Book Report – Guns, Germs, and Steel

As I began reading this book, the question I wanted to focus on quickly came to mind, “Why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than in some other way?” More specifically, “Why weren’t Native Americans, Africans, and Aboriginal Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated, or exterminated Europeans and Asians?” Before reading this book, I could still give you a simple answer to this question without doing any research. The people of Europe and Asia, developed language, technology and civilization before groups such as Native Americans did. And not only were they the first to discover these things, they also got to the people of Australia and America before they too had a chance for discovery. I also knew that this answer alone wasn’t justification for why things are the way they are today, sure ‘westerners’ discovered these things first, but how actually did this happen. I learned it has much more to do with how humans developed physiologically, historically, and culturally, but even an answer such as that does not do justice, for there are so many things that led to the people we are today. The frustrating thing I learned about this book and answers to mine and Jared Diamonds questions, were that there isn’t one answer that can explain why things are the way they are. The best way I understood this book was knowing that every little choice that the first people made on this earth, where they lived, what they ate, the animals they were surrounded with, the temperature, and the thousands of other differences that seem minute led people to be who they are today. I will now attempt to give you examples of these little differences so that you can understand how people got to where they’re at today, but to best understand it you will need to read this fascinating book.

Let’s look at the people of the Americas compared to their European counter parts first. The people of the Bahamas and other southern islands, were still using primitive stone tools when the first Europeans arrived with huge ships and steel. Could something as simple as temperature explain this? Through thousands of years living the people who resided in these islands had little to worry about weather wise. They could stay outside all day, hunt, fish, gather, never did they have to go inside for long periods of time with nothing but their own mind. Now let’s look at the Europeans, 4 months out of the year, for thousands of years, these people would have to sit inside and think. What else is there do when there is little entertainment? Did the Europeans get the advantage because they had more time think and in turn, turn those thoughts into inventions? While just looking at these two groups alone, this explanation seems to make sense. Now lets go to the other side of the globe in Africa, at this time, Africans are experiencing similar temperatures have had steel and civilizations for some time now, so it now seems temperature cannot account for the differences.

If it wasn’t temperature that gave these first groups a leg up, was it rivers? In the Fertile Crescent, Europe, and in the Americas, many civilizations popped up lining the rivers. A flowing river makes irrigation much easier for farming, which is very essential in the becoming of a civilization. So then why weren’t the aboriginals of Australia building civilizations at this time, there were plenty along the river? Does this now disprove the river theory?

Another way to look at these differences is to look directly at the many biological differences in the rise of civilization. With Western culture leading the influence throughout the past 1,000 years, it should be easy to say that race played a part in the rise and demise of people. Fortunately, that is even easier to disprove, the first civilizations were nowhere near Europe and came about in today’s middle east and Africa. So now we know it wasn’t western culture that made the difference.

As I kept reading this book looking for the answer to why people are the way they are today. I kept reading theory after theory, only for the author to disprove them. It wasn’t until I started to blog about this book about half way through it, that I began to notice a pattern. Although something such as biological reasons were very easy to disprove, the geological ones, i.e. river valleys, climate, location, etc. were actually what caused us to be the way we are today. Sure there isn’t one geological factor that you can look at across the board, but that’s because I was forgetting about the diversity of every group. The reason I couldn’t apply climate to the Africans is because they are so much different than the people of the Bahamas. They have different food sources, different plants, different needs, but these many geological differences are still what led people to be who they are today. There is no one group of people who went through the same thing, but its what was around them that got them where they are now.

Overall, Guns, Germs, and Steel was a great book. Not only did I get an understanding of why I am the way I am today, but more importantly on my quest to answer these questions I learned about the history of man kind. I’ve always been a person who needs an explanation to why things are the way they are, this book went above and beyond, answering questions I’d had never even thought of. I highly suggest this book to anyone who likes history or looks to understand the world around them.

 

 

Legalization of Drugs

The legalization of drugs is a very complicated topic, but in this post I only plan to tackle the economic benefits and risks. If I were to try and convince you all on the subject there are many other benefits I would bring up, but that may take 20 pages to do so. It seems unfair to only bring up the economic benefits, because there is so much else that goes into such a thing, but for the sake of my own time and yours, I will focus on what the legalization of drugs can do for the U.S. economy.

