Leadership: “The Book” versus Reality

August 23rd, 2015

About two-thirds of the way through his Afghanistan deployment, Chris Hernandez had a new intelligence lieutenant arrive at his firebase, and the crusty old E-7 convinced the young man to go outside the wire with some French Marines the next day. The young lieutenant was nervous about giving a bad order that might get someone killed:

I gave him a serious look. “Lieutenant. You don’t have to worry about giving a bad order tomorrow. You’re a new lieutenant, new in country. If we get into a firefight, and you give an order, nobody will listen to you. So don’t worry about it.”

The lieutenant looked stunned; for a second or two, he was actually speechless. Then he gathered himself, and said, “Uh… okay. In that case, I guess I’ll go.”

He went out with us the next day. And we got into a firefight. The Taliban opened fire on French vehicles as the team I was attached to scrambled down a mountainside. A burst of machine gun fire barely missed a French forward air controller as he stuck his head out of my vehicle. French gunners dumped thousands of .50 and 7.62 rounds back at enemy-occupied compounds. At one point, an RPG flew between the lieutenant’s vehicle and mine as we rolled down a road (I’ll never forget the look on his face when he described watching it zip past). It was a hell of a first mission for a new lieutenant.

It was also his last mission. When we got back to base, his boss told him he couldn’t go out again because it was too dangerous. So he got to go outside the wire one time, and earned a real Combat Action Badge for it.

And I like to think I taught him something important. Just because the book says “the officer is in charge and everyone of lower rank must follow his orders”, real life says “if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing the best thing to do is shut up and listen to those who do”.

Modafinil is Safe and Effective

August 22nd, 2015

The Guardian sings the praises of modafinil (Provigil):

A new review of 24 of the most recent modafinil studies suggests that the drug has many positive effects in healthy people, including enhancing attention, improving learning and memory and increasing something called “fluid intelligence” — essentially our capacity to solve problems and think creatively. One study also showed that modafinil made tasks seem more pleasurable. The longer and more complex the task tested, the more consistently modafinil conferred cognitive benefits, the authors of the review said.

The review points out that negative effects — including one study that showed that people already classed as creative saw a small drop in creativity — were reported in a small number of tasks, but never consistently. It added that the drug exerts minimal effects on mood, and only causes minor side effects such as nausea, headaches and anxiety, although these were also reported by people who took a placebo drug.

Other proposed smart drugs, such as Ritalin, prescribed for ADHD, have many negative side effects, said Anna-Katharine Brem, co-author of the review, published today in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. “Modafinil seems to be the first ‘smart drug’ that is reasonably safe for healthy people.”

I’m pretty sure caffeine has it beat by a few centuries.

Study of Mass Shootings

August 22nd, 2015

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released a report on mass shootings, based on FBI statistics and criminologist Grant Duwe’s research:

Have mass shootings become more common?

Slightly. The average number of mass shootings was a little bit higher in 2009–2013 than in either of the previous five-year periods, and the average number of casualties was more substantially higher. (*) The study attributes both increases essentially to one outlier year, reporting that they “were largely driven by a few incidents in 2012. If 2012 were excluded, the averages would actually have been lower than the preceding five-year period.”

James Alan Fox, an expert on mass murders who teaches criminology at Northeastern University, says the clearest pattern in the study’s data is simply “a great volatility in the numbers. There’s no solid trend.”

Do most of these shootings look like Columbine?

There’s a number of different definitions of “mass shooting” floating around out there, but the CRS report defines it as any gun crime where four or more people are murdered in a single incident. Most Americans process the phrase more narrowly than that: They think of random shootings in schools, at work, and in other public places. The CRS describes these as “mass public shootings,” and it distinguishes them from two other categories: “familicide mass shootings,” in which the murderers kill family members, usually in private spaces or in remote and secluded settings; and “other felony mass shootings,” which are committed in the course of another crime (such as a robbery) or common circumstance (such as an argument that gets out of hand). In theory, these categories can overlap, but the CRS researchers assigned each incident to just one category. (**)

Just as most shootings are not mass shootings, most mass shootings are not public shootings. There have been an average of 4.4 mass public shootings per year since 1999. The figure for familicides is 8.5 and the other-felony count is 8.3.

