Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Fukuyama Continues to Explain It All

Now he says the end of history is still to come, and the nearest thing to it around today is the transnational or apolitical European Union. The America that still believes in God, national sovereignty, and the military is way too historical to have a real future. But according to Nick Eberstadt, if we’re vulgar enough to look to demographic trends alone, ours is the only "advanced" country that seems to have much of a future. According to Alexandre Kojeve, the guy who understood that the end of history would have be the end of "man" properly so-called, the posthistorical world would be a wholly natural one. And how natural is it to have one species only unable to reproduce itself in a favorable environment? Surely Ratzinger/B16 is right that we have to stop thinking in terms of the nature-history dualism and achieve a genuinely "post-secular" understanding of the predicament of the contemporary European.

Discussions - 46 Comments

Oh, Peter, hush up 'bout white folks not havin' a "future." Any time now someone's gonna call you a racist, so I'd hunker down if I was you.

Thanks, Peter. The only way the post-historical world of Kojeve could be natural would be for us men to become the mere stuff of modern mathematical physics, Descates' re-imagined nature, with no desire for pleasure rich enough for love of the beautiful or for fear of unimaginable death. Fukuyama finally seems a sideshow. Ratzinger/B16 is now included in my modern class.

Paul, Laqueur is just being PC...a requirement in social science these days. "Civilizations" or "cultures" are just crypto-jargon for demes. This whole group of Ashland/Claremont folks...who put the zap on your brains that makes you allergic to straight talk about race?

Nice. A call for "straight talk about race" from someone who's afraid to post under his real name.

Before this thread falls into the precipice, let's note the point of dain's question - an ontological one, so to speak, since it points to the proper objects of study. He seems to imply an ecological/biological determinism: namely that enduring civilizations or cultures have to be based on heritable likenesses (the demes), and that they cannot succeed on the basis of a shared way of life. (I have not heard him say that he ranks his demes - though he may hold to some ranking, beyond "tooth and claw" success.) I think this is false and contrary to our tradition, but it is a coherent question.

Uoooh, Don, the heat of your moral anger can be felt through the 'Net. It is precisely BECAUSE I don't use my real name that "straight talk about race" is possible. Why? Because of people like you, who use their emotions rather than their brains. I don't feel like being burned at the stake for making perfectly valid empirical generalizations. Sorry if that doesn't suit you.

Sorry, I'm trying very hard not to post in the comments section any more, but I can't let this go. Dain, how can you possibly fault those of us who contribute to this site for not engaging in what you call "straight talk about race"? Even if we were inclined to agree with you (and we're not) you're essentially demanding that we--who don't hide behind pseudonyms--take risks that you're not willing to take yourself.

Diss-Dain: Kindly dis-Dain. Come on "out". Everyone plays fair here. At least everyone whose opinion you are likely to value.

dain - I was picking up on your term deme. Sometimes you also refer to hard-wiring. But you are also an admirer of Burke. Hence I don't think I have it quite right. There must be, in your view, levels of behavior that are more malleable than others.

No, Seaton...never. Take my opinion (which is almost always rooted in empirical observation), or leave it. In your case, I don't think it matters to me.

John, I hadn't thought that was a problem. Most of you NLT folks have attitudes that are well-aligned with PC pieties, and so I've often thought I offered you an opportunity to prove how "un-racist" the "new" Right really is. No? Then I suggest you create yourself an alter-ego and say what you REALLY think. There is no sin in this, so long as you don't engage in troll-like sniping, or use a variety of different names to support your own statements, or say outrageous things under one pseudonym and then, having vented, abandon it for another. Using an unreal name in the service of honest talk is no vice, particularly in an oppressive environment where moral gatekeepers burn you first and ask questions later (e.g., Duke).

Frankly, I don't think I'm constraining you in any way.

