Do dictators and autocracies build more impressive monuments?

by on August 30, 2017 at 1:05 pm in History, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

I was having an email exchange about the possibility that dictatorships and autocracies do centralized monument-building much better than the freer democracies do.  But while this is probably true on average, some of the deviations are of interest.  Here is an excerpt from my response:

In some ways France looks like an autocracy, whereas in Singapore (not a dictatorship of course, but not a full democracy either) the government buildings are deliberately underwhelming (a kind of counter-signaling?).

Almaty and Skopje go overboard in the autocratic direction, the latter being a democracy.  Washington, D.C. does centralized monuments very well, better than anything modern China has come up with.  Cuban government buildings do not at all impress, nothing like Pyongyang.

Morocco invested in what was then the world’s largest mosque, in lieu of a government building upgrade.  Ivory Coast has done much more monument-building than the other African autocracies.

So I wonder what the deeper model looks like…

Here are a few options:

1. Insecure nation-states invest in monuments.  That is correlated with autocracy, but imperfectly.

2. Perhaps nation-states invest in monuments in lieu of concrete achievements for their citizenries.

3. Cuba has not built many monuments because its “origin story” is so strong, and its ideology for a long time has had a fair amount of support from the Cuban people.  Alternatively, Castro himself was the monument.

4. Is Singapore itself the monument to Singapore?  The same might be said of Dubai.  What artificial monuments could top those?

Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.

1 Thor August 30, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Perhaps Castro didn’t build any (large, expensive etc) monuments to his personal rule because there wasn’t enough money returning from the indentured servant doctors and nurses forced to send home remittances from abroad to get the job done?

2 Axa August 30, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Castro’s logic was that only dead people can be heroes…..thus they can’t compete for power.

Thus, some Lenin statues, Che Guevara mausoleum, Camilo Cienfuegos, another mausoleum for the dead guys who fought for him on 1959, and just because a dictator can have anything: a John Lennon statue.

3 Stuart August 30, 2017 at 10:19 pm

@Thor – Is North Korea raking in money? It doesn’t seem like dictators need a robust source of national income to build stuff they want to build at the cost of other things.

4 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Curiously, Ukrainians are tearing down Lenin statues in favour of their national poet, Taras Shevchenko:

http://www.politico.eu/article/ukrainian-cultural-revolution-odessa-as-reforms-stall/

Meanwhile, in Russia, Pushkin’s popularity has been eclipsed by the apparently more worthy figure of Joseph Stalin:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/06/26/for-russians-stalin-is-the-most-outstanding-figure-in-world-history-putin-is-next/?utm_term=.14e23bf6281a

5 tjamesjones August 30, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Ukrainian nationalism is a real thing, but odd, focusing essentially on relatively marginal difference from Russia. I saw pictures of the recent Independence Day parade in Kiev. Lots of marching soldiers and tanks and missiles, you never saw anything so Soviet.

6 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm

I think it might be different if they weren’t actually involved in a war of national survival with Russia. Those guys are headed straight for the front lines after the parade.

And if you think Ukrainian nationalism focuses on “relatively marginal difference” with Russia (language is a “marginal” difference?), what do you make of Scottish nationalism?

7 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Ukraine is a legitimate part of Russia since time immemorial. There is much less ethinical and cultural diference between Russian Orthodox Slavs and Ukrainian Orthodox Slavs than between Bronx and and the Midwest.

“A union that’s unbreakable of free republics,
Great Russia has welded forever to stand!
Long live the creation of the will of the people,”

8 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Sarcasm?

9 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 2:49 pm

No, the truth. As much ressentful Ukrainians (or Californians or Texans) may be, petty grivances are no reason to tear a country a part. Ukraine (Rus Minor or Little Russia) is a legitimate part of Russia now as it was under the Commissars and under the Czars.

10 my favorite gimmick account August 30, 2017 at 3:04 pm

the best thing about the Thiago gimmick is the pefect epistemic certainty on EVERYTHING. Thiago knows with 100% certainty absolutely everything about everything. He knows for sure what is and is not a legitimate part of Russia. He knows about relative magnitude of cultural differences between Orthodox Slaves and provincial Americans. He knows all of this without ever leaving his pedestal in “Brazil”. Astonishing!

11 msgkings August 30, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Yeah, he’s a very accomplished troll.

12 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 3:10 pm

They must have a lot of really big monuments where you come from.

13 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 3:12 pm

1 – It is sad to see that Fascists have, for lack of arguments, to rest to name calling against those who oppose their totalitarian dreams.

2 – I left my “pedestal” in Brazil many times, but I always come back because, as one of our best anthems has it,

“O beloved,

Idolized homeland,

Hail, hail!

Brazil, an intense dream, a vivid ray

Of love and hope descends to earth

If in thy comely, smiling and limpid sky

The image of the (Southern) Cross blazes.

Giant by thine own nature,

Thou art beautiful, thou art strong, a fearless colossus,

And thy future mirrors that greatness.

Adored Land

Amongst a thousand others

Art thou, Brazil,

O beloved homeland!”

3 – Regarding Slavs it is well-known that Slavs are Slavs. Ukraine is historically, culturally and legally a legitimate part of Russia.

