October 14, 2007

Conclusion of my review of "Farewell to Alms" by Gregory Clark

Last week, VDARE.com ran the first portion of my review of Gregory Clark's "Brief Economic History of the World," in which I considered Clark's initial topic: why did the Industrial Revolution start in England. Today, I consider the second, and more important subject of his book: why has the Industrial Revolution spread to some countries but not to others?

A Farewell To Alms Part II: Why Have Some Countries Profited From The Industrial Revolution?

By Steve Sailer

[See also last week's A Farewell To Alms: Why Did The Industrial Revolution Happen Where It Did?]

In A Farewell to Alms, economic historian Gregory Clark asks: Why has the Industrial Revolution of the last two centuries caused a Great Divergence, making some nations so rich, while others have stayed so poor.

This is a social scientist's question, not a historian's, because there are enough separate countries in the world that general patterns can be perceived that can be reasonably well explained by a limited number of factors.

There are a lot of data to work with, folks.

A quick survey of the globe shows, for example, that countries tend to be poorer when they are ruled by crazed ideologies (e.g., North Korea vs. South Korea) or are far inland (e.g., Paraguay vs. Uruguay).

But another factor is so obvious that we aren't supposed to mention it.

If you rank the 156 countries with populations of one million or more in order of per capita GDP, the top 23 are made up of one Arab oil country (the United Arab Emirates), four Northeast Asian countries—and 18 countries with populations primarily of European origin.

Number 24 is Israel, where Europeans make up a little less than half the population, but dominate the economy. Not until 33rd place do we find a non-oil country without a predominant European or Northeast Asian population: Trinidad and Tobago, which is 40 percent South Asian and 38 percent black.

The poorest European country is Serbia, which is still ahead of 66 others.

As of 2006, the 43 countries with majority European populations average $22,000 each, the eight Northeast Asian countries $21,000, and the 105 other countries $5,225.

Economists, however, have intellectually disarmed themselves from tackling this second question. Clark complains:

"Although the disparities in performance across countries remained unchanged, the ‘labor quality’ explanation disappeared from the economics literature after WWII. … Unskilled labor is assumed to be of the same quality everywhere."


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

OK, maybe this is a dumb question - but who are the 8 Northeast Asian countries? I only come up with five - China, Japan, S Korea, N Korea, and Taiwan. OK, maybe Mongolia = 6. I can't think of any other countries that qualify as being in the "Northeast" part of Asia.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am being picky but even without oil. The UAE has a GDP per capita equivalent to Greece.

Trinidad on the other hand does have an economy that is based on oil and natural gas.

Steve Sailer said...

Those six (including Mongolia), plus Hong Kong and Singapore (the later is mostly Chinese in population).

Thursday said...

The question I've never heard answered is when did European and Asian IQs start going up?

The second question is why did European and Asian IQs go up?

It can't be a northern climate alone, else Inuit and North American Indians should have higher IQs than they do? Perhaps the best answer so far does lie in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. That book doesn't prove what it purports to prove, i.e. that geography not racial difference explains why some are so rich and others are so poor. But it does perhaps explain why complex societies arose where they did. The problem is that geography does not explain why some peoples have been able to catch up with Europe, while others have not. Geography should not matter much now, in our information based economy.

Perhaps this formula works:
Northern climate + Agriculture = High IQ

Anonymous said...

Trinidad & Tobago has oil.

Vol-in-Law said...

It seems to be more that, generally, northern climate + large population = high IQ, and agriculture leads to a much larger population than hunter-gathering. It is notable that Europeans have higher IQ than the southern Caucasoid belt from northwest Africa to Bangladesh, and that north-east Asians have higher IQ than south-east Asians of similar appearance.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the conclusion to the cliffhanger column, Steve.

After reading this my first thought was that we are living in age of intellectual bankruptcy not unlike the old Soviets. Because in this column Steve Sailer is ever so gently revealing what exactly? What's behind the curtain? A shocking mind-bending futuristic discovery?

No, actually Steve here is essentially passing on information gleaned from various sources which when put together gives us an observable picture of the state of the world. But he must be very gentle with the vDare readership because they're mostly coming in from websites and social circles where they're not allowed to notice the state of the world and still maintain respectability.

Because the new regime, and their PC police, do not condone publicly drawing conclusions from observations made of our world. And they have inculcated this taboo into most every mind in the land.

So, as a result, talented dissidents like Steve Sailer slug it out away from the mainstream. And even while away from the mainstream these dissidents must very gently reacquaint the typical reader with reality. That's how bad things are out there.

I would say that this is a sad state of affairs. But it's much more serious than that. We are living in revolutionary times. But this time it's a counter-revolution against freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of thought, liberty itself.

E. REX said...

Steve your link for "per capita GDP" links to GDP PPP per country.

Steve Sailer said...

Here's the correct link to the per capita income ranking:


Anonymous said...

The problem is that geography does not explain why some peoples have been able to catch up with Europe, while others have not.

