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Having What It Takes

In response to:

Do We Have What It Takes? from the March 30, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

Andrew Hacker’s article [“Do We Have What It Takes,” NYR, March 30] on page 7 says, “Right now a party of Koreans is chugging up Angola’s Cuansa River ready to negotiate, in Portuguese, the opening of the Hyundai agency in Malange. I find it hard to visualize a group of Americans on a similar mission.” Ten years ago, I must admit I can’t give the exact citation, I saw almost the same statement made except that it was Japanese and a Toyota agency. Ten years from now I expect to see it again with Indonesia substituted.

On a more serious level, however, on page 8 he says, “Venice, Holland, now Japan gains stature in the world; but their political aims are relatively modest.” Both Venice and Holland produced massive empires on the basis of their navies. Deviating the Fourth Crusade to the conquest of Constantinople, was hardly a modest political act, nor was the conquest of Indonesia. Japan was a major trading power and an economic success before World War II when she was attempting to build an empire. Her present non–empire building depends much less on the change in the world opinion than on the fact that we effectively disarmed her at the end of the war and would not permit her now to obtain efficient arms.

Gordon Tullock
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Andrew Hacker replies:

Professor Tullock has an impressive memory. It was in 1977, in reviewing a book called The Gamesman, that I alluded to those Datsun salesmen steaming up the Zambezi River. It’s probably time to retire that trope. As for Venice and Holland, of course they had navies and put them to use. Still, they were rather modest ventures, compared with those of other empires in their times. Nor do I detect that present-day Japan wants to arm herself in more than a token way.

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