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Someone in the Mises Institute Finally Said It...

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Neodoxy Posted: Sun, Mar 31 2013 12:56 PM

Edit

Well I have no clue as to why the video wouldn't post, but I'm talking about this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDif454Wp9g

If a mod could fix that it would be awweessoommee

Starting at about 9:00.

I'm just throwing out there that in light of this that the thread below might be revived, since the two are obviously linked...

http://mises.org/community/forums/t/32234.aspx

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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Wheylous replied on Sun, Mar 31 2013 1:38 PM

At what time?

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What was wrong with what he said?

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Malachi replied on Sun, Mar 31 2013 2:00 PM

can we get a quote? some people dont have time interest or bandwidth for video right now.

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Neodoxy replied on Sun, Mar 31 2013 2:55 PM

@Wheylous

He starts at around 9:00 and goes on to explain both his stance and reasoning

@FacistSoup

Nothing is necessarily wrong with what he said, it's just that the necessary extension of what he did say necessitates the belief in average racial intelligence gaps, as well as the idea that less intelligent people having a greater quantity of offspring is a negative thing.

@Malachi

I don't have the patience to give an exact quote, but the essence of what he said is that one of the things that caused the industrial revolution was an increase in the average intelligence level due to colder winters. This implies a general "gradient" of intelligence as one heads from more northern to more southern regions and that a decrease in the average intelligence level due to the reproduction of less intelligent people who will generally have originated from those more southern places, will reverse the trend in general living standards.

If you would like to hear exactly what he said, there are only about 3 minutes after the 9:00 mark

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Marko replied on Sun, Mar 31 2013 4:01 PM

as well as the idea that less intelligent people having a greater quantity of offspring is a negative thing.


Such a miserabilist idea.

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Primetime replied on Sun, Mar 31 2013 4:34 PM

"finally?"  Guy's been saying elitist shit like that for years.  I'm wondering if you plan on cheerleading his more blatent biggoted/racist comments too.

Really reminds me of the Kanazawa guy

 

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There is a big difference between the two.  Satoshi Kanazawa is pure huckster.  He'll invent any controversial hypothesis and do some feeble token of "research" to pad the pages.  Hoppe is not saying anything hitherto unheard of.  I don't buy his exact explanation, but one could take as example the fact that jews in the US have far higher IQ than jews in Israel and likewise in similar cases.  The people that exit an established region under the circumstance wherein they are in a group that is being attacked tend to be the best of that group.  The challenge of the environment is a dubious explanation.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 2:18 AM

As pointed out above, there is no 'finally' here, Hoppe has been saying this and writing on this for many years.

I think the word "intelligence" is too fuzzy, so I have a problem with statements about racial comparisons of "intelligence." It's not clear to me at all precisely what is intelligence or how this "intelligence" would get selected through population dynamics. Also, the connection between intelligence and the rise of industrialism is also unclear. Were the great industrialists really so much smarter than the next guy? Take Tesla versus Edison, or Curtis versus the Wright Brothers, or James Watt versus his competitors. It seems to me that political connections trump natural talent.

There are three broad hypotheses here regarding the causes of the Industrial Revolution.

a) Institutional changes are primarily responsible

b) Cultural changes are primarily responsible (ala "the Calvinist work-ethic")

c) Population changes are primarily responsible

I think Hoppe is correct in rejecting (a) - the orthodox view - and I think he is correct in accepting (c). However, I think that there is a better word than "intelligence" to capture the difference. As Caley pointed out, group selection effects are in operation whenever there is a migration. What sets apart the Europeans, and particularly the Nordics, from people in the Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent or Africa ... is that they had to be very enterprising. That is, they were the descendants of people who had repeatedly "struck out for new frontiers". Not just once or twice but dozens of times. And enterprise is the root of the word entrepreneur. Is it intelligence or the willingness to take a risk combined with an overall frugality and industriousness that is the germ of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution? I think it is the latter. It is a kind of intelligence, but so is the ability to dance well... so the word "intelligence" is not sufficiently descriptive, IMO.

