How The West Won

by Rodney Stark
“Americans are in danger of being badly misled by a flood of absurd, politically correct fabrications, all of them popular on college campuses: That the Greeks copied their whole culture from black Egyptians. That European science originated in Islam. That Western affluence was stolen from non-Western societies. That Western modernity was really produced in China, and not so very long ago. The truth is that, although the West wisely adopted bits and pieces of technology from Asia, modernity is entirely the product of Western civilization.
I use the term modernity to identify that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living that characterize Western nations and are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world. For there is another truth: to the extent that other cultures have failed to adopt at least major aspects of Western ways, they remain backward and impoverished.”
Introduction
I. Classical Beginnings (500 BCE-500)
1. Stagnant Empires and the Greek ‘Miracle’
2.  Jerusalem’s Rational God
3.  The Roman Interlude
II. Early Medieval Progress (500-1200)

4. Blessings of  ‘European’  Disunity
5. Northern Lights Over Christendom
6. Freedom and Capitalism
III. Medieval  Transformations  (1200-1500)
7.  Climate, Plague and Social Change
8.  Universities and Natural Philosophy
9.  Industry, Trade,  and Technology
10.  Discovering the World
IV. The Dawn of Modernity (1500-1750)
11.  New World Conquests and Colonies
12. The Rise and Fall of the Golden Empire
13. Luther’s Reformation: Myths and Realities
14. Exposing Muslim Illusions
15.  Science Comes of  Age
V. Modernity (1750- )

16.  The Industrial ‘Revolution’
17.  Why Britain? Liberty, Merit and the ‘Bourgeois’
18.  Globalization and Colonialism
Bibliography

Webster on religion

Webster’s defines religion as “a belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe.” So, some god or gods created and rule the universe, and they must be obeyed and worshiped.

Scientists estimate that the observable universe contains at least a hundred billion galaxies. A galaxy can contain hundreds of billions of solar systems. A solar system can contain many planets and moons.

In short, we don’t know the limits of the universe, however man appears to have an unlimited capacity for adornment.

We have at least 75 major religions each with their own explanation about the god or gods who created and rule this universe. These religions tell us, forcefully in some cases, how those creators and rulers must be obeyed and worshiped.

And some terrible things are predicted to happen to those who don’t obey and worship, including murder and hell. Granted, most devout religious followers aren’t so severe in their punishments. But some estimate as many as tens of millions consider it okay to kill unbelievers.

We have a combinatorial explosion of religious beliefs competing for our devotion, and not a one of them can be objectively proven true for the physical universe as we know it.

This is the challenge faith must overcome and over 8 in 10 people around the world agree with faith.

Back when the known universe was the sun, moon, earth and a few planets, religious beliefs were no less difficult to prove, and the bar was set much lower.

the poverty of equal outcomes

What nation does not have a “policy or practice of aggressively expanding its influence over other countries?” What nation does not have policies to expand its export markets and sell its goods into the markets of other countries? What nation does not attempt to establish trade conditions with other countries in order to obtain the best trade terms possible? What nation does not seek to maximize the comparative advantage of its own economic strengths in trading with other nations?

All nations do these things. A nation that does not have policies to foster trade in favor of its own interests eventually ceases to exist. The same rule applies in business. Altruism resulting in financial loss eventually results in bankruptcy and the cessation of business operations.

The quotation marks in the first sentence above are from Webster’s definition of hegemony. Wherever I’ve seen it employed, hegemony is a dirty word used to imply wrongful conduct on the part of a nation. Hegemony connotes a dark, if not downright evil, intent to dominate and control innocent other parties in order to serve one’s own interests. Writers use hegemony as a pejorative against a nation, a people, and a culture.

The use of hegemony, however, says more about the writer than it does any subject.

First, it indicates the writer’s belief in the existence of a collective mentality, as opposed to individual minds. Attaching a moral quality to hegemony means that a collective choice between right and wrong alternatives can be isolated such that the collective mind can be held guilty of a moral wrong.

How can men make collective choices? Not easily. It requires application of a voting infrastructure to assemble individual choices about a specific moral question into a collective outcome. Even if a vote was taken and some machinery of government acted on that vote, there is no collective entity one can hold accountable apart from the individuals who participated in the collective outcome. But it would be unjust to hold individual participants in a vote responsible for a collective outcome over which they had virtually no causal control.

Moreover, the types of grievances labelled under hegemony are never the product of a distributed decision process such as a vote. Nor are the grievances named with much specificity. Expressions of hegemony are presumed to exist when U.S. firms interact with foreign markets, because the U.S. is capitalist and oriented to the free market, and is therefore a presumptive enemy of the people represented by socialist political systems in much of the rest of the world.

Hegemony is a theoretical presumption, not a conclusion drawn from observed causation. Any theory, however, must be capable of disproof. Hegemony can no more be proved than it can be disproved, so it doesn’t even rise to the level of a theory.