14 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Brazil has so ething of the best monuments in the world. Here a monument to Caxias, who crushed separatist revolutions in the Empire of Brazil and the Paraguayan invader https://www.google.com.br/search?q=caxias+monumento&oq=caxias+monumento&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.3966j0j4&client=tablet-android-samsung&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#fid=0x94ce584313119687:0x521d8b3fc0d7ca56&fpstate=luuv&imagekey=!1e1!2shttp://41.media.tumblr.com/cb055c2953ce3f2d02e86c0539bcdc89/tumblr_nocwo5nqyO1rr47nao1_1280.jpg&viewerState=lb

Here a bust of famous cientist Louis Pasteur https://www.google.com.br/search?q=busto+pasteur&oq=busto+pasteur&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i65.3679j0j4&client=tablet-android-samsung&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=r0plyqriLRRMdM:

Here a monument to the martyrs of the Paraguayan War: https://pt.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monumento_aos_Heróis_de_Laguna_e_Dourados#/media/Ficheiro%3AMon_herois_laguna_dourados.jpg

Here a monument to my name sake Antônio João Ribeiro, a martyr of the Paraguayan War https://pt.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antônio_João_Ribeiro#/media/Ficheiro%3AEstatua_Antonio_Joao_Ribeiro.JPG

15 AnthonyB August 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm

I read Pale Fire a long time ago, and evidently completely forgot about the character named Thiago.

16 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 6:36 pm

There is no such a character in Pale Fire! Thiago is a Brazilian name that comes from the Portuguese Tiago, that comes from the Spanish Santiago, that comes from the Italian Iago, that comes from the Latin Iacobus, that comes from Hebrew Yakov, that means “seizing by the heel” and was the name of the Father of Israel, son of Isaac and brother of Esau, who became the father of the Edomites.

17 Dear Hanuman a messsage from Lakshmi August 30, 2017 at 10:31 pm

I couldn’t agree more that all the time is the best song of all time. It is true that Hume derided humility, humbly a part and parcel to his metamorphic will. Do I confess mistakes? All the time, but mistakes are not defeats. Do I believe one must admit defeat, however defined? I’m not sure how else one could persecute the other. And mistakes are not confessed.

18 anonymous reply to Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 10:50 pm

The actual person who is described in the Bible as Jacob was probably named by his parents YaaqobEl, meaning “God protects”. The ‘heel’ etymology is of low plausibility to anyone who understands ancient Hebrew naming conventions, I think. It as if a long time from now someone looks at an obscure politician of ancient times, say Bill Clinton, and says hey he is named Bill because he became president and signed a lot of bills. Preposterous, right? But they call it folk etymology to be nice, they should really call it ignorant etymology (folk is usually a good word, in its humble way).

19 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

And yet, the fact remains that he held his elder brother’s heel: “And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.” Maybe that is the origin of his name, maybe not. It is clearly, however, that Brazil has a unique perspective on this story because Jacob was also called Israel, and Brazil is supposed to be the new Israel that will defeat Gog and Magog.

20 A blanco obrigado #ibaperara parque August 30, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Just spit it out already. Did you have a threesome with Lucy Alves and were you unable to come to a resolution?

21 msgkings August 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm

He probably thinks that’s also a real thing, but odd, focusing on relatively marginal difference from England.

22 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 2:41 pm

The Scots at least speak the same language (although sometimes “Scottish English” sounds further from English than Ukrainian from Russian).

23 msgkings August 30, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Then even more marginal differences for the Scots.

24 tjamesjones August 31, 2017 at 5:05 am

yes that’s what he thinks

25 Peldrigal August 31, 2017 at 4:50 am

Do you remember the old expression “Tsar of all the Russias”?
That expression is not devoid of significance: there are three Russias.
Little Russia, Great Russia, White Russia. You might know them as Ukraine, Russia, and Bielorussia.

26 Thiago Ribeiro August 31, 2017 at 11:01 pm

Exactly, Ukraine is a legitimate part of Russia.

27 Anon August 30, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Why am i reminded of “Ozymandias?”

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

28 DB August 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

probably because it’s about a monument?

29 Bruce Cleaver August 30, 2017 at 1:23 pm

“Insecure nation-states invest in monuments.”

What type of nation invests in tearing down monuments?

30 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Imperalist countries fighting wars of aggreasion. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firdos_Square_statue_destruction#Meaning

31 Jeff R August 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Fair question.

32 Fazal Majid August 30, 2017 at 2:09 pm

The kind with unresolved conflicts.

33 prior_test3 August 30, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Losers Lane in Richmond poses a better question – who invests money building monuments to losers? From 21 years ago – ‘Monument Avenue is Richmond’s grandest boulevard. Wide and tree-lined, it cuts a path through the symbolic heart of Dixie and on its median stand towering statues of Confederate legends: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart.

Depending on one’s sentiments in this former capital of the Confederacy, Monument Avenue is either the “Boulevard of Heroes” or “Losers Lane.” But no new statue has gone up there in 75 years, and few would dispute the notion that to be memorialized on the avenue is to join Richmond’s most exclusive fraternity.

That is Richmond’s dilemma: How does the city honor its most famous modern-day son, the late Arthur Ashe, a black tennis star who left segregated Richmond in 1961 and became a champion for racial equality? Should his statue, now nearing completion, be placed on Monument Avenue alongside those of white Civil War leaders who fought for slavery?