[...]

Have mass public shootings become more common?

Using Duwe’s data, the CRS found an increase in the number of mass public shootings since the 1970s: There was an average of 1.1 incidents per year in that decade, 2.7 per year in the ’80s, 4 in the ’90s, and 4.1 in the 2000s. The shootings also became a bit more deadly over the same time period, with ’70s shootings killing an average of 5.5 people per incident and ’00s shootings killing 6.4. (***)

Those are raw totals, without taking population growth into account. If you look at the number of victims per capita, the average has gone up a little from 1970 to today but the numbers are so small that the fluctuations are essentially statistical noise. “Basically, there is no rise,” says Fox, the Northeastern criminologist. “There are some years that are bad, some that are not so bad.”

Buy the Farm

August 21st, 2015

The phrase buy the farm is US slang, from the WWII era — the first printed record goes back to the US Air Force in the 1950s:

Similar expressions like buy the plot and buy the lot also existed, although buy the farm is the only one to have survived. When a military pilot with a stricken airplane attempted to crash land in a farmer’s field, he would destroy a portion of the farmer’s crops for which the US government paid reimbursement to the farmer. If it were a bad crash-landing destroying most of the crops then the crash would cause the buying of the whole farm, shortened susequently to the current idiom.

Probably related to older British slang buy it, buy one or buy the packet, both seemingly ironic references to something that one does not want to buy. May come from the common reflection that once someone had finished his service he would go home and buy a farm to settle on.

Also, it may be in reference to the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. [Spoiler alert!] Main characters George and Lennie always talk about owning their own farm where they will have to answer to no one and “live off the fatt’a the land.” Later, when George must kill Lennie they talk about how they will buy the farm when George pulls the trigger and shoots Lennie to kill him painlessly.

Horo

August 21st, 2015

The cape has become synonymous with drama. In the Italian fencing tradition, it served as a shield and a distraction. The Japanese had their own useful cape, the horo, which resembled a small parachute:

Horo were used as far back as the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

When inflated the horo was said to protect the wearer from arrows shot from the side and from behind.

Horo on Maeda Toshiie

Wearing a horo is also said to have marked the wearer as a messenger (tsukai-ban) or person of importance. According to the Hosokawa Yusai Oboegaki, the diary of Hosokawa Yusai (1534–1610) taking of an elite tsukai-ban messenger’s head was a worthy prize. “When taking the head of a horo warrior, wrap it in the silk of the horo. In the case of an ordinary warrior, wrap it in the silk of the sashimono”.

(Hat tip to Wrath of Gnon.)

JayMan on Unz.com

August 20th, 2015

JayMan now has his own column on Unz.com:

The basic fact of the matter is that you’re being lied to – every day. Mainstream discourse, including the media (and a good part of the scientific establishment itself) spreads false information. Whether it be on IQ, race, heredity, parenting, diet, health, lifestyle, or homosexuality, complete rubbish rules the day. I intend to make a meager effect to remedy that in this column.

School Busing Didn’t Work

August 20th, 2015

School busing didn’t work. and to say so isn’t racist, Ted Van Dyk argues:

In many places, like in Boston as Sokol describes, there was raw racism involved in protests against busing. In many other places, however, there was non-racist consternation based mainly on parents’ concern for the wellbeing of their children.

This was the case even in liberal Washington, D.C. My wife and I had two sons enrolled in a Northwest Washington elementary school when busing began in the city. School buses would deliver black kids from Southwest D.C. at the Janney School front door at the morning bell. The same buses picked up the same kids, immediately at the end of classes, and took them back to Southwest. They did not participate in any pre- or after-school activity. No black parents took a bus or drove from Southwest to attend evening PTA meetings or to otherwise participate in school-related activity. The quality of classroom instruction fell off markedly. Fourth- and fifth-grade neighborhood students, for instance, were repeating material learned in earlier grades because teachers found their bused classmates had not yet received it. Not surprisingly, parents from the neighborhood began looking for private schools for their kids or moved to Maryland or Virginia suburbs — not because of racism but because their neighborhood school no longer was working.

Unenlightened, working-class whites opposed busing because they were racist, but enlightened, upper-middle-class whites opposed busing because they wanted what was best for their children.

