Suggested Discussion Outline

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johnkarls
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Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Suggested Discussion Outline

Post by johnkarls »

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Suggested Discussion Outline


The following outline is respectfully suggested –


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A. Comments About Specific Chapters of “Civilization – The West and the Rest”

Our tradition is to devote the first portion of each monthly meeting to going through the focus book, chapter by chapter, to invite important comments that are specific to a particular chapter. After all, each participant (except, perhaps “first timers”) have taken the time to read the focus book and her/his opportunity to opine on anything in the focus book should NOT be denied.

HOWEVER, let’s try to limit the portion of our two-hour meeting devoted to such “chapter comments” to 30-45 minutes because there are important discussion issues/questions that should be discussed at length.

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Introduction: Rasselas’s (sic) Question

1. Competition

2. Science

3. Property

4. Medicine

5. Consumption

6. Work

Conclusion: The Rivals


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B. Discussion Questions From The First Short Quiz --
(the entire quiz and suggested answers, often including “What Do You Think??? Let’s Discuss!!!, are available at viewtopic.php?f=618&t=2007&sid=deba97ca ... ef2f55f52e)


NB: Whether Prof. Ferguson was wrong about Western ascendancy over the Islamic World in medicine and science after 1500 AD was addressed in Q&A-4 through Q&A-6 which were NOT discussion questions (i.e., they contained answers).

Question 7

Is Prof. Ferguson (as claimed in the “Capsule Review”) correct to reject “European imperialism” as an explanation for Western ascendancy?

Question 8

First of all, do you think a good Buddhist would agree that Western culture did indeed ascend over Buddhism and/or Hinduism (NB: the first Buddha died thinking he was still a Hindu monk)?

Question 9

After all, isn’t “Good Karma” -- common to both Buddhism and Hinduism -- much more important than whether some of this world’s tyrants are brandishing their swords in your vicinity and demanding payments of tribute?

Question 10

Even if you agree that “brandishing your sword” to require tribute from others is the proper way of measuring “ascendancy,” hasn’t Prof. Ferguson (as claimed in the “Capsule Review”) overlooked the PRIMARY CAUSE of Western domination of other cultures?

Question 11

In other words, didn’t Christ command His disciples in Mark 16:15 – “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”?

Question 12

And wasn’t Christopher Columbus’ so-called “Discovery of The New World” in 1492 followed immediately in 1493 by a decree by Pope Alexander VI awarding Spain “ownership” of “all newly discovered AND UNDISCOVERED lands” beyond a meridian west of which lay all of “The New World”?

Question 13

And didn’t Portugal dispute this “award” with the result that the dividing line was moved by the Treat of Tordesillas westward to the 46-Degrees 30-Minutes West-of-Greenwich Meridian, giving Portugal the coast of modern-day Brazil? And didn’t Pope Julius II sanction the change in 1506?

Question 14

So isn’t it more likely that European forays into other areas of the world were spawned by Christ’s command in Mark 16:15 implemented by Papal decrees dividing up the world – with some of the missionaries realizing how much wealth could be amassed from the areas being converted by the missionaries – following which those who began amassing great wealth began inducing their sovereigns to provide military support and colonial organization/structure? Or do you think the time line was vice versa?

Question 15

Isn’t it true that “competition” and “property rights” (two of Prof. Ferguson’s six factors producing Western “ascendancy”) were exhibited IN THE EXTREME during the scramble among European nations for worldwide empires, which lasted through World War II?

Question 16

And should the colonial masters be given credit for noticing the scientific discoveries of the societies they conquered militarily? After all, Prof. Ferguson (per the “Capsule Summary”) praises “competition” and “work ethic” but wouldn’t it have taken a miracle for the conquerors NOT to have realized the profitability in exploiting any scientific discoveries of conquered societies? [NB: this is NOT to say that there were no scientific discoveries made by Europeans.]

Question 17

What is the answer to Prof. Ferguson’s “crucial question” (per the “Capsule Review”) of whether American or Chinese “ideas and institutions” will prevail in the future?

Question 18

In other words (which Prof. Ferguson may not accept), is the United States DOOMED BY ITS INSTITUTIONS AND ITS FORM OF GOVERNMENT to be destroyed like any species that is eaten by any species higher up “the food chain”?


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C. Discussion Questions From The Second Short Quiz --
(the entire quiz and suggested answers, often including “What Do You Think??? Let’s Discuss!!!, are available at viewtopic.php?f=618&t=2009&sid=deba97ca ... ef2f55f52e)


Question 3

For anyone who has read many (if not most) of the same books as Prof. Ferguson about why certain societies have collapsed – including reading several times each the classics “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer – is s/he forced to admire Prof. Ferguson’s effort to identify and categorize the zillions of reasons why societies have failed?

Question 4

Indeed, does Prof. Ferguson even mention two societies (Quakers and Shakers) which most historians would agree were identical in all respects except one – with that sole difference preserving the first so that one its members (Richard Nixon) became President of the U.S while the other society had long-since collapsed?

Question 5

Does Prof. Ferguson conclude (p. 299) that it is impossible to identify all of the reasons why a society might collapse – or even the speed with which a collapse will/can occur?

Question 6

Nonetheless, does Prof. Ferguson posit (p. 301) that many civilizations have failed due to a financial crisis?