After nearly a year of bickering and charged public debate, Richmond still doesn’t have the answer. Some whites, a minority, want Monument Avenue left as a Confederate preserve; other residents believe Ashe’s statue there would send a message that Richmond had moved beyond its obsession with the Civil War and had entered a new age; many think Ashe deserves a place of his own elsewhere in the city. Only on one point does every agree: Ashe was an extraordinary human being who should be memorialized somewhere in Richmond.’ http://articles.latimes.com/1996-03-11/news/ls-45540_1_monument-avenue

Oddly, though Ashe is the only actual winner on Losers Lane. Yet his statue is less, let us say, grandiose than that of the actual losers.

34 Potato August 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm

To play devils advocate re: monuments for losers,

Scotland and Ireland should tear down their monuments until Scotland is independent and Ireland reunified?

Vietnam and Korean War memorials should be destroyed. Just losers anyways, amirite?

Japan should burn down yasakuni shrine?

Mexico should certainly get rid of their memorial to the cadets in Mexico City. I mean, they lost. Also we should destroy whatever we have at the Alamo. And wake island. And Bataan. Losers gonna lose. No point in honoring weak willed surrenderers.

Most of all, however, we should destroy all remnants of memorials for native Americans. They lost, why honor losers?

Probably the most trumpian post from prior.

We honor our dead whether they won or lost, as long as they fought honorably. Confederates should not be memorialized since they are traitors. William Calley should not be buried in Arlington. Lee should not be cast in bronze. Whatever their bravery, they are Benedict Arnold not Audie Murphy. Bravery does not count when you take up arms against your own nation unless a very high threshold is met for “just war”. Slavery obviously does not count.

The end.

Ps: FFS change the name of fort hood, fort Bragg, etc. Black infantrymen serve in posts named after confederate generals. I don’t really care about the statues, but there are actual heroes of the US Army that could be memorialized in these base names.

35 chuck martel August 30, 2017 at 6:58 pm

“Confederates should not be memorialized since they are traitors.”

Since their allegiance was to their states they could hardly have been traitors. In fact, the real traitors in US history were the “Founding Fathers’ and their underlings, who were British citizens.

36 Alistair August 31, 2017 at 5:38 am

It would be nice to recognise that men of conviction can fight well in a bad cause, without necessarily sharing all it’s motives.

I suppose Erwin Rommel would be useful analogy.

37 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:28 pm

In fact, that’s the first step toward having a non-cartoon-quality view of the world. There are often extremely impressive, admirable people fighting bravely and well for an evil cause. (The US civil war furnishes plenty of examples; so does WW2, where three of the major combatants were genuinely awful, and even the good guys were often pretty unpleasant.)

Civil wars are *all about* conflicting loyalties, with all possible choices involving betraying someone. Lee could either betray his state or his country, and he had to choose, as did many other people. Any choice he made was going to be a betrayal. We look at it now and say he should have been loyal to his country rather than his state or region, but I imagine it looked very different to him and to the people whose opinion he most valued. (And if the South had somehow won, probably everyone would think he’d chosen correctly, just like we now think George Washington chose the right side, despite rebelling against his king.)

38 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 6:41 pm

“Japan should burn down yasakuni shrine?”
Yes.

“Vietnam and Korean War memorials should be destroyed. Just losers anyways, amirite?”
The Korean War was a draw. And as famous American writer Isaac Asimov once wrote, “In a good cause, there are no failures.” Victory eventually will come.
Vietnam was a defeat and a crime. Under the correct leadership of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people defeated the savage Chinese and is building a newmsociety, prosperous and free.

39 Alistair August 31, 2017 at 5:40 am

Korea is arguably a US/RoK win, judged by their achievement of their initial war aims and NK’s failure in theirs.

40 Thiago Ribeiro August 31, 2017 at 11:58 am

I would say so, but Americans got greedy and tried to conquer North Korea and failed.

41 Thomas August 30, 2017 at 2:17 pm

what is the purpose of government monuments… in the minds of those who erect them ?

42 Oleg August 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm

If we’re talking about countries that have a statute of Lenin every 50 ft, I would say “righteous countries.” And given the hard work it is tearing them all down, “motivated” as well.

43 OneGuy August 30, 2017 at 8:29 pm

If you can drum up a riot to demand that confederate monuments are torn down then why not any monuments? Those whose frenzy is this hate of historical monuments should carefully consider their angst when THEIR politics/monuments fall into disfavor or under the rule of rioters.

My question is do we tear down the Union monuments too?

44 EverExtruder August 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I think that the cult of personality factor is also missing from this equation. “Strongmen” in nation-states or otherwise have an outsized capacity to affect monumental projects public (The National Mall – D.C.) or private (Kim Il-Sung’s God statue in Pyongyang).

Roman and Greek architecture, of which Paris’s interpretation is modeled, is similarly constructed to edify strong leadership in both the public (the people are strong) and private realm (I am strong. Look at my statue/or look what I built for us). You could say Castro didn’t need monumental architecture because he was a monument unto himself (his oratory and charisma alone could be considered part of his success in coordination with the unfathomable corruption of the Batista regime).

The ultimate monuments still extant, the Pyramids, were definitely constructed with this in mind. Cult of personality as glorification of the only religiously designated entity (Pharoah) that can truly achieve immortality, hence the location of lesser noble tombs in proximity.

