How Does IQ Relate to Personality?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

How does IQ relate to personality?

Consistent with prior research, IQ was most strongly related to openness to experience. Out of 9 dimensions of openness to experience, 8 out of 9 were positively related to IQ: intellectual engagement, intellectual creativity, mental quickness, intellectual competence, introspection, ingenuity, intellectual depth, and imagination. Interestingly, IQ was much more strongly related to intellectual engagement and mental quickness than imagination, ingenuity, or intellectual depth, and IQ was not related to sensitivity to beauty.

Out of 45 dimensions of personality, 23 dimensions were not related to IQ. This included gregariousness, friendliness, assertiveness, poise, talkativeness, social understanding, warmth, pleasantness, empathy, cooperation, sympathy, conscientiousness, efficiency, dutifulness, purposefulness, cautiousness, rationality, perfectionism, calmness, impulse control, imperturbability, cool-headedness, and tranquility. These qualities were not directly relevant to IQ.

8 dimensions of personality outside the openness to experience domain were positively related to IQ, including organization, toughness, provocativeness, leadership, self-disclosure, emotional stability, moderation, and happiness — although the correlations were much smaller than with intellectual engagement and mental quickness. IQ was negatively related to orderliness, morality, nurturance, tenderness, and sociability, but again, the negative correlations were much smaller than the relationships among IQ, intellectual engagement, and mental quickness.

Telephoto Tank Man

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The telephoto lens has changed our access to reality, Randall Collins suggests:

The tank man photo is the most famous image of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement in Beijing. Indeed it is considered one of the most famous photos of the 20th century. It has become a symbol of human resistance, a lone individual stopping a whole column of tanks.

Tiananmen Square Tank Man Wide

What the photo claims to symbolize, however, is only very partially true. It is not a photo of Tiananmen Square, but of a boulevard nearby. It was not taken during the crackdown on demonstrators, which took place on June 3 and the following night, but on the quiet morning of June 5, after Tiananmen Square had been cleared and government control had been reestablished in Beijing. And it was not a successful protest. The tanks stopped briefly; two men came into the street and took the protester away.

The photo was taken by an American newsman, from a hotel balcony 800 meters distant — about half a mile. It was shot through a telephoto lens, like so many news photos of recent decades. This is one of the marvels of modern technology, and a hidden one: how seldom do we stop to think of how the photographer got so close, so near the action where history is made?

Tiananmen Square Tank Man Zoom

Telephoto lenses allow us to intrude closely into events that the participants would probably like to keep hidden. It is one of the sharpest differences between our images of the world before about 1960 and the present. The Vietnam War was the first war in history where we could see what it actually looked like. Before then, we had to be content with what officials allowed for patriotic publication, plus (as of World War II) candid shots of soldiers, generally far behind the front lines. And not just for violence in war, but violence in all its peacetime forms, telephoto lenses have brought us first-hand records of how violence really looks. And other forms of conflict, too — the expressions on faces and bodies that give us clues to how conflict plays out, and enable us to cut through the rhetoric and the mythology that have obscured it since humans first began to tell lies about violence.

I would go so far as to say that the telephoto lens, even more than the advent of television, has changed our access to reality. Even more than the camcorder which in 1991 first showed the police beating Rodney King; even more than the ubiquitous mobile phone cameras that now flood the Internet-connected world with images. The reason I make this exorbitant claim is that all the other devices depend on being up close; the telephoto lens zooms in from a great distance. It can go where it is too dangerous or too private for other devices to go. Unlike TV, it gives us photos that are not posed, since no one knows there is a camera to pose for. And it can give photos of great detail — the emotional expressions on faces, the exact postures of bodies, that are so important for a micro-sociologist’s explanation. The purpose of my writing, however, is not to pick a fight as to which visual technology is best; they all work together to make our times the golden age of visual sociology.