Steve, that is correct. As I've been (trying) to discuss with Fung on another thread, some phenotypic (rather than strictly genetic) traits are so obviously salient regardless of environmental context that people almost inevitably use them as templates for organizing generalizations...this is how humans think, it is hardwired. Stereotyping is natural, and usually rooted in some empirical observation (a point Steven Pinker makes very clear in his work).

Other traits lend themselves far more to social construction -- like religion, or political affiliation, or nationalism (although this latter can be founded on phenotypic and other ascribed traits...when it's not, you often have problems).

In short, some traits are much harder for a society to "digest" (or homogenize/integrate) than others. Surely this is not a controversial point (although it has controversial implications, apparently).

To Paul Seaton: We are on the same page. I am reading "Without Roots" right after Manent's no "World Beyond Politics." This is in Modern. I read Machiavelli, Bacon, Descartes, a little Hobbes and more Locke, dispense with Rousseau and go directly to Manent, who focuses on science and freedom as a point of departure. I'll let you know the student response in a couple weeks.


Demographics are overrated. For example, a previous France of only 10 million produced better works of art, philosophy and literature than a France of 50 million. Quantity does not equal quality.

The real problem for Europe is the third-world invasion, which must be stopped at all costs. As Jean Raspail said in Camp of the Saints, the greatest conservative novel of all time, we must stop this invasion, or we are finished.

Unlike the silly neocon parties in America, though, Europe actually has some real conservative parties: Attack Coalition (Bulgaria); British National Party;
Freedom Party (Austria); Front National (France); Greater Romania Party; Social Alternative (Italy); UKIP (UK); Vlaams Belang (Belgium).
Unlike the weak neocon / neoliberal parties in the USA, these European parties are actually conservative: they want to conserve Western man and his ancestral traditions.

Real Conservative, even if Europe wasn't being invaded/migrated to by third-world peoples (ie Muslims), they'd still be dying out. Nearly every single one is has been bellow replacement rate for some time (France is currently just at replacement rate due to a baby boom). Your point about small populations producing better art, etc. is well made, and smacks of Rousseau.

And you may well have found the crux of the matter in your last point: "true" conservatives want to conserve "Western man and his ancestral traditions", whereas neoconservatives want to conserve/promote the principles of the Western tradition (such as Natural Rights). So you want to preserve our traditions because they're our traditions, neoconservatives want to preserve them because they're timeless and good.

I post here under my real name, perhaps foolishly so. But I agree with dain. The PC climate makes it dangerous to do so for people whose opinions are not PC.



Too often the new Right, to use dain's terminology, hides behind PC or even uses it to attack their non-PC opposition.



The implication is often essentially something along these lines: “If you don’t want problems then don’t have (or at least express) opinions that are not PC.” “Tow the line and everything will be alright.”



This makes intelligent discussion impossible.

Jim Ceaser's fine book, Reconstructing America, has good discussions of Dain-like positions and various thoughtful responses (Publius; Tocqueville; Strauss) to them. Jim has a fine sense of the necessity of mediating material and cultural factors with specifically political ones (e.g., regime; respect for reason's capacities and awareness of its limits; spiritedness; love of freedom and of one's fellow human beings).

Robert Jeffrey: very interesting and encouraging report from you. You may (or may not) want to look at my review of A World beyond Politics? which appeared in the most recent Society. (Peter taught me the importance of "shameless self-promotion.")

Andrew, I suspect Real Conservative can speak for himself, but I believe he is suggesting that we should conserve our people and our traditions, because they are ours. The neocons want to preserve principles disconnected from any society and its people and traditions. The delusion that this can and should be done used to go by another name, Jacobin liberalism.



The obvious decline of Europe is the result of one thing - liberalism. Liberalism that makes people think it is OK to procreate at less than replacement rates. Liberalism that has brought about a loss of Faith. And liberalism that has bought the multicult lie. You can't fight liberalism with another form of liberalism.

