October 6

Ep. 0034: The Iron Law of Oligarchy

Why do organizations, even ostensibly democratic ones, often seem to be less-than-democratic in practice?  The Iron Law of Oligarchy is the answer!

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • A little bit about German sociologist Robert Michels, who first described this law
  • The Iron Law of Oligarchy as described by Michels in his early-20th century book Political Parties
  • The Iron Law of Oligarchy in other contexts
  • Some noteworthy exceptions to the Iron Law that various scholars have found, including the International Typographical Union, the New Left student movement of the 1960s, ancient Athens, and Wikipedia

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September 29

Ep. 0033: A History of the US Dollar Part 3: From Reconstruction Through the New Deal

Here it is, another installment in our non-consecutive mini-series on the tumultuous history of the United States Dollar.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • How hard money was eventually restored after the Civil War
  • The Mint Act of 1873 (called the “Crime of ’73” by its opponents)
  • The Populists’ (unsuccessful) challenge against the Gold Standard
  • The establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and its effect on US money
  • Inflation/devaluation during the First World War
  • The actions of Benjamin Strong (Head of the NY Fed) in the 1920s to help the British pound, moves which also caused the stock & real estate bubbles of the 1920s, which burst in 1929
  • The end of the gold standard, gold confiscation, and the devaluation of the US Dollar under FDR in the 1930s, and how this was actually one of the factors that led to the Second World War

External Links

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September 25

Ep. 0032: Uncle Sam vs Democracy, Part 2: Operation PB Success

Encouraged by their success against Iran’s democratic government (covered in last episode), the Dulles Brothers’ next move was against the small central American country of Guatemala, where a left-of-center government appeared to be threatening the interests of the United Fruit Company.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • The immediate backstory on Guatemala, including the dominance of American corporations over the country, its democratic revolution in 1944 and the election of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman to the presidency in 1951
  • The Arbenz government’s Decree 900, aimed at redistributing unused land to poor peasants
  • The CIA’s Operation PB Success, a largely psychological campaign that succeeded in overthrowing Arbenz in June 1954
  • How the CIA itself, after ousting Arbenz, failed to find any real evidence that Arbenz was in league with the Soviets
  • The brutal aftermath of this coup, which caused suffering and oppression in Guatemala for decades and killed over 200,000 people
  • A brief thought experiment of how Americans might respond if they were put in an analogous situation
  • Some discussion of the concept known as “blowback”

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September 22

Ep. 0031: Uncle Sam vs. Democracy Part 1: Operation Ajax

In this episode and the next, we’re going to look at two instances in the early Cold War of American-sponsored and -instigated overthrows of democratically elected governments, and their replacement by unpopular, USA-backed dictatorships.  Of course, I’m talking about Iran and Guatemala in the early-1950s.  This episode will set the context and cover Iran.  Next time we’ll cover Guatemala and consequences of these sorts of operations.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • A quick sketch of the Dulles Brothers (John Foster & Allen) who played such key roles in these sorts of operations in the 1950s
  • A look at the historical context (ie, early Cold War)
  • A sketch of Iranian PM Mohammed Mossadegh, and why the Dulles Bros (and the corporate interests they served) wanted him overthrown
  • How the CIA overthrew Mossadegh and replaced him with Shah Reza Pahlavi
  • The aftermath of this operation and its legacy, which is still being felt today

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September 18

Ep. 0030: Lessons from the Bronze Age Collapse

Theses are just some thoughts on lessons for us Modern Day folks to be gleaned from the Bronze Age Collapse (c. 1200 – 1000 BC.)

(Knock on wood, we think Prof CJ might have finally found a method for recording decent-quality podcasts from the car without spending huge amounts of his largely nonexistent fortune.)

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • Leaders get undeserved credit during good times, but blamed during bad times.
  • Specialization & division of labor are great, until trade is disrupted.
  • There’s NEVER one single thing that causes a TEOTWAWKI collapse; it’s always a multifaceted clusterfuck
  • Declines can happen slowly, but also relatively quickly (most of the Bronze Age Collapse unfolded over less than 50 years.)
  • You have to be plugged in & paying attention, because in the Bronze Age Collapse, things seemed to be fine and normal right up till the point that the shit really hit the fan.
  • You don’t want to be in big cities during a collapse.
  • Bronze Age civilizations collapsed despite having pretty good stores of surplus food from good years; how would we fare, with little or no stores of food and other goods?
  • You don’t want to be alone/isolated during a collapse.
  • The ideal location would be a small town situated in a remote and/or rugged location
  • You can’t count on the people & institutions who steered you into the collapse, so you shouldn’t count on them to steer you out (or even to effectively manage the symptoms)
  • Dark Ages are pretty rough, but as the old dinosaur systems collapse, opportunities are created who are tough, clever, and willing to adapt; they (or perhaps their descendants) might end up freer and better off in the long run, as the society rebuilds.
  • Final food for thought:  Ponder:  Are we already IN a collapse, but a slow-mo one?  Prof CJ points out some parallel symptoms of the Bronze Age Collapse to our current situation.

