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Societies with ‘good’ governments fell harder than dictatorships, study suggests

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societies with good governments fell harder than dictatorships study suggests

Societies with ‘good’ governments like the Roman Empire and China‘s Ming Dynasty fell harder than tyrannical dictatorships, a new study suggests.  

When ‘good’ governments – those that provided goods and services for their people and did not starkly concentrate wealth and power – fell apart, they broke down more intensely, US researchers say. 

Although good governments may have been able to sustain themselves longer than corrupt regimes, they tended to suffer a more catastrophic collapse when new leaders undermined social contracts with the people.  

The anthropologists examined a broad, global sample of 30 pre-modern societies, including the Roman Empire and one of its most memorable rulers, Commodus, who was more interested in chariot racing and bloodsports than ruling the empire. 

The ruins of the Roman Forum, once a site of a representational government. Roman governments fell when leaders undermine social contracts

The ruins of the Roman Forum, once a site of a representational government. Roman governments fell when leaders undermine social contracts

The ruins of the Roman Forum, once a site of a representational government. Roman governments fell when leaders undermine social contracts

Whether societies are ruled by ruthless dictators or more well-meaning representatives, they fall apart in time – but with different degrees of severity, the team point out in their study, published in Frontiers in Political Science

‘Our findings provide insights that should be of value in the present,’ said lead author Richard Blanton at Purdue University in Indiana.  

‘Most notably, societies, even ones that are well governed, prosperous, and highly regarded by most citizens, are fragile human constructs that can fail. 

‘In the cases we address, calamity could very likely have been avoided, yet, citizens and state-builders too willingly assumed that their leadership will feel an obligation to do as expected for the benefit of society.’   

The team looked in the greatest detail at the governments of four societies – the Roman Empire, China’s Ming Dynasty, India’s Mughal Empire, and the Venetian Republic. 

These four societies flourished hundreds of years ago, or, in ancient Rome’s case, thousands of years ago. 

They also had comparatively more equal distributions of power and wealth than many of the other cases examined.

In China’s Ming dynasty, for example, political reforms were put in place beginning in the late fourteenth century by its founder to enhance the state’s ability to serve the general good of society.

Researchers analysed data collected from a world-wide sample of 30 pre-modern states including the Roman Empire and Ming dynasty

Researchers analysed data collected from a world-wide sample of 30 pre-modern states including the Roman Empire and Ming dynasty

Researchers analysed data collected from a world-wide sample of 30 pre-modern states including the Roman Empire and Ming dynasty 

All four ‘began in exuberant phases of intense state-building’ intended to construct ‘functional systems of good government’.  

However, the four examples looked different from what are considered ‘good governments’ today as they did not have popular elections. 

‘There were basically no electoral democracies before modern times, so if you want to compare good governance in the present with good governance in the past, you can’t really measure it by the role of elections, so important in contemporary democracies,’ said study author Gary Feinman at Chicago’s Field Museum.  

‘They didn’t have elections, but they had other checks and balances on the concentration of personal power and wealth by a few individuals. 

‘They all had means to enhance social well-being, provision goods and services beyond just a narrow few, and means for commoners to express their voices.’

In the study, governments that shared the resources with the people were awarded a better ‘good government’ score that the powerful autocrats who didn’t.  

In societies that meet the academic definition of ‘good governance’, the government meets the needs of the people.

This is mostly because the government depends on those people for the taxes and resources that keep the state afloat. 

Joint resources shared between the people were awarded a better 'good government' score that the terrible autocrats

Joint resources shared between the people were awarded a better 'good government' score that the terrible autocrats

Joint resources shared between the people were awarded a better ‘good government’ score that the terrible autocrats

‘These systems depended heavily on the local population for a good chunk of their resources,’ said Feinman.  

Societies with good governance tended to last a bit longer than autocratic governments that keep power concentrated to one person or small group. 

Venice, for example, was able to maintain its moral code and good government practices far longer than the Ming, Mughal, and Roman examples, because it had an effective impeachment process, which was exercised on several occasions. 