Nor does geographical or bioregional determinism explain the decline of Britain compared to that other island nation, Japan.

... or the rise and fall of the Ottomans, or of Rome.

Carl said...


No one is claiming that biological differences are the sole cause of history's ebb and flow. The problem is that conventional PC wisdom says that it has NO bearing on history, which is patently absurd. The importance of IQ should be obvious, but clearly it is not the cause of everything.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe more to the theory that the intelligence of the Jewish people has been high for several millenia, but that it was never able to be appreciated and exploited until recently. If one takes seriously the case made by Charles Murray in, "Human Accomplishment" that at least four conditions have to be met (I don't have my copy in front of me), one will see that for the Jewish people they have never been met until very recently.
Not that this takes away anything from the theory that evolution can happen very quickly.
I still believe that social scientists need to look more at diseases and the things that people do through behavior and/or to their bodies that either inhibit or exacerbate the potential for infection, especially infection that can hurt their fertility or handicap their offspring.
The people who have been cleanest longest are the smartest.

One other small point. The story of Lot and his drunkenness with his two daughters, I was taught in Bible history that the theory most historians hold about this is that the two daughters were matriarchs of peoples who were enemies of the Jews. The story was meant to be a knock against them and probably wasn't true. Again, I don't have my bible in front of me and it was a long time ago when I learned this, I may have it a little wrong.

Anonymous said...

There is another theory for the advance of the northern peoples - freedom from disease. Winter frosts exterminate insects and free-living microbes without mercy.

Lower disease rates mean much lower child mortality. This ecouraged having fewer children but investing more in them. Think food, training etc. In turn, a higher investment environment favored those siblings with higher IQ. Its only a theory, but fits the data better than most.

Under this theory, the modern failure of the Arabs still remains puzzling. Perhaps they were adversely effected by the importation of several million African slaves. Look how the American south fell well behind the North.

Anonymous said...

Thursday -- Europe before the Romans had the same farming/social arrangements as after, and consisted mainly of people painting themselves blue and sacrificing to Odin, Thor, and the rest. Europe AFTER the Romans was not anything special either. No monuments, Cathedrals, etc. No centers of learning, roads, craftsmen or anything else.

SOMETHING big happened around the 900's or so, and by 1200 Europe was moving rapidly ahead while the Islamic, Chinese, and other empires and peoples were falling behind.

I've always thought that Diamond's PC-fables, and VDH's "civic militarism" do NOT explain the otherwise puzzling success of the West, nor Japan's isolation and stagnation until opened up by the West.

For me, the simplest explanation of the West's "secret sauce" is marriage patterns. The West has been able to fully mobilize the resources of beta males, by allowing them the ability to marry, have a wife and family of their own, and thus invest in their offspring, and so on. This explains the continued improvement in crafts and other things in the West and stagnation in other nations. Eunuchs in China have no incentive to pass on improvements (no families). Everything in Asia and elsewhere was run by the Alpha Males and society resembled a pack of lions.

In the West, even the King had limits, and society AFTER say AD 900 or so was run by beta males. Partly due to Christianity and monogamy (it's easy to see why Christ beat Odin, the former doesn't ask for a human sacrifice of your little sister who besides being your sister could be married off to a neighboring chieftan in an alliance).

If Europeans were somehow genetically better at intelligence AND cooperation, how come Europe before the Romans was nothing, and after was nothing. Until the Early Middle Ages when all of a sudden things took off like a rocket?

My guess is that Europe was because of marriage-family patterns MUCH MUCH better at mobilizing resources. Even Ghengis Khan got his ass kicked back to Russia by the Teutonic Knights, after running roughshod over the Caliphate, China, and elsewhere.

Unknown said...

I'd say it has something to do with the fact that Asians and Europeans are "people of the book" -- i.e. written language is prevalent in their society. And they both had societies that favored the rich in procreation.

Anonymous said...

"It can't be a northern climate alone, else Inuit and North American Indians should have higher IQs than they do? "

Perhaps they haven't had as much time to adapt as old world populations ?

The Inuit do have a relatively high IQ compared to Amazonian tribes.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Thursday. It's a good question. It's one of those mysteries like trying to figure out exactly where Ashkenazic Jews might have picked up a few extra IQ points.

Maybe Europeans have long been more intelligent but didn't possess a suitable environment for expressing it in the form of an early civilization. One sign that this could be the case would be the relatively speedy assimilation of those Germanic tribesmen admitted into the Roman Empire. Originally employed as ordinary shock troops, the Germans appear to have reached some sort of parity with the Romans rapidly enough to dominate the upper echelons of Rome's military in a matter of a few short centuries. This would seem to indicate there wasn't a great gap in intelligence between Romans and Germans once the latter were exposed to civilization. Similarly, the difference between Gauls and Romans doesn't appear to have been too great. Within a few generations after Caesar's conquest of the region the Gauls appear to have had little difficulty assimilating into higher Roman life. Of course, this doesn't prove the average Roman was particularly smart - and maybe he wasn't - but it would seem to argue against those who propose theories of multiple peaks in the intelligence of Europeans throughout history. On the other hand, perhaps European intelligence has risen in recent centuries in a manner similar to the artisan/differential birthrate theory of Ashkenazic Jewish intelligence.


