and picking splinters from your teeth while feeding).

    I don’t think you’ve thought through the economics and thought processes that come into play when building for 2 centuries instead of 10 years. And while you’ve made the claim more than once that the Romans “didn’t understand tolerances” you’ve no data to back that claim up. Why do you say that? Are you just pulling that pretense out of your arse?

    Not just trophy buildings like the Colosseum but more mundane things too.

    Like what? We don’t actually have examples of their tenement buildings. I think at the peak a million people lived in Rome. But … apparently almost all but a few governmental and palace or temples are left. Odd that those that are left are only those that we’d expect them to think “gosh, the need for this will last as long as Rome, which is forever” and built it to last. Almost like it was intentional, which almost certainly it was. Kind of like their roads, eh?

    If you had to replace your roof, would you spend twice as much for a roof that would last 50 years versus a 30 year one?

    Yes. But if it cost 20% more and lasted 50 instead of 15 … which would you choose?

    Why not build a new Colosseum after 100 years or so?

    Ok. Why? Why do it if the costs are only 20% higher and you can make it last 500 years. ’cause if you spend the extra 20% now, in 100 years … you’ll not have to expend the resources to do a rebuild. Which your great grandchildren will appreciate.

  22. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Japan, which has a moderately old and successful civilization, is not premised on trying to build 500+year buildings but buildings that can easily be torn down and rearranged on the fly.

    Ah. But Japan is in the “ring of fire” and suffers frequent earth tremors, significant enough that paper walls were common so that they were cheap to replace and less likely to harm occupants in the event of a quake. But even then, they do in fact have temples and other structures which are older than a few centuries. You said they don’t have such. Alas, that is just wrong. What they don’t have are large buildings stadia … but I am both unaware of any medieval exhibition games that existed in the culture and possibly more importantly frequent earthquakes make the building of the same an unwise expense and dangerous to the occupants if they are in there at the same time as a quake.

  23. Boonton says:

    Italy has lots of heavy duty Roman buildings yet it has not been immune to earthquakes or even vulcanos. Greece and Turkey too.

    You say the reason the Colosseum was built to stand over 500 years was because the Romans expected to be watching games in 500 years. But this doesn’t really answer the question. Why would Roman’s in year 1 pay not only to have a Colosseum to enjoy today but also pay for people 500 yeas later to have a Colosseum? You seem to say the answer is becaue they thought their civilization was great and would thrive forever. Yet that’s actually a very good reason to *not* pay.

    Imagine you were in 1900 and someone suggests building a huge football stadium that would last 115 years. Why? Clearly the economy of the US in 2015 is much bigger than it was in 1900. Rather than try to provide for 1900 and 2015, the people of 1900, if they expected the US to continue to thrive for hundreds of more years, would have had even less reason to build a massive football stadium that would take over a century to really get used to its fullest.

    If anything, building for hundreds of years into the future seems to be expressing a very depressing view. It is essentially saying things will never be as good as they are now so we might as well get all this stuff built now since the future can never handle it.

    Of course there are some other reasons that factor in here. Some building is purposefully aiming for eternity. The Egyptians didn’t really care about future generations, they built their pyramids so their present leaders would be remembered and honored forever. Italy, Greece, Turkey etc. has lots of stone and marble. Build something with them and it is almost impossible not to end up with something that will be stable for centuries as opposed to wood or bamboo.

  24. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Why would Roman’s in year 1 pay not only to have a Colosseum to enjoy today but also pay for people 500 yeas later to have a Colosseum?

    Look. You proposed the roof cost question but didn’t answer my counter. Do so please. If it costs 20% more to last 500 years vs 50 why not pay the 20% now. Duh.

    Clearly the economy of the US in 2015 is much bigger than it was in 1900.

    (setting aside the actual history of the NFL for a moment) Building long term means you can use those wonderful 2015 resources to do other things, like colonies on Mars instead of continuing to rebuild stadia and bridges that were hastily built here.

    If anything, building for hundreds of years into the future seems to be expressing a very depressing view.

    I see it exactly the opposite. Building crap for the short term is the depressing view. Building long term is optimistic. In says, we will be here in hundreds of years using this, and in those times we will be doing bigger and greater things (and not rebuilding this).

    I think Italy imported its marble. When the Venetians convinced the Crusades to sack Constantinople, Venice became filled with marble stolen, stripped, and brought over. They wouldn’t have done that if they had lots of marble.

    There are buildings in Japan that have lasted for centuries. Contrary to your claim.