Ch. 20 Conclusion

Market Distribution

    The world has come a long way since the modern transformation began five hundred years ago. Land tax collected from peasant farmers is no longer the primary mechanism for feeding city populations. The aristocrat-peasant command economy for food distribution was vitally important to all civilized people just a few centuries past. Now it is a faded memory. There are still some remnants of the old peasant system in South Asia, but the world has moved on. 1

    Tribal hunting and gathering, along with subsistence farming and herding, can still be found scattered across various parts of the planet, usually the least fertile and most inaccessible parts. The people involved are a very small and declining portion of the total population. 2

    Today, over ninety percent of the world’s food is produced by market farmers. They use high-yield seeds, fertilizer, pesticide, and machinery. Productivity is ten times higher than could be achieved by subsistence or peasant farmers. Without any question or doubt, markets have taken control of the world’s food supply. 3

    In the old days, women used to make clothes for the family. In rural areas, which used to include 90% of the population, people built their own homes. Today, almost everyone is wearing store-bought clothes. Most people now live in professionally constructed housing. Food, clothing, and shelter are the necessities of life. We no longer obtain them in the traditional way. We purchase them with cash or credit through a regulated market economy. 4

Cash Income

    When people depend on markets for their food, clothing, and shelter, they need a cash income. They have to have jobs and a paycheck. This is not just some of the people; it is every family, every household. It is not just some of the time; it is every day, every week. At least three billion paying jobs are required to sustain the world’s population. Every year, more new jobs are necessary. The mass production of employment opportunities does not happen all by itself. It requires both the market economy and the active support of a strong and capable government. 5

    Everybody knows about the big economic changes and the growing dominance of markets all around the world. Most people, however, do not seem to realize that this is the primary reason for all of the political and social change, which has accompanied the rise of the capitalist market economy. The entire modern transformation became necessary because of the change to market distribution of food, clothing, and shelter. There has to be a strong and capable government to regulate, promote, and protect the market economy. An active and successful government is mandatory, not optional. 6

Nation States

    Nation states were established to protect and regulate the markets. This brought up the issues of where the borders should be and who would be included as citizens. These have been much more difficult problems than might be expected. Various and sundry identity groups have often fought tooth and claw with each other to decide these issues. The most horrific of the killing grounds were the “Bloodlands” of central and eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century. 7

    Quite frankly, the market economy does not care how much bloodshed is needed to meet its requirements. Tasks like establishing a workable nation, defining its borders, and determining who will be accepted as citizens can be done either peacefully or violently. It is all the same to the modern transformation. 8

    Israelis and Palestinians have been disputing the issues of borders and citizenship for the last seventy years without solving them. In the meantime, they just keep killing each other, which causes all kinds of problems for the rest of the world. This has been common behavior throughout the modern transformation. Nation-state formation was no easier in the past than it is today. It was especially difficult for Germany, Russia, Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine, where it led directly to the Holocaust, a deliberately engineered famine, and two World Wars. 9

Form of Government

    Next, there is the issue of who should govern the new nation states. Traditional leaders usually begin the process of national development, but they can take it just so far. The entire point of the modern transformation is to replace hereditary royal dynasties, aristocrats, and tribal chieftains with modern nation-state governments that will regulate the economy for the benefit of everyone. This will eventually require democracy. 10

    At some point, the people will take control of the government. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the modern transformation, the people are mostly illiterate. They have no idea how to control the money supply and regulate the market economy, nor do they have the authority that is needed. Traditional society was ruled by the strongest. It usually takes a long time to leave that behind and institute “rule by the people.” 11

    When the modern transformation began in western Europe, change happened slowly. It took almost three hundred years just to get from the beginning of the process, about 1500, to the French Revolution in 1789. After Napoleon, the speed of change increased, but it required another century and a half, and two world wars, for western Europe to achieve fully-modern democratic-market society. 12

    The modern transformation is moving along much faster now, but it is still a difficult and violent process. There is never a time when the sky parts and the voice of God announces that a new era is at hand and the people must change to a nation-state government with elected leaders. The people have to work all of this out for themselves, usually by trial and error. 13