Immigrant Crime

August 19th, 2015

Many politicians expressed concern over Kathryn Steinle’s death, which they generally represented as aberrational — a mistake, a breakdown in the system — but which some portrayed as anything but aberrational:

The system didn’t break down for Steinle. It functioned as it all too often does. As Senator Ted Cruz pointed out during a July 21 Judiciary Committee hearing on crimes by illegal immigrants, in 2014 alone, immigration authorities released into American communities 193 illegal immigrants with homicide convictions, 426 people with sexual-assault convictions and 16,000 with drunk-driving convictions. Altogether, 104,000 people who by law should have been deported were instead allowed to remain on American soil. The director of the agency in charge of the removals offered as a partial excuse that immigration courts faced a backlog of 500,000 cases.

Whatever the cause, there’s no doubt that removals of immigrants convicted of criminal acts have tumbled in Obama’s second term, after a sharp rise in his first term. Federal immigration authorities removed more than 216,000 such immigrants from the United States in fiscal year 2011, more than double the removals of fiscal 2007. But in fiscal 2014, only 178,000 were removed — a 17 percent drop from the 2011 peak.

Yet even as deportations drop, the flow of new illegal immigrants appears to be accelerating. Since illegal immigration is difficult to measure, many experts use the rate of apprehensions at the border as a rough proxy for the overall flow. After a recession-induced pause in 2008-2010, apprehensions of would-be border-crossers jumped 15 percent in fiscal 2013 over fiscal 2012 — and then spiked 16 percent further in fiscal 2014 over fiscal 2013.

[...]

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office delivered a major report on criminal activity by unauthorized immigrants. The GAO was able to locate the arrest and sentencing records of roughly half the immigrants in local jails and state and federal prisons, and then sampled them to estimate what they contained. Here’s what it found:

  • An estimated 25,000 of these undocumented immigrants serving sentences for homicide
  • A cumulative total of 2.89 million offenses committed by these undocumented immigrants between 2003 and 2009 (although half a million of these were for immigration-related offenses)
  • Among those offenses: An estimated 42,000 robberies, 70,000 sex crimes, 81,000 auto thefts, 95,000 weapons offenses, and 213,000 assaults

Second, crime by the unauthorized, like the population of illegal immigrants itself, appears to be disproportionately concentrated in border states. A Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by the PJMedia estimated that the illegal immigrants in Texas prisons had committed a total of 2,993 homicides in a state that typically suffers between 1100 and 1400 homicides per year. After years of welcome decline, crime rates are rising in immigration hubs including Houston, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and San Diego.

Third, statistics on contemporary immigrant crime likely contain a downward bias. When most studies report that immigrants commit fewer crimes than natives, many rely — as I did above — on incarceration rates. Prison populations are the most authoritative source of data on immigrant crime. It’s much easier to assess the immigration status of a person in custody, after all.

But because U.S. prison sentences are so long, prisons house many people whose criminal activities occurred years, or even decades, in the past. Many of the people in prison today were sent there at a time when the foreign-born population was smaller and crime rates were higher. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 20 percent of the U.S. prison population is foreign born. That does not imply that foreign-born persons are committing only 20 percent of crime right now. Yet that is how the statistic is often used.

Fourth, the native-born crime rate is an aggregate of every sub-population in the country, some of which have low crime rates, some much higher. Among those native-born groups with higher rates of crime: children of immigrants, who offend at rates substantially higher than their parents. Because the children of recent immigrants account for so much of U.S. population growth, higher immigration of groups with higher crime rates must drive crime levels higher than they otherwise would have been. That’s just arithmetic.

Billions of dollars in annual teacher training is largely a waste

August 19th, 2015

A new study of 10,000 teachers found that professional development — the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year — is largely a waste:

Researchers examined three large school districts as well as one network of charter schools. They looked at professional development programs at all the schools and teacher performance data over several years, and they surveyed 10,000 teachers and interviewed more than 100 administrators. They identified teachers who improved their job performance and tried to figure out what experiences they had that differed from teachers who were stagnant. To determine if a teacher had improved, researchers analyzed multiple measures — evaluation ratings, classroom observation and student test scores.

And they didn’t find many answers.

[...]

