A History Pattern

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright July 2019

A deeply surprising and scary event leads to an instinct-based response which is expensive and ineffectual

This is another pattern of history I've uncovered. When a society is forced to deal with a deeply surprising and scary event, the response will be instinct-inspired, which will make it expensive and ineffectual but surprisingly long-lived.

Here are some examples.

o Lincoln assassination --> Reconstruction Era but no war --

The Reconstruction is the social mistake. When the Civil War ended the post-war situation could have been handled moderately, as in, "We're done fighting, lets move on and come up with practical and moderate solutions to our post-war challenges." This would have been an ending comparable to that of the Revolutionary War. Instead what followed was the radical Reconstruction Era which came up with solutions that were formed by instinctive thinking and turned out to be expensive and ineffective socially. The solutions required union soldiers to occupy The South for fourteen years and impoverished The South for decades.

o Kennedy assassination --> War on Drugs and Vietnam War --

The War on Drugs is the social mistake. This turned into a social mistake that helped define The Generation Gap between Baby Boomers and the older generations. The Vietnam War had been going on for a decade and could have easily continued to be a low-key sideshow in a remote part of the world. But instead Johnson chose to turn it into a high-profile effort of the US to contain Communism. This choice made instinctive sense but ended up being a very expensive project in terms of money spent and social unrest created.

o 9-11 --> War on Terror and 2nd Gulf War --

The War on Terror created the DHS and TSA. It created lots of hoop-jumping in the name of protecting society from terror attacks. This hoop-jumping was expensive and twisted social relations, but was not particularly effective at stopping terrorism. Like the Vietnam War the 2nd Gulf War was an endeavor that made instinctive sense to Americans who were unhappy with the outcome of the 1st Gulf War but it turned into an expensive military and social quagmire. Compare the differences between how the 1st Gulf War and the 2nd Gulf War were started, conducted and ended to see how expensive this choice was.


These are examples of this pattern. If a deeply surprising and scary event happens the response is likely to be formed by hasty instinctive thinking that will produce a response that turns out to be a poor solution that is both expensive and long-lasting.

These are truly times when counting to ten before taking action would save the world a lot of money and inconvenience.



--The End--