Under this theory, the modern failure of the Arabs still remains puzzling. Perhaps they were adversely effected by the importation of several million African slaves. Look how the American south fell well behind the North.

Slaves in the Arab world were frequently castrated. Aside from the existence of an Afro-Arab population in Saudi Arabia, I haven't seen much evidence for Africans having a significant genetic impact on modern Arabs. While it might be easy to imagine a Saudi or Yemeni having some African blood due to dark complexion it is more difficult to imagine your average Syrian having the same and low IQs seem to be the norm throughout the Mideast.

Anonymous said...

If Europeans were somehow genetically better at intelligence AND cooperation, how come Europe before the Romans was nothing, and after was nothing.

The claim that Europe "after the Romans" was nothing is arguable. But I am going to answer your more germane "before the Romans" assertion: You are lacking basic historical knowledge of ancient Europe and Western Civilization.

Let us first start with the fact that most of Europe as we understand it today was buried in ice as recently as 10,000 BC. The center of European civilization has migrated northward over the past 12,000 years, following the receding ice pack (end of the last Ice Age).

This salient fact is ignored again and again in discussions of European roots and evolution. Ignoring that fact disorients and distorts any perspective on Caucasian white history.

Due to the ice pack, no cities were possible in ancient Europe. That is a simple logical conclusion. In fact the way to conceptualize Europe before the precursors of Ancient Greece is as if the whole continent were shifted much farther north than it is today. The weather was such that Europe was in an arctic zone.

But that does not mean the "Europeans" were not building cities and civilizations. The Euros of that time were filling the same niche climate-wise as they do today: They populated the temperate zone directly south of the ice pack which - at that time - was the northern coast of the Mediterranean including what we know today as Greece.

The roots of Ancient Greece - and precursors - extend roughly back into the 6,000-9,000 BC period. These peoples were not the dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned people that populate the area today. They were the white Europeans that would eventually spread north in large numbers as the ice melted over the next several thousand years.

You describe whites of northern Europe as laggards before the Romans. Yes, they were. And that was logical because they were on the frontier. Your question ignores the migratory continuum of whites from south to north. The geographic area we know as modern Europe used to be the harsh and sparsely populated "sticks" of the white world. Large swaths were only relatively recently de-glaciered by the dawn of Ancient Greece. It is absurd to think that these northern areas would surpass the southern white civilizations of Greece and then Rome. The climate and the pace of frontier repopulation did not allow for it.

Your use of the term "European" also has a whiff of positioning the genetics of Ancient Greece and Rome as alien to white Europeans. That is false. Those two great civilizations are part of a white Caucasian continuum that stretches to modern day North America. This is what is known as Western Civilization. Armed with this knowledge you will not make the mistake of asking “…how come Europe before the Romans was nothing”.

So, your groping for the source of the "spark" in Europe circa 900 is based on a major disconnect: Plenty of sparks were in evidence dating from the 6,000-9,000 BC. What transpired later in Europe was part of the white continuum. It is the same gene pool. The same bloodlines. This gene pool lept forward pre-Ancient Greece, then in Ancient Greece, then in Rome, and then in Europe.

There are many people such as yourself in internet forums making the same mistake. It is probably a result of public school education. This is the same school of thought that assumes Hannibal was Negroid because he was based out of the north coast of Africa.

Anonymous said...

To the poster of 12:06 PM, if you have ever seen some of the perfectly preserved wagons with spoked wheels and a very high standard of metal bearings supporting the wheels, excavated by archaelogists from Celtic sites in northern Europe, and which pre-date the Roman period, you would if you have any appreciation of technology and the thought behind technology, revise your opinion of so-called 'barbarians'.

Anonymous said...

No one is claiming that biological differences are the sole cause …

“Bioregional” ain’t the same words as “biological, more specifically, human genetics.”

Part of "Guns, Diamonds, and Pee Cee"'s fairy tale is the very old fashioned climatalogiccal explanation of why tropical peoples tend to lag behind. Dey can't help it cause the climate ain't right, and it's not their fault that they're stuck there.

Anonymous said...

Let us first start with the fact that most of Europe as we understand it today was buried in ice as recently as 10,000 BC.

that timeline is off: peak ice age ended approximately 13,000 b.c. therefore by the time period of 10,000 b.c. probably only northern europe was "buried in ice". glaciers had retreated somewhat. but yes most of europe was still tundra or permafrost so impossible to farm or cultivate much.

there was dramatic warming that occurred around 8700 b.c. that is the beginning of the current "normal" climate which allows for agriculture in europe. before this time only hunter-gatherer society was possible in europe.