- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

The smartest blogger on the Web, Steve Sailer, posits an interesting “theory of war,” namely that violent conquest isn’t worth the trouble anymore due to the eroding value of, well, dirt.

Writes Sailer:

In the past, when thinking about whom to conquer, the key fact was that most of the value of the potential conquest was in the dirt acquired. You could use the ground to raise crops or mine for valuable minerals, which made up two large parts of the economy back in the good old days. War couldn’t hurt dirt. Conquering California in the 1840s, for example, did almost zero damage to the place, which turned out, immediately afterwards, to have lots of gold in the ground.

Today, though, most of the asset value of a territory is in the buildings on top of the dirt, which are very easy to blow to smithereens during the course of modern war. And if you don’t raze your enemy’s cities, they provide formidable makeshift fortresses for conducting resistance to your invasion. So, you just can’t win. The expected profit isn’t worth your trouble. You might as well stay home.

Meanwhile, Ralph Peters has a fascinating piece in the Weekly Standard about the reassertion of tribal identity in the modern world. In a brief, bold history of religion, Peters writes that the arc of monotheism as an idea sprang from the desert and got snagged in the forests.

I’m not bright enough to tackle any of these ideas head-on. All I’ll say is that they remind me of a book I had to slog through in college … all right, a book I was assigned and never finished — Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of the Laws,” which made the case that climate and geography propel the evolution of ideas and politics.

Finally, folks, this piece by Gregg Easterbrook caught my eye. Easterbrook speculates that early and prolonged exposure to television may have something to do with the upsurge in autism.

I have no idea if the theory (Easterbrook doesn’t either, and candidly warns that he’s just thinking out loud) has any truth to it. But if it does, it would undoubtedly be a psychological disaster for many parents. Think of it: They’ll feel directly responsible for causing or preventing one of the worst and most-feared disorders of the brain.

Happy Friday!



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