Two random questions I have been pondering today:
1-Why don’t US Presidents erect monuments to display how powerful they think they are?
2-Why don’t you ever hear about women going on shooting sprees?
I have been reading the book Collapse by Jared Diamond. ( I have been working on our new house lately so books per month have been decreasing)
In the book Jared talks about how societies rise and fall. One of the commonalities that I noticed (Jared doesn’t make a note of this because there is probably nothing to it) about societies that fail is the actions of leaders to erect monuments to display their power while still in office. These monuments range from the stones of Easter Island to the churches of Norse settlers on Greenland to monuments of ancient Mayan civilizations to Egyptian pyramids to epic Roman constructions. Basically it all boils down to irresponsible allocation of resources by leaders.
When I was reading Sunday night, I had a thought. Doesn’t happened often but that day it did. Why don’t American Presidents build monuments to themselves?
There are no pyramids popping up on the plains of Plainview, Nebraska or coliseums being constructed in Columbus. Sure we have the Washington Memorial or the Lincoln Monument but the Presidents who these statues are named after didn’t build them. Someone else did as a remembrance of history. I could come up with four reasons ( not tested against data, not there would be any data to test this against)
1-The wealthiest of Americans are not in politics. Before you break out in laughter, I am well aware that almost all politicians are gaming the system and adding personal wealth due to their time in office. But we don’t see politicians who have the concentration of wealth like Bill Gates or Jerry Jones or Carl Icahn. In societies long, long ago the guy with the Jerry Jones level of wealth was likely also the ruler of the society. When Jerry builds a modern day $1bln coliseum (Cowboys Stadium) it isn’t tagged to the President but instead just the general elite of the world.
2- I might be thinking that Presidents or federal governments aren’t building monuments to themselves because I am thinking of monuments in the wrong way. When I think of monuments I instantly come up with the Constantine Arch, Eifel Tower, pyramids, or something similar. Not that all of those were erected by rulers but you get my point. I might be leading myself astray with that assumption.
Current rulers might simply be building different kinds of monuments cloaked under a veil of “infrastructure”. FDR started numerous projects under the Public Works Administration in the 1930s. Every day Americans travel on the Eisenhower Interstate System. JFK will forever be tagged as the person who cast the vision and allocated the dollars for the first landing on the moon.
3- Maybe we have just gotten better at resource allocation. I guess it is possible that American society hasn’t progressed to the point where leaders build random things with little to no use just to celebrate a victory or “greatness”. Or maybe this whole question is just me making something out of nothing.
4-Not enough time and too much democracy. Our Presidents are electable for at best two four year terms. They are also elected by an imperfect system called the electoral college. Given all the faults of the electoral college, it is still way more democratic than a family succession of Mayan rulers who spend a decade or two as the ruling body. With a decade or two of cushion a guy or gal can get a lot done, including putting up monuments. In four years, assuming a modern US President has four years since the first four years are spent trying to get re-elected, it is a lot more difficult to persuade, start and complete a self-glorifying monument.
As for why women don’t go on shooting sprees, I don’t really have a thought out explanation for that. Generally women are just more empathetic and in general “nicer” than men. Maybe when you are hard wired to give birth to a person it might be more difficult to pull the trigger and end a bunch of other people’s lives.