The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.

And teachers spend a good deal of time in training, the study found. The 10,000 teachers surveyed were in training an average of 19 school days a year, or almost 10 percent of a typical school year, according to TNTP.

Must It Be the Rest Against the West?

August 18th, 2015

A couple decades ago, Matthew Connelly (who went on to write Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population) and Paul Kennedy (who had already written The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers) discussed Jean Raspail’s controversial The Camp of the Saints — which was itself already more than a couple decades old. Must it be the Rest against the West?, they asked:

Moved by accounts of widespread famine across an Indian subcontinent collapsing under the sheer weight of its fast-growing population, the Belgian government has decided to admit and adopt a number of young children; but the policy is reversed when tens of thousands of mothers begin to push their babies against the Belgian consul general’s gates in Calcutta. After mobbing the building in disgust at Belgium’s change of mind, the crowd is further inflamed by a messianic speech from one of their number, an untouchable, a gaunt, eye-catching “turd eater,” who calls for the poor and wretched of the world to advance upon the Western paradise: “The nations are rising from the four corners of the earth,” Raspail has the man say, “and their number is like the sand of the sea. They will march up over the broad earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. . . .” Storming on board every ship within range, the crowds force the crews to take them on a lengthy, horrific voyage, around Africa and through the Strait of Gibraltar to the southern shores of France.

But it is not the huddled mass of Indians, with their “fleshless Gandhi-arms,” that is the focus of Raspail’s attention so much as the varied responses of the French and the other privileged members of “the camp of the saints” as they debate how to deal with the inexorably advancing multitude. Raspail is particularly effective here in capturing the platitudes of official announcements, the voices of ordinary people, the tone of statements by concerned bishops, and so on. The book also seems realistic in its recounting of the crumbling away of resolve by French sailors and soldiers when they are given the order to repel physically — to shoot or torpedo — this armada of helpless yet menacing people. It would be much easier, clearly, to confront a military foe, such as a Warsaw Pact nation.

It’s not a perfect prediction, Steve Sailer points out:

My view in 2015 is that the Global Poor today aren’t all that badly off relative to famine-haunted 1973. You’ll notice that the establishment press feels compelled much of the time to mislead readers about who the Mediterranean crossers are, portraying them as “refugees” rather than as people investing in a higher paid career. And if Africans can get their birthrates under control, things will get even better for them in Africa in the future due to technological progress and the accumulation of generations of literacy.

The danger is simply that in the meantime Europe will let itself be saddled with a vast number of Africans and their descendants, turning Florence into Ferguson and Barcelona into Baltimore. That’s not a particularly apocalyptic future, just a stupid one to allow to happen.

Girls Are Born With Weaker Backbones Than Boys

August 18th, 2015

Girls are born with weaker backbones than boys:

Researchers, writing in the August issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, did magnetic imaging studies that measured fat, muscle and bone in 70 healthy full-term newborns, 35 of them girls. Boys had slightly less fat and slightly more muscle than girls, but the difference was not statistically significant. Nor were there any significant differences between the sexes in weight, body length, head circumference, waist circumference or spinal length.

But the girls’ vertebrae were, on average, 10.6 percent smaller than the boys’, a difference independent of gestational age, birth weight and body length. There was no difference between sexes in the size of other bones.

As adults, women are up to four times as likely to suffer vertebral fractures as men, and the weakness depends more on the size of the vertebrae than on the density of the bone.

The senior author, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, a radiologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said that a girl’s slender and bendable spine may be a mixed blessing. It provides flexibility to allow upright walking during pregnancy, when the weight of a fetus stretches and bends the spine. But it also increases the risk for vertebral fractures later in life.

The Father of Social Science

August 17th, 2015

Ed West writes about the father of social science, 14th century Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun, and his notion of asabiyyah, or social capital:

Born in Tunis on May 27, 1332, Ibn Khaldun pioneered the fields of sociology and history, as well as touching on economics and science, during his long life spent serving as an ambassador and supreme justice across the Islamic Mediterranean. His history book the Muqaddimah puts him up with Herodotus and Thucydides as one of the fathers of that discipline, while the Scottish theologian Robert Flint once said that ‘Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers, and all others were unworthy of being even mentioned along with him’. Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi, said of him that ‘he has every claim to be called the world’s first sociologist. Not for another 300 years would the West produce a figure of comparable originality.’