45 Bill August 30, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Who needs a monument

When

You can have

Your own

Facebook page and Twitter account.

46 Thor August 30, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Pfffst. You overlooked blog.

47 Bill August 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Making statutes of leaders are very costly and all look alike.

They are subject to being torn down in a regime change and are the sites of protest movements and demonstrations.

My modest proposal is that all monuments to leaders come with removable heads,

48 prior_test3 August 30, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Theocracies trump everyone else.

49 John Thacker August 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Perhaps some polities are interested in monuments, and others are not, a factor that is independent of the others listed, even if there is also an effect from form of governance.

Even with the exceptions you listed, larger countries do seem to do more monuments than smaller ones, understandably since they can spread the costs around.

50 dearieme August 30, 2017 at 2:08 pm

“Insecure nation-states invest in monuments.”

“Perhaps nation-states invest in monuments in lieu of ….”

I object to the abuse of the harmless verb ‘invest’.

51 Pensans August 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Maybe, those opposed to Confederate statues should consider that they are signs of weakness rather than strength.

Those in favor already understand the weakness of their position.

52 JWatts August 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm

“Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.”

There’s a rather large monument to Lincoln in the Capitol.

53 JWatts August 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

“3. Cuba has not built many monuments because …”

Fidel Castro didn’t like monuments to himself and he was the dictator for decades.

“There are no statues of Fidel Castro in Cuba. No school, street, government building or city bears his name. And while his likeness stares back from billboards and official portraits, it is absent from pesos and postage stamps.
As the island’s unchallenged leader for nearly a half-century before falling ill in 2006, Castro forbade monuments in his honour mere weeks after his rebels toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year’s Day 1959. He then spent decades railing against the idolatry encouraged by other communist leaders, such as Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin or North Korea’s Kim family.
“There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary,” Castro said in 2003. “The leaders of this country are human beings, not gods.””

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/fidel-castro-shunned-statues-monuments-but-still-became-icon-1.3179038

54 Steve Sailer August 30, 2017 at 5:32 pm

One reason for Castro not going nuts with monuments to himself was that Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic who was assassinated in 1961, went megalomaniacal and named a couple of thousand places in the DR after himself. So self-glorification was unfashionable in the Caribbean when Castro came to power due to the absurdity of the lengths to which Trujillo went.

In contrast, David Geffen, a childless gay billionaire in the entertainment industry, is attempting to see that his memory stays alive after his eventual death by donating enormous sums for naming rights to prestigious institutions. Such as, my doctor at UCLA teaches at the Geffen School of Medicine. This seems a tasteful way to carry out this urge.

55 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 6:53 pm

“John D. Rockefeller Wonderful man is he. Gives all his spare change To the U. of C.”

56 Coo August 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Maybe democracies don’t build monuments because they don’t want to upstage their older monuments from their autocratic eras?

“Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.”

They lost the war after all, and I’m pretty sure they’re aware of that.

57 Slugger August 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm

The best monument in the USA is the Vietnam War Wall in D.C. People become hushed and their eyes fill with tears. I do wonder whether it will mean anything to the people of the 22nd century. Maybe monuments speak to a specific time and place.
I don’t know the immediate impact of the Lincoln memorial, but the great speech like Martin Luther King still echoes there. I get goosebumps when I approach it and have noted many foreign tourists commenting on the Lincoln-King synergy. Maybe monuments can be recharged from time to time.

58 Hazel Meade August 30, 2017 at 2:59 pm

I prefer the statue of liberty. One of the few monuments than represents an abstract idea. The Vietnam war memorial is good too. But the whole great-man thing is terrible. If we’re going to build statues of specific people, they should be lesser known individuals who made some great scientific or artistic contribution, rather than politicians.

59 Tanturn August 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm

What if John Galt was a real person and he founded a libertardian state?

60 Potato August 30, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Don’t know how recently you’ve been to the memorial. What I’ve seen is tourists taking photos with funny faces and the ubiquitous hand peace signs in front of the wall.

No hushed or watery eyes. No context whatsoever. No one explaining what it is.

It does not inspire reverence or awe. It’s a buzzfeed listicle in granite. Reduces thousands of men who lived and fought into names on a grocery list or numbers on an accountant’s ledger.

61 Slugger August 30, 2017 at 7:46 pm

It has been 25 years since I saw that monument. It was too moving for me to go back to it. Obviously, my estimate that it would become insignificant in a hundred years may have been wrong. It meant something to my generation. A photo of a young couple from 1955 might be moving to some, irrelevant to some, and comical to others; the meaning and emotional weight of artifacts is more evanescent than the physical object.

62 Millian August 30, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Democracies don’t tend to spend / waste money on monuments, though cities like Paris may enjoy legacies from times before modern democracy. Most of these great monuments were built intentionally to be signals of greatness. I’m thinking of Paris, Berlin and Washington.

63 msgkings August 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Ah yes, the location of Benjy’s Boys triumph in 1891

64 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 4:01 pm

It is a lie. In 1891 we crushed th Navy Rebellion and defeatrd the perfidious British.

65 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Stop impersonating me! It is sad hiw Brazilians are treated here.