Correction, Andrew. First, France doesn't keep records by racial/ethnic categories, so most commentators I've read suggest that their current fertility is strongly boosted by Muslim fertility. Second, my understanding is that the neocons want to spread Western values, not simply conserve them...which accounts for paleoconservative reservations about the Iraqi war. Also, is there something inconsistent about wanting to conserve both Western peoples and their traditions?

Eberstadt seems to be arguing that a states power is proportional to its population, and that if the US population grows, its power will increase relative to other countries.

If this were true then China and India would be the most powerful countries in the world at present. In fact, they would have been the most important for the past several hundred years. The single most significant country over the past thousand years, looking at political, economic, technological, and sociological impact, has been England. And it never made up more than a tiny fraction of the worlds population. Qualitative difference is far more significant than quantitative difference. See the Greeks versus the Persian Empire for a similar example.

Set aside for the moment the desirability of Eberstadt's goal - that US power increase relative to that of Italy and other political entities. Nothing in world history indicates that his means will lead him to that goal.

God forbid this comments thread would actually engage the specific content of Lawler's post (Fukuyama, the end of history, what European demographics might say about F's thesis, and B16's alternative, more adequate approach), rather than the devolution into tangential discussion of certain people's monomanical obsessions.

Well, Tom, seems to me you had a opportunity to get us back on track with that last post, but instead you decided to 'smack' us monomaniacs.

Fact is, without my "obsession" (which is, incidently, on topic here), this would be just another 4-post thread. Fukuyama has lost his credibility...why would anyone waste time commenting on him?

And, to get back on track, why was England so important? Because of the Industrial Revolution, and its population explosion in the 19th Century that let it export a few million people to other locales (essentially, the English Industrial Revolution 'went to seed'). Without the extra people it wouldn't have had anywhere near the impact on history.

More broadly, it takes people to have civilizational accomplishment. Cradle of civilization? Mesopotamia...very large populations for the time. Egypt, same. China, same. The Maya...same. The flip-side? Such civilizational 'hot-spots' as Sudan, Mongolia, South Dakota. Eberstadt is essentially correct, but (back to my monomania) the composition of the population can mitigate the advantages of size. Just read the history of any given empire.

That's absurd, dain. Many countries have had population explosions and have "export[ed] a few million people to other locales". And their contribution to humanity has been nil.


it takes people to have civilizational accomplishment.

Glad you figured that out. But it does not take very many people. The Golden Age of Greece was the product of what we would regard as a few small towns. The Greek population was tiny compared to that of the neighboring regions.

The Golden Age of Greece was the product of what we would regard as a few small towns. The Greek population was tiny compared to that of the neighboring regions.

Some peoples are more innovative than others, and cities naturally boost the population density (achieving lots of interaction for a smaller group of people). Moreover, slavery releases your elites for lots of fine work.

And, do you deny that China, Egypt, Rome, England, the Maya, or the Aztecs were large groups of people? The single counter-example of the Greeks hardly allows you to reject my thesis. Compare, for instance, the technologies of the Plains Indians (few and thinly scattered) with those of the Inca or the Maya (many, and densely settled). Major differences. Indeed, there is a whole tradition in social science (starting with Herbert Spencer) that uses population growth as an engine of economic, social and political change. And a good bit of empirical evidence to prove the point as well.

I like your posts, John (if you are the same guy), but you need to be more open to this idea. The Malthusians are wrong.

What does Malthus have to do with this?

Am I asking too much in expecting people here to present coherent arguments instead of simply chanting Neocon!, Paleocon!, Malthusian!, Haliburton!, Jacobin!, and thinking they have said something clever?

The single counter-example of the Greeks hardly allows you to reject my thesis.

You don't have a thesis.

do you deny that China, Egypt, Rome, England, the Maya, or the Aztecs were large groups of people?

Yes, for the most part. Rome, England, and numerous other highly successful and influential civilisations were not exceptionally populous. The English force which subdued the Indian sub-continent (population over 100 million) numbered in the thousands. Whatever accounts for the success of the English, it was not their numbers.

