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Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Date read: 2020-09-03
How strongly I recommend it: 8.19/10
(See my list of books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon book for details and reviews.

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

USA and immigration

“To understand the fundamental benefits of an immigrant population, imagine that you could divide the population of any country into two groups: one consisting on the average of the youngest, healthiest, boldest, most risk-tolerant, most hard-working, ambitious, and innovative people; the other consisting of everybody else. Transplant the first group to another country, and leave the second group in their country of origin. That selective transplanting approximates the decision to emigrate and its successful accomplishment”

USA and Socio-economic mobility

“high socio-economic mobility. Our ideal and reality of rags-to-riches mean (or meant) that able hard-working people who are born poor or arrive poor may achieve wealth. That’s a big incentive driving people to work hard, and means that the U.S. has made good use of much of its potential human capital”

USA and geography advantages

“Temperate-zone soils are in general more fertile than tropical soils”

“waterways, both coastal and interior. They constitute a big money-saver, because transport by sea is 10–30 times cheaper than transport overland by road or by rail”

“As for interior waterways, the U.S. East Coast has many short navigable rivers”

“When one adds the intra-coastal waterway to the Mississippi / Great Lakes system, the U.S. ends up with more navigable internal waterways than all the rest of the world combined”

“The other advantage of our sea-coasts is as protection against invasion”

“it’s cheaper and safer to make deliveries from a ship off the coast than from a vehicle on land only if the people awaiting you on land welcome your planned delivery. Delivery by sea is expensive and unsafe if the people awaiting you are shooting at you. Amphibious landings have always ranked among the most dangerous forms of warfare”

“The portions of our borders that don’t consist of sea-coasts are our land borders with Mexico and Canada, both of which have much too small populations and armies to threaten us”

“the U.S. is virtually immune to invasion. None has even been attempted in our history as an independent nation; the U.S. has not been involved in a war on our mainland with a foreign power since the 1846–1848 Mexican War”

USA and education

“We have a long history of federal, state, and local government investment as well as private investment in education, infrastructure, human capital, research, and development.”

“As a result, the U.S. leads all the rest of the world combined in every major field of science, as measured by articles published or Nobel Prizes won”

USA and its strength

“A national economic output or income is the product of two factors: a country’s population, multiplied by its average output or income per person”

“The reason for the U.S.’s large population is its large area of fertile land. The only two larger countries, Russia and Canada, have much lower populations, because a large fraction of their area is Arctic, suitable only for sparse habitation and no agriculture.”

“U.S. is resource-rich, self-sufficient in food and most raw materials, and large in area, and has a population density less than 1/10th of Japan’s. But Japan is resource-starved, heavily dependent on imports of food and raw materials, has an area less than 1/20th that of the U.S., and is crowded (population density more than 10 times the U.S.’s). That is, it’s much easier for the U.S. to support its large population than it is for Japan.”

high output or wealth per person, due to the geographic, political, and social advantages

“The fact that the U.S. has the world’s largest economy enables it also to have the world’s most powerful military

“the U.S. has 10 large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers capable of being deployed around the world; only one other country (France) has even a single one, and few countries have any aircraft carrier at all, nuclear-powered or not.”

USA and political advantages

“our government has been a democracy uninterruptedly for the 230 years of our national existence”

“the essence of democracy is checks, balances, and broad-based (hence time-consuming) decision-making”

“dictatorships suffer from a far worse, often fatal, disadvantage. No one, in the 5,400-year history of centralized government on all of the continents, has figured out how to ensure that the policies implemented with enviable speed by dictatorships consist predominantly of good policies”

“In a democracy, citizens can propose and debate virtually any idea, even if the idea is initially anathema to the government then in power. Debate and protests may then reveal the idea to be the best policy, whereas in a dictatorship the idea would never have gotten debated and its virtues would never have become accepted”

“our government was so tenacious in pursuing a policy that revealed itself to be bad, and because the protests against that policy were so vigorous, was our government’s eventual decision to end its policy of making war in Vietnam (Plate 9.5). In contrast, Germans in 1941 did not have the opportunity to debate the folly of Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union and then to declare war against the U.S. while already being at war against Britain.”

“Another basic advantage of democracy is that citizens know that their ideas are getting heard and debated

“A further basic advantage of democracy is that compromise is essential to its operation”

“all citizens can vote”

“The U.S. version of a federal system consists of 50 states, which in practice often means 50 competing experiments that test different solutions to the same shared problem, and that may thereby reveal which solution works best”

“uninterrupted civilian control of our military throughout our entire history.”

“relatively low overt corruption by world standards”

USA and niche information

“When I was a teenager, cable TV didn’t exist; the first TV program of any sort didn’t come to my city of Boston until 1948; and for years thereafter, we Americans got our news from just three big TV networks, three major weekly newsmagazines, and newspapers. Most Americans shared those same sources of information, none of which was clearly identified with conservative or liberal views, and none of which slanted its information heavily. Now, with the rise of cable TV, news websites, and Facebook, and with the decline of broad-market weekly print newsmagazines, Americans choose their source of information according to their pre-existing views.”

USA and weakening political compromise

“political compromise is one of the basic advantages of democracies as compared to dictatorships”

“all three of those theories about the polarization of American politics—fund-raising, domestic air travel, and gerrymandering—seek to explain only the polarization of that tiny group of Americans who are our politicians”

“Americans as a whole are becoming polarized and politically uncompromising”

“our coasts and big cities are now overwhelmingly Democratic, and our interior and rural areas are overwhelmingly Republican.”

“Republicans are becoming more strongly conservative, Democrats more strongly liberal, and middle-of-the-roaders are declining in both parties”