All Else Equal…

Big historical events seem inevitable in hindsight.  The Civil War, for instance.  You can make a strong case that the United States was doomed from the start, incorporating as it did two wildly disparate cultures that had very little in common other than a shared struggle with the British.  Or you could say that the writing was on the wall by 1800, with the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions.  Maybe the annus horribilis was 1801, when Jefferson appointed John Marshall Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Maybe it was the Hartford Convention of 1814-5, when the Yankee states threatened secession, or the Tariff of Abominations and Mr. Calhoun’s Exposition and Protest of 1828 that did us in….

And yet, all of those were contingent.  Even very late in the game, the crisis could’ve been averted, or at least seriously mitigated.  The Democrats could’ve all pulled together behind Stephen A. Douglas, who had a real shot of winning, in 1860.  The 1861 Peace Conference could’ve succeeded.  Major Anderson could’ve followed orders and remained in Fort Moultrie.  The Confederates could’ve waltzed into Washington DC after 1st Manassas.  Nothing that happened was inevitable.  And yet…

Would it have mattered?   Which big decision in the run-up to the war would’ve stopped the war, had it been decided the other way?  Maybe Major Anderson stayed put in Moultrie, or surrendered Sumter before Beauregard opened fire.  Maybe John C. Calhoun was never born, or the Black Hawks scalped Abe Lincoln. Would it have mattered?

Hegelian “Forces of History” are Idealist metaphysical bullshit, but the aggregate of a million little decisions, inconsequential in themselves, do seem to add up to an unstoppable tide.  If you want to say that due to tobacco agriculture, the Atlantic Slave trade, Puritanism, and the Industrial Revolution, something like the US Civil War was inevitable from at least the end of the French and Indian War, no matter if “we” won the Revolution or not, you won’t get too much of an argument from me.  Zhou Enlai’s quip about the French Revolution (“too early to say“) has been deliberately distorted into the profound wisdom of the Inscrutable Orient — he was talking about the street riots of 1968 — but he was at least half right for all that.  The roots of any great human calamity run centuries deep.

The problem with making these kinds of analyses lies with a simple phrase: “All else equal.”  You can make the facts fit any thesis you want, depending on when and how you deploy that crucial qualifier.

It might help to consider a less life-threatening situation: Baseball.  Half the fun of barroom baseball arguments is comparing players from widely disparate eras.  Mike Trout, for instance, is often compared to Mickey Mantle.  Well, what if Mantle were playing today?  If, instead of growing up a dirt-poor dust-bowl Okie with a drinking problem, the Mick grew up middle class in a nice New Jersey suburb, like Trout did?  Give Mantle 21st century diet, nutrition, and training, and who knows?  Maybe he hits 100 homers a year, steals 95 bases, hits .450 lifetime….

Or maybe not, because the Mick did what he did against 1950s competition.  Put Mike Trout on the field back then, when black players were a rarity, relief pitchers were scarce (and not very good), and all but the superstars still had to work regular-guy jobs in the offseason, and maybe it’s Trout who hits 100 homers, steals 95 bases, goes .450 lifetime….

Or maybe not, because of course, Trout wouldn’t have all those 21st century benefits — nutrition, training, coaching, travel teams that play against top-tier competition all year long….

See what I mean?  “All else equal” is fun for friendly arguments over a few beers, but pointless in real life.  Even if you go all sabermetric on it, and somehow decide that the average pitcher in 1958 is 0.7924 times as good as the average pitcher from 2018, then multiply Mantle’s stats by the phases of the moon, divide by the cosine, carry the one… it still doesn’t matter, because all of that is ass-pulled.  1958 isn’t 2018, 2018 isn’t 1958, and in this case at least, the similar things aren’t as similar as the different things are different.  Or maybe they are…..

Eventually you just have to go with your gut.  Since folks in Our Thing are historically literate, we tend to love these “all else equal”-type arguments.  The problem is, they’re seductive — you can get lost in them, such that while you’re arguing about what might’ve happened all those years ago, you miss what actually is happening now.  What does your gut say?  Whatever else might have happened in 1860, doesn’t it feel rather 1860-ish right now?  ‘

History’s nice, but don’t let “all else equal” act like a lullaby.  Follow your gut.  My gut tells me things are about to get really bad, really fast….

 

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19 thoughts on “All Else Equal…

  1. ErisGuy

    I love my people, though they have voted again and again to destroy themselves. I love my state. I love my country. I love my life. And I hope your cramping gut is a treatable infection.