Having extolled telephoto images, I want to raise a caveat about their limits. Taken out of context, they carry the danger of modern myth-making. To see what is distorted and what can be salvaged, let us examine the tank man photo in greater depth.

The Beijing democracy demonstrations began on April 17, 1989, and went on for 50 days until they were crushed. The tank man photo was taken on day 51.

Over the 50 days, the size of the crowds at Tiananmen Square rose and fell. After most of the initial enthusiasm had fallen off, on day 28 (May 13), the remaining few hundred militants launched a hunger strike, which recaptured public attention, and brought hundreds of thousands of supporters to Tiananmen. On day 34 (May 19), the Communist elite purged its dissidents and declared martial law, and began to bring troops into Beijing.

The next four days were a showdown in the streets; crowds of residents blocked the army convoys; soldiers rode in open trucks, unarmed — the regime still trying to use as little force as possible, and also distrustful of giving out ammunition — and often were overwhelmed by residents. Crowds used a mixture of persuasion and food offerings, and sometimes force, stoning and beating isolated soldiers. On May 24 (day 39), the regime pulled back the troops to bases outside the city. The most reliable army units were moved to the front, some tasked with watching for defections among less reliable units. In another week strong forces had been assembled in the center of Beijing.

Momentum was swinging back the other way. Student protestors in the Square increasingly divided between moderates and militants; by the time the order to clear the Square was given for June 3 (day 49), the number occupying was down to 4000. There was one last surge of violence — not in Tiananmen Square itself, although the name became so famous that most outsiders think there was a massacre there — but in the neighborhoods as residents attempted to block the army’s movement once again. Crowds fought using stones and gasoline bombs, burning army vehicles and, by some reports, the soldiers inside. In this emotional atmosphere, as both sides spread stories of the other’s atrocities, something on the order of 50 soldiers and police were killed, and 400-800 civilians (estimates varying widely). Some soldiers took revenge for prior attacks by firing at fleeing opponents and beating those they caught. In Tiananmen Square, the early morning of June 4, the dwindling militants were allowed to march out through the encircling troops.

The Tank Man photo was taken the following morning. The revolutionary crowds had been beaten. Massive arrests were being made, especially of workers, whom the government regarded as far more dangerous than students. Hundreds of thousands of security agents were beginning to spread across the country, picking off suspects one by one, ultimately arresting tens of thousands in the following months. The tipping point had passed, and the regime had clearly won.

What then was the point of the tank man protest? By his white shirt and dark trousers, we can surmise that he was a government bureaucrat, a class of people whose sympathies were strongly on the side of the protestors. But it is also a category of persons, numerous in all demonstrations, who offer support but do not take part in the actual confrontations with authority. In virtually all photos of demonstrations and riots everywhere in the world, a small portion of crowd is at the front doing the violence, while most stand at a distance and watch. Very likely tank man had seen or heard about the previous days’ violence, and came forward in the quiet atmosphere to do something to demonstrate his own commitment.

As we can see in the photo, the streets are virtually empty. He has no visible supporters, although a small audience gathered on the sidewalk to watch from a distance. On the other hand, the tank troops too are anonymous, hidden inside their armored stations. The tanks are moving slowly, making a show of force, not an actual military operation. One can know this, because the tanks are in column, a parade-like movement; deployed into combat they would go into line. I would surmise that the soldiers are calm; their action has been over for 24 hours or more.

Thus it is a symbolic confrontation: the lone man, respectably dressed in the garb of the urban apparatchik, stepping in front of the column of slow-moving tanks. In that atmosphere, there is little danger of being run over. The lead tank swerved to avoid him, but he kept in its path until it stopped. Very likely the troops had returned to the orders that prevailed during days 34-38, when unarmed troops were sent to assemble in the city as quietly as possible, and had given no resistance when crowds forced them back. On the whole, the regime had used a mixture of appeasing the crowds, waiting for them to dwindle away, and sporadic application of military force. On day 51, they were back into the mode of calm normality. The government machinery was operating again; bureaucratically organized investigations and individual arrests were the regime’s weapon now. The rebellious crowd has its best chance when it is assembled in huge numbers, in an atmosphere of emotional support that flows outward, dangerously lapping at the solidarity of the government apparatus. Now the crowd has dispersed; and it is in this configuration that bureaucratic authority can exercise its unrelenting and comparatively unemotional control.

