STUMP » Articles » Mornings with Meep: The March of Folly » 29 July 2018, 14:46

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Mornings with Meep: The March of Folly  


29 July 2018, 14:46

Here’s the video:

Here’s a direct link to the video.


Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly is a bit mixed. I think the middle two examples, of the Rennaissance Popes and the UK losing the American Colonies, was strong, but the Trojan Horse example was a bit silly (as it’s based solely on literary evidence, and it’s clear certain elements were added later, simply because they made a good story).

The last bit, I’m not all the way through yet, but in 1984 (when the book was originally published), was still too close to the Vietnam War to be dispassionate about it, and some of the folly of Vietnam didn’t come out until later as well. I think she had plenty of historical examples to choose from, but some didn’t really work under her examples.

For example, the rise of Hitler and the blind eye given by the British government wouldn’t have worked… mainly because it was primarily Winston Churchill and his followers (who were few during the time) were outnumbered. “Appeasement” had been a good thing at the time. But in hindsight, it was phenomenally stupid. But you need to consider that all the men involved, including Churchill, had World War I bright in their minds… which was INCREDIBLY IDIOTIC. But Tuchman had covered WWI thoroughly already.

Anyway, I’ll have to think about other stupid governmental decisions when there was a large enough contingent pointing out how stupid it was. Too often, unfortunately, the idiocy is obvious only in retrospect.

This is not the case for public pensions, by the way. The specific idiocies there have been pointed out time and again.


I mentioned Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia, and to give you an idea of his infamy, check out the Banquet of Chestnuts.

[oh, and I find it amusing that there’s a Wikipedia list of [known] sexually active popes… it helped that many of them explicitly acknowledged their bastard children. Speaking up bastard children, here is the Wiki entry for Cesare Borgia and the one for his sister Lucrezia.]

The bit on how he tried to use the papacy to enrich his own extensive family… that was part of what led to Luther. Not only the extensive corruption, but also that the need for $$ to boost all this led to more sales of offices and indulgences.

He wasn’t the only pope profiled by Tuchman, but I want to point out only a few others, due to their link to Martin Luther.

Pope Julius II, aka the Warrior Pope, was involved in a bunch of wars before he became pope… and didn’t change much once he made pope. The drag on Vatican finances led to the need to really sell lots more indulgences… by his successor Pope Leo X, aka the Medici Pope.

Leo X wasn’t as infamous as Alexander VI re: personal behavior, but Leo X totally re-did St. Peter’s Basilica into the form we know it today. That was expensive. Given how much prior wars had drained the Vatican treasury… well, he sent the indulgences sellers far & wide.

Leo X had issued a papal bull against Martin Luther, anyway, Leo X was the last of the Renaissance Popes, per se, and after him… the deluge came, indeed.


I’m having issues with my webcam capture software… because I’m doing it on an old computer. I think it’s about 10 years old at this point, and it’s having memory issues. I may need to do a clear out, so I may need to skip a few weeks while I get this sorted out.

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