I think that the climate does also go to reinforce this hypothesis, but not necessarily as regards "intelligence". Where the climate matters is in its effects on time preference. The longer the winter, the wider the temperature swing between the seasons, the more you have to plan ahead, and the more you have to be willing to forgo present satisfaction for future satisfaction. Also, a certain discipline and diligence is required as the "window of opportunity" is short and unforgiving. If you do not prepare for winter right now, you will perish because now's your only chance. In more moderate climes, taking a day off during the peak season may just mean you eat a tiny bit less during the off season, rather than starving to death.

Returning to the issue of intelligence, I do not think Dr. Hoppe is using the word in its strictest sense of "puzzle-solving ability as measured by an IQ test" though I think his view may be that there is a correlation between this and the other attributes mentioned above. But this goes back to my view that IQ tests are basically meaningless. They measure a very narrow kind of intelligence and they do so very badly. Prior experience and general knowledge is a primary factor in determining IQ testing aptitude. For example, take this IQ test question I once saw: "Name the missing letter: JFMAMJASOND" Now, these are the first letters of all the months of the year, except June or July. Clearly, there's a serious problem, here. What is being measured is not your ability to connect widely disparate areas of knowledge but, rather, the magnitude of your past boredom and the probability that you have noted the sequence of the first letters of the months of the year at some point in your life. A veteran IQ test-taker is likely to score much higher than you, me or Dr. Hoppe.

So what, exactly, is intelligence? Is it the ability to string together very long chains of deductive inferences? Is it the ability to intuit the correct answer to technical and mechanical problems through some wholly unspecified method? I don't think there is actually any clear meaning and the word generally functions as a kind of congratulatory assessment of someone's academic aptitude in a very general sense. And, clearly, nothing could be further from capitalism than academia.

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Anenome replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 4:04 AM

I don't buy the 'intelligence' explanation either.

 

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Marko replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 7:55 AM

I think that the climate does also go to reinforce this hypothesis, but not necessarily as regards "intelligence". Where the climate matters is in its effects on time preference. The longer the winter, the wider the temperature swing between the seasons, the more you have to plan ahead, and the more you have to be willing to forgo present satisfaction for future satisfaction. Also, a certain discipline and diligence is required as the "window of opportunity" is short and unforgiving. If you do not prepare for winter right now, you will perish because now's your only chance. In more moderate climes, taking a day off during the peak season may just mean you eat a tiny bit less during the off season, rather than starving to death.


Pure conjecture which does not stand to closer inspection. The industrial revolution occured in England. England is fairly far to the north, but has mild winters due to effects of the Atlantic. Winters are colder in the mayority of continental Europe, literally as far down south as Bulgaria.

I think Hoppe is correct in rejecting (a) - the orthodox view - and I think he is correct in accepting (c). However, I think that there is a better word than "intelligence" to capture the difference. As Caley pointed out, group selection effects are in operation whenever there is a migration. What sets apart the Europeans, and particularly the Nordics, from people in the Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent or Africa ... is that they had to be very enterprising. That is, they were the descendants of people who had repeatedly "struck out for new frontiers". Not just once or twice but dozens of times. And enterprise is the root of the word entrepreneur. Is it intelligence or the willingness to take a risk combined with an overall frugality and industriousness that is the germ of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution? I think it is the latter. It is a kind of intelligence, but so is the ability to dance well... so the word "intelligence" is not sufficiently descriptive, IMO.


Another primordial explanation. We have an event which occured in 18th century, but it is in an attempt of historical predestination being explained by something from thousands or hundreds years prior. Actually there is no reason to believe the people who ended up in England had migrated more often than other Europeans. In fact the last time England saw an influx of migrants was during the Great Migrations of Peoples when that was the case for entire Europe, and then again to a smaller extent in the 11th century. From the point of view of frequency of migrations England is in the European context actually an example of relative stability. The rest of Europe saw much greater population shifts much later into its history. Poland and European Russia were receiving new settlers as late as 18th century, the Pannonian plain had been emptied and was repopulated anew in the 17th and 18th centuries. What is now southern Ukraine and Russia was settled by its current population not sooner than 200-300 years ago. The demographic picture of the Iberian peninsula changed considerably twice over. As late as 19th century you had massive emmigration from the Balkans and the Caucasus. In fact there is no European region which saw more population shifts that the Balkans, where the civilization border between Christendom and Islam was in flux for a number of centuries, and where any Muslim conquest triggered massive exoduses of Christians, and later Christian re-conquest triggered massive exoduses of Muslims, so that there are a number of regions which were emptied and resettled twice in just a few hundred years.

It is very interesting that exceptionalism of England should be explained due to its 'northerness' when in fact there is a host of other European countries which are more credibly northern. Russia for example among them. Certainly the Russians are much more of a northern people than the English, and certainly they are much more of a pioneer people than the English (those of them who stayed in England and brought on the industrial revolution) so why didn't the industrial revolution commence in Russia instead? Of course they had really bad institutions, but allegedly, according to you and Hoppe, institutions are not important?

But this 'northerness' is ridicilous anyway, since for so long the civilizational centers of Europe were in the South, down there with those yokels like Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Italians. Taking all of history until today the north has only been ahead of the south for a very brief period of time. Take a random year in time, and chances are the south will be the more advanced of the two. Actually until the Enlightment the Southerners thought of the Northern Europeans as semi-barbarians.

Also it is interesting how the most quintesential thing about England in relation to the rest of Europe is left to the side. There is talk about its 'northerness' when its defining geographic characteristic is that it is an island. Truly, what sets it apart from the rest of Europe, its 'northerness', or the English channel?

Actually the truly striking thing about England in relation to the rest of Europe is its stability. The English fight wars, but they are all either wars of choice abroad, or else they are scuffles between themselves. Since the 11th century they no longer have to fear of invasion. Sure there are exceptions like the Grand Armada, but these only go to show just how easy it is to defend an island even against a much stronger foe. Wouldn't this reflect on politics? With the lack of an existential external threat wouldn't it become exceedingly difficult for the subjects of the English king to see why they should take a great deal of crap from him, and accept excessive levels of societal regimentation? A Christian Balkanite may think any crap from the Kaiser is better than falling to the Muslim Turks, but an Englishman has no such fears. And in fact, isn't this precisely what happens? Isn't it the case the power of English kings comes to be restrained by the parliament, and the Rights of Englishmen, that the English get in the habbit of rising up against their kings, and that it is on this island that early Liberal thought begins? But we are to believe institutional causes of the industrial revolution do not exist? Laughable! Can you understand that at this time the institution of serfdom is still thriving in the majority of the rest of Europe?!

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Malachi replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 4:38 PM

wow Marko, great reply

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Clayton replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 5:04 PM

Pure conjecture which does not stand to closer inspection. The industrial revolution occured in England. England is fairly far to the north, but has mild winters due to effects of the Atlantic. Winters are colder in the mayority of continental Europe, literally as far down south as Bulgaria.

 

First of all, at the time of the Industrial Revolution (Hoppe puts it circa 1800), England was long since bred out from being pure Celts. Saxon migrations, Viking raiders, Norman conquest, etc. all contributed to this. So, a lot of the "gene pool" in England had not actually evolved, so to speak, in England.

Another primordial explanation. We have an event which occured in 18th century,

The industrialization of Europe was not an "event", it was a very long process with very fuzzy boundaries... the most we can say for sure is that there was something very different about production processes in the 19th century than what had obtained before, say, 1700. Somewhere in that time window, something remarkable happened in the European continent (and England) - productivity skyrocketed, investment levels rapidly increased, and a "trickling down" of wealth from the nobility to the nouveau riche capitalist class began.

but it is in an attempt of historical predestination being explained by something from thousands or hundreds years prior.

No one is asserting historical predestination. Quite the opposite. Rather, the question that is to be answered is "why there, why then?"

Also it is interesting how the most quintesential thing about England in relation to the rest of Europe is left to the side. There is talk about its 'northerness' when its defining geographic characteristic is that it is an island. Truly, what sets it apart from the rest of Europe, its 'northerness', or the English channel?

I think the initial claim that England is the location of the "event" of the Industrial Revolution is flawed on many counts. Thus, the geographical particularities of England, while doubtless important, are not relevant. The rapid industrialization of the late-18th and 19th centuries was a pan-European phenomenon or - to be even more explicit - it was a pan-Caucasian phenomenon, as even Russia had also implemented sweeping industrialization programs. Rulers throughout the ages had attempted many times to "reform" their people and make them more productive... the difference this time is that it worked. Putting it down to the supreme aptitude of the absurd English, European and Russian rulers of that era is not a credible explanation.