The most highly populated areas are today (and have been in the past) China and India. If Herbert Spencer is correct these places should be teeming not only with people, but with "economic, social and political change." They're not. If your thesis cannot account for observed facts I suggest you change it.


The Roman Empire eventually grew to encompass a large proportion of the population of Europe. It's nucleus right to the end was a single city. The influx of large numbers of people from outside the Empire, which the Romans accepted or encouraged, did not result in an increase in the Empires economic, military, or political power. It led to its destruction.

Dain, I may be wrong about French birthrates, but I believe we're not disagreeing on the general point: Europeans are on the way out. And I use the term "neoconservatives" pretty loosely. I'm not even sure what exactly a neoconservative is, but I consider myself a conservative who doesn't base his beliefs entirely on the English Constitution or Western tradition simply, and many on this website who do have codified such beliefs into "neoconservativism".

That said, I think you may be right that true neoconservatives do want to export Western liberalism. This is because, I believe, true neoconservatives are simply conservative progressives who left the Democratic Party when the Demos castrated themselves in the 60s. I am not one of these people, although I do believe that because of America's power and preeminence we necessarily have to be more proactive abroad simply because we're such a big target. I would be perfectly OK with a pro-American Iraqi dictator who reasonably respected Natural Rights and maintained order.

Andrew, you have stumbled onto the truth. How can a conservative, any denomination of conservative, want to export Western LIBERALISM? Now there is a head scratcher.

"Am I asking too much in expecting people here to present coherent arguments instead of simply chanting Neocon!, Paleocon!, Malthusian!, Haliburton!, Jacobin!, and thinking they have said something clever?"



John, if the shoe fits... Especially the neocon and Jacobin titles.

Sigh...so John, you want a treatise. I'll give it to you straight: Population growth and density force human populations to create new technologies in order to support larger numbers. We see this in Neolithic Europe with the emergence of settled agriculture. As populations climb, competition between people doing similar things forces specialization, encouraging complex divisions of labor over time, which ultimately lead to civilizational achievements. Adam Smith said something similar about market size and economic growth. Herbert Spencer systemically developed it, and later scholars (e.g., Ester Boserup and Julian Simon) used it to explain development. In short, this is not some crackpot theory.

India..that's just too complicated to discuss intelligently in this forum. The primary way England took it was by the GUN, MILITARY DISCIPLINE, and the WARSHIP. Also, it was taken piecemeal, not all at once. Later, the English held it with THE RAILROAD. These technologies were "force multipliers." And remember, John, the Indians invited the "0" and a great many other things...they have always been an accomplished people.

John, what are the average annual growth rates of China and India today? Do you know? And, is there an example of a "booming economy" where population growth is negative? I'll wait for your responses on these.

Andrew...good to hear you say these things. I have my own doubts about the neocon "project" (if such it is) -- at least, I wonder if just being who we are isn't more effect than Abrams tanks in spreadin' the word. And, it is certainly true that a vigorous, growing West will help that spread far better than a senescent, unmanned West.

I'm not sure if we're on the same page as far as "liberalism" is concerned . . .

Sigh.

Population growth and density force human populations to create new technologies in order to support larger numbers.

Are you going to contine to assert this, or will you at some stage make an effort to substantiate it with reference to the historical record?

You really don't seem to be familiar with history. Increases in population follow technological development. They don't precede it. The soaring worldwide population over the past few hundred years is a result of such developments as efficient sewage systems, more efficient agriculture, better medicine.

The "left" seems to think that science is a black box which can be made to increase its output by pushing more stuff in. More money, more resources, etc. The "right" is under the impression that science is a black box which can be made to increase its output by dangling incentives before it. Science does not work in either of these ways.

We don't really understand what process is at work in the mind of a Gauss or a Newton or Einstein. The scientific process does seem to be more akin to the creative process involved in music than anything else. We do know what is not at play, and that is some desire to support a large population. Quantum mechanics and Relativity were not conjured up by science in an effort to meet some perceived need for them on the part of humanity.

