War Spin

I’m a fan of Donald Kagan’s four-volume study (1, 2, 3, 4) of the Peloponnesian War, which includes some important information you won’t get from Thucydides and Xenophon, as well as a relief from their anti-democratic bias. Anyone with a interest in Greek history will read it with profit.

Unfortunately, along with Kagan’s appreciation for Athens’ democratic institutions (for my own defense of which see here and here) comes a tendency to gloss over or justify Athens’ imperialist foreign policy. I haven’t read Kagan’s condensed one-volume version, but this review of it strikes me as a fair assessment of that aspect of the longer version too. Kagan is right, of course, that Sparta was not the innocent victim that Thucydides sometimes suggests. But Kagan leans too far in the other direction. (It’s no coincidence that Kagan is also one of the signatories of this neocon screed.)

One thing I think Hans Hoppe is right about is that domestically liberal societies often tend to have aggressive foreign policies simply because economic freedom makes them wealthy enough to afford such policies. (I actually said this before I read Hoppe, here for example.) Athens seems like a good example of this phenomenon.

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5 Responses to War Spin

  1. Richard Garner September 10, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    Sean Gabb has a new article on Epicurus here

  2. Administrator September 10, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    No link.

  3. Black Bloke September 10, 2007 at 10:25 pm #

    It’s probably this: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/pamphlet/epicurus.htm

  4. Administrator September 11, 2007 at 12:00 pm #

    Oh yes, now I realise I have seen that; it was forwarded to me on an odd listserv. I sent the following response:

    “Plato, after all, has had no discernable impact on the social sciences beyond providing legitimation to various cliques of demented and often murderous intellectuals.”

    No discernible impact??!? Plato’s dialogues were the first to set out the conceptual structure of human action — which, through his influence running through the Aristotelean tradition, makes Plato the great-grandfather of praxeology and Austrian economics.

    but I think it bounced.

  5. Joel Schlosberg September 13, 2007 at 9:39 pm #

    BTW, Howard Zinn makes the point about Athens’s example of combining domestic liberalism and foreign imperialism in “Just and Unjust War”: “”What the experience of Athens suggests is that a nation may be relatively liberal at home and yet totally ruthless abroad. Indeed, it may more easily enlist its population in cruelty to others by pointing to the advantages at home.”

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