Thread: Ancient Aliens
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Old June 21 2012, 09:55 PM   #36
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Ancient Aliens

Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
Even so, let's address these speculations:
Nobody gave modern liberal democracies their knowledge and freedom. The philosophy and societal structure that enabled them (and the thinkers/scientists that built their bases) to make these advances is also the one that lead to their system of governance.
True as that is, it is NOT what lead to their economic prosperity or their military dominance. It wasn't their philosophies that made them powerful, it was their having made the right investments at the right time to prosper from them when they needed it most. The most important of those investments is cementing national unity: ANY liberal democracy is doomed to collapse if it cannot effectively suppress or at least limit the consequences of political dissent. The more volatile the situation, the less dissent is tolerated (which is the PRIMARY reason why preventing the Confederate States from leaving the Union was so important in the 19th century; had the Confederacy established the precedent for secession, NEITHER nation would have survived very long before internal schisms ripped them apart).

Political unity is key, in addition to either key investments in technology and infrastructure that promote a nation's internal stability. Liberal democracies accomplished this by giving powerful industrialists and and landowners -- who would have otherwise used their resources to launch small-scale insurrections -- to express their political dissent in a more controlled form that won't destabilize the entire nation. Oligarchies accomplish the same goal in almost the same way, the only difference is they don't pretend to give a voice to the powerless and are open about their contempt for the lower classes. And when all political and ecomomic power congeals into a small class of elites, the difference between a liberal democracy and a plutocracy is just a matter of labels.

If you give Rome modern science and technology (and the time, means and will to understand it) and economic knowledge (which it almost completely lacked) then it would not be Rome any longer - not in the least.
I think you'd be hard pressed to say the Romans lacked a basic understanding of economics. The most you can say is that they made a lot of very poor economic choices as a society, but it's virtually impossible to regulate an empire that size without SOME understanding of economics, even if some of their ideas were flawed.

As for technology, as far as Rome is concerned there isn't a whole lot that would need to be changed, other than internal combustion engines, gridded electricity and indoor plumbing. It would be difficult to sustain with their original economic model, but only because their international competition would be a lot tougher today than it was 2000 years ago (hell, it would be tougher today than it was two centuries ago).

And even so, it would not be competitive in the modern world - slave societies are not conductive to innovation on the scale of free societies
It worked reasonably well for the Nazis during their brief march to power. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish with slave labor as long as you go out of your way to keep an elite industrialist class insulated from all the hard work, and this is something that has worked extremely well even in liberal democracies (and has worked in one form or another in the United States for hundreds of years).

you need a LOT of highly trained labor - not slaves
Are you maybe under the impression that there is no such thing as a "highly trained slave"?

Notice the changes made in Japan's social structure in order to become competitive (hint - they went far beyond learning technology).
Notice the changes that WEREN'T made: they did not liberalize their government, they did not embrace a comprehensive system of civil rights or constitutional democracy. If anything they became even MORE socially conservative once their newly-formed national military began to exercise political power in its own right. They became more economically liberal, but only insofar as they generally lacked an interest in centralized economic planning.

Notice its system of governance and values today...
The result of a devastating and decisive military defeat followed by more than a decade of foreign occupation. Note also that Japan's current prosperity is primarily a benefit from its close partnership with the United States and mutual investments in technology and infrastructure; without those investments, Japan would be another one of those liberal democracies that nobody cares about because it's a borderline failed state.

You make the mistake of assuming that 'sophisticated', overpolished rituals equal advancement.
Actually, I'm doing the exact opposite of that: I'm saying that OUR overpolished rituals are no better than theirs, and that we're not a whole lot more civilized or more sophisticated culturally than the Romans were 2000 years ago. We're just alot better at patting ourselves on the back and telling us how much better we are than previous generations for [insert innovation here].

Those are not advancements, but conceits; we're perhaps one natural disaster or one military defeat away from reverting into the half-savage brutes we imagine our ancestors to be (some of us, considerably less than that).

As for the rest, proud warrior societies or elaborate court etiquette are a dime a dozen; not that hard to develop the mind-set (as history repeatedly proved), and at most of transitory benefit (in wealth, freedom of people - as opposed to a small oligarchy -, other actually objective criteria for measuring advancement).
That's kind of my point. What makes you think OUR benefits are less transitory than theirs? The Roman Empire, after all, thrived for hundreds of years before suffering a slow centuries-long decay; they still thought they were doing pretty well until the Visigoths came knocking at the gates.

The ascendancy of liberal democracies is even younger than that, and our society is ALREADY beginning to show signs of internal decay. So if the Roman Empire collapsed because its "elaborate court etiquette" wasn't enough to sustain a great society, it's unlikely that elaborate legislative process or vast nation-spanning bureaucracy is that much better off.

Truth is, as a society and as a species, we're still the same half-savage barbarians we were 2000 years ago (or 4000, come to think of it). The only reason we think we're different is because we've gotten REALLY GOOD at looking down on other societies, and more importantly, because we don't seriously believe that OUR little empire will ever fall. But if enough shit goes wrong in a short enough timespan, it's back to the cottonfields for most of us.

O, and modern liberal democracies ARE the most prosperous, the freest states in history.
Other way around: the freeest states in the world right now are liberal democracies. Not ALL of them can make this claim; Astralia, for example, is also a liberal democracy and is roughly tied with Iran in terms of GDP. You're going to have a lot of trouble backing up this claim, mind you, since the overwhelming majority of countries in the world today ARE liberal democracies, not half of which are successful or internally stable. It may perhaps hinge on your definition of "liberal," but otherwise to equate democracy with prosperity just doesn't work.

Of course, I'm not sure what metric you would use to judge "freeness" unless you're attempting to restrict that judgement to a set of fundamental rights currently enjoyed by westerners; that would be like evaluating the strength of Ghengis Khan's army by counting the number of trained riflemen.

You see, then I could just as well say - if ET would come tomorrow and give liberal democracies the secret to universal freedom and abundance, they would still be wealthier and freer.
I never claimed Rome would be wealthy or free. I said it would be prosperous and influential. Those are two VERY different things: a nation doesn't have to be prosperous OR influential for its citizens to enjoy relative economic and social security within their own communities.

More to the point, this is a thread about Ancient Aliens and the evidences for their influence in ancient human societies. It's enough to know that when the Roman Empire collapsed it left behind ruins that even their modern counterparts find relatively impressive. The roads built by the Romans to hold their empire together later became the groundwork for modern asphalt roadways used by modern governments for international commerce and transportation. To chalk up the achievements of those nations to "ancient aliens" is to imagine that the ancients couldn't have developed that technology on their own, or even if they had, wouldn't have been smart enough to build things that WE would find impressive. This is not the case: if you transplanted the entire Roman Empire from the 1st Century into the 21st, they would be smart enough and wise enough to modernize to be competitive with the new world into which they suddenly emerged. Rather than cower in fear gasping "What is that strange flying machine doing up there?!" the more likely reaction would be "How does that work and how much do you want for it?"
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