The word ‘drugs’ comes with a lot of baggage in a country such as ours. Since Nixon declared the war on drugs in the 60s, and Regan’s second push in the 80s our leaders have done everything in their power to see that drugs, dealers and users are eradicated from our country. After years of anti-drug propaganda, thousands of arrests, the break of up of countless families, and billions of dollars spent (in 2010 alone the federal government spent $15 billion, while states spent another $25 billion) one might think that there has been progress. Unfortunately there has been absolutely no progress, and the end of the war is nowhere in sight, unless the government realizes this is a problem that will not go away. So how do you police a problem such as this? You don’t, we must accept that our societies public health problem (drug addiction) is here to stay, benefit from it economically, and fight our drug problem with education, help and understanding. To me, it is quite easy to see how we can benefit economically. Our country will be spending billions less through imprisonment and policing, the government will make billions through government taxation, and all citizens will benefited through private sector spending and economic stimulus.

The amount of money we spend on incarcerating people for drug related crimes could go to a lot better programs. According to the Hamilton Project at Brookings Institute we spent $80 billion in housing inmates. If you put that together with a 2010 statistic from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of all people in prison were locked up for a drug related crime, that would mean our country could possibly save $40 billion dollars a year. If that money went towards anything but housing prisoners, that would benefit everyone greatly.

Money saved is always a plus, but the government could also make a huge profit on the taxation of drugs. In 2013, The Organization of American States, estimated that the drug trade was worth $34 billion in that year alone. If the government were to put a 10% tax rate on the sale of drugs, that leaves them with at least a profit of $3.4 billion. We can see this in states that legalized marijuana, these states are swimming in cash.

The legalization of drugs seems to fair better for the government, but we as a society will be much better off as well. It’s no secret that the more successful businesses a city has, the better off it is. These new businesses will bring money to their owners, the businesses around them and to the many employees that they will employ. This in turn may even decrease the unemployment rate. This move will also bring in customers that the states haven’t been able to capture, through tourism. Amsterdam and Colorado are just a few places to name, where they are a destination because of their legal stance on marijuana. If all drugs are legal, you can expect people to visit for that reason alone.

If all that still does not have you convinced lets take a look at country that has done something similar. In 2001 after having some of the highest addiction and drug related diseases (STDs and HIV) in the European Union, Portugal decided that anyone caught with anything less than a 10 day supply would be treated through rehab and education and not imprisonment. Portugal has been able to take the money that would have gone towards policing and jailing drug users, and use it for the public good, in systems such as education, schooling, and rehabilitation. All the economic and societal benefit that Portugal has been able to see from this move has only come from drugs only being half way legal. The opportunities could be endless if they were to legalizing drugs all together.

The thought of making something legal that can kill you is a scary thought. I’m not advocating that everyone goes out and tries heroine when drugs are legal, I’m only saying that it’s time to start thinking about whether or not legalizing drugs will be a necessary evil. Like anything else in life, you can’t fix something if it’s already broke, time to come up with a new option.

References:

http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war-mass-incarceration_n_3034310.html

http://www.crfb.org/blogs/us-spends-80-billion-year-incarceration

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war-mass-incarceration_n_3034310.html

 

#drugs, #legalization, #portugal

Final Exam Response

 

Question 1 & 2:

The most insightful and thought provoking comment I read throughout this course came about in Topic 7: Agriculture, Food, and the State, from Alice McEwen. It was one quote specifically that caught my eye, “Secondly, when the world hunger and famine problem are discussed it is always synonymous with poverty and solely the issue of that specific nation, rather than making the nations who are exploiting them take responsibility.” It is very ironic that the U.S. spends billions each year in helping other countries, but much less money could be spent if you are to take the time to look at the root problem.

No question about it, the U.S. has exploited nations such as Africa for years now. During our imperialistic days, we ran the slave trade through their country, and although we have come a long way since then, we are still stealing from many 3rd to 2nd world countries in different ways. Sure we can say we are funneling in money through projects, factories, farming and other businesses, but that is clearly not helping Africa’s starving children.