I'm amused to hear that India, like China and the Middle East, is somehow exempt from the theory you are advancing. Can you cite any high population density area which has been a scene of intellectual ferment any time in the past two thousand years?

Around 1700 Scotland was dirt poor. It was an intellectual backwater. It did not have a rapidly growing population. For reasons we don't understand, over the next hundred and fifty years this place (actually just the towns of Glasgow and Aberdeen) gave rise to the Scottish Enlightment. From Hutchinson to Hume, Smith to Watt, many of the ideas driving the West today originated in this unlikely spot.

I don't claim to understand exactly the process at work here. I do know that it was not "population pressure", as if some teeming mass of people built up like pressure in a hose causing ideas to squirt out the other end. If that were the way things work, Bangladesh would be leading the world in new ideas.

Do I really need to produce evidence when it exists all around us? The hotbeds of innovation in this country are the coasts, which is no coincidence...that's where the people are.

Would England/Scotland have spontaneously exploded into industrial powers without all those people just across the channel (or overseas)? The actual causes of the IR are complex, including England as an island (and therefore protected from wars), Norman centralization (well before anyone on the continent), and Calvinism...but without the people, nothing would have happened. You note examples like sewage systems boosting population, but if you look at the first modern sewage system (London's), it was explosive population growth that forced their hand on the project (there's a great National Geographic special on that very topic). Have a rare disease...well, don't wait for the pharmaceutical companies -- no market, no drugs. You want traffic congestion to decrease in your home city? Tough, they generally expand road systems in RESPONSE to demand, not vice-versa. Such examples are legion. Population almost always precedes innovation, or, as the old saw goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."

Now, don't get the wrong idea. Very rapid population growth severely strains a society. The "payoff" for large populations is adaptation and problem-solving, and that takes decades. This is why China had more civilizational achievements than India (China had a larger population much earlier in history). Who invented gunpowder? Paper? The crossbow? The clock? China, that's who.

The truth is, the Industrial Revolution was the anomaly, and few could have guessed that England/Scotland would have been the cradle of those world-shaking technologies. Neither the Brits nor the Greeks invalid the general hypothesis that population and technological achievement are strongly correlated. Which is the cause and which is the effect? They interact, and sometimes technologies have impacts on populations, but the opposite case in more generally true.

You want a reference? Read Boserup's 1981 book...it's very concise.

I see I did not respond to your question, dain.

is there an example of a "booming economy" where population growth is negative?

Yes. Armenia has a negative population growth rate, and has an economy growing faster than China's.

None of which has anything to do with the initial discussion, regarding whether population growth is needed to "force" the development of new ideas. Economic growth in China and Armenia has nothing to do with population growth or technological innovation. Of course, there are ideas beyond technological ones, and there are desirable things besides economic growth.

The hotbeds of innovation in this country are the coasts

dain, this is infantile. What "innovation" are you referring to?

Neither the Brits nor the Greeks invalid the general hypothesis that population and technological achievement are strongly correlated.

I get the impression that nothing at all can invalididate your hypothesis. Given that, could you at least make some sort of effort to support your position, other than saying "Gee, its obvious!" I can sit here pointing out contrary cases until Ashbrooks servers fill up, and it clearly won't do any good.

The truth is, the Industrial Revolution was the anomaly

Yup. The Industrial Revolution was an anomaly. Just like the Greeks. And Switzerland. All the REAL ideas in history came from these high population pressure places, which you just have not gotten around to naming yet. New York City, as we all know, is where Crick and Watson figured out DNA.

"I'm not sure if we're on the same page as far as "liberalism" is concerned . . ."



