Wednesday What We’re Reading (Aug. 14, 2019)

Still just me, keeping the lights on. (Parvusimperator contributes stories here, too, of course.)

I’m trying something new and writing the post on Tuesday night rather than Wednesday morning. Less hurried. [Update from Tuesday night: actually, I wrote the post on Monday night because I got confused.]

In next week’s roundup, I should have another USPSA match video. As an added bonus, I should be running a few stages which I designed.



Science and Technology



Grab Bag

Hong Kong Protests

Book Review Review: Secular Cycles

SlateStarCodex reviewed Secular Cycles. Best quote: “I wish I could find commentary by other academics and historians on Secular Cycles, or on Turchin’s work more generally. I feel like somebody should either be angrily debunking this, or else throwing the authors a ticker-tape parade for having solved history.”

As is ever the case for SSC reviews, it goes into great depth and does some analysis of the key claim: that human history follows tide-like cycles. Calamity kills a lot of people, the survivors rebuild and grow rich, the rich society stagnates, stagnation leads to calamity. This seems reasonable to me. Certainly, it looks like it applies to Europe up until the postwar years. Belle Epoque, war then war again, recovery. (Or possibly continued inter-cycle stagnation?)

There’s some question over whether it applies today. A later book by the same author(s?) says yes, but I say you need some qualifiers. First, the calamity cycle only works for a society without outside inputs, as Mr. Alexander notes, and there are very few of those nowadays. None, if you’re asking about those of interest on the world stage. Second, the nation-state is no longer the unit of interest. We operate on the scale of civilizations now: the West and so forth. Third, the calamities aren’t as bad. The potential calamities are a lot worse, but the ones that actually happened are milder. The World Wars killed 15% of Germans, maybe. As a percentage of Europeans, the Black Plague killed a lot more. Fourth, we’re no longer operating in a Malthusian frame. We can skim along the top of the cycle for a lot longer before things fall apart, and they’re more likely to fall apart for ideological reasons than they are because of lack of food.

Anyway, SSC is going to review the author’s (s’?) next book, which makes the pro-cycle argument for the modern age. Maybe I’ll read both myself, rather than relying on someone else to read them for me.

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