Nations Fail

Ever since Adam Smith wrote on the “Wealth of Nations” the topic concerns social scientists. The discourse around the wealth of nations has become even more fundamental these days. Beyond wealth calculated in economic terms we are convinced to add well-being of the population as well as the state of the environment into the accounting procedures like national accounts. But wait a second. Similar to the term wealth we have to widen our perspective in what is considered to be a nation. Shifting borders through wars (Russia aggression on Ukraine) or separatist tendencies of regions, (re-)unification of Germany or Korea (eventually) show that the nation is a concept in flux. Considering migrants from former colonies still as having residential rights in the colonising country shows, there is more to nations than a one size fits all nation concept.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had published the book on “Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” already in 2012. On the 3rd of October Germany celebrates its re-unification only because the Russian dominated German Democratic Republic (and the other Eastern European satellite states under Russian control) can be considered as a failed state. These Russian dominated states crushed private initiatives and build corrupt systems where party allegiance and hierarchical structures were overemphasised. Following Acemoglu and Robinson (chapter 10) the lack of diffusion of prosperity is likely to be the root cause. Even similar to the French revolution, which brought about tough measures of redistribution, the external threats to the post-revolution France demanded subscription of masses into armies to defend the young republic against aristocratic rulers in the surroundings. If monarchy in France is a failed state, the post-revolution France survives due to high identification with the republican idea. The Soviet dominated Ukraine is a failed state, but the Ukraine of today resists due to its willingness to defend its own republican ideals. To get virtuous circles of development started, inclusiveness across the board is necessary. Leave nobody behind, seems to be a shortcut summary. It is much easier said than done. Loosing younger generations in the sense that they no longer subscribe or feel part of an inclusive wealth of the nation is a highly dangerous path. Failed states have a history in failed inclusive social and economic practices. Democracies are at risks just as much as authoritarian nations. However, democracies have better institutional settings to address the lack of inclusion and in multiple ways.
When I celebrate the 3rd of October in the Federal Republic of Germany I celebrate (1) the accomplished failure of the GDR, its undemocratically elected elites, corrupt institutions and the failure of the thousands of willing collaborators of the Russia-backed regime; (2) the peaceful resistance movement, (3) the relatively short-lived humanitarian focus of the Russian leadership at the time to not send in the tanks and (4) the willingness of the FRG to support 20 million new citizens for many years to come (5) the allies of the FRG to accept the potential security threat of a strengthened Federal Republic of Germany, which might entail a shift in the balance of power in Europe.
And yet, even in 2023 we pose questions on what is the concept of failure, when authoritarian regime can still survive for sooo long and some still accomplish extensions. We keep questioning the sense of the term “nation” in modern times and across the globe. Too many wars are still fought in the name of a “nation” even if only a handful of military-supported leaders and single autocrats try to impose wars in the name of some rather vague or plainly mistaken claim of nationhood.
On the 3rd of October we celebrate that “nations can fail” opening a path into a more prosperous and inclusive society. Some nations fail, just because they were no nation in the first place. The GDR was such an artefact of international compromise as part of the overall “balance of power” and the Cold War. The result of this process gives so much hope to other divided nations (Korea) or nations under authoritarian oppressive rule.

Peace and AI

Rather than asking AI to draft a peace treaty, I used AI to generate images to illustrate my blog entry on strategic thinking and peace deals. My own bias for impressionistic images in art have guided my choice previously. The alternative suggestions from AI based on BING reveals the progressive as well as stereotypical creation of images through algorithms. Same gender in all images, even if the women only image is rather progressive, but as a matter of fact women still tend to be involved less in warfare. The racial stereotypes of AI in image creation also needs attention as the 2 POC persons are depicted in an unfavorable way, not one of strength as for the caucasian stereotype. Living with AI is a joint learning process, likely to be a long one, too. Critical assessment of output remains a human task and we need to train people how to critically and carefully analyze the flood of images in addition to photos.