I think we are. The entire neoconservative project is a defense of "Western" liberal democracy. How is defending liberalism a form of conservatism? Authentic American conservatives certainly support elements of liberalism (the free market generally, limited government, separation of powers, etc.), but they are not slavish defenders of all things liberal. Modern notions of equality, absolute religious pluralism, absolute democracy, etc. Many neocons are unapologetic progressives and scoff at tradition. They just want a certain type of progress – free market globalism and world-wide liberal democracy. And they are willing to sacrifice traditional societies and cultures to get it. The distinction you made about “principles’ is right on. You made it as a defense, but traditional conservatives would see that as part of the problem.

John, while it is interesting watching you smack people around, the only thing infantile is your willful refusal to acknowledge evidence. How many examples do I have to give you? I can lead you to water, but I can't force you to drink... So, what kind of innovation? Well, let's see...one good example would be California's pioneering of computer technologies. Or how about civil engineering and architectural innovations in NYC? Menlo Park in New Jersey ring any bells? And, oh yes, where did Bell live? Rational discourse requires more than asking increasingly ridiculous questions.

My hypothesis has been validated by statistical analysis. Economists have found that labor force growth uniquely contributes to economic growth. Julian Simon found the same relationship between population density and economic complexity/growth. I'm sorry if you aren't familiar with the professional literature, but it does exist.

What made the Greeks so special was NOT some mystical property, but precisely that they were divided into cities and (often) dependent on overseas trade. Essentially, they created the first intellectual class who could earn a living creating knowledge (which they did very well). As for the English, they did START the Industrial Revolution, but their machinery was woefully inefficient by modern standards...England's economic growth never exceeded 2% per anum during the 19th Century. Today, as population size and densities drive faster and more efficient innovations, 2% is considered rather anemic.

Oh, and universities are also hotbeds of innovation. Why? Because they bring together selected minds, resources, and the leisure to think about innovations. They are, essentially, artificial cities...utterly consistent with what I'm saying (your remark about Crick and Watson doesn't pertain). Could these men have done it in an isolated environment, without thousands of other people providing the resources they needed? Not a chance, and as society becomes ever more complex, the "lone scientist" model is losing its saliency.

If you would like citations of the professional literature linking population with economic growth, I can supply that. I've given you a theory, I've given you real-world examples, and I can give you statistical evidence. There isn't much more I can do here.

My hypothesis has been validated by statistical analysis. Economists have found that labor force growth uniquely contributes to economic growth.

I'm not sure why you refer to it as a theory and a hypothesis, let alone "your" theory and hypothesis, if this is so.

Your repeating ad nauseum that your theory has been validated by "economists" is answering a question I have not asked. Argument from authority is the weakest form of argument. That is especially the case when your authorities are not very authoritative.

Economists have found that labor force growth uniquely contributes to economic growth.

"Uniquely contributes"? What exactly does this mean? It sounds a lot like the old Marxist economic model in which labor is thought to be directly proportional to economic growth. In a capitalist economy, as I'm sure you are aware, economic growth is not tied to the size of the labor force. If it were, per capita income could never increase. So what are you trying to say here? Under the economic theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo down through Mises and Hayek, it is understood that there is no correlation between population and economic growth. In fact Ricardo argued that industrialisation would require fewer and fewer workers. The essence of increased productivity is that you can produce the same with fewer workers, or more with the same numbers. You do understand this, right? Right?

Let's not kid ourselves here, dain. What you know about economics is stuff you picked up browsing around on the web.

Oh, and universities are also hotbeds of innovation.

Oh, of course.

what kind of innovation? Well, let's see...one good example would be California's pioneering of computer technologies

Do you know anything about the computer industry, beyond some "everybody knows" stuff? Never mind, lets assume that California actually was a pioneer in computer technology. Is California a densely populated place, either by American or by world standards? Was it so in 1980, which is when I'm guessing you think it was pioneering computer technology? I suppose you have to answer "yes" in order to squeeze it into your theory, but I'd like to see the numbers you are working from.