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Something that has puzzled me for a long while about the above explanation is the focus on selective pressures in cold climates. (Relatively) Cold climates do offer certain challenges not found in other areas humans have settled, but tropical regions themselves while perhaps being more dense with food sources, also offer a greater density of threats to human survival in terms of predatory and parasitic organisms to name one example. Desert regions and semi-arid regions again offer other challenges in terms of farming, irrigation, forward planning and food storage. It seems to me also we would not really be having these debates if thrid world countries like India and others had adopted free market reforms at the same time as the South Koreans in the 60s. Indeed, most of the world's economicaly unfreest nations remain unsurprisingly the most destitute, and to me it seems these institutional conditions over-ride everything else in terms of wealth differences between regions (I do acknowledge this is a somewhat different question however, to the one being addressed above, though I think it shares some relation to the relative importance we place on that question).

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Clayton replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 7:36 PM

@abs: Well, I ascribe less importance to the climate than does Hoppe. I do not think that technical problem-solving (general "intelligence") is necessarily selected by cold climates. One could ask why the Eskimos did not invent capitalism long before Europe did.

Another factor that gets neglected is energy. The invention of feasible, practical heat engines (e.g. the steam engine and, later, the internal combustion engine) is also contemporaneous with the explosion of industrial growth. While other methods of harvesting energy from nature had existed long before (animal power, hydro-power, wind-power, etc.), these energy sources paled by comparison to the abundance of energy made available by heat engines. Entire forests, and the previuosly nearly useless petroleum sources now became virtually inexhaustible supplies of unlimited energy. I think this is very important and I think it represents a genuine "inflection point" in history - and the epicenter of this was UK, America and Europe, precisely the places where we see the explosion of industrial growth at that time.

But the larger question that still remains is why other regions lagged so far behind in taking advantage of the immense benefits made available by these technological changes. Clearly, there were infrastructural as well as cultural deficits and impediments that made adoption of European/UK/American technology and economic systems slow and painful in other parts of the world, perhaps with the exception of Japan. These impediments appear to still be hampering progress today. This is why I think you need an explanation that is bigger than just institutional changes or technological advancements. The top two contenders, then, are either cultural changes or population changes. There can be no doubt that cultural changes played a role but there are problems with assigning cultural changes a place of primacy.

Another way of looking at it is to ask why all these rapid technological discoveries happened in the UK, American and European regions first? As has already been noted, the classical Greeks and Romans had been the epicenter of technological innovation circa two thousand years ago. And more recently, the Islamic empire was a bastion of academic and technological progress throughout the medieval era. Clearly, population effects are not an exclusive factor here. But we're not trying to explain the Hellenistic golden age or the Islamic golden age, we are trying to explain this late European golden age that bloomed after the Renaissance. The factors that mattered here were different than the factors that mattered before. A very low time-preference was not as significant an advantage in the earlier golden ages because it could not be amplified by a virtually limitless energy supply. When you have this abundant energy supply, now the individuals with very low time-preference are able to amass large fortunes because they are able to leverage their very low time preference into immense productivity by building factories, heavy transport, and so on.

The difference in the eagerness and rapidity with which industrialization was adopted between the Caucasian and non-Caucasian areas of the world can be partly accounted for by virtue of the population effects already mentioned - the inhabitants of the European, Scandinavian and British regions (and, thus, North America) were the descendants of people who had repeatedly left their home group to set out for unpopulated territories with harsher climates. This selected for enterprisingness (the "pioneering" spirit) as well as relatively lower time-preference (due to harsher climate). The combination of these factors made promulgation of not just industrial technologies but industrialization itself (that is, the urban, industrial lifestyle with all its almost inhuman quirks) more rapid in these regions relative to other regions.

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Interestingly enough the harsh enviroment in East Africa actually stimulated carbon steel production for 2,000 years.

 

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi385.htm

 

I would agree with what Gary North was saying that the reason for the great increase of production in the 19th century for England was changing attitudes toward entrepreneurs. If the folks in Tanzinia only had the same spirit of entrepreneurship things would have been very different.

