Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

11 August 2018

Danger, Men in Charge

[For links to the most recent posts together with the inverse chronological links to all recent posts, click here.]
“The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
—William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919)
Yeats published those immortal words almost exactly a century ago. When he wrote them, he knew what the world then faced. The most senseless war in human history already was well under way. Before it was over, the “flower of European manhood” would die in the tens of millions, from poison gas (not then outlawed), from shot and shell, and from infected wounds suffered in soggy trenches. (We humans didn’t invent antibiotics until after that war, so every battle wound was potentially fatal.)

I’ve proposed a numerical measure of the senselessness of wars, which I modestly call “Dratler’s Coefficient.” In the numerator goes the number of premature deaths, including both soldiers and civilians. In the denominator is some measure of the reason for fighting.

Every schoolchild knows the event that provoked World War I: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Serbia (and other places). But that’s not a “reason.” Why should one person’s death provoke twenty million more? To answer that question, you have to understand the most dangerous substance in the Universe: testosterone.

World War I was a great imperial “game” conceived, conducted and concluded entirely by males. They even called their caricature of “diplomacy” that led to it “the Great Game.”

In the end, it was a “game” that produced death wholesale, using means of mass slaughter never before conceived: trench warfare, long-range artillery, poison gas, even nascent air forces. It changed the map of Europe forever, and it presaged the even greater slaughter of World War II: fifty million premature deaths, many of them inside today’s Russia.

For World War I, Dratler’s Coefficient is the largest in human history, making that war by far the most senseless. The numerator of death is “only” twenty million, but the denominator is close to zero. There was no perceptible “reason” for World War I. The “Great War” was little more than an exercise in irrational imperial exuberance by male rulers. In contrast, World War II had two real reasons: the beastly tyrannies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, which had to be stopped.

If you’d asked historians in 1914 what might trigger humanity’s most senseless war, none would have guessed an obscure Serbian archduke’s assassination. It was just the spark that ignited a well-fueled tinderbox.

Just so, I could never have guessed that a diplomatic spat between the US and Turkey over an obscure North Carolinian evangelist would trigger the financial crash I’ve been predicting since February 2. [See this recent post and this earlier one.] But it appears to have done so already.

There’s a chance for Turkey and the United States to pull back from the brink. There always is. But that’s not the “logic” of testosterone. Both Trump and Erdoǧan are “real men.” They don’t back down; they double down. Every time.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of virtually all of humanity’s leaders today. We know in our hearts what leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Bashar Al-Assad, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolás Maduro and their ilk would do to us if left to their own devices. They would double down on their errors and destroy us with conflict, runaway global warming, or simple neglect. They would immolate all of us on the pyres of their male egos.

If we let them, these men will bring us species self-extinction. The only notable exceptions are President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany. They are the current leaders of the two Western European nations that suffered most in the last century’s cataclysms. (Russia, in its Soviet guise, suffered most of all—something that makes Putin’s habitual brinksmanship so ironic.)

Do I exaggerate? Not much. This week Dmitri Medvedyev—the trained lawyer and nearest thing to a Harvey Milquetoast inside the Kremlin—made a threat. He hinted that economic war, if it hurt Russia too badly, could lead to real war. And of course there’s good precedent: both World War I and World War II had clear economic causes and precursors, mostly relating to trade.

For me, the light dawned when I learned (too recently!) that Erdoǧan became known in Turkey as a soccer player. A soccer player!

No wonder he repeats himself, often saying nothing of sense, in almost every speech of his I have ever heard translated. It’s not the translators; it’s him. What does a soccer player know of economics, diplomacy, or even the real power of the weapons that his troops use so casually, against Kurds and Arabs alike?

How did Erdoǧan the soccer player end up the supreme leader of Turkey, accumulating almost tyrannical power? How did Imran Khan, who gained fame as a skilled cricket player, end up the elected leader of the only majority-Islamic nation with nuclear weapons?

There can be only one answer. These men know nothing of the myriad specialties that any leader of a modern nation needs to know (or consult) to govern well. Insofar as concerns trade, the bases of modern prosperity, modern science, and the capabilities and uses of modern weapons and armies, they are as ignorant as the least of the citizens they seek to rule.

But they do know the secrets of small-group loyalties. They know how to incite the huddle of a team of men of about the same size as the evolutionary clans in which our species evolved. They know how to win leadership by manipulating tribalism, but not what to do with it. Our own president is Exhibit A: he started a major trade war without a plan.

With their inveterate doubling down, these men will almost certainly destroy us. If even Medvedyev (Medvedyev!) can threaten war, they can bring it, without having the slightest idea of the reasons or the likely consequences. They can bring us Armageddon—economic or military—with the same insouciance with which the noble sons of Britain, France and the Hapsburg Empire brought us World War I—the most senseless carnage in human history.

So are we doomed as a species? Are we fated to have testosterone-fueled small-group leaders—team huddlers!—draw us into economic and military conflicts whose consequences and ends they cannot begin to foresee?

Not necessarily. There is another gender less ruled by testosterone. There is another gender whose evolution has focused on cooperation, consultation, and loving all the kids the same. There are those 160 females now running for political office here in America—the greatest number in American national history.

Some of them may be motivated by personal insult and injury—sexual harassment, mistreatment of immigrant kids, and general neglect of what we used to call “human values.” But their grievances are real and growing. The prospect of testosterone-fueled “just guys” laying waste to most or all of the progress of human civilization is becoming more and more real.

The hour is late. Yet there is a chance to set things right. If enough men and women vote for females in November, we can have a real check on our down-doubler-in-chief. We can give the embattled Chancellor Merkel some international reinforcements. And we can give our social—as distinguished from biological—evolution a boost.

Vote Democratic and, when you can do both, vote female. We voters need to make the simple point that “winning” a single tribal competition, let alone all of those our demagogues now invent, could destroy our species. Enough is enough.

[For how Geezers can fight the oligarchs and win, click here. For the threat to our way of life posed by dark cryptocurrency transfers and untraceable and undetectable assault weapons, click here. For reasons why an economic or political crash is coming or imminent, click here. For a brief note on a rare “conservative” who can think, click here. For things corporate CEOs can do to help keep the United States from suffering a decline and fall like ancient Rome’s, click here. For a comparison of quality in pols and reasons to recall our recent past, click here. For reasons why Trump’s trade war is headed toward a disastrous defeat, click here. For a brief note on how corporate rule is encroaching on American cities, click here. For our desperate need for voters to focus on good character, click here. For an analysis of facts and Kim’s myth about North Korea, click here. For a second post on training new voters, click here. A list of links to popular recent posts follows:]

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