A Review of “The Clash of Civilizations”

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

In 1996 scholar Samuel P. Huntington wrote a famous book titled “The Clash of Civilizations.” Huntington postulated that after the Cold War:

In this new world, local politics is the politics of ethnicity; global politics is the politics of civilizations. The rivalry of the superpowers is replaced by the clash of civilizations. In this new world the most pervasive, important, and dangerous conflicts will not be between social classes, rich and poor, or other economically defined groups, but between peoples belonging to different cultural entities. Tribal wars and ethnic conflicts will occur within civilizations.

I recently had the pleasure of reading through much of Huntington’s book. Huntington posits that the West will be challenged by two civilizations: the “Islamic civilization” and the “Sinic civilization.”

The book was written more than a decade ago (and the Foreign Affairs article which led to the book almost two decades ago). Despite this, the book has withstood extremely well the test of time. Much of Huntington said in 1996 could be duplicated without changing a single word today.

This is especially true with regards to what Huntington writes with regards to the “Islamic civilization”. Huntington wrote his book before the September 11 attacks. His thoughts about the Islamic-Western conflict are thus very prophetic. Many have criticized the “Islamic civilization” in similar ways that Huntington does in his book. However, most of these criticisms were written after 9/11. Huntington wrote that the West would clash with Islam before 9/11. He got it absolutely right.

(One minor critique: the West does work with Islamists. See: Libya, Syria.)

Huntington’s words with regards to the “Sinic civilization” have also withstood the test of time. Indeed, one could make the exact same analysis today as Huntington did more than a decade ago with regards to relations between the West and the “Sinic civilization.” It’s amazing how the East Asian situation today is exactly the same as the East Asian situation circa 1996.

There is one thing which Huntington gets badly wrong, however. And he gets it wrong in two distinct ways. This is Japan.

Firstly, Huntington classifies Japan as a separate civilization from the rest of East Asia. But there is just as much difference between China and South Korea as there is between China and Japan. Why, then, isn’t there a “Korean civilization” according to Huntington’s scheme? Or why not a “Vietnamese civilization” or “Xinjiang civilization”? There really is no good reason for this. The only difference, in fact, between Japan and the other parts of the “Sinic civilization” is that Japan successfully adapted to the West a century before the rest of East Asia the world.

In reality Japan is part of the “Sinic civilization.” See this graphic if you don’t believe me.

Of course, putting Japan and the rest of East Asia in one civilization really screws up Huntington’s analysis.

Secondly, Huntington spends a lot of time describing the economic tensions between Japan and the United States during the early 1990s. He does this because it fits well with his theory of clashing civilizations. Japan and the United States are doomed to clash because they belong to different civilizations.

Unfortunately, this is one part of the book that failed to withstand the test of time. Today relations between Japan and the United States are better than ever. After the collapse of the Japanese bubble, economic conflict (indeed, any conflict at all) between the two “civilizations” has essentially disappeared.

All in all, reading Huntington definitely makes you think. While I’m not particularly a fan of Huntington’s tone, he definitely is an articulate and intelligent writer.

 

 

How Taiwan Is Different From America

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Taiwan is one of the main success stories of East Asia; from a country of mostly impoverished farmers, it has become a First World country with living standards comparable to America.

This is something which I actually asked of a Taiwanese friend. Compared to America, how is Taiwan’s standard of life? Said person answered that Taiwan’s pretty similar to the United States. The buildings look the same, the country is pretty much the same as America.

There was something surprising, however, about her answer. There’s one thing which America generally does better than Taiwan, she said. America is much cleaner than Taiwan. Environmental degradation is worse in Taiwan. The air is cleaner in America; the water is clearer.

This surprised me, especially given that environmental protection is not very high on most American’s list of things-to-do. I have never really though of Taiwan as an especially dirty or polluted country.

But it does make sense. Poorer countries generally have much less environmental protection than rich countries. Until recently, Taiwan was poor and home to a lot of factories. That still has apparently left a mark. It’s an interesting difference which I had never thought about.

 

 

The Demographics of America’s Governors: Place of Birth

 

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by place of birth, as of March 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Place of Birth

The following map indicates the birth place of each of America’s governors. I honestly had no idea what to expect when making this map. On the one hand, the result is quite interesting in several ways. On the other hand, it’s somewhat difficult to interpret what appears in the following map. Is this a result of randomness, or is there a pattern?

Let’s take a look:

There are actually a lot of states whose current governor was born in said state. 31 states fit this category.