And that is what happens. Tank man steps in front of the tank column; the lead driver stops; the tank drivers behind him stop because the tank in front stops. Two men in dark suits come and take tank man away. The column grinds slowly on.

It would have been an unknown incident except for the newsmen in the hotel with the telephoto lenses. Pictures of violence on the previous days were just making their way into Western newspaper and television, so little attention was paid to the exact sequence when things happened. A famous photo showed bicycles crushed in a street where fighting had taken place — and in the absence of photos of actual bodies, these were taken as emblems of how the revolution had been crushed. It was easy to conjure up a scenario of tanks rolling over a crowd of demonstrators. And then, in the midst of this — the heroic image of the man who stopped the tank column. All was not lost: the human individual still prevails.

We are living in the realm of symbolism here, not in the realm of history. Never mind that no one stopped the tanks, or more likely the trucks that rolled over the bicycles and carried troops into the streets where fighting had taken place 36 hours earlier. It carries a nice message, although only through the more careful retrospect of micro-sociology do we actually see what it is: the violent confrontations between crowds and army on June 3 and the early hours of June 4 — confrontations in which violence was used on both sides — did not stop the army. But at the right moment, approached with the tools of non-violence, the army was stopped.

Arms Races and Misunderstandings

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Wars are not generally the result of “arms races” or “misunderstandings” that can be prevented with international mediation, Max Boot argues, on the 100th anniversary of the triggering of the Great War:

Rather they are usually the result of deliberate policies by capricious regimes which may not want to fight but are willing to risk conflict in order to achieve their power-hungry aims. It stands to reason that the best bet for preventing future conflict is not in sponsoring more diplomatic negotiations but rather in the forces of freedom keeping their powder dry.

That is something that Great Britain, the guardian of international order in the pre-1914 world, singularly failed to do: London was willing to maintain the greatest fleet in the world but its army was so small that it was not reckoned to be a serious factor in continental calculations and its willingness to stand up to German aggression was in doubt. This hesitancy and unpreparedness on the part of London gave Imperial Germany the opening it was seeking to launch a preemptive campaign of conquest against both France and Russia – something that even the German General Staff, arrogant as they were, might not have dared had they been certain of massive and timely British intervention.

Art and Luxury

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The Age of Commerce is an age of art and luxury, Glubb explains:

The wealth which seems, almost without effort, to pour into the country enables the commercial classes to grow immensely rich. How to spend all this money becomes a problem to the wealthy business community. Art, architecture and luxury ?nd rich patrons. Splendid municipal buildings and wide streets lend dignity and beauty to the wealthy areas of great cities. The rich merchants build themselves palaces, and money is invested in communications, highways, bridges, railways or hotels, according to the varied patterns of the ages.

The ?rst half of the Age of Commerce appears to be peculiarly splendid. The ancient virtues of courage, patriotism and devotion to duty are still in evidence. The nation is proud, united and full of self-con?dence. Boys are still required, ?rst of all, to be manly — to ride, to shoot straight and to tell the truth. (It is remarkable what emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is cowardice — the fear of facing up to the situation.)

Boys’ schools are intentionally rough. Frugal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to have a bath and similar customs are aimed at producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed of men. Duty is the word constantly drummed into the heads of young people.

The Age of Commerce is also marked by great enterprise in the exploration for new forms of wealth. Daring initiative is shown in the search for pro?table enterprises in far corners of the earth, perpetuating to some degree the adventurous courage of the Age of Conquests.