    Societies evolve slowly and incrementally. The primary reason why they did things the traditional way was because it worked. They cannot just change to democracy and a modern industrial economy without first laying the necessary foundations, or it will not work. Education, urbanization, industrialization, and the rule of law are prerequisites that have to be in place for fully-modern society to function successfully. 14

Oligarchic Ruling Class

    In the early stage of most modern transformations, the job of organizing business and government was taken up by a newly-forming oligarchic ruling class. This class was made up of the traditional elite families from the past and/or the new blood who managed to succeed in the emerging market economy or the new national government. These families had a combination of wealth, power, and education. They were the only people with the capital and capability to organize large-scale business activity. So they did, and they succeeded, which is no surprise because they had little or no competition. 15

    The lawyers, engineers, and administrators of the elite, educated class were the people most capable of organizing a successful national government and providing the legal and physical infrastructure needed for a growing economy. So they did that job as well. Business and government both fell into the hands of the same small group of educated families who formed the oligarchic ruling class. This was not an evil conspiracy; it was just a natural development. It was the early stage of a long process. 16

    In some countries, the oligarchs did their job of kick-starting modern development and then slowly faded into the background. In other countries, the oligarchic ruling class became entrenched and resisted giving up their monopoly of wealth and power. When this happened, a battle was likely to develop between the ruling elites and the common people. This could turn out to be a relatively moderate war of words, or it could turn really nasty, like the communist revolutions in Russia and China or the civil war in Syria. Almost every developing country over the last five hundred years has witnessed some version of this struggle between the mass of the people and the ruling elite. 17

Evolutionary Change the Easy Way

    When it is time for the oligarchic ruling class to give up their monopoly of wealth and power, it does not mean they have to become poor and powerless. At some point in the modern transformation, the oligarchs begin to see the writing on the wall. The working class and the middle class are demanding a greater share of the nation’s income and political authority. If the elite accept these demands and compromise with them, the country can progress in a reasonably peaceful fashion. 18

    In this scenario, lower-level and mid-level oligarchs join the growing middle class. Upper-level oligarchs become ordinary rich capitalists. In order for all of this to happen, someone has to run a competent government and regulate the economy well enough to have consistent growth. In western Europe, the educated elite families continued to do most of this work as ultimate power was slowly transferred to the voters. The two world wars were a major factor in the triumph of real democracy. 19

Revolutionary Change the Hard Way

    The lessons from history are clear. When the time comes, the oligarchs can begin to break up their monopoly and share power with the rest of the population, or they can go down fighting. Unfortunately, the situation is often complicated by ethnic, religious, and tribal identity issues. It would be much easier if developing countries could solve these problems one at a time, but they tend to become entangled together, as in Iraq and Syria. This is when the violence is most likely to get out of control. 20

    Sometimes, identity group conflicts or class conflicts become disruptive to the point where a dictator is required to restore order so the economy can function. Some dictators retire after doing their job. In other countries, dictators are needed for more than one generation. Some dictators actually solve problems, others do not. Sometimes, dictators become the problem and have to be forced to leave. 21

    There are a lot of variables in the modern transformation. Many requirements are accomplished either one way, or another. Many solutions are found by trial and error. Leaders who make too many errors will eventually be forced out, and their replacements will try a different path. 22


    Ultimately, the entire population—working class, middle class, and wealthy—will take control of the government. This is necessary because in fully-modern society the “will of the people” is the only source of legitimacy. This step often takes quite a long time. It usually does not happen until the ordinary people are ready to shoulder the responsibility. 23

    We do not know exactly how to define when the people are ready to govern, and when they are not. It gets complicated. Some identity groups may be more ready than others. Sometimes, the young are ready while their elders hold back. Each national population has to sort it all out for themselves. When the united body of the citizenry is ready to take power and demands to take power, there is no force that can deny them. If the people have not yet taken control of their government, it is either because they are not united, or they are not ready. 24