Ibn Khaldun was very much a product of the pan-Islamic world, which was then coming to the end of its golden age. His family had originated in southern Arabia in the 9th century before moving to Spain, although they may have originally been Berbers who adopted an Arab identity in order to acquire status. They had fled from Seville following its capture by the Christians in 1248 and his family held office under the Berber Hafsid dynasty that had come to power in North Africa in 1229, but his father and grandfather had retired from public life – and Ibn Khaldun’s turbulent life would suggest their decision to be wise.

As a boy, Ibn Khaldun was taught by some of the best scholars in the Maghreb, learning the Koran as well as Islamic law, grammar, rhetoric, mathematics and philosophy. Among the Muslim thinkers he studied were Avicenna, the eleventh-century author of the Book of Healing who produced hundreds of works during the peak of Islamic intellectual flourishing; Averroes, the great philosopher of medieval Cordoba, who promoted the work of Aristotle; and the Iranian Fakhruddin Razi, who first posited the multiverse hypothesis in the 12th century. Ibn Khaldun would also have read much Greek philosophy, which had been translated into Arabic in Mesopotamia by Syriac-speaking Christians fluent in both languages.

The Hafsids were the latest in a series of Arab and Berber dynasties that had come to power in North Africa as the strength of previous rulers had faded, until their energy eventually burned out in turn, a cycle that would influence Ibn Khaldun’s thinking. He saw that empires rise when their peoples have strong asabiyyah, but once established slowly begin to lose what might now be called social solidarity or social capital, and are then in turn overthrown by newcomers.

A great traveler, Ibn Khaldun was taken even further by his imagination; the historian Arnold Toynbee described the Muqaddimah (literally ‘The Introduction’ – it was supposed to be part of a larger volume, the Kitab al-Ibar, or ‘Book of Lessons’) as ‘undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place’.

Ibn Khaldun charted the story of the world from creation, which began with ‘the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals’ and onto human history. Anticipating Darwin, he wrote: ‘The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man.’

Human society, he argued, has laws like with any other science and for that reason Ibn Khaldun is widely considered the father of sociology, or as he called it ‘ilm al-’umran, ‘the science of culture’. He wrote: ‘Human society is necessary since the individual acting alone could acquire neither the necessary food nor security. Only the division of labour, in and through society, makes this possible. The state arises through the need of a restraining force to curb the natural aggression of humanity. A state is inconceivable without a society, while a society is well-nigh impossible without a state. Social phenomena seem to obey laws which, while not as absolute as those governing natural phenomena, are sufficiently constant to cause social events to follow regular and well-defined patterns and sequences.’

He also covered the sphere of economics, among his most famous quotes being that ‘it should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments.’ This formed part of his essentially cyclical view of history and society, and would inspire the Laffer Curve, as coined by the economist Arthur Laffer in the 1970s, who later credited Ibn Khaldun with the idea.

Back from the Peruvian Amazon Jungle

August 17th, 2015

Greg Ellifritz is back from the Peruvian Amazon jungle, where, as a police trainer, he noted what guns were in play:

One of the biggest misconceptions I regularly hear is the erroneous notion that people who live outside of America can’t own guns at all. I’ve visited more than 40 countries in the last ten years. The vast majority allow their citizens to own guns of some type. The restrictions are usually far greater than those in the United States, but most people in other countries CAN own guns if they jump through the correct hoops.

I spoke to a couple of Peruvian citizens who are gun owners. There is a pretty straightforward process to get a gun permit in Peru. It consists of:

  • Background checks through three different government agencies
  • A psychological test evaluating logic and basic hand eye coordination
  • A psychiatric test to ensure that the gun owner is not mentally ill
  • Passing a basic gun safety class taught by the National Police
  • Handgun permits also require a shooting test. The qualification is shot on a silhouette target at 50 feet. Five shots are fired. One hit anywhere on the silhouette (or paying the tester 20 Peruvian Soles…approximately $7 dollars) passes the test. No shooting test is required for a long gun.

