Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

Recommended Photo Store
 
Buy Through Our Amazon Link or Banner to Support This Blog
 
 
 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Email *
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • What are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?

    Posted by David Foster on January 3rd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Edward Porter Alexander, who was Lee’s artillery commander at Gettysburg, became a railroad president after the war. His experiences in running a major transportation system probably had something to do with the evolution of his thoughts regarding state’s rights:

    Well that (state’s rights) was the issue of the war; & as we were defeated that right was surrendered & a limit put on state sovereignty. And the South is now entirely satisfied with that result. And the reason of it is very simple. State sovereignty was doubtless a wise political instution for the condition of this vast country in the last century. But the railroad, and the steamboat & the telegraph began to transform things early in this century & have gradually made what may almost be called a new planet of it… Our political institutions have had to change… Briefly we had the right to fight, but our fight was against what might be called a Darwinian development – or an adaptation to changed & changing conditions – so we need not greatly regret defeat.

    I think a lot of the belief in unlimited globalization is implicitly driven by an extension of Alexander’s argument, with the jet plane, the container ship, and the Internet taking the place of the railroad, steamboat, and telegraph.

    How far does this extension make sense?  If the ability of locomotives could pull trains across the United States in three days meant that full sovereignty for individual states was obsolete, does the ability of jet airplanes to carry passengers and freight anywhere in the world in less than one day similarly imply that full sovereignty for nations is obsolete?

    I suspect that most people at this site will not agree with a transportation-based argument for the elimination of national sovereignty.  So, what is valid and what is invalid about Alexander’s analysis, and what are the limits for the extension of its geographical scope?  Discuss.

     

    22 Responses to “What are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?”

    1. ErisGuy Says:

      Yup. Nothing is more surprising and dreary than discovering one’s habits aren’t accepted or legal among a people one thinks of as one’s own. Somehow, the Alexander argument applied to, say, marriage licenses and divorces (hence, “Reno Divorce,”) but not to weapons licenses. That application of the Alexander argument is limited by local conditions; i.e., “We [locals] can allow your customs here only if we approve of them,” subverts the argument.

      One might also call it the Star Wars argument: apparently in Star Wars, thousands of different species live side-by-side with their own customs and languages without incident. That no one finds this false on the face of it is interesting. (Contrast to Star Trek where all Federation worlds were to abide by Federation law, no exceptions.)

      The surest refutation of the Alexander Argument is that people cannot feel part of a group that large. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard from psychologists, who put a limit on effective group size at 150 or so.

    2. David Foster Says:

      ErisGuy….”The surest refutation of the Alexander Argument is that people cannot feel part of a group that large. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard from psychologists, who put a limit on effective group size at 150 or so.”

      But people clearly *are* able to feel a strong affinity with groups that are much larger than that, whether it is a nation-state or an infantry division or merely the fans of a particular sports team.

      The connection is stronger for the smaller groups–stronger for a squad of 10 men than for a division of 10,000–but not nonexistent when the entities become large.

    3. Grurray Says:

      Slavery was THE issue of the war. States rights was only an issue because the Confederacy wanted to use their states’ rights to impose their totalitarian system on the entire country through fugitive slave laws and the Dred Scott decision. In that sense states rights is still an issue to prevent one state or a bloc of states from taking over. I don’t care if we get transporter beams it’s still valid. Look at the past election.

    4. fred Says:

      And so when the Civil War over, Lincoln, socialist that he was, used govt money to extend railroads across the nation, bringing a unity that was needed and was added to by another GOP guy, Ike, who gave us interstate highways, also using taxpayer money…yippee for federal funding!!

    5. morgan Says:

      David, to firm up your argument, look at the US Marine Corps. There, group loyalty exists to a large extent to veteran Marines as well. Every enlisted Marine can remember the name of his drill instructors. I can even though they ran me through hell over fifty years ago. Many Marine vets remember the Corps’ birthday–November 10, 1775–and hoist a silent or not toast on that day. Another example: the term “ex-Marine’ is a derogatory term referring to those who left under less than honorable circumstances. “Former Marine” is the correct term for those who left the Corps under honorable circumstances. I also understand the French Foreign Legion also has a somewhat similar loyalty to those who survived and carried out a long term service. I can’t attest to that but I’m positive the number of long serving Legion vets is more that 150. Other examples are the loyalty of alumni to the service academies.

    6. ErisGuy Says:

      Let’s call affinity the weak version of the Alexander Argument. When Buffalo Bills fans band together to make war upon their enemies (who?) then I’ll believe that affinity is important. By most affinities with sports, schools, clubs, watch purchases, etc. one risks nothing more than mild (one hopes) condemnation when rooting for the wrong team, attending the wrong school, joining the wrong club, or buying the wrong product. (And even then riots following sports events have killed fans.)

