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Thursday, December 16, 2004

# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HINDSIGHT:
Nowhere has...progress in the last decades been more staggering than with regard to the ease and speed of transportation and communications. It has been remarked that the thirteen days that it took Sir Robert Peel in 1834 to hurry from Rome to London in order to be present at a cabinet meeting were exactly identical with the travel time allowed to a Roman official for the same journey seventeen centuries earlier. The best travel speed on land and sea throughout recorded history until close to the middle of the nineteenth century was ten miles an hour, a speed rarely attained on land. In 1790, it took four days in the best season to go from Boston to New York, a distance somewhat exceeding two hundred miles. Today the same time is sufficient for circling the globe, regardless of season.
Thus wrote Hans Morgenthau in 1951 in the treatise on American foreign policy entitled In Defense of the National Interest. And so it seems that our habit of marveling at the wonders of modern technology is itself a historical artifact.

FYI, the ellipsis in the first sentence above replaced the word 'mechanical', which might have given away the dated nature of the text. In the information age, the mechanical has become the primitive, so instead we refer to 'technological' progess.

In case you're curious, there's no political point to be made here. I was simply reading Morgenthau's book today and was amazed at how much this hardened realist sounded exactly like the techno-prophets who declared the age of globalization to have begun sometime after the Berlin Wall came down.
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