    Reply
  2. Pickle Rick

    History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes…

    Watching the mobs clawing at the door of the Supreme Court, howling and screaming, as Justice Kavanaugh was sworn in, and the evident willingness of Democrats to wink and nod at their Red Guards to do the dirty work they want done, we’re not far off from blood in the streets. The catalyst just might be the failure of the extralegal efforts to push the migrant caravan across the border at the same time Democratic dreams of retaking the lower house of Congress by legal means evaporate. Another humiliating defeat at the hands of Trump and white Americans might push them over the edge into insurgent warfare. Trump has publicly said he will call the actual military into action to close the border, not fatassed weekend “warriors” from the useless Guard. That’s a warning. We’re going to see if the revolutionary Left gets the message, or if they get what they’ve so richly deserved for years-retribution in kind.

    We are rapidly approaching the end of compromise. We’ve chosen our side. Now you people to whom this was all academic and theoretical are going to have to help do what needs to be done to salvage a sick nation directly. John Brown might be long dead, but the spirit that animated him is alive and well amongst the revolutionary left today, and they want our blood to finish the work he started.

    Reply
    1. Severian

      I’ve said many times that all the Left has now is actual, open violence… unless they manage to pull out all their tricks and win that “Blue Wave” they’ve been pumping, but they won’t – even The Media now reports that “the Wave” is evaporating, which means a RED wave is all but certain. Which means the Left has to go to the gun….

      … but they’re trying to get us to go to the gun first, via this caravan thing. It’s another huge miscalculation. If Trump deploys the real Army to the border, 75% of the country will support him. Hell, I bet something close to 50% of the country would support him if they preemptively opened fire.

      At this point, I’m not afraid Trump will become a dictator, I’m afraid he won’t. An American Pinochet is the only thing that stops what’s coming… maybe… if we’re really, really lucky, and our Generalissimo has lots of helicopters. But I doubt any of that will actually happen — we’ll throw ourselves off the cliff, because we’re too stupid and shortsighted and lazy not to. Edmund Ruffin, call your office…..

      Reply
      1. Pickle Rick

        A big signal is now that the Left has lost control of the highest court, the Court is now not to be obeyed (unlike when they rammed through their agenda, in which case forced obedience was obviously “settled law”)

        This is the same doctrine of “higher law” that Garrison and the abolitionists invoked after Dred Scot and other Court decisions defended the rights of Southerners. John Brown took it to the logical conclusion in Kansas and Harpers Ferry. Brown was supported by the “Secret Six”- who also supported Lincoln as the legal arm of the revolutionary movement. A major mental stumbling block of so many in Our Thing is to take Lincoln’s statements on repatriation of negroes or antipathy to them at face value, when he had no intentions to do anything except what the coalition that elected him wanted- and that meant appeasing the radical wing of his party.

        Reply
  3. Contrariandutchman

    My gut tells me the US is in a state immediately preceding civil war. And Europe is hardly better off. So we wait for somebody to fire the first shot, could take a decade or could happen tomorrow. Pray for Trump and the Republican brain trust to pull a magic rabbit out of a hat to deescalate things, or speed up the organizing, you may need it sooner rather then later.

    Reply
    1. Al from da Nort

      Meinheer;
      Consider your country’s own successful rebellion against the Hapsburgs. Your objective strategic circumstances were similar to the US South just pror to the US Civil War. You had a (relatively) unified people inhabiting a contiguous geography of significant relative size (for the times) that could be defended. You could generate organized military forces and had the ability to resupply yourselves from overseas and had potentially sympathetic sources of support that the Hapsburgs couldn’t get at.

      Which of these advantages do today’s Progs have_? They are dispersed, geographical vulnerable, have only theoretical control over some National Guard troops. So long as they don’t control the nuclear forces there is no chance of significant foreign intervention.

      One important reason why the South was able to consider secession was that there were no significant federal or norther military forces available to pre-empt it. This is not the case today.

      Thanks be to God Hillary is not President. Should she become President, then it is time to worry about a Civil War because she would nominally control the federal forces and the nuclear arsenal.

