Hillary’s Emails and the Historical Record

But I also feel that a Secretary of State who deals in foreign policy should have some privacy in her work emails. Emails are not crafted like official correspondence. No one had them in Roosevelt’s day. A lot of emails are probably to a staff person saying to arrange her next flight. A lot of really serious diplomacy takes place in person or over the phone. We need to give cabinet ministers like the head of the Defense Dept, etc., some freedom of expression in the workplace without worrying that everything they ever shot off in an email is going to be archived and read. Should we start taping all their phone calls and meetings as part of an historical record? That seems absurd. Yet more real business gets done in them. Historians want all this, according to Doris Kearns Goodwin, but people should be able to serve in government without having everyone pore over their off-the-cuff comments for eternity. In the old days, when you wrote a letter, you had time to reread it and have others read it before it was mailed. Then it became part of an official record.

Middle Ages: What’s so difficult about maintaining a standing army that the Romans could but their successors in the Middle Ages couldn’t?

Standing armies are very, very expensive. You’re taking a group of fit, healthy young men – the people who normally would be the most productive part of your workforce, engaging in agriculture or industry – and getting them to stand around in barracks all day not producing anything. Not only that, you have to pay them for that privilege, and supply them with food and clothing and everything else they might need.

Modern societies can keep a standing army because with mechanisation and industrialisation, we can produce vast surpluses of goods, and thus support a significant number of non-productive people. In the modern USA only 2% of the population is engaged in agriculture, yet they manage to supply food to the other 98% of the people and even produce a large surplus for export. In mediaeval and ancient times, it was more like 90% of the population had to engage in agriculture – and the remaining 10% had to provide all their society’s blacksmiths and carpenters and weavers and boatmen, and merchants and lawyers and priests and nobles, as well as soldiers.

On Truth: Belgium Didn’t Invade Germany

Fair enough, Blackburn says, but partial truths can still be perfectly objective. He quotes Clemenceau’s riposte to skeptics who asked what future historians would say about the First World War: “They will not say that Belgium invaded Germany.”

If relativism needed a bumper-sticker slogan, it would be Nietzsche’s dictum “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Nietzsche was inclined to write as if truth were manufactured rather than discovered, a matter of manipulating others into sharing our beliefs rather than getting those beliefs to “agree with reality.”