You’ve probably heard that Edwin Starr song “War, What is It Good For?” Well, my guest today makes the provocative argument that war is in fact good for a lot of things. His name is Benjamin Ginsberg. He’s a professor of political science at John Hopkins University and in his book, The Worth of War, he argues that while war certainly is terrible in the death and destruction it wreaks, it also gives rise to many of the political structures, technologies, and conveniences that society benefits from.
We begin our conversation discussing how war is what gave rise to many things we take for granted, including nation-states, engineering, leadership strategies, and large-scale organizing. We also discuss many of the life-saving medical advances that have been made thanks to war, including sanitation, vaccinations, trauma surgery, and prosthetics. Professor Ginsberg then makes the case that war is the ultimate test of rationality, as it unsparingly eliminates bad ideas and bad thinking. We then discuss how war has counterintuitively advanced civil liberties, like voting, in the 19th and 20th centuries.
This is a thought-provoking conversation that’s going to give you plenty of grist to consider and discuss with your friends.
- How war defines the very definition of nationhood
- The origin meaning and purpose of engineering
- War and rationality
- The irony of the medical advances that have come because of war
- How warfare has actually reduced brutality in some ways
- How society changes in periods of peacetime
- The illusion of the disconnectedness we have from war in our modern world
- Is true peace even possible?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- The claw of Archimedes
- The History of the Peloponnesian War
- 43 Books About War Every Man Should Read
- The Army PT Test, Complacency, and Readiness
- 7 Key Mindset Changes for Shifting From Passive Idleness to Active Readiness
- War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity
- Perpetual peace
- Hobbes’ Leviathan
- My interview with Mary Roach about the curious science of warfare
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