However, when a ‘good’ government collapsed, things tended to be harder for the citizens, because they’d come to rely on the infrastructure of that government in their day-to-day life. 

The four societies collapsed and ended when the leadership ‘inexplicably undermined those earlier goals, core values and practices’, the team claim. 

‘With good governance, you have infrastructures for communication and bureaucracies to collect taxes, sustain services, and distribute public goods,’ said Feinman.

‘You have an economy that jointly sustains the people and funds the government, and so social networks and institutions become highly connected, economically, socially, and politically. 

‘Whereas if an autocratic regime collapses, you might see a different leader or you might see a different capital, but it doesn’t permeate all the way down into people’s lives, as such rulers generally monopolise resources and fund their regimes in ways less dependent on local production or broad-based taxation.’

The researchers also examined a common factor in the collapse of societies with good governance – leaders who abandoned the society’s founding principles and ignored their roles as moral guides for their people. 

An engraving by Giambattista Brustolon showing the Great Council of Venice. Venice was able to maintain its moral code longer than other examples, perhaps in part because it had an effective impeachment process, which was exercised on several occasions

An engraving by Giambattista Brustolon showing the Great Council of Venice. Venice was able to maintain its moral code longer than other examples, perhaps in part because it had an effective impeachment process, which was exercised on several occasions

An engraving by Giambattista Brustolon showing the Great Council of Venice. Venice was able to maintain its moral code longer than other examples, perhaps in part because it had an effective impeachment process, which was exercised on several occasions

In a ‘good’ society, a moral leader is one who upholds the core principles and ethos and creeds and values of the overall society. 

‘Most societies have some kind of social contract, whether that’s written out or not, and if you have a leader who breaks those principles, then people lose trust, diminish their willingness to pay taxes, move away, or take other steps that undercut the fiscal health of the polity.’

This pattern of amoral leaders destabilising their societies goes back to the Roman Empire and its emperor Commodus.

The Roman Empire was a relatively ‘good’ society, but it fell dramatically when Commodus came to power and didn’t rise to the occasion as a leader. 

Instead, he was more interested in performing as a gladiator, slaughtering animals daily as a sport in the Colosseum and identifying himself with the Roman god Hercules. 

Dr Andrew Sillett at the University of Oxford’s department of classics, who was not involved with the study, told MailOnline: ‘He lacked the standing necessary to feel comfortable as emperor – too young, not enough military achievements, not a great public speaker – so he tried to compensate ostentatious displays of masculinity. 

‘In order to do this for a big audience, he broke the major taboo of appearing in the arena, which aristocrats were usually forbidden from doing.

‘Historian Cassius Dio, who was a Senator under Commodus, reports seeing the emperor fighting an ostrich, which he managed to behead. 

‘The fight of this was so unintentionally comic that he had to stop a fellow senator from laughing. 

‘Apparently they all chewed some laurel leaves to conceal their grinning.’ 

Statue of the ancient Roman emperor Commodus as Hercules in the Capitoline Museum, Italy. The ruler of the empire was more interested in his blonde curls than doing a good job of ruling the empire

Statue of the ancient Roman emperor Commodus as Hercules in the Capitoline Museum, Italy. The ruler of the empire was more interested in his blonde curls than doing a good job of ruling the empire

Statue of the ancient Roman emperor Commodus as Hercules in the Capitoline Museum, Italy. The ruler of the empire was more interested in his blonde curls than doing a good job of ruling the empire

Commodus was eventually assassinated by strangulation in his own bath in the year AD 192 and the Empire descended into a period of crisis. 

According to the US team, these patterns can be seen today, as ‘corrupt or inept leaders’ threaten the core principles and the stability of the places they govern. 

Mounting inequality, concentration of political power, evasion of taxation, hollowing out of bureaucratic institutions, diminishment of infrastructure and declining public services are all evidenced in democratic nations today.

‘What I see around me feels like what I’ve observed in studying the deep histories of other world regions, and now I’m living it in my own life,’ said Feinman. 