      Reply
      1. Contrariandutchman

        It would be mijnheer, although that is not a common form of adress nowadays, still credit for getting close in a language few in te US will know 🙂

        (history nerd alert)
        The Netherlands at the time of the revolt were hardly unified, a large part of the population remained catholic and loyal to their legal lord. The Dutch revolt was arguably more civil war then a unified revolt against Spanish rule. (at that time the Spanish were complaining that their king was way too Dutch!). Since the forces were quite evenly matched and a decisive battle could not be forced things dragged on for about 80 years until everybody involved had enough, settling on a deal where the south of the counttry would remain under Spanish (indeed explicitly Spanish by then) rule and the north would be independent.

        Militarily the revolt most likely succeeded only because the military technology of the time quite heavily favored fortresses, that if sufficiently garrisoned could only be taken reliably with a prolonged siege. The Netherlands was already heavily urbanized at the time, a town every 10 -20 miles in some parts, and every town was a fortress… At first the rebels won no field battles, but taking all the revolted towns by siege took forever, and when you were almost done fresh revolts would break out and you’d have to siege some more. Eventually everyone got bored with that and the country was broken up.

        -end of detour-

        The current situation in the US is very different, for one thing, cities are far more vulnerable. But a takeaway from the Dutch revolt is possibly that most of the population will not really want to fight, so a small but very determined minority can achieve a lot by seizing power in favorable locations, then using that power to force the reluctant majority to fight on their side. Thats what the calvinists did in the Netherlands. Its what the French revolutionaries did. Its what the Russian revolutionaries did. And it may very well be what progressives will do in a US civil war 2.0. And soon a majority of your military age population will be vibrant.

        I’m not sure the balance of forces is quite so favorable as you claim, and more importantly, if the side that starts it doesnt think the balance of forces is too unfavorable, that will not stop them from starting it, it will just cause them to loose most likely.

        Reply
        1. Severian Post author

          So what’s your opinion on the Duke of Alva, mijnheeren? (guessing at the correct plural… I’m not an Early Modernist, and I’m certainly not a military historian, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this kind of thing).

          As for the balance of forces here in the US, I veer between hope and despair. On the one hand, who would fight for the Progressive lunatics? Open borders, free sex changes, and 37 genders hardly seem like the kind of thing that would rally troops… but on the other hand, their hard core is really, REALLY committed. We don’t even have a hard core. Could I shoot a man in cold blood? I don’t know, and I hope never to find out. Could I shoot a man in cold blood over something I read in a Gender Studies class? Impossible. Could a Gender Studies lunatic shoot me in cold blood? It certainly seems so.

          As Lenin and the boys showed, you don’t need very many people to accomplish a lot, so long as the people you do have are fanatics. They obviously have some. Do we? Everyone’s a tough guy on the Internet, but in real life, I really, really doubt it.

          Reply
  4. Jay Carter

    It’s like what my accountant once told me. “Numbers will admit to anything if you torture them enough.”

    So too will baseball stats and historians.  

    Reply
  5. Frip

    Severian: The following gave me such a good feeling. Such hope. It’s so helpful in these black pill days to read someone you respect saying something like this:

    I’ve said many times that all the Left has now is actual, open violence… unless they manage to pull out all their tricks and win that “Blue Wave” they’ve been pumping, but they won’t – even The Media now reports that “the Wave” is evaporating, which means a RED wave is all but certain. Which means the Left has to go to the gun….

    … but they’re trying to get us to go to the gun first, via this caravan thing. It’s another huge miscalculation. If Trump deploys the real Army to the border, 75% of the country will support him. Hell, I bet something close to 50% of the country would support him if they preemptively opened fire.

    At this point, I’m not afraid Trump will become a dictator, I’m afraid he won’t.”

    Reply
    1. Frip

      I messed up that quote. Point is. When smart guys on our side say something positive the morale boost is amazing. Most of our thought leaders are necessarily negative. Because we truly just may be f**ked. But yeah, man, when they say we’ve got a chance…it makes life worth living. I order more ammo by the week. We’ve got a fighting chance you guys.

      Reply
      1. Contrariandutchman

        organization before ammo imo, dont do anything that can be reasonably construed as illegal and/or violent, thats what the other side -wants- you to do so they can unleash the repressive apparatus of the state while it is still intact and under their control

        but thats from my side of the pond

        Reply
  6. Anonymous White Male

    If the Mick had grown up in 21st century Oklahoma, he would have been a meth head instead of an alcoholic. Everybody knows this.