66 The Other Jim August 30, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Good point. If you’re from Uruguay, you get free drinks. Brazilians? Forget it.

67 Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm

There is no Uruguay! Uruguay is a river! You probably mean the rebel Cisplatine of the former Empire of Brazil!

68 chuck martel August 30, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Actually monumental sculpture in the US is overwhelmingly devoted to government figures: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2013/03/deification-of-politicians.html

69 rayward August 30, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Are churches/cathedrals/temples monuments? Lakewood Church in Houston, which holds almost 17,000 and was originally a basketball arena, looks like a monument, a monument to its pastor, Joel O’Steen, the minister of prosperity. What about the Sistine Chapel. It is relatively small (134′ x 44′), but that’s because it replicates the Temple of Solomon (the First Temple). Is it a monument to the Jewish God, the Gentile Messiah, the Papacy, or the Apocalypse, or all of them (to cover all the bases)? Most Catholic and Episcopal Churches are named for, monuments to, Saints, St Paul, St. John, St. Peter, and St. James being very popular. It won’t surprise readers that with a few exceptions the worshippers in those monuments are ignorant of the Saints for whom the monuments are named. I’ve mentioned this before, but my small southern town illuminated the confederate monument in the town square with lights purchased from the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The town fathers were embarrassed upon learning that the lights designated the location of toilets at the World’s Fair. I suppose one could say that this revelation shed light on the confederate monument.

70 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:39 pm

How does a monument help a leader or movement keep power? I can think of a few possibilities:

a. They can bolster other propaganda efforts (what’s taught in the schools, what’s put in PSAs and posters, what State Radio or CNN/Fox tells everyone to think, etc.) Monuments and street names and parks and such are ways of maintaining a kind of shared set of founding myths or image or whatever. (I’m pretty sure the confederate monuments, mostly built long after the Civl War was over, are an example of this.)

b. They can allow the leader to make a symbolic gesture toward some group, which maybe makes that group feel better. This is a way of signaling support for that group or idea at fairly low cost in terms of policy. Think of how we’ve made Martin Luther King a kind of secular saint in the last 40 years or so, naming streets and a holiday after him. That’s a cheap way to signal support of civil rights.

c. They can provide a kind of rallying point for your movement, for rallies and such. (Or maybe that’s a variant of (a).)

What else?

71 derek August 30, 2017 at 2:58 pm

So all the monuments of England were a sign of weakness?

How about this: People looking for a simple explanation of something that isn’t simple are a sign of a mind incapable of dealing with complexity trying to put things into a tidy little slot.

The US has a quarter century of history. Lots to admire, lots to wince in horror at. As a nation it is open about its wounds and it’s victories. The tensions between North and South are part of it’s history and current reality. I’ve read ugly comments about Texas this week and equally ugly words back.

I profoundly distrust anyone who would try to sanitize with force any of that story. Especially out of academia who seem to be having trouble right now dealing with their own perversions.

So my question is this: those trying to destroy monuments are doing it to cover what evil they themselves are perpetrating? What failures and dysfunction are they trying to distract attention from by a sanctimonious display of purity?

Are these monuments a handy target to direct an angry and out of control mob towards out of fear?

72 msgkings August 30, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I know it’s a typo but I got a chuckle at the thought of American history beginning with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.

73 Alistair August 31, 2017 at 6:29 am

Modern historians are still divided on the period Before Clinton, or BC. In the surviving articles of the WaPo and excavation of the “tomb of Quayle” we have evidence of a integrated political culture, and the ruins of Republican governorships as far west as California (disputed).

The legendary “King Reagan” is clearly a confabulation of several creation myths but we know Bush The Elder was real. However he only reigned for a short time and in a period marked by disorder. Some historians think this could have been due to pestilence (AIDS appears to have been more virulent and was transmissible by knowing a gay person) or war with “The Roosekeys”, but most think the Cold War ended due to global warming leading to northward migration of powerful tribes from the south . This allowed the Arkansas/Whitewater civilisation to colonise the Potomac valley and the ancestors of Clinton to interbreed with just about anything that moved to create the hardy modern democrat stock.

74 msgkings August 31, 2017 at 11:14 am

Well done sir! {golf clap}

75 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:41 pm

+1

76 Viking August 30, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Quarter century, quarter millenium, quarter schmilennium!

Reminds me about the fat wife, who asked her husband to kindly, if he needed to share her weight in public, say 250 ponds rather than an eight of a short ton!

77 Urso August 30, 2017 at 3:04 pm

This last point seems blindingly obvious, yet it is presented here as some nugget of deep wisdom. There is a reason they call it “The Lost Cause.”

78 Urso August 30, 2017 at 3:09 pm

By the way, the phrase “The Lost Cause” dates from a book published in 1866 so it’s not like the South had a long period of denial here.

79 Tanturn August 30, 2017 at 6:21 pm

+1

80 Albert August 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Singapore might also underinvest in monuments simply due to space. They can’t waste space on stuff that isn’t absolutely necessary.

81 Ricardo August 30, 2017 at 11:32 pm

Singapore has a fair number of public parks and has also started engaging in significant land reclamation to build more attractions for tourists. I suspect the reason why Singapore doesn’t have any monuments is that it is too young of a country and Lee Kwan Yu wasn’t interested in building monuments to himself. He wanted his house to be demolished after his death and there seems to be a debate over whether to carry that wish out.