As such, hegemony is an empty vessel for writers to load with any meaning or implication that suits their broader purposes. And the purposes with hegemony always involve a negative connotation. Conversely, the alleged victims of hegemony are always portrayed in the right.

In computer programming, words that function like hegemony are called variables. They get instantiated at run time by whatever they’re connected to in the surrounding code. You have to read the code to figure out the limits. The code one finds around hegemony generally involves a writers prejudice against capitalism, and against the U.S.

But when you look into the actual economic transactions with the U.S. that cross international boundaries, you find firms represented by individuals making voluntary buys and sells in what all parties perceive to be in their own best interests. They are not the outcomes of democratic processes. Each individual buyer or seller satisfies some element of the comparative advantage they represent to realize a profit on their side of the transaction. The price point they agree upon is somewhere in the middle of their two interests.

The fact that comparative advantage is unique to each place, and different from other places, sets a pre-condition for trade, and consequentially for profit by both buyers and sellers. Two parties with identical capacities have no need to trade.

Disequilibrium of comparative advantage enables trade, trade enables profit, profit enables capital formation, capital formation enables investment, investment enables the concentration of technology, technology improves efficiency, efficiency lowers unit costs, etc.

A world where everything is equal, where no comparative advantage exists, or where no one is allowed to act on their comparative advantage, is a place where nothing will change, and nothing will get better.

An equality of condition is a utopian ideal we should all hope to never achieve. Profitable trade is the natural response to economic dis-equilibrium. Socialists wouldn’t have to negatively frame international trade relationships as hegemony if socialism worked.

Roundup time at New Plains’ Prairie Times

Responding to Viewpoints, in the order presented in the print edition of the New Plains’ Prairie Times:

  • In a Rodney King “why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along” moment, Jerrry Bishop laments our divisions, and wishes they’d all just go away. Of course he’d never go so far as to allow that Leftist societal ratchet to slip back a notch or two.
  • Ric Morgan wants to bring federal and state grant money into the county, and seeks donations from water districts and agencies around the state, as well as some Elbert County revenue, to study water levels. He sees this as a political question. It would be better if it were a question the private sector wanted to take up, which apparently, currently, it is not.
  • In the first of two political smears disguised as news, Susan Shick thinks commissioners spend too much on vehicles of all sorts, and she’d really like to see a reallocation of funds toward securing the water study grant.
  • John Dorman uses his 1st Am. right in a letter to the editor to assert his Republican nature, dump on the local Republican elite, and frame his pro-planning, no-growth, no-oil&gas activism in the county as proof of his Republican values. Hehe. Yeah. That’s a good one John.
  • In another letter, Paul Crisan hopes we haven’t lost the ability to work for the common good. But don’t forget Paul sat on the Elbert County Planning Commission for years dictating just what that common good would be. That’s the trouble with the common good, there’s always a dictator telling us what’s in it.
  • Turning the page, Susan Shick lets no one forget for a moment the visceral hatred she harbors against Commissioner Schlegel. And oh yeah he won’t fund what has now become her pet water grant project. “He denies them funding.” There is no greater sin to a Democrat.
  • Moving on, it’s all Leftist politics all the time as Jill Duvall focusses her rhetoric on Robert Rowland, using various Alynsky techniques designed to demean and disgrace. Two pages of that stuff, yeah that’s fun to read.
  • Which brings us to the crescendo, the top card duo of Thomasson and his wonderboy Bailey each weighing in. Thomasson’s bitch is high art because after reading his complaint, you have no idea about what he wants. His abstract discontent, presumably, allows him to jump in any direction as circumstances develop. Why commit? Keep your options open Robert.
  • And then Bailey, donning Roberto the Amazin’ Psycho‘s turban, darkly warns that “dubious plans are afoot.” No doubt, and the above ringleaders are in the kitchen, with the wrench.

clue_game_pieces[1]

a lesson from Singapore for Elbert County

“We had to make a living, to persuade investors to put their money into manufacturing plants and other businesses in Singapore. We had to learn to survive, without the British military umbrella and without a hinterland.”

So begins the narrative thread in [Lee Kuan Yew's, From Third World to First: Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom], which approximates the lessons of Machiavelli’s The Prince. As Lee writes, “A soft people will vote for those who prom­ised a soft way out,” and because there was no soft way out, Lee de­termined to forge a hard island race of overseas Chinese with Malay and Indian minorities. Only a hard people could build the “throbbing and humming” industrial, commercial, and communications center he envisioned. He would make a fair society, not a “welfare” soci­ety.

Robert D. Kaplan, Asia’s Cauldron

With 12% of the land mass of Elbert County, a population of millions, virtually no natural resources per capita, on an island with a requirement to import everything, in the space of a few decades Singapore rose to become the premier example of human achievement in the world.