This is an interesting result. America is commonly thought of a very mobile society; there are very few regional differences, with the exception of the South, between one part of America and another. You can’t tell a Pennsylvanian from a Californian, for instance. Yet the majority of American states are still governed by native-born members of those states.

Another element is missing here: foreigners. Not a single American state is governed by a person born outside of the United States. Arnold Schwarzeneggers are very rare.

There seems to be a degree of regional difference. Most obviously, a band of states stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest are governed by individuals born outside said state. It’s hard to draw conclusions about the other parts of the country, however.

The map above does bear some resemblance to the electoral college. States with governors born elsewhere in the United States tend to be states which Barack Obama could possibly win in 2012. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this statement (such as Oklahoma and New York).

Finally, there a lot of Pennsylvanians governing states elsewhere. On the other hand, only one New Yorker (Neil Abercrombie) is governing a state outside of New York. Nor does anybody born in heavily populated Florida govern a state. You can make a lot of jokes about this result, although it’s most probably just randomness.

Are there any revealing partisan differences in this demographic? Let’s look at states governed by Democrats:

Now states governed by Republicans:

If such differences exist, they escape me.

Perhaps the most relevant conclusion to be drawn from this result is that America is still a pretty introverted place. Chances are pretty good that the your state is governed by somebody born there. And chances are very good that your state is governed by somebody born in the United States.

(Edit: Apparently about six in ten American live in the same state that they were born, which is a lot higher than I thought. Consider that 12.9% of Americans are foreign-born. Anyways, the number of governors born in the same state that they govern happens to match pretty well the number of Americans born in the same state that they live – although not-so-well the number of Americans born in a different country.)

--inoljt

 

America – A Very Young Country

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a foreigner about American history. He asked how long America had been independent.

That’s a complicated question. There are a lot of years that could be used to answer the question. 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed? Perhaps 1783, when Great Britain admitted defeat? 1787, when the Constitution was written? Or perhaps 1789, when George Washington was inaugurated as president?

In any case, I said, America is a very young country. It’s only been independent for around three hundred years.

I decided to actually double-check that figure. 2012 minus 1776, which seems to be the year most people use for American independence.

It turns out that America has been an independent nation for only 236 years! That is not a lot of time. Think about it this way: one really really old person theoretically could have lived for more than half of the history of this nation. That’s pretty amazing.

There’s an interesting bit of historical context that goes along with this. Most great powers throughout history tend to last for a remarkably uniform amount of time: around 200 years. There are empires, of course, which fall apart the moment their founder dies. Other powers last for milllenia. But even with these powers one can see the two-century cycle: two centuries of dominance and hegemony, followed by a time of decay and chaos, followed by another two centuries of strength, followed by another time of decline, and so on.

The United States has been a great power roughly since 1898, when it won the Spanish-American War. That’s 114 years. Following the simple logic above, America has roughly 86 years of greatness left before it falls into chaos. (Of course, good leadership and strong institutions can shorten or lengthen that period of time.)

 

The Demographics of America’s Governors: Age

 

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by age, as of February 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Age

 

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

America’s governors generally have a pretty wide range in age. The youngest governor, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, was less than forty years old when elected. The oldest, Jerry Brown of California, was actually governor of California decades before many Americans were born.

Here's a more detailed look.

This is a truly random map. There’s essentially no relationship that one can see between the age of a state’s governor and, well, anything. States with young governors, like Nevada or South Carolina, are located right next to states with old governors, such as California or Georgia.

Let’s try to add political party to this analysis.

First, we'll take a look at the age of Democratic governors:

Naturally the Democratic Party governs fewer states after its losses in the 2010 midterm election. Interestingly, it seems that Democrats still hold a lot of the “Clinton belt” – the Appalachian region which went strongly for Bill Clinton and has since then turned decisively Republican on a presidential level.

Now let's look at Republicans.

It does seem that Republican governors are, in general, a younger bunch. There are several possible reasons behind this. Firstly, it should be expected for Republican governors to be younger given that they won most of the most recent midterm elections. Secondly, it could be just mere chance: given enough elections, eventually you’ll get one in which one party’s governors are younger than the other party’s. Finally, there’s the possibility that something about the Republican Party and American politics tends to make Republican governors younger.

All in all, there’s not that much to see here. Unlike other demographic dividers, age does not arouse great passions. This is because everybody has the opportunity to reach the age most American governors tend to be. I didn’t expect to find anything extremely interesting when writing this post, and I didn’t find anything. Which is not a big problem; not everything provides a piercing insight into the current state of politics.

--inoljt

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads