Comments on: No, a nation’s geography is not its destiny Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:57:19 +0000 hourly 1 By: godfree Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:56:10 +0000 Another difference is that north of the border we murdered all the indigenes and wiped out their culture. South of the border the indigenous culture remains the majority ethos, with a relative few Europeans acting as overlords and exploiters.

By: John2244 Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:46:18 +0000 I find Guns Germs and Steel to be one of the best books written. What you get out of it is giant macro trends shape civilization versus micro ones. The premis of the the book is that geography blocked guns, germs and steel and if you look over humans history over 10,000 years – that all the nuanced arguments we had over China vs. Rome vs. India vs. Greece vs. Europe all blurred into one as they all shared common vectors. The book is about history and anthropology – not todays earth. Obviously today germs, animals, and people can move in 24 hours to the other side of the planet whereas 3000, years ago it took 200,000 years for a European fox to invade North America. Its like he completely missed the point.

What Guns Germs and Steel might relate to in a future sense is inter-planetary evolution. You could argue that if a group of solar systems has higher life in multiple planets the warfare, technology and germ resistance would be greater than a single planet in a area of space. If a particular solar system has 2 advanced lifeforms – there eventual competition would increase the pace of technological development.

This works itself out over 10,000’s of years – not 50. Nogales was one sleepy town 20 years ago and it will be again in 100 more. No border creates such variance for more than a flash in time.

To sum it up – Diamond is about Macro-History and the author of this new book is focused on the minute.

By: dadacapital Tue, 20 Mar 2012 06:42:37 +0000 Nullcorp is a G. AWESOME ANALYSIS! If you have a blog, I would follow it daily.

By: CuDubh Mon, 19 Mar 2012 23:05:14 +0000 This is not very convincing. Geography is not “unhelpful”, and cherry-picking a few possible exceptions doesn’t make it so.

An obvious difference between Mexico and the United States is population relative to resources. Until very recently, Mexico had a very high birth rate, and there still is just not enough inherent wealth and real estate to go around.

Similarly China’s present development probably owes an enormous amount to the one family, one child policy. China’s leaders realized that without reigning in population growth, national progress was impossible.

In South America, booming countries like Brazil have made concerted efforts to become self sufficient in both food and fuel–agricultural breakthroughs have very rapidly increased the per-capita wealth, which is kept at home in part because the country has gone from an importer to an exporter of fuel.

There is also a fairly unfortunate assumption that material wealth is good and material poverty (e.g. “stone age” technology) is bad. It is well known to geographers (although apparently not political economists) that some of the happiest and most stable cultures on earth are very materially simple.

By: Anonymous Mon, 19 Mar 2012 22:40:15 +0000 Looking across the arc of history, two institutions seem to define the success or failure of peoples: church and state. Where there is close cooperation between the two and the populace has a strong martial tradition, you’ll see advances in the political and material success of that group. Unfortunately these gains will be temporary if the political machinery becomes ossified by the in-bred influence of a select class, and, if the religion hardens and exists to serve the state rather than the spiritual well-being of the average individual. A great deal of scholarship has been invested in illuminating this hypothesis, yet here we are, 2012, without having overcome the hazards of oppressive political cultures and faiths predicated on the self-serving teachings of the priestly class.

By: RynoM Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:57:11 +0000 This looks like it should be a good read, but whether or not I take this one home will depend on if it does indeed present a straw man for demolition, as it certainly appears it might. Diamond’s work “Guns, Germs and Steel” specifically stopped at 1500AD. I never once came across the concept that “geography is destiny”; rather I understood it to explain the factors leading up to the state of things ca 1492 when disparate civilizations collided. It made no attempt to address things beyond that point. Certainly what the Europeans brought with them in was game-changing, and their not being able to capitalize on that advantage from that point forward is unthinkable.

I love history, but there is a great deal of it out there I have yet to read, and I consider the straw man gambit to be a waste of my time. Fortunately I read quickly, so 20 minutes at the library or the bookstore should flush that out.

