October 9, 2007

The Offshore Islanders

This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

I wonder if Britain and Japan both benefited from being "offshore islanders" (the title of Paul Johnson's idiosyncratic and fascinating 1972 history of England, back when he was a leftist patriot). The stability of Britain is quite remarkable -- there are old deeds and other legal documents still on file from many centuries past, ready to be consulted if a question of exactly where the boundary of a piece of property rests. Perhaps not being invaded since 1066 meant the evolution (whether cultural or genetic) of middle class traits could proceed quickest there because the settled distribution of property allowed for fair competition.

A reader in what has been, more than anywhere else, the crossroads of the world -- Istanbul -- writes in response to my review of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms that living in the historic center of all the action has its downside:

As erudite as Max Weber and his theory of the Protestant work ethic is (maybe; haven't read him much other than in short extracts), he seems he was lacking a very crucial, fatally crucial model for social science: the Darwinist paradigm of game-theoretic racing/survival conditions.

Somebody has to whisper in the ears of modern social "scientists" with their confused paradigms: it's not that religion suddenly got hold of Europeans -- the religion which Freud wrongly identified as the suppression of natural desires to create a neurotic bourgeois personality -- and the "stifling" work ethic was born and thus capitalism.

It's that the "beta" layers of society who already had "religion" in their genes, and therefore were not "neurotic" or "oppressed" or anything by it, who therefore had the right attitude for creating prosperity -- a combination of thriftiness, mutual respect of rights, cooperativeness, hard work, and tons of creativity -- outlasted the rest of the suckers who ate or killed themselves out of the gene pool.

This itself can explain the root causes of practically all the problems that the rest of us suckers are suffering from. To you, an American, it may be rather hypothetical, but to me, as a "turd" worlder, it is crystal clear: if we had these qualities only at twice the present levels, you'd see us reach Korean levels of productivity. But, alas, as the ultimate dumping ground of every imaginable race around the old world, as the crossroads where every bully ethny that got to be anybody met with each other, as the genetic junkyard of practically the last two millennia, we didn't stand a chance, did we?

Isolation? What isolation? Never heard of the word before, sir!

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


Anonymous said...

Perhaps not being invaded since 1066...

A new invasion began in 1948 when a ship called the Windrush brought black immigrants from the West Indies. The Windrush is now an "icon of Englishness" after a rigged poll. So is the crime-ridden Notting Hill Carnival, which would have been closed down long ago if it were a white event. Stability is increasingly a thing of the past here, like freedom of speech -- first no race hate allowed, then no religious hate, now no homo hate. Mass immigration is justified (mendaciously) on the ground that it's good for the economy:

"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too." -- W. Somerset Maugham

Edward said...


Steve, how about you add Switzerland to that list. It has rather isolated Island-like characteristics in its politics and history.

The Swiss are at the crossroads of Western Europe yet have been around since the middle ages - late 13C - and have preserved long traditions.

They separately evolved a federation system with cantons, kind of like the UK, have personal ownership of firearms, and a great independence streak.

The Swiss are not separated by a moat but are up on a big hill - the Alps have given them a state which has an inbuilt deterrent to casual conquering.

(Presumably made difficult due to communication issues and the ease of guerilla disruption.)

In some ways Switzerland's topography may be better than an island, since it has not been at war since the Congress of Vienna (1815) and recently has so far managed to escape the EU.

It has absorded three languages from the cultures that surround it. I wonder whether there is much difference between Swiss people (Celtic?) and French, German and Italians.

To me it the Swiss screams interesting anomaly.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you seem to be somewhat infatuated with us Brits. Why not come live over here, and we'll see if we can't cure you.

Anonymous said...

England has been invaded several times since 1066, just not sucessfully, though some might count William of Orange's entry into the country as an invasion.

Anonymous said...

Of course the stability of Britain, as well as its slightly more libertarian tendencies than those of the continental Europeans, are due to its isolation from outside conquest.

This is completely opposed to Istanbul, where the outside pressure required centralization of resources by the state and that meant less regard for personal liberties too.

But I can't agree that Istanbul was a "genetic junkyard".

Shouldn't all the mixing of populations combined with harsh political realities have favored traits of intelligence, adaptability and creativity? And what about hybrid vigour?

Anonymous said...

Raymondo - I dont think Steve is infuriated by us, I like to think Steve is a bit of an anglophile in fact.

Jerzy Cow - there have been invasions since 1066 but they didnt have huge disruptive consequences. The word invasion might obscure demographic effects. The Norman invasion altered the ruling elite of England (and Britain) and it also I presume had some demographic effect, if the numbers of Normans were large enough. Later events were more 'political'. Your William of Orange example, he didnt bring thousands of Dutch settlers with him.

The post 1948 Windrush era otoh has had many disasterous effects but is not actually an 'invasion', in all but name anyway.

Anonymous said...

You ignore the advantage of our near-perfect climate: one of the few places in the world where one can walk for pleasure every day of the year.

Anonymous said...

"Globalisation" with its mass immigration, crime and terrorism has certainly had a deleterious effect on Britain's liberties and rule of (just) law, although this was not commonly seen until the post-9/11 era. The degradation is now obvious but few seek to address the cause.

Anonymous said...


I won't presume to speak for Steve, but it seems his fascination is with the historical phenomena resulting in the industrial revolution. As for the current state of Britain that's a different matter...


Anonymous said...

"The stability of Britain is quite remarkable -- there are old deeds and other legal documents still on file from many centuries past, ready to be consulted if a question of exactly where the boundary of a piece of property rests."

I wonder how important Britain’s island status is in this regard. Take that territory just across the Channel that has been known, since 1830, as Belgium. That area has been invaded and fought over for centuries. And yet, I’ll bet the Belgians have ancient property titles on file.

Anonymous said...


The Swiss has maintained its political independence and unique blend of nationalism and individualism in large part because of its citizen army. As Machiavelli said of the Swiss, they are the "most armed and most free". Every young men goes through 4 months of military training and then serves 3 weeks every year with their reserve unit (if they're promoted to NCO or officer, they serve more weeks annually). This militia system allows Switzerland to punch above its weight and has dissuaded more than one would-be conqueror.

The flip side is another one benefit of universal military service... as Steve puts it (and Ben Franklin agrees :o) ), If you want someone to like you, have them do you a favor.

Because the Swiss spend years in the militia (30 year stint during the Cold War, now its less than 10) perhaps they feel greater loyalty and civic responsibility to their nation than do citizens of countries that use a volunteer army and mercenaries to do their fighting.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you seem to be somewhat infatuated with us Brits. Why not come live over here, and we'll see if we can't cure you.

Yah, the British may have done a lot for the world but now they're full of chavs and other undesirables. Hey, every country has its good and bad years.

Truthfully, though, their comedy is better than ours. Food's worse. I like Doctor Who more than Star Trek. Weather's worse. Tossup, I guess.