Misunderstanding the Modern Transformation

    In Asia, Africa, and Islands around the world, a hundred newly-formed nation states emerged from the great disintegration of empires after World War II. Along with the Latin American countries, they made up the “third world” of developing nations. Most of these countries were starting the modern transformation from a low level. 25

    In the second half of the 20th century, change was happening fast in these emerging nations, but most Western observers failed to see that real progress was being made. It all looked like a bloody mess of war, anarchy, coups, dictators, identity cleansings, repression, rebellion, and general mayhem. Actually, it was early and middle-stage modern transformation. Underneath all of the chaos, modern nation states were being forged. 26

    With all the socialism, fascism, communism, Islamism, and the multitude of warlords and dictators, many Westerners came to believe that the third world did not want to be modern capitalist democracies. Some Americans began thinking about the Biblical Apocalypse which prophesied war, anarchy, and chaos in the “End Times.” Some scholars looked for differences between Western and Eastern Civilizations to explain the obvious dichotomy between the first and the third worlds. 27

Not Understanding History

    By the second half of the 20th century, the Western countries had whitewashed or forgotten the worst of the violence in their own transition to modern society. Almost no one bothered to read the long and detailed scholarly accounts of warfare, slaughter, and chaos that accompanied the early and middle stages of the modern transformations in the Western world. 28

    Those who read history at all usually read the abridged versions written by popular historians, where they find mostly romantic stories. No one made the connection between the religious and revolutionary violence in early-modern Europe, the cleansing of the First Nations from the United States, and similar kinds of chaos in the third world during the second half of the 20th century. No one understood that it was all part of the same universal modern transformation, which included the two world wars. 29

The Victors Write the History

    After the Second World War, the Americans developed a new “world view” that was based on their wartime propaganda. The United States and the British Empire had just sent ten million men overseas to fight and defeat fascist imperial aggression. It had been a massively huge endeavor. The entire populations had participated in one way or another. Now, the war was won, and the fighting men were coming home. 30

    The American and British people wanted to celebrate their great achievement. Everything that had just happened in the war was part of the modern transformation. But no one knew about that. No historians had unraveled and explained the modern transformation. The absence of understanding allowed the mass media free reign to make up pretty much any story they chose to explain the recent war, the Holocaust, fascism, communism, dictators, and all the violence that had engulfed the world, and which seemed to be continuing on a slightly lesser scale. 31

    The story that the Americans and British came up with to explain all of these things was a simple continuation of their wartime propaganda. The war had been a titanic battle between good and evil. The "forces of evil", in the shape of totalitarian dictators like Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mussolini, Mao, Khrushchev, and others, were determined to conquer the world. The righteous powers of good, led by the United States and the British, had already won a major victory, but there were still more evil dictators out there, especially the communists, and they were still trying to conquer the world. 32

The Fight Against Communist Revolution

    Based on their wartime propaganda, Americans believed that dictators hated democracy and the free-enterprise market economy. With their charisma, oratory, state-controlled media, and gulags, the totalitarian dictators were thought to have brainwashed their populations into believing that democracy and capitalism were the source of evil. The dictators were building large armies with modern weapons. They were supposedly training their brainwashed populations to attack the "free world." Clearly, the "Great Crusade" was not over. Americans, British, and the Western alliance believed that they had no other choice but to continue the fight against the communist totalitarian foe. 33

    This post-war myth about the United States leading a world-wide battle for freedom and democracy against totalitarianism and dictatorship was never true. It was recycled World War II propaganda. The communist takeover of China in 1949 was not a victory for evil totalitarianism, as the media described it in the Western world. It was a legitimate part of the modern transformation in China. The Cold War was essentially fought against a nonexistent enemy. Communism was real enough. It was an extreme form of revolution that was used by a few countries as part of their transition from traditional society to democratic-market society. It was not an attempt by the "forces of evil" to conquer the world for "dictatorship and totalitarianism." 34