      The first mass, cross-cultural, cross-language, cross-national appeal (to class) drowned in the blood of WW1. The similar appeal to the Aryan race (which meant more than Germans) proved far more durable than class appeal though that variety of socialism was put down violently by its opponents.

      The Alexander Argument asserts that mechanical means of communication and transportation can overcome family ties, club associations, village associations, racial associations, language associations, and class associations to name a few. It does? Where and how? Is this a Marxist argument that the mechanical means of communication and transportation are the substrate upon which an ideology of nationalism or race, class, gender or human solidarity is epiphenomena?

      The reverse of the Alexander argument: that I am hated (by others) because of my affinities is far stronger than usually given credit. That is to say: as an English-speaking American I can expect violent hatred in various parts of the globe even though I might oppose the specific policies to which violent objection is taken. Wouldn’t matter to those who hate me. So I band with fellow Americans to protect myself.

      I have been verballly and physically attacked for being from the wrong state, wrong part of the nation, and believing the wrong ideas. No appeal that, I, too, was as American as my attackers would have halted one rock, one fist, or one hateful spew.

      I have affinity with various academic institutions, but once I was labeled (by the usual Leftist hate terms), my affinity was reduced to, “yeah, I went there.” If barbarians appeared at the gates of the my dear old U, I’d cheer them on while they burned it down.

      The Alexander Argument must overcome fissiparous idealists who condemn everyone different. We’ll see. Various people here and elsewhere have suggested the USA might be near civil war over Leftist tyranny. I suppose their rhetoric was over-heated and foolish, when clearly one can still drive on highways from LA to NYC. And yet the existence of the highway and its travellers doesn’t feel like a refutation.

      * * *

      I’m curious. Were I a Moslem-American husband, flew to Medina, said three times “I divorce you,” am I divorced in America? If not, why not?

    7. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

      The argument of transport improvements did have some bearing very early in the history of the Republic. The plantation economy of the deep south traded more with England and Europe more than it did the northern states. Seaborne traffic was predominant and the distance from Savannah to Boston was not so much different than to Liverpool. Only when rail and steamboat traffic made north/south travel faster and more common did the threat to southern slavery become real. Slavery was so fundamentally different from other states rights issues as to overwhelm it.

    8. David Foster Says:

      Grurray…seems to me that the Fugitive Slave Law was *contrary* to States Rights….if states were truly sovereign, then a citizen of one state would have no right to enforce a citizen of another state to return his ‘property’.

    9. David Foster Says:

      Grurray….”The Alexander Argument asserts that mechanical means of communication and transportation can overcome family ties, club associations, village associations, racial associations, language associations, and class associations to name a few”….that is an *extension* to the Alexander Argument, which many people seem to be implicitly making, but it’s not what Alexander himself was saying, at least in this passage. His assertion dealt specifically with the United States, where there was common language, some degree of common legal process, and some significant shared history.

    10. PenGun Says:

      One world eventually. Why not skip most of the pain, and do it soon?

    11. Mrs. Davis Says:

      So, what is valid and what is invalid about Alexander’s analysis

      None is valid and all is invalid. One simply has to consider the counterfactual; suppose the Confederacy had won the war. The railroad, steamboat and telegraph would have continued their march of progress, but political institutions need not have changed as they did and would not have. I remember reading a counter factual in the Saturday Evening Post by, I think, Mackinley Cantor, that had Woodrow Wilson President of the Confederacy in an alliance with the Central Powers. There is nothing politically Darwinian about technology. It was just a rationalization by Alexander.

    12. Gringo Says:

      Gurray

      States rights was only an issue because the Confederacy wanted to use their states’ rights to impose their totalitarian system on the entire country through fugitive slave laws and the Dred Scott decision.

      David Foster

      Grurray…seems to me that the Fugitive Slave Law was *contrary* to States Rights….if states were truly sovereign, then a citizen of one state would have no right to enforce a citizen of another state to return his ‘property’.

      Not really a disagreement. The Fugitive Slave Act used federal power to usurp states’ rights of the northern states, by extending the writ of slaveholding states to northern free states. Slaveholders had no problem with using federal power to usurp the law of northern states regarding former slaves.

      This points out that “states’ rights” was a bogus claim for secession, as the position of the slaveholders was “states’ rights for me, but not for thee” when you take into consideration the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Dred Scott decision.

    13. Mike K Says:

      ” Lincoln, socialist that he was, used govt money to extend railroads across the nation,”

      No, Lincoln was a Whig and the Whigs were about transportation and commercial enterprise.

      Sherman, who was on the winning side and had a lot to do with that winning, maybe more than anyone else, said that 60,000 men was as large an army as any one general could commend.

