Tuesday, November 28

Tribalism and neomercantilism: now there's a combination of concepts to ponder

"Dear Pundita:
Regarding your reply [to my request for] your view of ethical realism:

Actually, I found your follow-up post (on Tribalism and Meerkats) more in line with what I was hoping for, in that it spelled out your "realist" motivation for supporting the Democracy Doctrine. In fact, the Meerkats have also prodded me to consider the roots of both virtue and vice, and what it takes to create a "nation" from a "tribe." From where I sit, it seems to require a ruling class bound by a shared belief in some transcendent purpose, plus at least semi-compliant subjects who see a long-term advantage in serving those rulers. That is, we need a combination of both values and dollars to "salt the fields" from whence terrorism springs. Would you agree?
Dr. Ernie"

Dear Dr. Ernie:
Well. Pundita will have to think on that one. But aren't those meerkats something? We should be grateful to the researchers who spent years studying those wonderful creatures. One can learn a great deal -- or at least be greatly reminded -- about some deep human issues by pondering the meerkats' complex society.

It's amazing what meerkats accomplish as a group. Yet that's just it; as we've seen from Mozart's tragic life, ostracism from the tribe spells death, just because the meerkats are so dependent on group effort to survive the Kalahari's environment.*

I think a lone wolf has a better chance of survival than a lone meerkat, don't you? So it could be that the more dependent a tribal creature is on the social contract for survival, the greater the fear of losing the tribe. And at some point, the fear can override the best course of action -- at least for humans, who have the greatest adaptive ability. But if you prefer to hang onto a tribal form of government out of fear, even if the government is no longer capable of dealing with the most serious challenges you face, that is deep trouble.

"Pundita! Just to let you know I have switched to the Zone Diet, which is SO GREAT you can't believe how great it is! It's by Barry Sears. I am going to stick with this diet. I hope your team is doing well.

Re your post yesterday where you said that Chirac's school is neomercantilist. I read an article on neomercantilism in Wikipedia. Chirac wants to have a world government based on trade but he wants to substitute an alliance of countries for individual nations, right? So don't you think he's really a neo-neomercantilist?
No Longer Sleepless in St. Louis"

Dear No Longer Sleepless:
Well. Pundita will have to think on that one. But a general rule of thumb is that for the sake of clear thinking and communication, one needs devise a new term to describe a phenomenon, if one has to double-prefix a term in the attempt to convey a meaning.

All nations that belong to WTO practice neomercantilism to a greater or lesser extent; with the advanced nations the commitment to free trade is always tussling with the neomercantile approach.

But I think you're on the right track in that Chirac's school wants to have a multi-nation legal or quasi-legal body set economic policy for all the major trading nations. Yet to a great extent that is what the World Trade Organization already does.

The big issue with the Chirac School is that they want economics to transcend defense in foreign policy. And because defense is at least nominally founded on protecting a sovereign nation's core values, the school virtually scuttles all values. The exception is the value of trade. But that's not enough to stop or even curb a dictator.

How can the Chirac School scuttle defense in foreign policy? Because the United States of America, not France or the EU, is carrying the lion's share of the burden of defending the free world.

Thanks for the diet tip. The next post will be up on Friday.

* Mozart is an elder daughter of Flower, who is the leader of the Whiskers tribe. (Tribe leadership among meerkats seems based on merit and the formation of a dominant male-female team rather than gender; not all the meerkat tribes are led by a female.)

For readers who would like to start following the series and want to play catch up, Wikipedia has published a list and description of the (named) meerkats shown so far. Note the spoiler ending warning in the article, if you want to be kept in suspense. I note that it's an insult to portray the series as a soap opera because this is life-or-death we're watching. The series has more in common with the Greek Tragedies than a TV soap opera. Come to think of it, the series has more in common with ancient human history than anything else.

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