By: jtfane Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:16:44 +0000 I also look forward to reading this book, but I agree with the previous comment from @Nullcorp regarding the unnecessary and misguided refutation of Jared Diamond’s efforts presented in “Guns, Germs and Steel”. The stated purpose of that book was to attempt to answer the question “Why did history unfold differently on different continents?” and Diamond specifically states in the prologue that he is addressing human development up to AD 1500. The changes brought about by modern technologies including transportation, communication and weaponry in the last 200 years alone have drastically changed the political and sociological face of the planet since that time. From my reading of Diamond’s work he made no attempt to address these recent changes and it would seem to me that it is an unnecessary distraction to attempt to refute them from that perspective.

As I mentioned, from reading the authors’ blog and other reviews of this new work I do look forward to reading it and genuinely appreciate the addition to this very important, growing body of knowledge. But please, despite what I imagine are your publishers best intentions, let’s leave the meaningless confrontations to the Jerry Springer crowd. There’s certainly room for both of these theories without having to trample one another.

And BTW @Nullcorp, not sure if you realized this or not but Jared Diamond is actually a professor of Physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine and is therefore likely eminently more qualified to answer your hypothetical vitamin C or D question than most physicians FWIW. Not that I’m trying to be confrontational or anything. Your point was well made and I’m in complete agreement.

By: CapitalismSays Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:01:15 +0000 I find it interesting that this book would appear to revolve around disproving Jared Diamond but yet, the phrase “Guns, Germs and Steel” is surprisingly absent from the article. His primary argument has also been misrepresented so that it states geography is the sole determining factor of wealth (straw man). You can’t take half of someone’s theory and use it to prove yours is right. Technology incorporates a lot more than geography, so does extracting and using natural resources. Even disease becomes less reliant on geography when man made drug-resistant bugs come into play.

A much more effective argument would be to state that institutions determine how natural resources are used, and together these shape a civilization. You can’t use resources you don’t have and that fact has certainly given one civilization and advantage over another on more than one occasion.

I see lots of correlation in this article but very little potential for proof of causation.

By: Nullcorp Mon, 19 Mar 2012 17:58:36 +0000 I look forward to reading your book, but I think you could do better than allowing Diamond to frame your entire critique. Nothing is more boring than watching academics argue with one another. Instead of trying to punch holes in his theory, why not realize that top-down theories of success (or failure) will always be incomplete? The world is too complex to quantify under one simple theory. Geography may very well be destiny, until the conquistadors arrive, so what happens if they never arrive?

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Attempting to dethrone popular theories like “geography is destiny” by replacing them with another theory is not going to work. Geography is not necessarily destiny, and whatever institutional theory you come up will not necessarily be destiny either.

Instead of theories, you need a complex probability model, one that includes a multitude of factors working in parallel. If Jared Diamond was a physician and he was arguing, “Vitamin C is the cure,” you wouldn’t reach a more valid conclusion by arguing, “No, Vitamin D is the cure.” Neither vitamin is the cure (unless you were debating scurvy and rickets, respectively) but both vitamins are absolute requirements for human life.

Just as medicine is beginning to look at the whole organism, at the total interaction of incredibly complex systems, other disciplines should also abandon simplistic theories and begin to look at the entire organism: the entire world.

Of course, few would buy a book called “482 Potential Reasons Why Nations Fail.” Nobody has the time to parse complexity anymore, we want simple answers, summaries, soundbites. So it’s easier to sell books using a bold proclamation of certainty, such as the title “Why Nations Fail.” That provocative title seems to imply that you’ve found a definitive answer to the problem. I’m skeptical, and something in this essay tells me that I’ll be no less of a skeptic after reading the book.

By: Ian_Kemmish Mon, 19 Mar 2012 17:03:11 +0000 On the other hand, your theory implies that the geographical distribution of silkworms, kaolin and now rare earths should never have given China any economic advantage.

It would seem that neither theory is adequate for making testable predictions.