 

When king Leopold colonized what is now the DR Congo they murdered 10 million people. How did the people living there sustain a population of tens of millions of people (implying a certain level of development) only to stagnate until Europeans eventually became more advanded and took over. The difference is Europeans valued entrepreneurship while everyone else in the world became content with doing the same things over and over and got steam rolled. Nothing to do with a difference in intelligence

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But the larger question that still remains is why other regions lagged so far behind in taking advantage of the immense benefits made available by these technological changes. Clearly, there were infrastructural as well as cultural deficits and impediments that made adoption of European/UK/American technology and economic systems slow and painful in other parts of the world, perhaps with the exception of Japan. These impediments appear to still be hampering progress today. This is why I think you need an explanation that is bigger than just institutional changes or technological advancements. The top two contenders, then, are either cultural changes or population changes. There can be no doubt that cultural changes played a role but there are problems with assigning cultural changes a place of primacy.

I think what you mentioned here is really at the root of the matter, which is why I suggested above such views concerning the disparities in current economic development have probably raised to prominency a race/population based explanation of the Industrial Revolution.

The major factors as I think has been brought to the fore well by the authors of the World Economic Freedom Index (I think Walter Block played a role in its creation when he was still at the Fraser Institute), is the striking lack of economic freedom in most underdeveloping countries. Another factor which they actually do I think place a correct emphasis on that accounts for economic freedom scores that I think might accord with what could be labelled a "cultural explanation" is the quality of the legal system in being able to efficiently settle disputes and protect property rights, THIS is the area I think the west did importantly have over the rest of the world, and it is interesting to consider also that areas like Singapore and Hong Kong did manage to inherit such systems, while also not hampering businesses by regulation. My own country of origin, India inherited what became known as the "Licence Raj" (following the British Raj), a term that I think fittingly describes how strangulated private sector actions were following independence(in the case of India they still are. The much touted reforms of the 80s and 90s were important but marginal, affecting only a few isolated sectors, that unsuprisingly have been the best performing). Furthermore, to add further irony to insult, this lack of progress following independence in Britain's former Asian and African colonies has little to do with Indigeneous ideas, but the enthusiastic adoption of the very flawed western ideas of central planning, mixed economies and Fabian Socialism that silver spooned, LSE and Harrow educated idiots like Jawarlhal Nehru brought back home. It makes a real difference to economic development if starting a business doesn't take on average over 9 months, bribing strings of bureacrats to dodge a host of uncompliable regulations they use to extort you compounded by a legal system that cannot protect basic property rights or settle disputes.(Hence why the better economic performance and industrial development of countries like Botswana and Chile in their respective continents has nothing to do with and cannot be accounted for by racail composition)

 

As a further point, the term Caucasian as a racial classifcation actually includes peoples of the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, all areas that conspicuously missed out on the Industrial Revolution that did begin in Britain and gradually spread outward to other areas of Western Europe, along with the adoption of free trade and liberal reforms (though later beaten back in areas like Germany. Even Aryans are a language group, otherwise known as Indo-Europeans while Sanskrit, Greek and Roman share common roots. (I must admit I do find it amusing to sometimes reflect on the fact the National Socialists stole their symbol from brown people; the Swastika is an ancient hindu symbol of well being :P)

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Conza88 replied on Thu, Apr 4 2013 5:56 AM

"The history of thought and ideas is a discourse carried on from generation to generation. The thinking of later ages grows out of the thinking of earlier ages. Without the aid of this stimulation intellectual progress would have been impossible. The continuity of human evolution, sowing for the offspring and harvesting on land cleared and tilled by the ancestors, manifests itself also in the history of science and ideas.

We have inherited from our forefathers not only a stock of products of various orders of goods which is the source of our material wealth; we have no less inherited ideas and thoughts, theories and technologies to which our thinking owes its productivity. But thinking is always a manifestation of individuals."

          — Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p.178

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Marko replied on Sun, Apr 7 2013 11:24 PM

First of all, at the time of the Industrial Revolution (Hoppe puts it circa 1800), England was long since bred out from being pure Celts. Saxon migrations, Viking raiders, Norman conquest, etc. all contributed to this. So, a lot of the "gene pool" in England had not actually evolved, so to speak, in England.


Saxon migrations as a factor in the making of industrial revolution? If it's not predestination it's going pretty far back.

Also, why should the industrial revolution occur first among the Saxons, Vikings and Normans in England, rather than the Saxons, Vikings and Normans in continental Europe (who had even more of this goody-industrial gene)? Any explanations from your side?

