Archive: Clever Countries

Archive: Originally posted 09/01/2010 at


Small countries throughout history have really had two choices — be clever or become a province of some bigger country. In world history, that’s meant everything from marrying off the daughters to every conceivable ally to “Hi, I’m NEUTRAL!” to “You know this drug/spice/dried leaf I just got you hooked on? If you conquer my country, you won’t get more of it…”

They’re all clever strategies. (Ethical… well, that’s for another day.)

Big countries needn’t (but really should be) clever. They’ll endure without much help because the momentum and mass just keeps rolling. But small countries have to work harder. This may explain the Netherlands’ 17th and 18th century dominance of European trade; and England’s late 18th and 19th century.

It’s kind of like being the kid in school who gets picked upon — the kid can get violent in return, get cheeky and survive through wit (when the bullies are laughing, they can’t hit…), or become so abject a target that there’s no point bullying.

I just realized how very sad it is that the world really can be equated to a 4th grade classroom…