The Race of Our Lives — Jeremy Grantham

The collapse of civilizations is a gripping and resonant topic for many of us and one that has attracted many scholars over the years. They see many possible contributing factors to the collapse of previous civilizations, the evidence pieced together shard by shard from civilizations that often left few records. But some themes reoccur in the scholars’ work: geographic locations that had misfortune in the availability of useful animal and vegetable life, soil, water, and a source of energy; mismanagement in the overuse and depletion of resources, especially forests, soil, and water; the  lack of a safety margin or storage against inevitable droughts and famines; overexpansion and costly unnecessary wars; sometimes a failure of moral spirit as the pioneering toughness and willingness to sacrifi ce gave way to softer and more cynical ways; increasing complexity of a growing empire that became by degree too expensive in human costs and in the use of limited resources to justify the effort, until the taxes and other demands on ordinary citizens became unbearable, so that an empire, pushed beyond sustainable limits, became vulnerable to even modest shocks  that could in earlier days have been easily withstood. Probably the greatest agreement among scholars, though, is that the failing civilizations suffered from growing hubris and overconfidence: the belief that their capabilities after many earlier tests would always rise to the occasion and that growing signs of weakness could be ignored as pessimistic. After all, after 200 or even 500 years, many other dangers had been warned of yet always they had persevered. Until finally they did not.

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Another theory for civilization evolution

At the same press conference Matthew Konfirst, from the Ohio State University, discussed the disappearance of the Sumerian civilization and their language. In the cradle of civilization in the Middle East — about 4,000 years ago — there were two major language families, he said. One eventually became Hebrew and Arabic and other familiar languages, whereas the other family, Sumerian, stopped evolving when that civilization collapsed, a linguistic dead end. That collapse coincided with a drought that lasted hundreds of years, he said.

—   Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

I’ve been studying several theories to explain the rise and fall of civilizations. So far, I’m starting to form the opinion that many were due to or the consequence of climate change. It is nice to know that, based on this article, some researchers are also attempting to corroborate this theory!

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A List of (List of) Reading Lists

I may not have a shortage of books to read, but my greed to add more to my reading burden is infinite.  I’ll be looking forward to combing through these lists to add more to my collection.

 

Globalization and some thoughts thereabouts

This is an interesting video where scholars discuss the issues China faces in the future regarding social policy and economic reforms. The problems facing China seem to be a gross magnification of the problems America (most likely all countries of the world) faces, which I have been wondering about without coming to any sort of solution.

Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis suggests a conspiracy, a Game of Thrones, between central banks and their governments. I am skeptical that these banks would not rather work together instead. It is worrying that these institutions wielding vast amounts of global power are essentially opaque institutions. Yet, it does not seem possible to be rid of central banking while the world runs on fiat currency. Is a new currency type the solution or is a change in policy the solution? Neither options present themselves. I will like to investigate Milton Friedman’s proposed solution for a computerized central bank.

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else suggests that we’re living in a world where it’s the global rich versus the global poor. While this is a good piece of journalism that does not overly demonize the super-rich and bemoan the poor, it highlights a critical symptom of a problem no one has yet found a solution for. The Institute for New Economic Thinking forum discusses this problem as well for China specifically.

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