‘It’s sort of like Groundhog Day for archaeologists and historians.’ 

Learning about what led to societies collapsing in the past can help us make better choices now, however.

‘History has a chance to tell us something,’ said Feinman. ‘That doesn’t mean it’s going to repeat exactly, but it tends to rhyme and so that means there are lessons in these situations.’ 

THE INSANITY OF COMMODUS  

Commodus was Roman emperor from AD 177 to AD 192. 

He was born in AD 161, the son of the popular and highly respected emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife Faustina the Younger.

Commodus became co-ruler with his father in AD 177, when he was only 15 years old. 

During his final illness, his father, Marcus Aurelius became worried that his youthful and pleasure-seeking son might ignore public affairs and descend into debauchery once he became sole ruler. 

He was right – soon after his father died in AD 180, Commodus discontinued his father’s war against the Germanic tribes on the Empire’s northern borders, instead coming to terms with them.

Commodus returned Rome to indulge in the pleasures of the great city, including chariot racing and bloodsports.

He is said to have insulted senators, given them positions below their dignity, given the rule of the provinces over to his favourites, and on a personal level to have engaged in scandalous behaviour. 

He avoided the running of the empire on a day-to-day basis and instead delegated this to a string of favourites whom he made his chief ministers. 

The emperor was concerned with pleasure and displaying his own physical prowess by fighting as a gladiator in the arena or against wild animals during lavish and expensive public games he organised.    

He gave Rome a new name, Colonia Commodiana (Colony of Commodus), and imagined that he was the god Hercules, entering the arena to fight as a gladiator or to kill lions with bow and arrow.

His brutal misrule precipitated civil strife that ended 84 years of stability and prosperity within the empire.  

On December 31, 192, his advisers had him strangled by Narcissus, a wrestler who was tasked with the deed by a small group of conspirators. 

Source: University of Nottingham 

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Birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fish’s ability to reproduce

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birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fishs ability to reproduce

Water polluted with even tiny amounts of human hormones can impact marine life, according to a new study that found freshwater fish exposed to estrogen produced fewer offspring.

Synthetic estrogen from oral contraceptives has been found in waterways near sewage treatment plants.

Biologists looking to see if those hormones affect fish exposed them to trace amounts of a synthetic version of Ethinylestradiol, used in most birth control pills.

They found less than a tenth of the concentration of Ethinylestradiol found in some streams was enough to lead to smaller populations and fewer male offsprings.

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Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

According to a study in the journal Aquatic Toxicology, fish exposed to even 5 nanograms per liter of synthetic Ethinylestradiol produced fewer offspring than those that weren’t and gave birth to more females than males.

Ethinylestradiol has been found in streams at levels higher than 60 nanograms per liter.

In addition to birth control, it’s used as menopausal hormone therapy, to prevent osteoporosis and as a palliative treatment for breast cancer.

Our bodies generally only absorb a small amount of the medication we ingest, the rest – up to 90 percent – gets flushed down the toilet when we go to the bathroom.

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

‘When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,’ said biologist Latonya Jackson (right) 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ said lead author Latonya Jackson, a biologist at the University of Cincinnati. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’

For her experiments, Jackson used least killifish, a relative of the guppy.

Killifish are common, tiny and easy to catch, making them easy to study without taking up a lot of space.

They’re a popular target for predators, which they make up for by giving birth frequently, about every 28 days.

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants 

They’re also rare for fish in that they have a placenta and give birth to live young.

Jackson’s team found that chronic exposure to Ethinylestradiol led to smaller populations and a gender ratio of more females than males.

Next she’ll be working with the Environmental Protection Agency to see if the hormones affected the genetics of the fish’s offspring.

Around 15 million women regularly take birth-control pills in the US alone, most of them using Ethinylestradiol. 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ Jackson said. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’ 

While a 2010 study found birth-control pills accounted for less than one percent of the estrogen found in US drinking water, local water systems don’t test for Ethinylestradiol.

