Source: How did Europe become the richest part of the world? | Aeon Essays
Good stuff. I find it interesting that the authors specifically says Christianity played no part, yet then go on to point out that elements of shared culture were key, primarily the commonality of Christianity and the Church structure (and Classical heritage) were most important. Perhaps the most important element was willingness, and ability, to share.
I recommend the article.
The authors point out structure hindered in Asia and in the Ottoman Empire. That is, conservative forces (perhaps better thought of as the status quo) repressed innovation. Of course, stability has it merrit; specifically, the Byzantine-Ottoman structure amounted to the most stable, longest lasting governance of all time. Stagnant, but stable. I’ll advocate for freedom. Our hearts long most for being unhindered by external plans. Bureaucracy kills our souls. The labyrinth of government requirements and impositions kills us actively in body and soul. Stability eventually will passively kill our souls as well. Freedom is essential. (Why do you think God made us free? Our souls are intended to thrive, not simply get by.)
It is obvious that we must have relatively open borders and mostly unfettered free trade, especially in ideas and speech. We MUST have freedom of speech. We must let ideas, facts, and data be open to all. Let the haters hate, let the liars lie, let the maniacs rave, let the extremists shout, let the propagandists make it all purdy, but most of all, publish the truth. (That’s your job. Reason is the key.)
Listen to those clued in about what we call persuasion. (Scott Adams, #ScottAdams, @ScottAdamsSays, http://blog.dilbert.com/; of course, Scott Adams suggests some reading, his and others. I hope you will take his insights to heart. I tend to think he’s missing the point by focusing only on what works, not none on what’s right, but he may have the heart of the matter. What is right might just be along for the ride, and we just have to keep waiting for it to find purchase amongst the noise of what keeps everything going, whatever happens to be motivating people at the moment. It is obviously messy. I keep hoping reason can win out, but like Adams says, just look at the best and brightest minds of all time. One finds rather significant differences in their understands of what we esteem the important things.)
A comment in the article about the printing press reminds me what an unruly mess that matter was. Everyone with an inkling got hold of a press and printed anything that would sell. Tabloid journalism at its best. Fake news. Imaginary news. Plagiarism sometimes, but usually just unauthorized publishing of another’s work without compensation back to the author. There were hardly any restrictions on copying. Copyright was not a thing during the greatest expansions of Europe’s thinking. Copyright considerations were hardly significant until after the rise of the United States. It makes one wonder if we should chuck the whole notion of intellectual property rights and count on a sense of decency. (Yes, some will suffer and be deprived unjustly, but the overall growth just might make even the deprived better off soon enough.)
Ideas are important. It is important to share ideas.
Here’s a good point:
Fifty years after the publication of William Harvey’s text on the circulation of blood De Motu Cordis (1628), the English doctor and intellectual Thomas Browne reflected on Harvey’s discovery that ‘at the first trump of the circulation all the schools of Europe murmured … and condemned it by a general vote … but at length [it was] accepted and confirmed by illustrious physicians.’
I point it out because the consensus is never a valid indicator. Acceptance of the idea was no more important than its original rejection. Consensus didn’t matter. What mattered was whether the idea proved out. As Harvey’s notions were tried, probably often in contempt, they proved out. Well, sooner or later the cognitive dissonance loses sway, and what works takes over. Consensus long after the facts is simply comfortable and productive. It is never authoritative.
Side note: Gravity. While the consensus on gravity as a fact of life, water running downhill, and all that, there really is no consensus among the learned experts. Even the most certain in the standard model and accepted theories of gravity worry that they are missing something. No one ever addresses gravitational theories with reference to the consensus. Gravitation theories are always addressed in terms of what works, and what just might prove to work better.
I hold government regulation and bureaucracy as the gravest threat to modern society. The experiment of the USA is mired in a Byzantine quagmire that must be ended. The US is not alone. Government regulation and bureaucracy is killing us. If anything can set the world back a few centuries, it is the power of the State. We must pull back that power. We must establish freedom. We must kill off regulation from central authorities. I honestly think it is happening before our eyes. Technological advancement is outpacing coercive authority. Technological capabilities in the hands of the masses are empowering us to overcome our governments’ restrictions little by little. I can’t promise an easy road, but I believe it is a road we are travelling, and we will complete the traverse come hell or high water. We are going there even if it kills most of us. The moral arc bends slowly, but it bends toward justice, and government regulation and bureaucracy is the harshest impediment toward justice extant today. This impediment will be overcome no matter how harsh the accomplishment proves.
We need to enforce our laws, because we are society of laws. Yet, we need to improve our laws. We need openness and more freedom. We need to protect ourselves and our culture, but we must not act in fear. Our culture has a heart, here in the USA, and we need not fear influx of other culture. Our heart, “The American Way,” may evolve, but it will hold up; it will remain true to its essence. We believe in open exchange between individuals. We need to extend that up and out. We need to uphold the principle of free exchange above fears and above prejudices. Let freedom ring. Enforce our laws, but keep making our laws more open and less restrictive. Most of all, we need to keep lessening our laws. It is the burden of so many laws and regulations that hold us back. It is that same burden that makes us fear each other and allows us to fall to violence and coercion, pretending the law is on our side, even when we know the Truth and the Right are against us. It matters. Do what is right, not what is lawful or winnable in court.
Another noteworthy statement:
In such systems, once the process gets underway, it can become self-propelled. In that sense, knowledge-based growth is one of the most persistent of all historical phenomena – though the conditions of its persistence are complex and require above all a competitive and open market for ideas.
The authors included a variety of topics, a bit of a hodgepodge, and my own comments obviously wander afield with little aim. Oh well. I mostly wanted to record my thoughts, and hopefully encourage a reader or two.
Those authors pointed out that it didn’t have to happen. Coercion could have held sway and stifled the innovations and progress. Progressivists forget that the key to progress is freedom, not central control, not central planning. Power corrupts. Centralized authority of any form always becomes corrupted to the detriment of most while unfairly enriching the few with that authority.
Freedom is paramount. Let freedom ring.
|Philadelphia Dec. 23. 1791.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
In closing, the article that prompted my writing is long. It is worthwhile. I cannot recommend it enough. Did you read it?