Emotional Legacies of the Great War

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The emotional legacies of the Great War are different for different countries:

For France the war, however bloody, was a necessary response to invasion. Preventing the German Army from reaching Paris in the first battle of the Marne spelled the difference between freedom and slavery. The second battle of the Marne, with the help at last of American soldiers, was the beginning of the end for the Germans. This was France’s “good war,” while World War II was an embarrassing collapse, with significant collaboration.

Continue reading the main story
For Germany, which had invested heavily in the machinery of war, it was an almost incomprehensible defeat, laying the groundwork for revolution, revanchism, fascism and genocide. Oddly enough, says Max Hastings, a war historian, Germany could have dominated Europe in 20 years economically if only it had not gone to war.

“The supreme irony of 1914 is how many of the rulers of Europe grossly overestimated military power and grossly underestimated economic power,” Mr. Hastings said, a point he now emphasizes when speaking with Chinese generals. The Germans, too, are still coming to terms with their past, unsure how much to press their current economic and political strength in Europe.

For Britain, there remains a debate about whether the British even had to fight. But fight they did, with millions of volunteers until the dead were mounded so high that conscription was finally imposed in 1916. The memory of July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme — when 20,000 British soldiers died, 40,000 were wounded and 60 percent of officers were killed — has marked British consciousness and become a byword for mindless slaughter.

The Age of Commerce

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Sir John Glubb turns to the Age of Commerce:

Let us now, however, return to the life-story of our typical empire. We have already considered the age of outburst, when a little-regarded people suddenly bursts on to the world stage with a wild courage and energy. Let us call it the Age of the Pioneers.

Then we saw that these new conquerors acquired the sophisticated weapons of the old empires, and adopted their regular systems of military organisation and training. A great period of military expansion ensued, which we may call the Age of Conquests. The conquests resulted in the acquisition of vast territories under one government, thereby automatically giving rise to commercial prosperity. We may call this the Age of Commerce.

The Age of Conquests, of course, overlaps the Age of Commerce. The proud military traditions still hold sway and the great armies guard the frontiers, but gradually the desire to make money seems to gain hold of the public. During the military period, glory and honour were the principal objects of ambition. To the merchant, such ideas are but empty words, which add nothing to the bank balance.

Good for Peace

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Franz Ferdinand’s assassination was tragic but good for peace, the New York Times announced 100 years ago. Matthew Yglesias explains:

The Times reported that “in Russia, England, and France the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was regarded as one of the most serious dangers to the European peace” while “even in Germany his accession to the throne was viewed with apprehension.” Their view was that Franz Ferdinand was a proponent of an aggressively anti-Serbian foreign policy, and that his removal from the order of succession made a Balkan conflict less likely.

By contrast, the new heir apparent, “while popular in Vienna is described as a young man of no remarkable ability.”

The War that Ended Peace

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

When Serbian nationalists murdered the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and his wife, people were shocked but not particularly worried:

Sadly, there had been many political assassinations in previous years — the king of Italy, two Spanish prime ministers, the Russian czar, President William McKinley. None had led to a major crisis.

The Great War had massive political consequences:

President Wilson talked about national self-determination and making the world safe for democracy. He wanted a League of Nations as the basis for international cooperation. From Russia, Lenin and his Bolsheviks offered a stark alternative: a world without borders or classes. The competing visions helped fuel the Cold War, which ended just 25 years ago.

Before 1914, Russia was a backward autocracy but was changing fast. Its growth rate was as high as any of the Asian tigers in the 1960s and 1970s; it was Europe’s major exporter of food grains and, as it industrialized, was importing machinery on a massive scale. Russia also was developing the institutions of civil society, including the rule of law and representative government. Without the war, it might have evolved into a modern democratic state; instead, it got the sudden collapse of the old order and a coup d’état by the Bolsheviks. Soviet communism exacted a dreadful toll on the Russian people and indeed the world — and its remnants are still painfully visible in the corrupt, authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin.