And estrogen enters the waterways from other sources, like livestock and dairy products. 

Previous studies have found estrogen in rivers and lakes leads male fish to develop ovaries and other female characteristics. 

A 2015 study from Washington State University found a link between Ethinylestradiol and the growing decline in sperm counts, which have plummeted up to 38 percent in a decade. 

‘There’s every reason to believe that estrogen and the pharmaceutical compounds that we’re ingesting in micro-quantities are having an effect,’ activist Seth Siegel told Business Insider.

‘Why wouldn’t it be possible that a newborn or fetus, or a 3-year-old getting an irregular dosage, might not see some effect on their brain function or brain development?’

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Reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison Yellowstone Park, sparking a stampede

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reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison yellowstone park sparking a stampede

Tourists in Yellowstone National Park caused a dangerous stampede by getting too close to a herd of bison. 

The giant creatures were caught on video approaching a river before breaking into a stampede that kicked up dust and threatened to steamroll right over bystanders.

A witness said tourists kept inching closer to the herd, despite their grunting and hoof-stomping – and warnings from others to get away.

According to Yellowstone guidelines, park visitors should remain 25 yards from bison at all times.

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Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Lisa Stewart filmed the scene near Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, where a cluster of tourists had gathered near a river.

At first she assumed it was a wolf sighting, but she soon realized the foolhardy visitors were approaching a herd of buffalo.

‘The people saw them and started walking closer and closer toward the bison,’ Stewart told USA Today.

The animals ‘kept getting more agitated by the minute,’ she added, grunting and stomping the ground with their hooves as they moved down the hill.

Eventually they broke into a stampede, only narrowly avoiding the onlookers as they galloped into the water to join the herd on the other side of the river.

Bystanders warned the tourists to get out of the way, Stewart said, and told them how stupid they were for walking toward the massive beasts.

‘You only see about four to six people on the video, but there were more in the same spot the bison came running from,’ she recalled. ‘It was amazing that they didn’t heed the warning of grunting, snorting and stomping feet!’ 

Stewart said she stopped filming, afraid someone was hurt, and was actually shaking a bit from fear.

‘I could feel the earth rumbling under my feet when it was happening,’ she told USA Today. ‘It was one of those moments your stomach turns over at the split moment you think disaster is about to happen.’ 

There are just under 5,000 bison living in Yellowstone National Park, the largest population on public land. 

It’s not unusual for visitors to see them, though such violent encounters are rarer. 

Last month, KTMF reporter Rachel Louise Just filmed dozens of bison stampeding through traffic in the park.

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Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

The incident happened the weekend of September 17, but Just shared it on YouTube last week.

‘Bison are my favorite animal so this was one of the coolest things I’ve EVER seen!’ she tweeted. ‘No idea what prompted the stampede but WOW.’ 

According to the National Park Service website, bison cause more injuries than any other animal in Yellowstone.

They’re agile, unpredictable and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. 

Since Yellowstone lifted its coronavirus lockdown in May, two people have been injured by bison, including a woman who was knocked to the ground the second day the park was reopened. 

Also known as American buffalo, bison are the largest land-dwelling mammals in North America, with bulls weighing up to 2,000 pounds and cows about half that.

Before the arrival of Europeans, there were an estimated 30 to 60 million bison in North America.

By the turn of the 20th century, hunting and targeting killing nearly wiped them out, leaving barely 2,000 on the continent.

Eventually a dedicated effort helped restore their numbers, though Yellowstone is the only place in the US where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

Because they’re genetically pure, and not hybrids, the park’s herds behave like their ancient ancestors, according to the NPS, ‘congregating during the breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration and exploration that result in the use of new habitat areas.’

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SpaceX aims to build a Starlink mega constellation around MARS

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spacex aims to build a starlink mega constellation around mars

Elon Musk has an ambitious plan to build a city of one million people on Mars and believes SpaceX’s Starlink satellites will play a key role in the mission.