    Reply
  7. rich whiteman

    So we’re an election or two away from serious violence. Unless the election(s) go to the right, then we can stave it off for 3 or 4 or 5 elections.
    Eventually, the pendulum swings. If the left isn’t defused by then, KABOOM.
    Maybe. Probably. Who knows.

    Reply
    1. Rod1963

      Not really, we don’t have 20 years. We may have 2. If the Democrats don’t regain the House, there is a good chance they will start shooting.

      And there is no one defuse the Left. Their leadership and their associates in the MSM supports the use of violence against us and no one wants to confront them on this. No one.

      There is no more middle-ground, no compromise. The Left considers all those who oppose their agenda as their enemy. The Democratic party of Tip O’Neil is long gone. The current leaders of the Democratic party act more like Bill Ayers and the SDS.

      Reply
  8. Al from da Nort

    Everybody here ‘s discussing *why* ‘the left’ maybe starts shooting apparently without considering ‘who, at what, when and where’. These factors will make all the difference as to where any attempted Prog insurrection goes, if it goes at all. What happens immediately next will be critical. IOW, what’s the reaction of the local authorities and their minions at street level_?

    For example, suppose it’s Antifa or BLM punks (who are mostly unskilled) who start looting and shooting in Blue urban areas (or in Big U locations). This, without the shooting part, is what they know and are ‘trained’ for. So it is the most likely go-to.*

    The cops will be called out (or stood down as we have seen a couple of places). We can make the inference that the Prog insurrection will be rigorously suppressed, sooner or later, even given that the city administration are socialist crazies. Either the authorities give the order to suppress or the cops walk off the job. Then local vibrants will begin opportunistically looting and burning in real earnest . At that point, even if the state authorities are socialist crazies, there is the damage to their own people to consider as well as the looming threat of federal intervention, maybe involving their own arrests for incitement or removal for incompetence under martial law. So the Guard will be activated and do the needed suppression, regardless.

    This is how it went down in 1968. I was personally involved in one situation as a bystander at the time. There the local authorities were desperate to hold back the Guard, (who were local blue collar guys with a few draft avoiders thrown in), who would have liked nothing better than to crack the hippies’ (as they saw it) heads since the local cops were overwhelmed, indifferent or being held back (Never knew which it was – obviously the mayor would have to go with ‘overwhelmed’ after the fact).

    Similar eruptions were pretty simultaneous around the country. And they were all suppressed, easily but for a few (Detroit).

    One reason why TPTB were anxious to contain the situation by threatening with the Guard while not releasing them was that the rural locals were arming and threatening to take the situation into their own hands. They could deter these locals by telling them, ‘The Guard’s got this and if you get in their way, you’ll get treated just like the hippies.’

    My takeaway is that only if the state guard is stood down in so many places that the feds are overwhelmed will any Prog insurrection take off. Or if the US military is firmly under Prog command. Or if the vibrants start sending out foraging parties unopposed. Otherwise it’s not going anywhere but in the ditch for them.
    ________________________________
    *Targeted assassination attempts are the other likely Progie go-to escalation. Random acts by deranged individuals are always possible, but any organized cells are likely fully compromised (we can only hope).

    Reply
    1. Severian Post author

      I wish I were as sanguine as you, Al. In 1968, most folks may have disagreed with US policy, but no one outside the hardcore lunatic fringe thought the US government itself was illegitimate. I’m a middle-aged, middle-class White guy, and at least once a day I find myself wondering why, other than the threat of naked force, I bother to obey “my” government. When you’ve lost guys like me, you might as well pack it in.

      There’s this palpable sense of “fuck it, enough talk, let’s GO!” in the air. I imagine it felt much the same way in 1860. I really hope I’m wrong.

      Reply
      1. Al from da Nort

        Sev;
        Upon reflection, I was bloviating that Progs. couldn’t *win* a shooting war. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that, A. They’d grasp this and B. That realization would deter them from starting one. Considering their recent conduct, a cold look at the correlation of forces doesn’t seem all that likely, does it.

        The South obviously thought that they could win a US Civil War, in no small part based on the hope of British intervention. Who knows if unofficial Brits were whispering that in their ears. After all, the non-settler part of their Empire was built largely on being called in to intervene in other people’s domestic quarrels. (also Rome’s Empire)

        By analogy, one could certainly see somebody whispering assurances into Prog ears. This is absolutely in Putin’s wheelhouse. How’s that for being on both sides of the issue_?

        Reply

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