It’s been a long time since I last interviewed Dan Carlin, host of the Hardcore History and Common Sense podcasts. That doesn’t mean that he’s stopped being interesting, however. In this installment, I asked his unique, historically based perspective on China, Iraq, the United States military and marijuana.
In your Hardcore History podcast Death Throes of the Republic, you say that there were “perverse incentives” in place that kept Rome in a state of warfare. Having worked in Washington D.C., I have to wonder if the same is true of here. What do you say?
I think that’s going to be a pretty accurate statement in any society where warmaking becomes a regular feature of the system. Once you develop a major societal infrastructure to support such a military establishment, you begin to build up a vast array of interests (both in supplying and providing for such an entity, but also for ways to employ it that would benefit someone). These interests have a way of bending and warping the nation-state’s priorities and interests. I think that is something that is one of the lessons the writers of Classical Antiquity try to pass on to us. The people who founded the United States read those authors and understood those lessons, and tried to heed the warnings of the Greek and Roman writers and keep those “perverse incentives” under control by limiting the growth of a large standing army and by counseling an avoidance of things like “ entangling alliances” that could drag you into someone else’s wars.