82 Virginia Postrel August 30, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Cuba also has that super-glamorous Che photo (carefully cropped btw) and its countless graphic versions.

83 The Other Jim August 30, 2017 at 6:01 pm

If Che had gotten a crew-cut, no one would ever have heard of him.

84 Paul August 30, 2017 at 3:39 pm

There can be no loser bigger than Hitler, and his grand plans for Berlin, with Albert Speer.
So in his case you had a totalitarian state to the point of human breeding, and …”bigness”. The Nazis even had a thing for biggest tank, biggest artillery gun, Zeppelin……

On the other end, what of Pol Pot, or the Islam of the Saudis, and the pulling down of the World Trade towers…..

85 Paul August 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Lee Kuan Yew even asked for his home to be demolished after his death. Which suggests that Singapore was to be the monument.
Although there is some issue about that right now because of a dispute about his will.

Alternatively Changi airport serves as a monument.

86 Paul August 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm

In his memoir Lee said he deliberately did not remove the Stamford Raffles statue, because so many tin pot failed state newly independent countries had demolished colonial statues that it would send exactly the wrong signal to investors.

Tearing down statues is a good substitute for doing something that’s actually productive but hard.

87 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:51 pm

+1

When we talk about monuments, naming parks and streets and public buildings, holidays, who goes on the currency and the stamps, etc., it’s *100%* about symbolism. The net effect on the budget (assuming you’re not building the pyramids with Ancient Egypt’s economy and technology) is negligible, so it’s all about what message you’re trying to send out. I suspect a lot of the time, we end up with controversies about the symbolic stuff because that’s what we can easily do something about.

I mean, maybe we’d really like to fix the black/white school achievement gap, or get men and women to have the same kind of participation in various careers. But nobody knows how to do those things without spending a lot of money or wrecking important stuff, so instead we take symbolic actions (tearing down monuments, renaming holidays, firing people for saying the wrong stuff in public, making loud public declarations of our values) that show how very much we care about these issues.

88 Dan August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

A few more options:

5. Autocrats have longer time horizons and big monuments take several years to build. Autocrats are thinking about staying in power for decades, while political leaders in democracies aren’t looking past the next election.

6. The decision to build a monument is vulnerable to criticism which is much more present in democracies. Critics will say: this is style over substance, the President is a megalomaniac (the One, etc.). Autocracies suppress kind of criticism. Or: this kind of criticism is less effective in an autocracy – “style over substance” has more bite when becoming President is a popularity contest; “megalomaniac” is particularly a problem under the more egalitarian ideals of a democracy.

7. Bureaucracy stifles monument-building. Monument-building requires vision. The stable parts of democracies are standardization-promoting bureaucracy.

89 Jeff R August 30, 2017 at 8:49 pm

+1

90 I'm shipping Art Deco x Thiago Ribeiro August 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm

but which one is top? this is a really important detail. I think it should be Art but that seems too obvious.

91 Steve Sailer August 30, 2017 at 5:23 pm

“Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.”

Obviously. Losers consoling themselves with memories of their bravery in defeat.

92 Steve Sailer August 30, 2017 at 5:26 pm

A historian in Philadelphia once told me that he thought imperial capitals were done best by authoritarian (but not too autocratic) monarchs of Catholic countries, like Napoleon III and various Austrian emperors. He said Philadelphia’s regalia (e.g., the amazing city hall with its giant William Penn statue) wasn’t bad for a Protestant republic.

93 zztop August 30, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Can extend the discussion to corporations, and the common practice of large, mature corporations (no longer gaining markets and attaining product/service differentiation) building large, “beautiful” headquarters.

On another note, it’d be great to have a Trump statue featuring his hands, depicted with exaggerated size, palms up. On the base would be the inscription, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

94 Doug August 30, 2017 at 5:42 pm

This debate’s going to quickly devolve into semantics about what constitutes a monument. Does Angkor Wat count? Do mosques count? The Eiffel Tower? Tenochtitlan? Hungary’s Parliament? One World Trade Center?

95 Sometimes Better to Use Another Username August 30, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Traveling through the U.S. I frequently see statues of Jesus Christ and I wonder what is the significance. When does an object transition from a statue to a monument? Why do people build these private monuments? Or for that matter why do Hindu households have little statues?

In the end, statues and monuments are about creating idols. They say less about the builder and more about people who need physical objects toward which they can focus their gaze and eventually go to war.

96 Potato August 30, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Never seen a Jesus statue outside of a Catholic Church. Literally never. Jesus statues are almost entirely restricted to Catholicism, so I don’t know what f’ing states you were in. Latinos are big into the Jesus statues. Don’t know what that has to do with going to war? When’s the last time a catholic contingent in the US pushed for war? WWII intervention on China’s behalf? Catholics pushed that one hard, since Japan wasn’t cool with missionaries. Vietnam?

97 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Surely Thiago should respond to this one….

98 Sigivald August 30, 2017 at 5:53 pm

If Dubai has a monument, it’s the Burj.

Which is impressive … and a perfectly functional super-skyscraper.

99 The Other Jim August 30, 2017 at 6:00 pm

>Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.

Wow! Aren’t you the bubble-dwelling douche.