The war also destroyed other options for Europe’s political development. The old multinational empires had their faults, to be sure, but they enabled the diverse peoples within their boundaries to live in relative harmony. Both Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans were trying to work out ways of encompassing the demands of different groups for greater autonomy. Might they have succeeded if the war had not exhausted them to the point of collapse? We will never know, but since then, the world has suffered the violence and horrors of ethnic nationalism.

The armistice of 1918 ended one gigantic conflict, but it left the door open for a whole host of smaller ones — the “wars of the pygmies,” as Winston Churchill once described them. Competing national groups tried to establish their own independence and to push their borders out at the expense of their neighbors. Poles fought Russians, Lithuanians and Czechs, while Romania invaded Hungary. And within their borders, Europeans fought each other. Thirty-seven thousand Finns (out of some 3 million) died in a civil war in the first months of 1918, while in Russia, as many as a million soldiers and many more civilians may have died by the time the Bolsheviks finally defeated their many opponents.

The war had brutalized European society, which had grown accustomed during the largely peaceful 19th century to think that peace was the normal state of affairs. After 1918, Europeans were increasingly willing to resort to other sorts of force, from political assassinations to street violence, and to seek radical solutions to their problems. The seeds of the political movements on the extremes of both the right and the left — of fascism and communism — were sown in the years before 1914, but it took World War I to fertilize them.

The war aided the rise of extremism by weakening Europe’s confidence in the existing order. Many Europeans no longer trusted the establishments that had got them into the catastrophe. The German and Austrian monarchies were also overthrown, to be succeeded by shaky republics. The new orders might have succeeded in gaining legitimacy in time, but that was the one thing that Europe and the world didn’t have. The Great Depression at the end of the 1920s swept the new regimes away and undermined even the strongest democracies.

The war had made many Europeans simply give up on their own societies. Before 1914, they could take pride in Europe’s power and prosperity, in the knowledge that it dominated the world through its economic and military strength. They could boast that European civilization was superior to all others. Now they were left with a shattered continent that had spent down its wealth and weakened itself, perhaps mortally. As the great French thinker and poet Paul Valery said in 1922, “something deeper has been worn away than the renewable parts of the machine.”

Church attendance plummeted, but night clubs were jammed by those who could afford them. Cocaine stopped being a medicine and became a recreational drug along with alcohol. Before the war, a new generation of writers and artists had already been mocking the old classical traditions and inventing their own. Now, in the 1920s, the jumbled perspectives of the cubists, the atonal compositions of new composers such as Arnold Schoenberg or the experimental poetry and prose of writers such as Ezra Pound or Marcel Proust seemed prescient — new forms that captured the reality of a fractured world.

While the Europeans were coming to grips with what they had done to themselves, the rest of the world was drawing its own lessons. The European empires had called on their colonial possessions to support the war effort, but in so doing they had hastened the coming of their own end. Empires had always rested on a giant confidence trick — where the ruled agreed, or at least didn’t actively dispute, that their colonial rulers were more civilized and advanced and thus entitled to rule.

The soldiers from Africa, Canada, India, Australia or New Zealand had now seen for themselves what their European masters were capable of. The waste, the muddle, the brutality with which Europeans fought each other and the sheer incompetence of much of the European war effort exploded the old myths of European superiority. Throughout the empires, assertive and impatient national movements — often led by those who had returned from the war — pushed the empires toward their end. Mohandas Gandhi, who in the South African War of 1899-1902 had set up an ambulance corps to support the British, now led a movement to oust them from India.

Sea Power

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

One of the more benevolent ways in which a super-power can promote both peace and commerce is by its command of the sea, Sir John Glubb notes:

From Waterloo to 1914, the British Navy commanded the seas of the world. Britain grew rich, but she also made the Seas safe for the commerce of all nations, and prevented major wars for 100 years.

