Wednesday, July 13, 2016

First Paragraph

In the long run, a society's strength depends on the way that ordinary people voluntarily behave. Ordinary people matter because there are so many of them. Voluntary behavior matters because it's hard to supervise everyone all the time. The Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the giant Siberian dams - those all show that certain brute-force accomplishments are possible under centrally controlled, involuntary systems. But societies are more likely to be successful over the years, more likely to satisfy their people's physical and spiritual needs, if they can entice rather than force people to act in useful ways. Anyone who has compared daily life in Japan or England with that in Colombia or Nigeria understands the point. Things are easier for everyone when people voluntarily obey the traffic laws, pay their taxes, wait their turn, behave more or less honestly even when there's no immediate risk of being caught. In warfare, commanders like Captain Queeg, who rule by intimidation and monitor every maneuver from the top, have sometimes won battles and even wars. But from the German blitzkrieg to Asian guerrilla struggles, the most adaptable forces, and the most effective, man for man, have been those in which soldiers and subcommanders understood the objective and could be trusted to work toward it on their own. 

- From More Like Us: Making America Great Again by James Fallows (1989)


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