Ooops. Hit Post Reply instead of preview. The second part of my post was meant for the later comment. The key thing I was really trying to say was that I prefer explanations in terms of institutions to explanations in terms of character. Not that I deny character is important, but rather that I think we need some deeper explanations as well. There has been some great work from Marx through to Petitt on institutions as key features of society. Sorry for the incomplete fragment before.
I think it's safe to say that ideas of moral decline as the basis for the collapse of the Western Empire have been left in the early twentieth century.
I don't mean moral decline in terms of alcholism, sex and cruelty. The point I'm trying to make is a bit more subtle; that easy times and brutalism undermined their committment to shared values and the institutions that created the empire.
It may also be worth bearing in mind that Roman history includes tens of millions of people in dozens of countries for 1000 years in the west and another thousand years in the east. So generalisations about character can be a bit dangerous.
Well, I really liked that podcast. Thanks. And here's my certified theory about the fall of the Roman Empire ...
Ultimately, the Roman empire fell because they lost the battle of Adrianople, when the Goths wiped out the Roman field army. But the interesting thing is that Rome had suffered whole series of such awful defeats in the past - notably against Hannibaal, and also against Cimbri and Teutones. So what really happened is that that they lost the reslience to deal with such setbacks. Their society had become ossified, for whatever reason (I have my own right-wing theories on that). I've no doubt that energy shortages, and failure to innovate in response, played a role. However, perhaps slavery and conquest also engendered a moral corruption that undermined their moral and institutional virtue.
What is really interesting is that the Eastern Roman Empire went on for another one thousand years. That is, three times the age of the USA, or as long as post-1066 Britain. So despite all their many failings, a strong city with impregnable walls and the key Eastern trade route (and Greek fire) was enough to prop them up - well, forever, despite their corrupt political and economic system. Amazing.
So I think the Roman Empire fell because its institutions failed. But I guess you're right; cheaper energy could have propped them up for longer. Or maybe I should say, cheap energy and military might propped them up for 250 years before the overdue collapse finally came. Or maybe the collapse only came because Constatine gutted the west to feed the east? A flight of capital could also explain it - although that boils down to pretty much your argument; that is, about relative productivity and cost of production.
Our societies do have cheap oil at the moment, but that is just a blip. More generally, we keep our energy cheap and production costs low through innovation. If innovation stops, then I think our societies will decline.
Really thought-provoking podcast David. Thanks.
BTW, great subbing RB.
Helen Clark stood by Philip Field while he claimed to have been exonerated by the Ingram report. Here is the picture and story.
After the Ingram report was released, Michael Cullen continued to say "After all, the fundamental fault Mr Field committed was to work too hard on behalf of the many, many hundreds of people who come to his electorate office on immigration matters."
Here is the Hansard of Dr Cullen's comment in the snap debate. The Hansard includes a number of other gems, including the Deputy Prime Minister saying Mr Brownlee would "have to dry out Mr Siriwan if he were to put him in the witness box" and being immediately followed by Taito Philip Field saying "I am delighted that the Ingram report has now finally been completed and that I have been cleared of the serious, false allegations of conflict of interest."
That was the official Parliamentary Labour party response in the snap debate on the Ingram report.
Gak! SST has a feature. Apparently 80% of new doctors are foreign trained. Go figure.
I'm not sure bonding will work. Not a bad idea in theory, but people can always buy their way out of bonds. I think making people feel valued and rewarded will work better.
I'm also not sure how many Doctors do come back from overseas, but admit to having no data on the issue.
You're not serious Malcolm? What about NZ medical research?
Well, maybe I'm being a bit naughty. But what is happening at the moment? Heaps of doctors go overseas, while we import heaps more from other countries. So why are we training all these departing doctors?
There is some kind of systemic problem, to do with debt, salaries and opportunities. When big student fees were introduced, the argument was that they reflected the private benefit of eduction. With hindsight, we can see that has encourged people to chase the (higher) private benefit overses, and we have found that actually there is a substantial public benefit in actually having some doctors.
To me, both National and Labour have ignored the fact that we are a small country in a global labour market. That was ignored by National's labour market and education reforms in the 1990s, and is being ignored by Labour's current income tax policy.
My opionion is that our health system would work better if we had less tall poppy syndrome, and less envy of successful people.
We could get rid of our medical schools, and just import doctors from overseas. That would save bucketloads of money at both the schools themselves and the clincal teaching centres.
He's probably still looking for the cassette player that comes with it, and wondering why the headphone plug is soooo big.
Seriously though, it must be a bit of Rip Van Winkle experience for him. What else has changed out of recognition while he has been inside?