The Fight Against Islamic Revolution

    When Islamic revolution began to develop in the 1970s, Americans once again had no idea what was actually happening. All of the coups, dictators, rebellion and repression in the Islamic world were and are a normal part of the modern transformation, just like almost everywhere else. 35

    The Muslim Brotherhood had originally been founded to oppose European imperialism. This "Islamic liberation front," just like the national liberation fronts in all the other colonial states, was also part of the modern transformation. As the oligarchic ruling class coalesced in the 1970s, the Islamist movement evolved to lead popular rebellions against monarchs, dictators, crony capitalism, and the elite ruling structure. 36

    The most effective way for this peoples’ rebellion to gain support was to attack the sinful and corrupt oligarchic ruling class on the basis of traditional Islamic values and Sharia law. The Americans did not understand any of this. What they focused on was the violence. When religious extremists were assassinating the Egyptian president and blowing up car bombs designed to kill the highest number of people, Americans saw them as another variation of the "forces of evil", just like the fascist and communist dictators. 37

    The Western world naturally believed that these religious fanatics had to be opposed. They were recruiting suicide bombers, strapping them into vests or cars filled with explosives, and sending them out to kill people. On the face of it, this is clearly abhorrent behavior which must be opposed by the civilized nations of the world. What the Americans and their Western allies did not understand was the mechanics of the modern transformation. 38

    The change from traditional to modern society is a progression that often includes a large amount of violence. A lot of the killing is perpetrated by governments as in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but a lot of it is also perpetrated by the people themselves, as it was on the American frontier or during the Protestant Reformation. England, France, the United States and many other countries have had brutal civil wars where violence was committed by both organized armies and small groups of common citizens. The same kind of violence is now happening in the Islamic world. 39

    The Americans did not understand any of this. Their post-war mythology claimed that the "forces of evil" were using violence of every kind to attack capitalism and democracy around the world. When jihadists and suicide bombers appeared spouting traditional Islamic rhetoric, the Americans were appalled. It never occurred to them that these “terrorists” are actually part of the transition to modern democracy. 40

    The Americans and their Western allies believed that the Islamists were a retrograde movement who were using violence to force their societies to go backward in time. The Americans were wrong. The Islamists do not want to return to peasant agriculture and nomadic herding. They fully intend to move forward into the modern world. They just want to do it in their own way, and as usual, they are a bit confused about the details.  Everything that is happening is part of the modern transformation that will inevitably lead to democratic-market society. 41

The War Against Terrorism

    This misunderstanding between the West and the Islamist movement has turned into the "War Against Terrorism,” which has been in progress since September 11, 2001. Washington regularly insists that this war is against terrorism, not against the Muslim religion. The problem is that the “terrorism” is just part of the normal violence that is usually associated with the transition to modern society. The Islamic world cannot proceed through the modern transformation without violence any more than the thirteen American colonies could. 42

    All Western countries have their own national heroes who would have been called “terrorists” by their opponents. Today, they use the word “terrorist” to describe warlords and revolutionary leaders in the developing world. This is not a useful approach to present day problems. The American military campaign to stamp out Islamic terrorism is based on a series of accumulated misunderstandings. The United States is only creating unnecessary enemies, as it did in Vietnam. There is no possibility of victory. 43

The Fallacy of Heroes and Villains

    American commentators seem to think that establishing democracy is a pure process, untainted by violence, and it can only be accomplished by heroes who are pure of heart. This is nonsense. One reason why the American colonists wanted their own government was to enable them to push westward and seize the Indian lands, which the British had banned. Democracy is an inevitable part of the transition to modern society. It is established for practical reasons, not for idealism. All developing nations are headed in that direction. Dictators, rebellion, and violence are a normal part of the process. 44

    History writers like to tell stories about epic events and grand rulers who were either heroes or villains. "The fate of the nation is at stake. Will the local hero be able to defeat the foreign villain?" These are the same kinds of action themes that fiction writers and Hollywood like to use. 45