With its comparative natural gifts, Elbert County could make a much more commensurate contribution to the world than it has. The noisy minority seems to think Elbert County’s destiny is to be a place where people come to watch grass grow. Isn’t it time for Elbert County to grow up and become something more useful?

free speech at Elbert County public meetings

Yesterday, in a review of the recent meeting held by Commissioner Schlegel with representatives from Elbert County water districts, Bill Thomas wrote that “no public comment” was permitted, “even though it was a public meeting.”

He repeated his objection later in the piece where he said, “He [Commissioner Schlegel] did not allow questions or comments from the spectators, even though it was, in his words, ‘a public meeting.’”

Lastly, Thomas referred to the meeting as an “Open/Closed Meeting of the Water Districts,” implying that because local Leftist spectators at the meeting asked to speak and weren’t given the floor, the meeting was “open/closed” – presumably a pejorative characterization.

The Colorado Sunshine Law requires that meetings between public officials be open to the public. No requirements in state law exist for public officials to conduct forums for public speech during their public meetings.

The 1st Am. guarantees the Left a virtually unlimited right to present their ideas to the public through various publication venues, just as it does everyone else. Leftists in Elbert County generally use that right to dump on and disparage everything non-Leftists do. But there is no 1st Am. guarantee for individuals to input their free speech into meetings of public officials.

Characterizing an open meeting of public officials as tainted because Leftists were not given an opportunity to make their opposed positions heard in the meeting is simply gratuitous whining.

If Leftists put more energy into developing and publishing creative solutions to the challenges that public officials are tasked to lead, public officials might welcome their comments at public meetings.

But everyone knows what the Elbert County Left is going to say before they open their mouths. It’ll be mudballs, character assassination, impossible environmentalism, and hyperbolic images of their fantasy fears. Their cases are never realistic, just terribly frightful.

Bill Thomas is a good reporter and I appreciate his diligence. But it’s rare that he doesn’t also include a few tips of the iceberg of his Leftist agenda. Perhaps Mike Phillips requires that everyone he publishes on New Plains must also throw in some feints to the Left, an agenda tax if you will.

But the New Prairie Plains Times crowd is fiddling while Rome burns – and it’s not about the petty stuff they like to complain about – like how many miles get logged to company [county] cars, or which commissioner didn’t use his magical xray vision to foresee a water pipe break at the old courthouse, or how the Colorado Sunshine Law is really supposed to provide an open forum for the Left to hijack every meeting of public officials.

Renewable water is the holy grail of sought-after solutions in Colorado. An awareness of this problem is probably coded into the DNA of everyone born here. And considering how much rain falls throughout the state, the market can solve this problem provided people, acting in commercial organizations, are allowed to aggregate demand into economic units, and buy and sell water properties to satisfy that demand.

That’s exactly what markets do – they efficiently and fairly allocate scarce resources.

But oh wait. The Left doesn’t trust markets. The Left trusts dissent, utopian visions, social justice, and progress toward the agrarian villages of Tolkein’s Shire. The Left distrusts economic growth, technology, production, and capital accumulation. Despite hundreds of years of material advances in the quality of life throughout the world enabled by allowing individuals to accumulate capital and leverage their property in markets, Leftists persist in the erroneous belief that they can plan a better society.

After every one of the Left’s utopian experiments has increased oppression, suffering and even mass death in some cases, you’d think it would give them pause. You’d think.

Evidently the Elbert County Left have decided that renewable water in Elbert County threatens their utopia, just like oil & gas, industry, a job base for local citizens, and non-utopian elected officials do.

But the poverty and lack of opportunity we live with in this planned economic backwater they want to preserve won’t go away under the terms of the status quo. We must embrace progress in the form of real economic growth if we’re to have any chance at long-term viability in Elbert County.

Elbert County commissioners have correctly perceived the challenge and appear to be doing what they can, which involves removing the obstacle of local government and allowing the private sector to grow the economy.

This apparently frightens the Left. It shouldn’t. They stand to benefit despite themselves.

Douglas County’s renewable water plan

Our region is going to need a renewable water supply system. While we’ve not built this type of system before, the Bureau of Reclamation has built these types of water systems throughout the American West.

If 2005, DCWRA began [exploring] if and how the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rural Water Supply Program might be applied to water supply issues facing the Douglas County region. This Reclamation program provides planning assistance, and the opportunity for loan guarantees to fund construction of water supply solutions.

In 2010, DCWRA completed an Appraisal level study that was published in the Federal Register as exemplary, and was given permission to proceed to Feasibility level investigation. With support of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in June, 2013 a study was completed that depicts water supply planning efforts in the outlying areas of the Douglas County region.

