Cadmus

Author Archive

Lessons from World War I

Abstract
The history of World War I is reviewed, starting with a discussion of the development of nationalist movements in Europe. It is pointed out that the global disaster started with a seemingly small operation by Austria, which escalated uncontrollably into an all-destroying conflagration. A striking feature of the war was that none of the people who started it had any idea of what it would be like. Technology had changed the character of war, but old patterns of thought remained in place. We also examine the roots of the war in industrial and colonial competition, and in an arms race. Finally, parallels with current events, and the important lessons for today’s world are discussed. Read More

The Arms Trade Treaty Opens New Possibilities at the UN

Abstract

On 2 April, 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty, which had been blocked for ten years in the consensus-bound Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was put directly before the United Nations General Assembly, and was passed by a massive majority. This historic victory opens new possibilities for progress on other seemingly intractable issues. In particular, it gives hope that a Nuclear Weapons Convention might be adopted by a direct vote on the floor of the General Assembly. The adoption of the NWC, even if achieved against the bitter opposition of the nuclear weapon states, would make it clear that the world’s peoples consider the threat of an all-destroying thermonuclear war to be completely unacceptable. Read More

Malthus

Abstract

T.R. Malthus’ “An Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798) was one of the first systematic studies of the problem of population in relation to resources. It was the first such study to stress the fact that, in general, powerful checks operate at all times to keep human populations from increasing beyond the available food supply. In a later edition, published in 1803, he buttressed this assertion with carefully collected demographic and sociological data from many societies at various periods of their histories. The debate between Malthus and his contemporaries closely parallels current discussions of optimal global population in relation to the carrying capacity of the earth’s environment. This essay will discuss not only the historical debate on the ideas of Malthus, but also its relevance to the 21st century. In particular, the essay will discuss the danger that a famine of unprecedented scale may occur during the present century, caused by prohibitively high prices of fossil fuels (on which modern agriculture depends) compounded by the effects of climate change. Read More

Federalism and Global Governance

Abstract
It is becoming increasingly clear that the concept of the absolutely sovereign nation-state is a dangerous anachronism in a world of thermonuclear weapons, instantaneous communication, and economic interdependence. Probably our best hope for the future lies in developing the United Nations into a World Federation. The strengthened United Nations should have a legislature with the power to make laws that are binding on individuals, and the ability to arrest and try individual political leaders for violations of these laws. The world federation should also have the power of taxation, and the military and legal powers necessary to guarantee the human rights of ethnic minorities within nations. Read More

Entropy and Economics

Abstract
In this essay, human society is regarded as a “superorganism”, analogous to colonies of social insects. The digestive system of the human superorganism is the global economy, which ingests both free energy and resources, and later excretes them in a degraded form. This process involves an increase in entropy. Early in the 20th century, both Frederick Soddy and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen discussed the relationship between entropy and economics. Soddy called for an index system to regulate the money supply and a reform of the fractional reserve banking system, while Georgescu-Roegen pointed to the need for Ecological Economics, a steady-state economy, and population stabilization. As we reach the end of the fossil fuel era and as industrial growth falters, massive unemployment can only be avoided by responsible governmental action. The necessary steps include shifting labor to projects needed for a sustainable economy, dividing the available work fairly among those seeking employment, and reforming the practices of the financial sector. Read More

Flaws in the Concept of Nuclear Deterrence

Abstract
The concept of nuclear deterrence is seriously flawed, and it violates the fundamental ethical principles of all major religions. Besides being morally unacceptable, nuclear weapons are also illegal according to a historic 1996 decision of the International Court of Justice, a ruling that reflects the opinion of the vast majority of the worldʼs peoples. Even a small nuclear war would be an ecological catastrophe, not only killing civilian populations indiscriminately in both belligerent and neutral countries, but also severely damaging global agriculture and making large areas of the earth permanently uninhabitable through radioactive contamination. The danger of accidental nuclear war continues to be very great today, and the danger of nuclear terrorism is increasing. In this perilous situation, it is necessary for the nuclear nations to acknowledge that the concept of deterrence has been a mistake, which is threatening the lives of all human beings as well as threatening devastation of the biosphere. Acknowledging that the policy of nuclear deterrence has been a grave error can reduce risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. Read More