[JARED DIAMOND:] In Guns, Germs, and Steel I asked why history has unfolded differently over the last 13,000 years in Eurasia, in the Americas, in sub-Saharan Africa, and in Aboriginal Australia, with the result that within the last 500 years Europeans were the ones who conquered Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians and sub-Saharan Africans, rather than vice versa.
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I propose to get some empirical information about this question by comparing the histories of China and Europe. Why is it that China in the Renaissance fell behind Europe in technology? Often people assume that it has something to do with the Confucian tradition in China supposedly making the Chinese ultra-conservative, whereas the Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe supposedly stimulated science and innovation. Well, first of all, just ask Galileo about the simulating effects of the Judeo-Christian tradition on science. Then, secondly, just consider the state of technology in medieval Confucian China. China led the world in innovation and technology in the early Renaissance. Chinese inventions include canal lock gates, cast iron, compasses, deep drilling, gun powder, kites, paper, porcelain, printing, stern-post rudders, and wheelbarrows — all of those innovations are Chinese innovations. So the real question is, why did Renaissance China lose its enormous technological lead to late-starter Europe?
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I enjoyed Jared's book immensely, so it was rather a shock to find the addendum so shallow and, particularly, so depressingly pessimistic. He manages in one brief article to scotch any possibility of arms control, and to argue convincingly in favor of "the race to the bottom". For examples of the latter he could hardly have picked two more convincing cases than the American beer and food-processing industries. The purveyors of tasteless instant-grown chickens, antibiotic-saturated beef, elastic tomatoes, and paper-mache Washington State apples, not to mention massive groundwater pollution in the coastal states, are apparently to carry all before them. Fortunately, there are other countries than Japan with whom the comparison could be made, and many of them produce tasty foods efficiently. Even Diamond seems to recognise that American beer has carried the virtues of mass production beyond reasonable bounds, as a glance at the shelves of the local supermarket with its array of multiethnic and microbrewery products would confirm.


Just wondering how many people you know personally, that saved and invested, especially if they made minimum wage, weren’t college educated, had a family to support, etc. and became as you say, ‘filthy rich’ by following the principles of this page? People read simple-minded articles and poor things, if they are simple-minded enough to believe the garbage.

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