Perhaps you ought to consider the possibility that they were not constructed to show off “strength”? Maybe just a little?

100 Potato August 30, 2017 at 6:47 pm

The strength of obesity, grade 10 level education, and meth/alcoholism.

Or maybe the strength of domestic abuse, poverty, and Christian fundamentalism. Or BBQ? That’s probably your best bet. A marble rack of ribs and hypertension medication.

101 zztop August 30, 2017 at 9:32 pm

cf., Randy Newman’s song, “Rednecks.”

102 zztop August 30, 2017 at 9:35 pm

BBQ’s and alligator shoes. At least they got that goin’ for em’.

103 TMC August 30, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Nancy Pelosi’s father, Mayor of Baltimore at the ordination of the statues:
https://www.newsmax.com/JohnGizzi/nancy-pelosi-confederate-statues-racism/2017/08/23/id/809429/

In a powerful oration before a crowd of more than 3,000, Mayor D’Alesandro made the case for remembering and studying the lives of Lee and Jackson: “World Wars I and II found the North and South fighting for a common cause, and the generalship displayed by these two great men in the War Between the States lived on and were applied in the military plans of our nation and the Pacific areas.”

Referring to contemporaneous efforts by Communists to undermine the U.S. from within, D’Alesandro said “Today, with our nation beset by subversive groups and propaganda which seeks to destroy our national unity, we can look for inspiration to the lives of Lee and Jackson to remind us to be resolute and determined in preserving our sacred institutions.”

He seems a lot smarter than his daughter.

104 AJ August 30, 2017 at 6:29 pm

When TC looks at the statue of George Mason, do you think he sees insecurity, weakness, or a monument in lieu of concrete achievements?

105 Potato August 30, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Middle aged white men have privilege. No one cares if they die.

Good riddance, whitey.

We’re trying to talk about statues and slavery and oppression. Not fat old white cis male problems. If they’re trans then post the link and we can talk.

106 Taeyoung August 30, 2017 at 6:47 pm

“Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.”

Well . . . aren’t they obviously? It was touch and go at the start, but ultimately, we crushed the Rebellion, burned their cities, heard the lamentations of their women. It’s like monuments to American Indians who contested our dominion, like Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse: we can celebrate their doomed valour today because the Native American tribes have been utterly and completely defeated and in many cases reduced to abject poverty. If they hadn’t been defeated — if Native American groups were still engaging in raids and armed insurrections, would we be celebrating them with such magnanimity? Sure there would be some voices in favour of celebrating them, but for the most part, no! They’d still be scary! We’re magnanimous to our defeated enemies, not enemies who are still actively trying to kill us.

Anyhow. Today’s bizarre drive to eliminate Confederate monuments seems to be motivated, in large part, by an hysterical fear that, I guess, the Confederacy is secretly alive and well and remains a threat to the Republic? Seems like utter rubbish, but one must make allowances for native sensibilities. None of my ancestors fought on either side, since we didn’t arrive in the US until the 20th century.

107 Earl Warren August 30, 2017 at 7:52 pm

“4. Is the Warren Court Right-Revolution itself the monument to the United States? What artificial monuments could top human rights?”

Interesting question

108 A B August 30, 2017 at 9:25 pm

From a Library Journal Review of Hitler and the Power of Aethestics, by Frederich Spotts:
“Unlike biographies of Adolf Hitler that focus on the ideological and humanitarian disaster wrought by his intense anti-Semitism, Spotts’s book posits that the 13-year nightmare of the Third Reich was just as much a result of Hitler’s artistic nature. Though other authors have touched on certain aspects of Hitler’s artistic side-the dictator’s obsession with monumental architecture or his grandiosity and love of Wagnerian opera-Spotts (Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival) has leapt with both feet into a full exploration of Der F hrer as artist. Spotts argues that Hitler’s aesthetic nature compelled him to destroy society only to re-create it according to the image in his artist’s eye and that the crusade against the Jews (and, indeed, all “degenerate” influences) was the result of what Hitler viewed as the destruction of German culture by the practitioners of what he referred to as “modernism.””

109 Judah Benjamin Hur August 30, 2017 at 9:26 pm

I apparently got a post deleted by the libertarian censors despite being truthful, non-obscene, and somewhat relevant. Has that happened to anybody else here? You have 20-30 minutes to answer 😀

110 broken promises and googled censorship August 30, 2017 at 9:40 pm

We’ve all had posts deleted and cakes not baked. Just remember that the logo is greener on the other side of the marginal revolution.

111 Judah Benjamin Hur August 30, 2017 at 9:39 pm

“Advocates of Confederate monuments, by the way, ought to ponder the possibility that those very structures are a sign of weakness not strength.”

Tearing down the statues is primarily about humiliating Southern whites. Can we at least be honest? Just like the whole transgender rights movement is 99% about pouring salt into the wounds of social conservatives, showing them just how badly they lost the culture war (despite consistently having the votes). These kinds of power displays tend to provoke even more idiotic backlashes.

112 prior_test3 August 31, 2017 at 12:17 am

‘Tearing down the statues is primarily about humiliating Southern whites.’