Thucydides on War

Thucydides (born around -460) has received a lot of fame for his “thick description” of the Peloponnesian War. He deserves continued praise even for inspiring statisticians. The account of events without emotions, but with lots of details, is often perceived as the beginning of historiography and history as science as well as empirical political science. The entry of “Thucydides” in the Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (2005, p.805) by P.A. Furia and A. Kohen cites the derivation of a causal or explanatory effect based on his historical account as a foundation of scientific approaches based on empirical data. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon (i.e. Sparta), made war inevitable” (Thucydides, I 23). The empirical assessment of the growth of power is subject to controversial accounts. Power may derive from population, wealth, industry, weapons, munition or general military capabilities or skills. The assessment would also need to consider relative rather than absolute strength of just a one-sided approach. Here we are in the middle of the Russian war on Ukraine from 24.2.2022 onwards. Statisticians discuss, whether it is just a single variable that has the overall explanatory power for the beginning of the war and what other intervening variables might be important to take into account to avoid a selection bias. Beyond this materialist explanation we might stress the importance of the sociological concept of “collective fear” (links to approximation through trust, xenophobia) of the strength of Athens as the underlying causation of the beginning of war. The ideation of perceived strength gives rise to the construction of many intervening processes (Coleman’s macro-micro-macro linkages), which make a simple causal attribution just to material strength an illusion or risky shortcut explanation. The Thucydidean Method (p.806) exemplifies much of the dilemma and spice of social science analyses. Scholars of diplomacy challenge the empiricist perspective in arguing that the breakdown of diplomatic discourse several decades before was at the beginning of the causal chain. Here again we can make links to the preparation of war by Russia through strategic diplomacy as well as the risks taken through a break-up of diplomatic channels of communication. The perceived strength of the opponent in war might play a decisive role at the beginning and at the end of war. The charisma of leaders, democratic decision-making and political alliances with neighbouring states, Sicily at the time of the Peloponnesian War, were further intervening processes. This is perhaps not all too different from today, if we consider the role of Belarus in the aggression of Russia against the Ukraine. In fact, Thucydides seemed to be convinced that under similar circumstances human behaviour would reproduce itself. Therefore, thick description of historical facts might still inform political leaders today and tomorrow.
(Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, XV pp. 752,
Der neue Pauly, Enzyklopädie der Antike 12, pp.505 image below).


Ein Bericht über die Explosionen von 2 Blöcken des Kernkraftwerks Fukushima lassen uns Menschen ziemlich dumm aussehen. Wir glauben, alle möglichen katastrophalen Ereignisse vorhersehen zu können und werden doch wieder des besseren belehrt. In der Buchserie der Presses Universitaires de France (PUF) erschien in 2022 “Un récit de Fukushima” in dem der Direktor des Atomkraftwerkes vor der Untersuchungskommission berichtet, wie genau die verschiedenen Ereignisse Erdbeben und Tsunami mit der Verkettung von offensichtlichen menschlichen Fehlentscheidungen einhergingen. Planungsfehler, wie zu tief liegende Notstromaggregate, da rasch überflutet, sowie Kosteneinsparungen bei Vorsorge gegen als unrealistisch eingestufte Risiken (so starkes Erdbeben, Tsunami) haben die Katastrophe ermöglicht. Nach Tschernobyl haben wir nun Saporischschja fürchten gelernt. Das Atomkraftwerk Mykolajiw steht wohl als nächster Schrecken auf der Liste. Neben Planungsfehler, Kostensparen und menschlichem Versagen kommt nun die Gefahr von Nuklearkatastropen auf die Liste des Kriegsarsenals. Nicht als Bombe, wie wir bisher annahmen, sondern als nicht schützbare Infrastruktur, die kaum zu verstecken ist. Der nächste Tabubruch ist realistischer geworden. Die Kosten für Abwehrraketensysteme neben jedem Atomkraftwerk wohl etwas teuer und eventuell ineffizient. Wer befasst sich mit derartigen verbotenen Gedanken? Die Schrecken des 21.-ten Jahrhundert könnten sich als noch schlimmer gestalten als wir zu denken wagten. Atomkraft: die Geister, die ich rief, ich werd’ sie nicht mehr los.
Also eine dezentrale Energieversorgung durch Wind und Solar mit 100.000-den von kleinen Anlagen, in Gärten und auf Dächern erscheint als realisierbarer Lösungsansatz. Warum sagt das kaum eine/r? “Everyday for future” its easy. Mehr grüne Energie für Frieden = Greenpeace mal anders.