The single greatest fact in modern political history

Nah, I didn’t take it as dismissive, at all. Internet discussions are just terrible for nuance anyhow. I agree that the corporate personhood/immunity problem is very real and important. Philosophically, I tend to agree with I think it was Rousseau who said things went to hell the first time someone fenced off a plot of ground and said “mine!”

Well, I think that the thing is that when the corporation breaks the law, violates regulations, etc… the reality is that no one ends up being held accountable. Meaning, no actual PERSON suffers consequences. The corporation might pay some fines, but the individuals don’t. And if the company just goes bankrupt, oh well! Indeed, a main purpose of incorporation is specifically to shield individuals from those kind of legal responsibilities.

I agree that individuals shouldn’t be punished due to the whim of the people, but I feel like corporations, and thus the people running those corporations, often get away with things that individuals would definitely go to jail for, as you describe here:

That’s exactly what I’m talking about… you’ve got companies who literally destroy peoples’ lives, and at the end of the day some money exchanges hands and the people who ultimately made the decisions that led to that result get to still be ultra-rich dudes living in luxury.

It’s important to remember empire and colonialism when considering Bismarck’s quote. In those days what people spoke where, and what that meant, had different implications. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a big deal, just probably not in the sense that he intended.

I would go with the low hanging fruit and say that the single greatest fact in modern political history is the bomb. The Cold War would never have been possible without it.

Economy has replaced arms to a pretty wide extent. Instead of marching great armies across each others borders when we want to make a point, we use trade and sanctions, but it’s not a flawless system, clearly demonstrated by the fact that we still use violence to settle our disagreements.

As long as that’s the case, I think the bomb will be the single greatest fact.

Well that’s the most convincing one I’ve seen so far.

I don’t know much about Bismarck, but I would have guessed that he was predicting that the part of the ‘civilized’ world with the greatest potential for economic growth — and thus geopolitical power — was English-speaking and effectively anglophile. It seems like a dismissal of the current value of colonialism, really.

I seem to recall that Bismarck was not a fan of the cost of establishing and maintaining colonies, but I could very well be wrong.

That’s probably right, although there’s a bit of wistful regret there. There seems to be some continuity between Bismark and Hitler’s Germany w/re to figuring out what Germany thought about the United States. The sudden size, population, scale and wealth seemed to throw Germany off, as if they hadn’t really intellectually seen beyond the borders of Europe, really, and didn’t know quite what to make of it all.

It was pretty shocking to learn that early 1930’s Hitler’s big envy was the United States. He would look at these statistics that showed how the average American farmer having 3-5x the land area of the average German farmer. He then saw how the US ran roughshod over its native population and got to be the heroes doing it. He didn’t want to be the US, but he felt the United State’s continental position was just unfair.

Like a bolt out of the blue, it dawned on him that Germany should treat its Slavic neighbors to the east like “aborigines” as the US had done to its native peoples and take their land. The origin of “Lebensraum” was, basically, America-envy.

I don’t think I’d go that far. It was obvious to anybody that the US would become this big power, but I don’t think Bismarck was able to predict the system we built in the 20th century. I think he was speaking in the context of the continental competition at the time.

Economic power at the time was also a question of violence. Who could forge the most cannon, or build the most battleships in the shortest amount of time.

I think it is a good quote, but it only goes so far. That shared culture probably helped to save British butts in WW2, which also marked the definitive end of Bismarck’s Prussia, so that seems like a pretty good call.

But you could also make the argument that the UKs ties to the US haven’t been all that. The US did not look kindly on British colonialism, and Britain hasn’t been able to dominate Europe on the back of that relationship.

I think in Bismarck’s time that was the main thing.

Considering the young US fought two wars against the British Empire it does seem probable that the language and culture ties led them to maintain, or perhaps reforge alliances that won two world wars later.

Well, by that logic, the French and English had been at each others’ throats for… centuries, and still managed to forge an alliance that saw them through* two world wars. (Asterisk for Vichy France and all that.)

It may be then, the “greatest” factor in modern history is completely filling in the map of the Earth. There is no more expansion land to grow your nation into without war, so it’s now mostly battles for culture, science and economic victory.