    It is true that grand themes and epic battles are important to history, but most of the story is actually rather ordinary. Changing the entire world from rule by kings and aristocrats to rule by politicians is certainly an extraordinary feat that included epic struggles with heroism and villainy beyond measure. There were lots of good guys and lots of bad guys, but that was not why the opposing sides were fighting each other. In real history, you never have all the good guys on one side fighting for truth and justice, while all the bad guys are on the other side fighting for totalitarian dictatorship. History books that are written with lots of heroes and villains make good stories but poor history. The violence was happening because traditional society was already disintegrating and modern society was just beginning to emerge. 46

Causality in History

    The “First Law of History” is the law of cause and effect, which states that the cause precedes the effect. The modern transformation in every country is one long chain of historical events that are all linked to each other through the relationship of cause and effect. 47

    The first cause is the change to a market economy for food distribution. This sends ripples out in all directions. The ripples generate multiple effects, many of which turn into causes for multiple new effects. The progression of ripples and social change goes on for generation after generation until the modern transformation is complete. This entire book is the story of a single chain of cause and effect that began with the rise of cities six thousand years ago and the need to feed them. 48

    Individual leaders have a role in determining the details in these long chains of linked historical events, but they are not especially important to the final outcome. Thousands of leaders, great and small, will be involved before a country completes the modern transformation. They each do their part. Whatever requirements are left unfilled by one administration will have to be completed by another. The end result will be democracy. Monarchs, aristocrats, tribal and religious leaders, warlords, dictators, and politicians all have roles to play in getting there. 49

    The final outcome, democratic-market society, is determined by the needs of the market economy. The modern transformation in total is made up of billions of tiny little steps. Individual decisions made by everyone in the population are the primary causal factors. 50

Like Water Flows Downstream

    In some respects, the modern transformation is similar to the way that water flows downstream. Human efforts can guide and channel the water as it flows, and leaders can take credit for the accomplishment. The water, however, if left to itself, will go downstream anyway. There have been many thousands of really important historical figures who have contributed to the modern transformation. It is perfectly alright for us to revere their memory and cheer their accomplishments. George Washington is a personal favorite of mine. But, the thirteen colonies would have developed into a democratic nation state even if Washington had never been born; although it would have been a longer and more difficult process. 51

    Socialism evolved in Europe with an anti-capitalist ideology. According to their rhetoric, the socialists were going to "expropriate the means of production." This only actually occurred in a handful of communist nations. In other countries, which have had many socialist governments, no such thing has happened. Most socialist governments have led their countries downstream along the path of modern transformation to capitalist democratic-market nation states, even when their rhetoric claimed the opposite. We know this because we have 20/20 hindsight for Europe, where it has happened. A century ago, we would not have known it, and if someone tried to explain it to us, we would have been doubtful. 52

    In the 21st century, the Islamists seem to be at war with the Western world in general and the United States in particular. Most Americans believe that their country's intervention in the Middle East was and is necessary because aggressive out-of-control Islamic terrorism is a danger to the entire world. They believe that the United States was innocently going about its business of policing the world, when it was savagely attacked by evil terrorists. This book has been written to try and explain how complicated the world can be. Propaganda is very simple and always the same. The "home team heroes" are the good guys; the "evil opponents" are the bad guys. History is much more complicated than that. Militant Islamists are not simply terrorists, and the Americans are not nearly so much the heroic defenders of democracy as they claim. 53

Completion of the Modern Transformation

    The world-wide modern transformation is a long way from completion, but most of the violence is concentrated in the early and middle stages of the process. The 20th century saw the peak of war and brutality. No other part of the world has used nearly as much violence as Europe. 54

    In the next two generations, most nations will have completed the hardest parts of the modern transformation: nationalism, economic development, and the rise of the middle class. In the third and final stage of the transition, the remaining tasks will primarily be concerned with consolidating democracy and spreading modern development across the more remote regions of the country. 55

    The total amount of world-wide violence has been decreasing since the end of World War II. This trend should continue. By the middle of this century, the violence associated with the modern transformation will have declined to much lower levels. By the end of the century, the entire change from traditional to fully-modern democratic-market society will be nearly complete. 56

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