The company’s president and COO Gwynee Shotwell recently shared details with TIMEmagazine about bringing this technology to the Red Planet.

‘Once we take people to Mars, they are going to need a capability to communicate,’ says Shotwell.

‘In fact, I think it will be even more critical to have a constellation like Starlink around Mars.’

Not only will the satellites beam internet to those living on Mars, but the team will act as a bridge for the planet to communicate with Earth.

Although SpaceX has its sights set on Mars, Shotwell said they are not giving up one Earth – it is to give ‘humanity another shot in case there were to be some horrible event’ on our planet.

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Elon Musk has an ambitious plan to build a city of one million people on Mars (pictured) and believes SpaceX’s Starlink satellites will play a key role in the mission

Elon Musk has an ambitious plan to build a city of one million people on Mars (pictured) and believes SpaceX’s Starlink satellites will play a key role in the mission

‘Elon founded this company with the entire purpose of building a space transportation capability that would allow humans to move to other planets,’ Shotwell says in the interview.

‘I remember when I was interviewing with Elon in 2002 and he had such an ambitious goal, it sounded absolutely insane at the time.’

‘Now almost 20 years later, it doesn’t actually sound that insane. Well at least not to the insiders.’

Musk has had his heart set on colonizing Mars for many years and is not shy about how he plans to make it happen.

This past January, he was aiming to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050. He planned for three flights a day – or 1,000 flights a year – with 100 people on each one.

And in 2017, the tech tycoon had the idea to send two cargo ships to Mars in 2022, followed by four other vessels – two with cargo and two with human settlers in 2024.

‘I want you to understand that we are not giving up on Earth when we talk about building capability to move humanity to other planets,’ Shotwell explains in the interview.

‘It’s not giving up on Earth, it’s actually just giving humanity another shot in case there were to be some horrible event.’

Along with Starlink, SpaceX’s Starship rocket is also a key player in humans becoming an inter-planetary species.

Not only will the satellites beam internet to those living on Mars, but the team will act as a bridge for the planet to communicate with Earth (pictured is a concept image of the Starlink constellation around Earth)

Not only will the satellites beam internet to those living on Mars, but the team will act as a bridge for the planet to communicate with Earth (pictured is a concept image of the Starlink constellation around Earth)

Musk has had his heart set on colonizing Mars for many years and is not shy about how he plans to make it happen. This past January, he was aiming to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050. He planned for three flights a day - or 1,000 flights a year - with 100 people on each one

Musk has had his heart set on colonizing Mars for many years and is not shy about how he plans to make it happen. This past January, he was aiming to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050. He planned for three flights a day – or 1,000 flights a year – with 100 people on each one

Musk shared the craft’s progress during the virtual Humans to Mars Summit last month, saying the rocket ‘is making progresses,’ but also raised concerns about building a base on the planet.

Musk suggested constructing a self-sustaining city will be ‘difficult’ and there will be a number of dangers settlers may face while developing the galactic civilization.

‘I want to emphasize, this is a very hard and dangerous and difficult thing,’ Musk said.

Along with Starlink, SpaceX’s Starship rocket is also a key player in humans becoming an inter-planetary species

Along with Starlink, SpaceX’s Starship rocket is also a key player in humans becoming an inter-planetary species

‘Not for the faint of heart. Good chance you’ll die. And it’s going to be tough, tough going, but it’ll be pretty glorious if it works out.’

Although Musk has painted a picture of humans on Mars, he has stated in the past that he himself may never make it due to SpaceX’s lack of progress.

‘We’ve got to improve our rate of innovation or, based on past trends, I am definitely going to be dead before Mars,’ Musk said during a discussion in March.

ELON MUSK’S SPACEX SET TO BRING BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITES

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the fifth batch of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites – taking the total to 300.

They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.

The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.

Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.

While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.

Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.

The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.

Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.

It could also help fund a future city on Mars.

Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.

The company recently filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth – three times as many that are currently in operation.

‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.

‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’

The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.

It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.

Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.

In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.

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