September 15

Ep. 0029: The Greek Dark Age and Recovery

Greece arguably got hit the hardest and stayed down the longest of any of the major civilizations clobbered by the Bronze Age collapse that was discussed in Episode 27 and Episode 28.  It also had one of the most dramatic ‘recoveries,’ culminating in the Classical Era which produced a culture that many still today see as the real beginning of Western Civilization.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • A quick sketch of pre-catastrophe Mycenaean civilization
  • The collapse and its effects on Greece as indicated by the archaeological record, such as physical damage and even destruction of buildings and infrastructure; population decline; isolation; loss of technology and crafts; loss of literacy; and decreased cultivation of the land
  • How this chronic crisis created misery, but also, in the long run, new opportunities
  • A quick look at Greece’s emergence from the Dark Age starting circa the 700s BC, including the development of the polis and the related institutions of the independent family farm and the hoplite militia system

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September 11

Ep. 0028: The Collapse of Bronze Age Civilizations, Part 2

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • Some possible explanations for the collapse, including:  disease; seismic activity; climate change resulting in food shortages; mass migration (often violent), including the so-called “Sea Peoples,” who ravaged much of the Eastern Mediterranean before being stopped by the Egyptians; changes in weapons, armor, and tactics that might have allowed barbarians to defeat the armies of Bronze Age kings;
  • The explanation Prof CJ finds the most plausible, which he terms (in very non-academia-jargon) “The Clusterfuck-Perfect Storm” model of civilizational collapse, which more refined scholars often refer to as “general systems collapse”
  • The cascading/domino/multiplier effects that might have occurred as problems compounded and existing institutions proved unable to cope effectively with them
  • How the people & institutions in charge failed
  • How the high degree of centralization in Bronze Age kingdoms ultimately made them more fragile & less able to adapt to changing circumstances than they might have been if they’d been more decentralized
  • A brief mention of the effects of the collapse, as much as can be figured out, on the lives of regular people who lived through it
  • How the collapse may have set the stage for eventual ‘Renaissance’ in some areas, but that may have been no consolation to people who had to eke out an existence during Dark Ages which in some cases lasted a few centuries

Next time, the Dangerous History Podcast will zoom in particularly on the case of the Greeks, since they were in most ways the hardest hit by the collapse and foundered in the longest Dark Age, yet ultimately emerged to produce the Classical civilization we still marvel at today.

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September 8

Ep. 0027: The Collapse of Bronze Age Civilizations, Part 1

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire and its aftermath (discussed by me in Episodes 0004 and 0005) might be the most notorious civilization collapse, but it was by no means the first or even the worst example of that phenomenon.

Over a thousand years before Christ, an even more dramatic collapse hit multiple Bronze Age civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean over the course of a relatively short window of time, causing significant decline in some kingdoms, and genuine collapse followed by Dark Ages in others.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • A brief discussion of the survivalist/prepper concepts of SHTF and TEOTWAWKI, which obviously have some relevance to this story
  • An overview of the Late Bronze Age world in the Eastern Mediterranean, including some of the important civilizations and kingdoms
  • A sketch of the degree of trade, prosperity, interconnectedness in the late Bronze Age
  • Evidence of the widespread collapse that hit mostly between 1200 and 1150 BC, including destroyed cities, a few written records of attacks, and evidence that residents of some thriving coastal cities retreated to small villages in remote, rugged terrain, presumably for protection from something

Next time we’ll continue looking at the Bronze Age Collapse by examining some of the problems that may have caused or contributed to it.

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September 4

Ep. 0026: A History of the US Dollar Part 2

We continue with our non-consecutive mini-series on the history of the US dollar, which has changed repeatedly over the centuries.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • How, in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War Continental Dollar inflation, most of the Founding Fathers were soured on paper money, and took the opportunity of writing a new Constitution to reinstate a hard money (specie) standard
  • The loopholes that remained within the system even after hard money was written into the Constitution that allowed the banksters to still inflate to their own advantage
  • The Coinage Act of 1792 and its effect on the definition of US money
  • How banks (especially central banks) still created some inflation thanks to the ‘magic’ of “fractional reserve banking”, and also sparked business cycles – though by today’s standards the US dollar’s value was remarkably stable overall
  • How the not-so-Civil War spelled changes in American money that were just as dramatic as the changes the war wrought in so many other arenas, with the Union experiencing high inflation, and the Confederacy experiencing hyperinflation

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August 28

Ep. 0025: DHP Heroes: Lysander Spooner

For the second installment of Dangerous History Podcast Heroes, Prof CJ takes a look at the life and ideas of nineteenth century American individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (1808-1887.) Spooner had a huge influence on many prominent anti-state intellectuals and activists, including Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess (subject of the first DHP Heroes podcast back in episode #11.)

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  •  A brief overview of Spooner’s life
  • An examination of his ideas, including:  his opposition to slavery, but even more vehement opposition to the Union’s conquest and subjugation of the South in the not-so-Civil War; his belief in the inherent criminality of any coercive state; his rejection of any notion of a social contract; his rejection of the supposedly morally sanctifying effects of democracy; his economic ideas, including his belief in private property and preference for self-employment; and his vehement dislike of banksters, especially those who bankroll the state

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