Curiously enough, the question of sea power was never clearly distinguished, in British politics during the last ?fty years, from the question of imperial rule over other countries. In fact, the two subjects are entirely distinct. Sea power does not offend small countries, as does military occupation. If Britain had maintained her navy, with a few naval bases overseas in isolated islands, and had given independence to colonies which asked for it, the world might well be a more stable place today. In fact, however, the navy was swept away in the popular outcry against imperialism.

Chimpanzee War

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Chimpanzees go to war — and eat their fallen foes:

If We Won

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Stephen Merchant presents “If We Won” with Newcastle Brown Ale:

The Pros and Cons of Empires

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Sir John Glubb weighs the pros and cons of empires:

In discussing the life-story of the typical empire, we have digressed into a discussion of whether empires are useful or injurious to mankind. We seem to have discovered that empires have certain advantages, particularly in the field of commerce, and in the establishment of peace and security in vast areas of the globe. Perhaps we should also include the spread of varied cultures to many races. The present infatuation for independence for ever smaller and smaller units will eventually doubtless be succeeded by new international empires.

The present attempts to create a European community may be regarded as a practical endeavour to constitute a new super-power, in spite of the fragmentation resulting from the craze for independence. If it succeeds, some of the local independencies will have to be sacrificed. If it fails, the same result may be attained by military conquest, or by the partition of Europe between rival super-powers. The inescapable conclusion seems, however, to be that larger territorial units are a benefit to commerce and to public stability, whether the broader territory be achieved by voluntary association or by military action.

Heinlein’s Political Evolution

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Jeet Heer is baffled by Heinlein’s political evolution:

Heinlein went from being a left-wing New Dealer in the 1930s and 1940s to flirting with the John Birch Society in the late 1950s and supporting Barry Goldwater in the 1960s — and yet, he insisted that his politics were unwaveringly consistent. “From my point of view what has happed is not that I have moved to the right; it seems to me that both parties have moved steadily to the left,” Heinlein wrote his brother in 1964. Patterson, as was his wont on all major issues, sides with his subject and maintains that Heinlein’s politics remained fundamentally unchanged through his life. Heinlein was no “rightist,” Patterson assures us, but a lifelong “radical liberal” with a “democratic soul.” Patterson never explains how that “democratic soul” came to believe that the right to vote should be severely restricted, a position Heinlein advocated not just in Starship Troopers but also in nonfiction works.


Some of Heinlein’s friends speculated that his shift in politics was connected to his divorce and remarriage. That’s too simplistic an explanation, but Heinlein acknowledged that Virginia helped “re-educate” him on economics.

In truth, Heinlein’s shift to the right took place over a decade, from 1948 to 1957. In the early 1950s, the Heinleins travelled around the world. The writer was already a Malthusian and a eugenicist, but the trip greatly exacerbated his demographic despair and xenophobia. “The real problem of the Far East is not that so many of them are communists, but simply that there are so many of them,” he wrote in a 1954 travel book (posthumously published in 1992). Even space travel, Heinlein concluded, wouldn’t be able to open enough room to get rid of “them.” Heinlein treated overpopulation as a personal affront.

Heinlein had caught a bad case of the Cold War jitters in the late 1940s. He accused liberal Democratic friends, notably the director Fritz Lang, of being Stalinist stooges. With Heinlein’s great talent for extrapolation, every East-West standoff seemed like the end of the world. “I do not think we have better than an even chance of living, as a nation, through the next five years,” he wrote an editor in 1957. The USSR’s Sputnik launch in 1957 and Eisenhower’s moves toward a nuclear test ban the following year both unhinged Heinlein, who called Ike a “slimy faker.” By 1961 Heinlein concluded that even though it was a “fascist organization,” the John Birch Society was preferable to liberals and moderate conservatives.