I think the initial claim that England is the location of the "event" of the Industrial Revolution is flawed on many counts. Thus, the geographical particularities of England, while doubtless important, are not relevant. The rapid industrialization of the late-18th and 19th centuries was a pan-European phenomenon or - to be even more explicit - it was a pan-Caucasian phenomenon, as even Russia had also implemented sweeping industrialization programs.


It's not controversial that the industrial revolution in fact begun in England, and then spread through north-western Europe and North America, often times fueled precisely by capital from Great Britain. Mind you both north-western Europe and North America shared, or came to share during the period many institutional arrangements present in England. Likewise both north-western Europe and North America both shared England's advantageous geographical position which makes them less open to invasion albeith north-western Europe somewhat less so. You will note that Europe being a peninsula that is adjoined to the larger Eurasian land mass to its east, and seperated from the African and Anatolian land masses only by straits and narrow seas to its south, is relatively impervious from invasion, albeit only from the northern and western directions, meaning only the north-western Europeans benefit fully from Europe's peninsularity. As if in a coincidence it is the Europeans who are seated on a large peninsula who first industrialize, and among them the Europeans in the north and west who are the most peninsular of all of them, and then among them the English, who are so peninsular they have a mini peninsula, within a peninsula all to themselves and then one which is surrounded by sea from all four, rather than just three sides.


Rulers throughout the ages had attempted many times to "reform" their people and make them more productive... the difference this time is that it worked. Putting it down to the supreme aptitude of the absurd English, European and Russian rulers of that era is not a credible explanation.


That's a strawman. I nowhere atritube improvement in institutions to the aptitute or even the goodwill of rulers, but instead to successful revolt against regimentation, by the society, against the rulers. A revolt made possible by a lack of existential foreign threat, which in turn may be explained by an advantagous geographic position that is such so that it does not put insurmountable obstacles to communication and trade with the outside centers of learning, technology and wealth, yet poses a hugely significant obstacle to attack by any such foreign threats (in those ages usually heretics or heathens) as would by its existence assist the ruling classes in enacting social, and therefore economic, regimentation.


...was a pan-European phenomenon or - to be even more explicit - it was a pan-Caucasian phenomenon, as even Russia...


You think "pan-Caucasian" is in this case a more apt term than "pan-European" explicitly because you want to include Russia as well. But last time I checked nearly 40% of the European land mass was in Russia, and no less than 110 million Russians lived in Russian Europe. There are more Europeans who are Russian than there are of any other nationality. And more Europe finds itself in Russia than in any other country. It's the last country which could be banished from Europe. Pan-European is a perfectly Russian-inclusive term and far more apt seeing that when you say "pan-Caucasian" my mind starts to wander to the likes of Musa Shanibov and the Confederation of Mountain Peoples.

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Marko replied on Sun, Apr 7 2013 11:49 PM

The difference is Europeans valued entrepreneurship while everyone else in the world became content with doing the same things over and over and got steam rolled. Nothing to do with a difference in intelligence


Actually I think attributing it to a difference in intelligence would be less offensive than what you propose instead.

How did the people living there sustain a population of tens of millions of people (implying a certain level of development) only to stagnate until Europeans eventually became more advanded and took over.


Sub-saharan Africa has a severly disandvantageous geographic position. Sahara forms a giant natural obstacle to communication leaving black Africa in pronounced isolation. Those who are sealed off from imports lag behind.

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Marko replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:03 AM

But the larger question that still remains is why other regions lagged so far behind in taking advantage of the immense benefits made available by these technological changes. Clearly, there were infrastructural as well as cultural deficits and impediments that made adoption of European/UK/American technology and economic systems slow and painful in other parts of the world, perhaps with the exception of Japan. These impediments appear to still be hampering progress today. This is why I think you need an explanation that is bigger than just institutional changes or technological advancements. The top two contenders, then, are either cultural changes or population changes. There can be no doubt that cultural changes played a role but there are problems with assigning cultural changes a place of primacy.


You would have to show that peoples outside Europe and North America adopted similar institutions as had Western Europeans and Americans, but then nonetheless did not industrialize at the same pace. Otherwise it's Occam's razor and "cultural deficits" are superflous in the wake of a more immediate, obvious, and seemingly entirely sufficient, explanation.