Combined with the S. Metro Water Supply Authority’s Master Plan, these studies detail water supply issues facing the region, and how these issues can be addressed to provide for long-term water supply solutions for the region.

Cover Letter of URS Feasibility Level Report 758k pdf

URS Feasibility Level Full Report 43,600k pdf

Summary page printed below:

Microsoft Word - DCWRA Master Doc_Final.docx
Elbert County Commissioners are correct to follow Douglas County’s lead here.

Coordinating ElCo water districts


The recording can speak for itself, however I have a couple observations.

All of the water districts here today are groundwater operations relying upon non-renewable water supplies. The water districts operate independently from each other, and independent from county government oversight.

Commissioner Schlegel’s vision is to get them all to agree on an Elbert County water master plan so that future water infrastructure development will build out within a network designed to eventually support commercial economic growth from renewable water sources.

This is a laudable goal – an “if you build it they will come” approach that will incentivize market makers to come here and create infrastructure to benefit everyone. Lest the contrast be lost on the Prairie-Plains-oriented, this vision stands in stark contrast to their deterministic, scarcity-spells-doom, fear-infused, closed off vision of the future.

Apparently, Elbert County Commissioners will lead off the water planning effort by producing an Elbert County planning vision statement next week – not sure if this is a general planning vision or just a water planning statement.

My metric for assessing whether planning statements can succeed depends on if they anticipate and foster local job markets for all of the working age population who live in Elbert County. We are too remote to succeed as a horsey bedroom community.

Elbert County needs to offer a vision to water districts, developers, commercial investors, and to all of its neighbors, of a viable economic entity worth their support because they can potentially make a return on their investment here. We must attract capital, not chase it away by obsessing like Democrats on how to tax it.

To put it objectively – what vision would reasonable people standing outside of the county consider an attractive investment? That vision would have to include a job market that supports its population. A charity case with high unemployment won’t sell.

From that first principle you can deductively back into the rest of the plan.

the competition

“The Singapore model was made explicit for me [Robert D. Kaplan] at the Vietnam­ Singapore Industrial Park, twenty miles outside Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still called by everyone outside of government officialdom. I beheld a futuristic world of perfectly maintained and manicured right-angle streets where, in a security-controlled environment, 240 manufacturing firms from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Europe, and the United States were producing luxury golf clubs, microchips, pharmaceuticals, high-end footwear, aerospace electronics, and so on. In the next stage of development, luxury condominiums were planned on-site for the foreign workers who will live and work here. An American plant manager at the park told me that his company chose Vietnam for its high-tech operation through a process of elimination: “We needed low labor costs. We had no desire to locate in Eastern Europe or Africa [which didn't have the Asian work ethic]. In China wages are already starting to rise. Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslim, and that scares us away. Thailand has lately become unstable. So Vietnam loomed for us: it’s like China was two decades ago, on the verge of a boom.” He added: “We give our employees in Vietnam standardized intelligence tests. They score higher than our employees in the U.S.”

This is an example of international manufacturing competition today – intelligent employees with a positive work ethic producing high quality products in predictable and efficient modern factories. This is the standard of production that America must retool to meet in order to successfully compete for business in the world market.

Protecting American companies from international competition through import duties on products, high tariffs, and anti-dumping laws, lowers the bar for American domestic manufacturing, raises prices to American consumers, and induces the obsolescence of American manufacturing capacity. Remember British Leyland? A memory is all that remains of it.

The choice is clear.

Americans can continue to protect themselves, stay on the path toward manufacturing extinction, and become a client state to the various countries in the world who produce goods.

Or Americans can disassemble the protectionist devices shielding our markets, undo the congressional influence-buying and political-patronage system of Customs import duties, engage in international manufacturing on competitive terms that will attract capital to America, and once again enjoy the benefits that follow from a growing economy.

We can either produce, or get used to enslavement.

unemployment causes and solutions

American Unemployment Causes:

  • Highest corporate tax rate of any country in the world.
  • High import taxes on cheaper foreign products that could benefit American consumers.
  • Heavy federal regulation of exporters.
  • Heavy federal regulation of employers for employment taxation, health insurance, and environmentalism.
  • Anti-competitive federal subsidies for selected American corporations.
  • Entitlement subsidies that incentivize not working.
  • Anti-business, anti-capitalist, Marxist-centered higher education.
  • Liberal-dominated media hostile to American business.
  • Environmental activists overwhelming local, state and federal regulators with legal attacks to shut down new businesses.
  • Marxist public planners using zoning and regulatory strangulation to inhibit new businesses.

Solutions:

  • Fire the planners. Shut down the planning agencies.
  • Close the courts to prospective injury lawsuits. Require an injury-in-fact before a lawsuit is admitted.
  • Eliminate regulations.
  • Eliminate business taxation.
  • Eliminate import duties.
  • De-fund Marxist education.

Allow Americans to compete in world markets without government interference.