You see, for your "theory" to hold, you need to be able to demonstrate some correlation between population density and technological discovery. (And economic growth.)You need to explain why the Wright brothers came up with the first powered aircraft in largely empty 1912 America, and why nobody did so in largely full 1912 India or China. You need to be able to explain why those parts of the world with the largest and fastest growing populations are not the wealthiest parts, or the most innovative parts, but the poorest and least innovative parts. Would you like to take a stab at doing that? Any time now would be good.

You need to be able to explain why the pace of scientific discovery has not increased over the past fifty years, during a time when populations everywhere have gone up. You mention "civil engineering and architectural innovations in NYC". Can you list for me the innovations in these fields in NYC since 1950?

I've given you real-world examples

You haven't, actually. You have blustered your way through this with vague remarks. I'm telling you that practically all the ideas in the world, scientific and otherwise, have not come from high population density areas. I've given you specific examples. I've named names. A mapping of the greatest thinkers in world history superimposed on a world population map shows that they were not from those places with the greatest number of people. Telling me "Julian Simon says" does not change that.

I always thought the greatest innovations were the results of urbanization and freedom (freer markets, freer governments, etc.) Do either of you agree/disagree with that assessment? Certainly contrary examples exist (early civilizations in China and the Indus Valley), so perhaps it is a certain kind of innovation at which the West particularly excels.

John, you're a bit snide, and you don't have anything but arrogant bluster. You say that the pace of scientific discovery hasn't increased in the last 50 years...complete nonsense (what planet are you living on?). Moreover, you are completely wrong about classical (and neo-classical) economics, at least so far as it regards Smith. Did he or didn't he say that "the division of labor is limited by the size of the market"? What do you think that means?

Ohio was relatively densely settled in 1903...far more so that most of Latin America and Africa at the time. In Europe, they were inventing the motor car during the same general period. You haven't even made a good point here.

As for population and technology, here you go, one of many articles on the subject.

As for what "uniquely" means, it's clear you are ignorant of statistical methodology. I see no point in arguing with you further...you're worse than Dale.

Andrew, I think the influence of population growth or density can be channeled by politics. Freer environments probably bring out population's best effects, whereas over-centralization has social costs.

It's nice to hear a reasonable voice, BTW.

Oh, and John, just to leave no point uncontested, your example of Armenia as a booming economy in the midst of population decline is specious. Since a full third of her people are under the poverty line, and she is experiencing 7.4% unemployment, it's pretty clear that these high economic growth rates must be very recent and sharply segregated in a sector or two. It's a flash in the pan, John. Sorry about that...keep looking.

All the great civilizations of the past became decadent because the originally creative race died out, as a result of contamination of the blood. The most profound cause of such a decline is to be found in the fact that people ignored the principle that all culture depends on men, and not the reverse. In other words, in order to preserve a certain culture, the type of manhood that creates such a culture must be preserved. But such a preservation goes hand-in-hand with the inexorable law that it is the strongest and the best who must triumph and that they have the right to endure.

Andrew

I always thought the greatest innovations were the results of urbanization and freedom (freer markets, freer governments, etc.)

There is enough ambiguity in the terms "greatest innovations", "urbanization", and "freedom" that you could make any argument you wanted to here. Arguably the development of plastics was a greater innovation than the General Theory of Relativity. Some people (like dain) regard the change from hunter-gatherers to farming as being a form of urbanization.

Even allowing for that, if you look at specific scientific achivements I think you will have a difficult time fitting them into your theory. In what concrete sense was Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, the result of free markets, or urbanisation? Any attempt to construct a chain of causality there is going to involve a lot of hand-waving.