      This is a basic rule that I think is true of all human enterprise. I don’t think the number is important but there is a limit to what one person or one corporation can usefully control.

      Eisenhower was an excellent politician, better than he is given credit for, but he was not much of a general. He had always been a staff officer, which is probably what MacArthur meant with his slur about Eisenhower being a “clerk.” Eisenhower was very good with logistics, as was Sherman. Sherman, however, was probably our greatest general.

      I think globalization has shown the incompetence of our corporate elites as they more and more adopt crony capitalism instead of innovation.

    14. newrouter Says:

      ” Lincoln, socialist that he was, used govt money to extend railroads across the nation,”

      go read this and get back to this discussion:

      Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869

      https://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Like-World-Transcontinental-1863-1869/dp/0743203178/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483504012&sr=1-1&keywords=ambrose+railroads

    15. David Foster Says:

      “I think globalization has shown the incompetence of our corporate elites as they more and more adopt crony capitalism instead of innovation.”

      It is hard to avoid some level of crony capitalism if you are in a business which is dependent on global markets. For example, if you are running Boeing, you will find that a new model of large airliner cannot be financially successful if only sold in the US. You will also find that in many countries, you cannot sell jets to the airlines unless you locate substantial production facilities, i.e. jobs, in that country. So your decisions about production logistics cannot be just a matter of what makes sense at a physical level; the decisions must also take into account what will make politicians in various countries happy.

      Pretty sure this had much to do with the supply-chain weirdness involved in the Dreamliner production:

      http://www.businessinsider.com/dreamliner-supply-chain-2011-9?op=1/#-january-2003-boeing-announced-a-revolutionary-plane-the-7e7-dreamliner-later-the-787-1

    16. David Foster Says:

      I think that transportation & communications improvements certainly had a lot to do with the coming of the Civil War. First, people became a lot more aware of what was going on in other parts of the country (when the telegraph was invented, one reporter commented that there was no *elsewhere* any more)…and economic interdependency was certainly increasing with steamboats and railroads.

      So people on the one hand had a more vivid sense that the horrors of slavery were relevant to *them* rather than merely being something in a far-off land….and also, had a strengthened perception that slave labor was a direct economic threat to free labor.

    17. Mike K Says:

      So your decisions about production logistics cannot be just a matter of what makes sense at a physical level; the decisions must also take into account what will make politicians in various countries happy.

      That was my point. Up to a certain level, companies survive on innovation and marketing skill. Eventually, they reach the corruption level where buying your way in becomes as significant as your product.

    18. mhj Says:

      Alexander was a good general and his war memoirs are valuable, but in this instance he is just another ex-Confederate who wouldn’t speak the truth–secession was about keeping and expanding slavery. But saying so would have violated the then-newly evolving narrative about a war over the honorable principle of states’ rights, rather than the reality of expanding a slave society.

    19. ColoComment Says:

      “…they reach the corruption level where buying your way in becomes as significant as your product.”

      I’m doubtful about laying it all on the company side: for every bribER, there’s a bribEE. If no one’s selling, there’s nothing to buy. In order to have corrupt corporations, you’ve got to have corrupt politicians. Can you have one without the other?

      Chicken? Egg?

    20. David Foster Says:

      MikeK, ColoComment….it’s not necessarily strong-form corruption such as bribery: a non-bribe-taking foreign government may still choose to condition the ability to sell your airplanes in that country on your locating of production facilities there.

      Also, it’s not necessarily all about company *size*. Even a modest-sized company can encounter these issues if selling internationally is critical to their success.

    21. T Says:

      When I first read this piece, I instinctively felt that the Alexander argument had merit — a first blush reaction. The more I thought about it and read through the comments above, I came to believe that it confuses commercial intercourse with sovereignty. At 5:30 above David Foster noted that:

      [Alexander’s] assertion dealt specifically with the United States, where there was common language, some degree of common legal process, and some significant shared history.

      But that does not take into account other sovereignties who also share these things. Lichtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City, Slovenia & Croatia all fall under certain common heritages but all share a distinct identity and a distinct sovereignty.

      IMO trade and commerce does not erase sovereignty as global Balkanization and the latest anti-globalization trends evince. If it seemed to in the 19th century perhaps it was because a great portion of our nation’s history had yet to be written. Still, such commerce and instant information has not diminished the domestic Balkanization of either coastal vs. the “fly-over” country or Saul Steinberg’s New Yorker cover. I offer that sovereignty is an identity as distinct as an individual’s name is; it’s personal.

    22. David Foster Says:

      Interesting and somewhat related post by Richard Fernandez:

      https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2017/01/06/snakes-and-ladders/