According to the folks I spoke with, the entire permit process takes about two days to complete and costs around $150. That doesn’t seem bad based on our salaries, but the average Peruvian income is around $500 dollars a month. Considering that a separate permit is required for each gun owned, the $150 price is a steep cost for the average Peruvian.

The interesting thing about the Peruvian permit process is that the ownership permit also doubles as an unlimited concealed carry permit. Once you can legally own the gun, you can carry it anywhere!

The government limits the caliber of handgun that Peruvians can own. Peruvian citizens are not allowed to own any “military caliber” weapons. In handguns, .38 special/.380 acp are the largest calibers private citizens can own. The Peruvian folks I spoke to who actually know and understand guns carry high capacity .380 autos. They think that 10+ rounds of .380 acp is a better choice than a five-shot .38 revolver. The guns of choice for those in the know in Peru are the Glock 25 (.380 auto not available in the USA that is the same size of a Glock 26/27) or the Beretta Model 85 in .380 auto. Both of these guns cost more than $1000 in Peru because of high import tariffs. Even at that price, it’s rare to find those weapons in a Peruvian gun store. Most folks can’t afford the Glock, so the vast majority of gun store stock consists of Taurus revolvers.

The rural folks who hunt generally use single shot shotguns. Surprisingly, most are in 16 gauge rather than the more commonly seen 12 gauge in the USA. Hunting licenses are required, but the law often goes unenforced with regard to subsistence level hunting by locals.

10-20-30 Training

August 16th, 2015

Interval training has its strengths and weaknesses:

Many studies have shown that even a few minutes of these intervals can substantially improve health and cardiovascular fitness.

But high-intensity interval workouts have a drawback that is seldom acknowledged. Many people don’t like them and soon abandon the program.

Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and his team came up with a candidate routine and named it 10-20-30 training:

Run, ride or perhaps row on a rowing machine gently for 30 seconds, accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds, then sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds. (It should be called 30-20-10 training, obviously, but that is not as catchy.)

It worked:

After eight weeks, almost all of the runners in the 10-20-30 group were still following the program. And when they repeated their 5K runs, they had shaved an average of 38 seconds from their times. Most also had lower blood pressure and other markers of improved health.

There were no changes among the runners in the control group.

(Hat tip to Mangan.)

Why Did Europe Conquer the World?

August 16th, 2015

Why Did Europe Conquer the World? Philip T Hoffman’s new book presents a strong case that it was gunpowder technology:

Its starting point is the assertion that Europe really did conquer the world, or at least 84 per cent of it, between 1492 and 1914 — but that you probably would not have bet on that outcome had you landed on Earth in the year 900, when our continent was deeply backward in comparison with the cultural and commercial sophistication of the Muslim Middle East, southern China and Japan.

So why did those early leaders of civilisation stay at home and regress, while our ancestors sailed the seas and built empires?

It was not a matter of economic supremacy through industrialisation, which arrived only in the last of the five centuries or so that Hoffman’s study covers.

Rather, he argues, it was down to both military and economic advantage gained through “gunpowder technology” — the continuing development of firearms, artillery, ships armed with guns and fortifications that could resist bombardment — which itself derived from the fact that warfare was “the sole purpose of early modern states in western Europe”.

The core of Hoffman’s analysis is the idea that European powers were engaged in a centuries-long “tournament” — a competition that drove contestants to exert enormous effort in the hope of winning a prize. In pursuit of “financial gain, territorial expansion, defence of the faith, or the glory of victory”, Europe’s rulers fought each other for two thirds of the time between 1550 and 1700; well over 80 per cent of the annual government budgets of England and Prussia between 1688 and 1790 were spent on waging war. Small amounts of tax revenue and state borrowing were spent on other items of statehood, but by far the bulk was spent on armies and navies.

And this investment in ceaseless fighting brought constant improvements in gunpowder technology, both in productivity — measured by shots per minute per infantryman, as well as killing power — and in costs of deployment: the price of a musket in London in 1620 was as little as 10 days’ worth of an unskilled labourer’s pay. When peace and industrialisation came to Europe in the 19th century, after Waterloo, competitive empire-building became the new tournament, while advances in materiel, including railways and steam-powered ships, made possible the annexation of large areas of the globe by relatively small British and European forces.