Jeffferson Davix is a man worth all the scorn and humiliation that can be heaped on him. And considering that the statues were built, in the main, to help put African-Americans in their place during the Jim Crow era, it seems like those who have a problem with them being torn down have to make a real effort to provide a reason that makes anyone care about the humiliation of those, in many cases, who still fervently believe that African-American citizens do not deserve equal rights – as both the Texas and North Carolina legislatures have demonstrated.

‘Can we at least be honest?’

Apparently, not really.

‘These kinds of power displays tend to provoke even more idiotic backlashes.’

Yes, undoubtedly the reason for the Texas and North Carolina legislatures to recently engage in suppressing the votes of African-Americans was due to losing the culture wars, and thus just a backlash. It was just a natural attempt to return to the good old days of 1960, before any of those pesky, anti-state rights civil rights bills were passed. Except that both legislatures were engaging in their behavior years before the current fashion of removing the statues of traitors from prominent public squares.

113 Judah Benjamin Hur August 31, 2017 at 4:02 am

Comcast told me I needed an ID to switch cable modems. So I guess the important stuff like cable needs an ID, but it’s racist to demand it for silly things like voting.

A better way to deal with Confederate statues is to build some abolitionist ones nearby.

114 prior_test3 August 31, 2017 at 5:04 am

You know, I keep posting links to the actual court documents,. so now just a bit of reporting. It is not about ID, it is about voter suppression.

In North Carolina – ‘A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had found in 2016 that North Carolina legislators had acted “with almost surgical precision” to blunt the influence of African American voters.’ plus this – ‘The 4th Circuit on July 29 agreed with allegations from the Justice Department and civil rights groups that North Carolina’s bill selectively chose voter-identification requirements, reduced the number of early-voting days and changed registration procedures in ways meant to harm African Americans, who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-wont-review-decision-that-found-nc-voting-law-discriminates-against-african-americans/2017/05/15/59425b1c-2368-11e7-a1b3-faff0034e2de_story.html?utm_term=.390eba0a958b

And in Texas, the term of art used by the court was ‘racial gerrymandering’ – ‘Those maps were never used. Federal courts blocked them and later ruled that Republicans intentionally sought to discriminate against minority voters. Since 2010, the Hispanic population of Texas has grown more than three times that of whites.

A three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled Thursday that when Texas lawmakers rushed to approved revised Statehouse maps in 2013, they did so with the intent to “maintain and perpetuate” advantages in the map that were the result of “a refusal to recognize minority growth.” The court ordered the maps to be partially redrawn before 2018.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/texas-string-of-losses-in-voting-rights-cases-continues/2017/08/24/d48a5acc-8907-11e7-96a7-d178cf3524eb_story.html?utm_term=.197016305cfb#

It was never about ID in North Carolina or Texas, it was about suppressing African-American/minority voters, just like the good old days in 1960.

It takes a particular form of obtuseness, or possibly simply not being born and growing up in the South, to not recognize what is going on.

115 Judah Benjamin Hur August 31, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Gerrymandering is always about using demographics to tip the scales in favor of the ruling party. I find it loathsome, but apparently it’s objectionable only when Republicans do it. Likewise, voter regulations will be motivated by partisan advantage. If they’re sensible, like most voter ID regs, I have no objection. It takes a particular form of obtuseness, actually chutzpah, for the pot to call the kettle black (no pun intended).

Yes, blacks suffered horrific discrimination in 1960. But it’s actually much closer to 2060 now than to 1960 and for many decades whites are suffering far more discrimination in crucial areas like employment, college admissions, and small business assistance. To add insult to injury, white statues are now being targeted for replacement and/or destruction (it’s not just alt.Nazis that get the symbolism).

I didn’t grow up in the South, but live in the Deep South and, perhaps unlike you, I like my neighbors (of various races). Some of them even, gasp!, admit to admiring Robert E. Lee.

116 Roy LC August 31, 2017 at 12:57 am

In Sid Meier’s Civilization IV the Mount Rushmore wonder required the Fascism tech.

117 JA August 31, 2017 at 1:54 am

Some random observations. Some of the greatest monuments, small and large, were produced in the period of about 3000 BCE to 1000BCE, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, respectively. But this period would seem to fall outside the frame that Tyler has imposed since there were no democracies in those days. In Islamic societies, especially in the Gulf, there is a reluctance if not prohibition on representations of human beings. It would not surprise me if Lee Kuan Yew admired people like Raffles. Centralized power – whether exercised in functional democracies or in “pseudo”democracies”, or in functional autocracies (lets not use that unkind term, “dictatorship”) – is conducive to doing monuments unless you don’t want them (Cuba, Singapore, the Gulf), etc. . But so are decentralised systems in which local authorities can do their own thing.

118 lbc August 31, 2017 at 5:11 am

how is france an autocracy !?

119 Robert Cottrell August 31, 2017 at 8:18 am

Worth factoring corruption into the model. The less accountable and more opaque the State, the easier it is to allocate $100 million for building a monument which costs $10 million. Highly unlikely anybody will have built an identical one nearby against which yours can be benchmarked.

120 albatross August 31, 2017 at 3:58 pm

True, but it seems like it’s a really small pool of money compared to the stuff modern states spend. I mean, if you’re building the pyramids for Ancient Egypt, then yeah, the corruption available there is probably pretty huge, but in a modern country the number of patronage jobs available for building monuments is really small compared to the number available in running the public schools or paving the roads or whatever.

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