Ajax Gun Shield

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Modern body armor that can stop a rifle round is heavy, which raises the question of which body parts should be armored. For now, most soldiers wear a helmet and a vest with a chest plate, because those targets are vital — and because the head is often exposed, and the torso is the easiest place to carry a heavy load.

Another option is to use some kind of gun shield.

Ajax Gun Shield

The Ajax gun shield attaches to now-standard side rails:

The Ajax consists of two spring-loaded frames extending on each side of the weapon, each holding one of the bulletproof side plates available for the U.S. Interceptor protective best. Each side plate weighs 1.6 kg (3.6 pounds) and is able to stop multiple hits by heavy (7.62mm) rifle bullets. When a bullet hits one of the plates the spring system absorbs much of the impact and returns the plate to its normal position that protects the face and shoulders of the user. Thus with Ajax the soldier can be looking for targets with his head and shoulders exposed. Without Ajax and despite the Kevlar helmet (also able to stop 7.62mm bullets) the face and shoulders (protected by some Kevlar, not bullet proof plates) left the soldiers exposed and likely to get hit if the enemy put out a heavy enough barrage of bullets. The face was also exposed to grenade and shell fragments. Ajax eliminates most of that vulnerability. Even most of the hands and arms that are still exposed now have some protection.

Ajax is meant mainly for troops on the defense (like guarding a base) or those on vehicles or boats. Troops manning light machine-guns or sniper rifles are particularly vulnerable because they generate the most effective firepower but can only do that it they show themselves so they can see targets and fire at them. Ajax is not really meant for troops out on foot patrols troops, because these soldiers tend to not carry the side plates. Being more mobile is a lifesaver and the side plates are but one of many items often left behind in order to reduce the load carried by the foot soldier.

Commercial Expansion

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The conquest of vast areas of land and their subjection to one government automatically acts as a stimulant to commerce, Sir John Glubb says:

Both merchants and goods can be exchanged over considerable distances. Moreover, if the empire be an extensive one, it will include a great variety of climates, producing extremely varied products, which the different areas will wish to exchange with one another.

The speed of modern methods of transportation tends to create in us the impression that far-?ung commerce is a modern development, but this is not the case. Objects made in Ireland, Scandinavia and China have been found in the graves or the ruins of the Middle East, dating from 1,000 years before Christ. The means of transport were slower, but, when a great empire was in control, commerce was freed from the innumerable shackles imposed upon it today by passports, import permits, customs, boycotts and political interference.

The Roman Empire extended from Britain to Syria and Egypt, a distance, in a direct line, of perhaps 2,700 miles. A Roman of?cial, transferred from Britain to Syria, might spend six months on the journey. Yet, throughout the whole distance, he would be travelling in the same country, with the same of?cial language, the same laws, the same currency and the same administrative system. Today, some twenty independent countries separate Britain from Syria, each with its own government, its own laws, politics, customs fees, passports and currencies, making commercial cooperation almost impossible. And this process of disintegration is still continuing. Even within the small areas of the modern European nations, provincial movements demanding secession or devolution tend further to splinter the continent.

The present fashion for ‘independence’ has produced great numbers of tiny states in the world, some of them consisting of only one city or of a small island. This system is an insuperable obstacle to trade and cooperation. The present European Economic Community is an attempt to secure commercial cooperation among small independent states over a large area, but the plan meets with many dif?culties, due to the mutual jealousies of so many nations.

Even savage and militaristic empires promoted commerce, whether or not they
intended to do so. The Mongols were some of the most brutal military conquerors in history, massacring the entire populations of cities. Yet, in the thirteenth century, when their empire extended from Peking to Hungary, the caravan trade between China and Europe achieved a remarkable degree of prosperity — the whole journey was in the territory of one government.

In the eighth and ninth centuries, the caliphs of Baghdad achieved fabulous wealth owing to the immense extent of their territories, which constituted a single trade bloc. The empire of the caliphs is now divided into some twenty-?ve separate ‘nations’.