I'm used to encountering progressivism on the left. But I'm fascinated to find that there exists a strain of people on the right whose belief in the historical inevitability of human improvement makes the "progressives" look like despairing fatalists. You people are not optimists in the sense of believing that there are problems which we can overcome through hard work and determination. You don't seem willing to even acknowledge the existence of problems. That's the current GOP in a nutshell.

dain

I'm not surprised in the least that you moved the goalposts yet again. You asked for a country with negative population growth and a booming economy. I gave you one. If you are now concerned with things like povetry rate and unemployment, why not look at these things in places like India and Bangladesh? Speaking of Bangladesh, I asked you why the people there are not wallowing in luxury as your theory says they should be, rather than in mud and water. Any chance you will ever respond?

You think that the pace of scientific discovery has increased in the past fifty years. In your standard fashion, you assert this but offer nothing to back it up. At this point I've losing interest in the original issue. The interesting thing at this point is observing your thought processes. I imagine that you are a reasonably intelligent person, as these things are measured. Probably a college student. But somewhere you picked up the idea that you are entitled to believe whatever you want to. It's the disease of modernity.

Ohio was relatively densely settled in 1903...far more so that most of Latin America

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about. You don't know what the population density was in either of these places in 1903. More to the point, you don't even care. You remind me of that old line about children swearing: they know the words but can't carry the tune. You approximate the sounds of rationality, but you have not mastered the thing itself.

Here is what I want you to do. Pick the search engine of your choice. Look up "GDP per capita by country", "population density by country", and "GDP by country". Map these things on to each other in Excel. If you like, make a scatter graph of the data points.

You will see what we all already understand. There is no correlation between GDP and GDP per capita and population density. This is what is called a "fact".

You will also notice that Mexico, Honduras, and the rest of Latin America have a higher population density today then America does. Mexico City makes New York seem like a small town, with its population of about twenty million. I guess that explains why Americans keep sneaking across the southern border seeking a better life, and why the very word "Mexico" is synonomous with creativity and prosperity.

In any case I'm done with this. Feel free to cap this off with your usual claim about how all reasonable (but anonymous) economists agree with you.

John, I think your problem is a failure to think in probablistic terms, and also a failure to think in multivariate terms. You expect a relationship between two variables that has no variation around the line -- there is no such relationship in nature. Moreover, sometimes a third variable interferes with the relationship between two others (e.g., the positive relationship between sunshine and plant growth...positive, but until you also "control" for soil nutrients you don't see the true picture). In the case of population and economic development, a third variable that complicates the pattern is time -- the longer your nation has been populous and/or densely settled, the more likely you are to have advanced institutions. Another such variable is politics...parasitic states tend to mitigate the advantages of population, which has been the story of India and China (of course, it's more complex than that).

So, how could I possibly get through to you? One way is to show you a study where time and politics have been held relatively constant...a study of states/provinces in the United States and Canada. Near the end of the paper you will find the kind of graphs you've requested.

Now, I get the sense that you aren't the kind of guy to admit defeat, so I won't ask you to do so. I would admonish you to know something about a topic before you pontificate about it. We are done here.

Can't let this pass.

the longer your nation has been populous and/or densely settled, the more likely you are to have advanced institutions

The US, of course, has been densely settled for a shorter time than just about every country on Earth. In fact, if dain had done the investigation I asked him to, he would be aware that it is not very densely populated even today, compared to other countries. "Advanced institutions" are notable by their absence in those places which have been densely populated since prehistoric times. Iraq and Egypt come to mind. Other than these points, the above is as factually accurate as everything else dain says.

Well, I guess we aren't done here...but next time I would hope you would at least look at the evidence I post before you sound off.

Have you never heard of cultural diffusion, sir? Europe's cultural institutions were imported to America...essentially, it had the benefit of centuries of European development almost automatically. Really, you need to stop thinking in such simple black-and-white terms.

And your point about Iraq and Egypt simply demonstrates (again) how little perspective you have. Iraq INVENTED writing and cities; Egypt invented the centralized, bureaucratic state. It's true that neither invented industrialism, but then again both were invaded and conquered by the Arabs (and in Iraq's case, by the Mongels and well as the Ottomans -- both notorious parasites).

Really, you need to stop..you are beginning to look truly ignorant.

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