As an American, I will always put our country first, and I will also continue to defend globalization, but after seeing this quote and going through the readings, I’ve definitely softened my stance. Although we are benefiting from our business and agriculture in Africa, that is the home of other people and we as Americans need to recognize that. I don’t know what it will take, but our government needs to take a step back and really look at what is going on. Although Donald Trump won’t be the guy to do it, we as citizens need to keep raising as much awareness as possible, so that we can change public opinion and hopefully policy.

Another reason I really appreciate Alice McEwen’s comment is because it states the issue and gets to the point. Too many times in this class I’ve seen people start their sentence with some sort of derogatory term about Americans. If you want those you disagree with to consider your opinion, starting a sentence with “Dumb greedy Americans” doesn’t help your case. Our country is too divided these days, if you want someone to understand you and possibly change their stance, you need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Well done Alice.

 

Question 3:

 

I believe the biggest issue in our economic system has to do with the fact that corporations are allowed to donate money towards politics. The base of the American Democracy is freely elected officials serving the public good. However, in todays society a large majority of  American politicians don’t serve the public good. Rather, our “freely” elected officials are beholden to outside special interests. These special interests are looking for the betterment of their specific group or socio/economic class, not the greater good for the public. How can you blame them though? Capitalism is based off of improving your current position. Given the opportunity people will try to get ahead in life, and now that Corporations can vote, that is exactly what they will do. Lawmakers today write and pass laws based on outside interests, which does not help the general public. Something must be done with the way our politicians receive funds in order to run for government positions.

If outside interest and money was not a worry of lawmakers, people who want to make a serious change on the political and economic system would be able to make an impact. There are representatives and senators who really do care about the greater good of the people, but unfortunately there are too many who are in the back pocket of special interest groups. To fix this problem, we as people need to keep voting in those who really do care about us, and keep pushing the government to take away human rights from corporations.

As someone who considers themselves as fiscally conservative,  I do agree that corporations should be taxed less than they are now. I’m not against all big business, I just know that people are greedy, and given the opportunity they will take what they can get.  The problem is though, is that the wants and needs of corporations and that of people very rarely align. What does a coal mining company and the people living in the state of Michigan have in common? The answer is nothing, nothing at all, so if our government is out to serve its people, lets cut the corporations out of the picture.

#big-business, #corporations, #government

My Book Report (Blog): Guns, Germs, and Steel

---Originally published by Zachary Dowling at ECON 260 Comp Econ Systems – Spring 2017 – Zachary Dowling

The book I’ve been reading and will be blogging about as I read it will be Guns, Germs, and Steel. The reason I’ve picked this book is to look deeper into a question asked by the author towards the beginning of the book, “Why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than … Continue reading "My Book Report (Blog): Guns, Germs, and Steel"

Hello Class,

My name is Zach Dowling. I currently attend Central Michigan University and am working towards getting my degree in Accounting. I only have two more semesters left, which is very bittersweet, so I’m trying to make the most of it while I’m still here. Once I have my degree, I hope to pass my CPA exam and practice public accounting, specifically the auditing side of things. Along with numbers, I also love the outdoors. When I can some free time, I’m usually outside fishing with my friends. I also have a passion for knowledge and learning new things, and definitely have an entrepreneurial mind set, so I’m excited for this class, especially because we get a say in what we learn.
Specifically, I would like to learn about how small businesses, such as mom and pop shops actually affect our economy. Someday I hope to own my own business so any information there would be very beneficial. A certain sector I’d like to learn more about, although, this may be out of the realm of possibility for a public school, would be the legal marijuana market in states like Colorado or California. I’ve heard all sorts of positive things, but I’m sure there is some bias to them, so how does the legal sale of marijuana actually affect the economy on a macro or micro scale? I’m also curious about the affect that the black market has on the economy. I’ve heard up to 30% of transactions occur where it is impossible to track the economic impact it has on our economy. Lastly, I hope to learn some about how the oil market works. I know it is very complicated and prices can fluculate quite easily, but it would be nice to have a better understanding.
Overall, I’m excited about the class, and am curious to see what I’ll learn.

Thanks, Zach