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Southern replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 10:14 AM

Actually the truly striking thing about England in relation to the rest of Europe is its stability. The English fight wars, but they are all either wars of choice abroad, or else they are scuffles between themselves. Since the 11th century they no longer have to fear of invasion. Sure there are exceptions like the Grand Armada, but these only go to show just how easy it is to defend an island even against a much stronger foe. Wouldn't this reflect on politics? With the lack of an existential external threat wouldn't it become exceedingly difficult for the subjects of the English king to see why they should take a great deal of crap from him, and accept excessive levels of societal regimentation? A Christian Balkanite may think any crap from the Kaiser is better than falling to the Muslim Turks, but an Englishman has no such fears. And in fact, isn't this precisely what happens? Isn't it the case the power of English kings comes to be restrained by the parliament, and the Rights of Englishmen, that the English get in the habbit of rising up against their kings, and that it is on this island that early Liberal thought begins?

It's not controversial that the industrial revolution in fact begun in England, and then spread through north-western Europe and North America, often times fueled precisely by capital from Great Britain. Mind you both north-western Europe and North America shared, or came to share during the period many institutional arrangements present in England. Likewise both north-western Europe and North America both shared England's advantageous geographical position which makes them less open to invasion albeith north-western Europe somewhat less so. You will note that Europe being a peninsula that is adjoined to the larger Eurasian land mass to its east, and seperated from the African and Anatolian land masses only by straits and narrow seas to its south, is relatively impervious from invasion, albeit only from the northern and western directions, meaning only the north-western Europeans benefit fully from Europe's peninsularity. As if in a coincidence it is the Europeans who are seated on a large peninsula who first industrialize, and among them the Europeans in the north and west who are the most peninsular of all of them, and then among them the English, who are so peninsular they have a mini peninsula, within a peninsula all to themselves and then one which is surrounded by sea from all four, rather than just three sides.

It seems you are saying isolation from invasion is the unique factor as to why England and northwestern Europe became the cradle for the industrial revolution.  But then:

 Sub-saharan Africa has a severly disandvantageous geographic position. Sahara forms a giant natural obstacle to communication leaving black Africa in pronounced isolation. Those who are sealed off from imports lag behind.

But here it seems here that relative geographic isolation is something that would impede the development of the institutions neccessary for an industrial revolution.

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Marko replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:02 PM

It seems you are saying isolation from invasion is the unique factor as to why England and northwestern Europe became the cradle for the industrial revolution.  But then:

But here it seems here that relative geographic isolation is something that would impede the development of the institutions neccessary for an industrial revolution.


Yes. Specifically I talk about "an advantagous geographic position that is such so that it does not put insurmountable obstacles to communication and trade with the outside centers of learning, technology and wealth, yet poses a hugely significant obstacle to attack by any such foreign threats".

Generally England's geography makes it safe, but does not isolate it. In fact early on it probably does feel the negative effects of its great distance to more advanced centers of civilization, but after technology and knowledge (which unlike the far more isolated Congolese they are nontheless able to import albeit at a slight time lag) progresses to the point maritime voyage around Africa and across the Atlantic become possible, it with its wide acess to the Atlantic finds itself among the best positioned to acess the wealth of the Orient and the New World. Yet the progress which enables this to happen is nowhere sufficient to negate the strategic benefit of being an island. England is unique in that it has best of both worlds. After 1500 it has excellent communication routes, yet a secure position on an island that lets its easily preserve its independence against far more populous empires on the mainland (prior to the industrial revolution England was a relative minnow in terms of population size compared to Spain or France and could have been concievably easy pickings for them had it been actually located on the continent).

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While I do believe you are right in that England’s geographic position is one of the reasons why the industrial revolution occurred there initially, I don’t believe that her position is unique.  There are other places in the world that share similar advantages while still retaining trade and communication with the world at large.  Japan, Indochina, India, Arabia, Ethiopia are all places that are relatively secure from constant invasion, yet never came close to having the foundations for an industrial revolution. 

I would think that there are a number of other prerequisites necessary for an event like the industrial revolution to occur.  Things like the appropriate resources for an early IR of water, coal, iron, etc.  Other things such as the necessary technology, to the accumulation of the appropriate amount of saved capital to actually enable the construction the machinery and equipment.  I would think that you could agree that this is true.

So the real question is why is it in Europe, or more specifically, in England that all of these necessary ingredients were available?

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