Question 7

Does Prof. Ferguson then perpetuate THE MYTH that the 2007-2010 U.S. financial crisis was caused by subprime mortgages? When the true cause was Congress green-lighting U.S. Multinational Corporations which had accumulated in their tax-haven subsidiaries $4 TRilllion - $5 TRillion from exporting American jobs, to repatriate those profits at a special one-time 5.25% corporate tax rate rather than the normal 35% rate? Because the tax-haven subsidiaries had long-since been effectively forced to loan the $4 TRillion - $5 TRillion to the CHUMP American companies that had NOT exported American jobs? And now the CHUMP American companies were forced to reduce American payroll and capital expenditures by $4 TRillion - $5 TRillion in order to repay the tax-haven subsidiaries of the U.S. Multinational Corporations? And BEING FORCED TO THROW SO MANY AMERICAN WORKERS OUT OF THEIR JOBS WITH NO NEW HIRES TO PURCHASE THE FORECLOSED HOMES OF THE WORKERS BEING THROWN OUT OF THEIR JOBS – WOULD HAVE RESULTED IN AN ECONOMIC MELTDOWN WHETHER OR NOT THERE HAD EVER BEEN A SUB-PRIME MORTGAGE?

Question 8

Indeed, when Congress did the same thing (i.e., permitting another $4 TRillion - $5 TRillion of profits that had piled up in tax-haven subsidiaries since the 2007-2010 meltdown to be repatriated at a 0% tax rate rather than the previously-prevailing 35% tax rate), did we write on 12/26/2017 to each of the Presidents of the 12 Regional Federal Reserve Banks to educate them on the true cause of the 2007-2010 meltdown, to educate them that the same thing was about to happen all over again, to point out to them that each of the Regional Federal Reserve Banks has the authority to make REPLACMENT LOANS to the CHUMP companies so that they do not have to throw American workers out of their jobs, and TO EFFECTIVELY SAY “MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL” IF ANY OF THEM FAILED TO DO HER/HIS DUTY??? Is a copy of one of those letters available for download together with USPS tracking information for all 12 letters available at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1685&sid=3e2f0fc0d ... 1a95460f6d?

Question 9

Have we also examined in detail another factor stressed by Prof. Ferguson -- deficit spending? Did our 3/13/2013 meeting 8 years ago focus on “Annual Deficits and Accumulated Debt” of not only the U.S. but also the-then-current “problem children” of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal? And problems associated with redeeming national debt with “wall paper”?

Question 10

Nonetheless, although such financial problems might cause a particular government to fall, would it really cause a society to fail??? In other words, don’t such currency failures simply mean that there are “losers” (e.g., people on fixed incomes, businesses whose income taxes are computed using depreciation based on costs denominated in worthless currency, etc., etc.) and “winners” (e.g., people and organizations who/that owe money denominated in worthless currency)???

Question 11

Or yet in other words, did the “super inflation” of Germany’s currency 1921-1923 inevitably lead to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler?

Question 12

And in yet other words, how were Stalin and Chairman Mao able to defy popular unrest over their policies which killed, literally, millions of people? For example, didn’t Chairman Mao’s so-called “Great Leap Forward” produce between 33 million and 55 million deaths and didn’t his so-called “Cultural Revolution” produce as many as 20 million more deaths? And didn’t Stalin admit to Churchill at Yalta that he had killed 10 million people during his attempt to collectivize Soviet farms – with most historians putting the figure at a minimum of 12 million? With Stalin’s “solution” to the collectivization disaster comprising sending 25 million city dwellers to Kazakhstan to become farmers, implying that the true death toll from collectivization had been much closer to 25 million? And didn’t Hitler not only kill 6 million Jews but didn’t he also precipitate World War II which caused 70-85 million deaths.!!!

Question 13

And in yet other words, isn’t it possible for a ruler or ruling group to subjugate the population if the ruler or ruling group is ruthless enough???

Question 14

And in yet other words, what do you think the world would be like today if Hitler had gotten the atomic bomb and gotten it before the U.S.???

Question 15

Do you really think a Hitler, even today, would shrink from nuking millions of people whenever he thought his rule could be challenged???

Question 16

Doesn’t this suggest that although there may be zillions of reasons why a society or civilization might collapse, the only real “Killer Ap” – a term Prof. Ferguson adopted without, perhaps, appreciating its real significance – is possession of superior weapons???

Question 17

After all, wasn’t Winston Churchill famous for often saying that IDEAS create organizations and IDEAS blow them away???

Question 18

But doesn’t that suppose that a Hitler or a Stalin or a Chairman Mao is NOT at the helm???

Question 19

And, after all, didn’t William Manchester demonstrate in “The Arms of Krupp” (Little Brown 1964) that virtually ALL wars throughout history were determined by which side had the superior weapons??? With perhaps only one exception, the Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 in which the French had superior weapons in every category EXCEPT LONG-RANGE ARTILLERY which meant the French never get close enough to use their superior short-range weapons? And with the observation that IN THE COMPARATIVELY-FEW WARS where neither side had superior weapons (the most recent examples might be the American Civil War and World War I Trench Warfare), the result is a proverbial “meat grinder” with zillions of casualties???

Question 20

In this regard, didn’t the “Six Days War” in 1967 demonstrate to all of the Arab states that the Soviet weapons they had been using were inferior to the American weapons that Israel was using??? Didn’t that cause all of the Arab countries to clamor for “American toys” (please forgive the crassness of that terminology) thereby enabling “Pax Americana” to prevail in the Arab oil-exporting states through today???

Question 21

Did Prof. Ferguson attempt to rank in importance the causes why a society or civilization might fail???

Question 22

Whether he did or not, do you believe that the MOST IMPORTANT CAUSE AGAINST WHICH TO PREPARE is being caught with inferior weapons???

Question 23

Do you think for a moment that if some new weapon that could make all current weapons obsolete were developed/invented by a Hitler or a Stalin or a Chairman Mao, we would NOT be “dead meat” notwithstanding all of our other fine institutions such as a democracy, a free press, etc., etc.???


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D. Anything Else Re “Civilization – The West and the Rest”

Anyone???

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