May 20, 2008

Response to Crotty's lactose tolerant-centric theory of world history

A friend responds to my posting last week on Irish economist-farmer Raymond Crotty's lactose tolerantcentric theory of world history:

Raymond Crotty 's sweeping review of history (Histories in Collision, mentioned by Steve Sailer on his blog) is maybe sometimes a little too sweeping, but interesting all the same. One of the things that is going on in the book is Crotty 's attempt to explain why his own folks, the Irish, look relatively feckless compared to various other groups in Northern Europe, who seem from early in their history to be diligently beavering away, saving and accumulating property in proto-capitalist fashion. (Clark 's recent Farewell to Alms would support this for the English.)

To explore this issue, Crotty takes us from generic early Indo-European society (where, he argues, the ability to digest lactose in milk is a key adaptation) to later socio-economic evolution in Northern Europe. Crotty argues that the rural economy of Northern Europe from the Middle Ages on encouraged the development of private property and bourgeois virtues. Keeping cattle (with milk a major part of the diet) in this ecological zone ran into the problem of limited winter forage. Once populations grew past the point that cattle could be turned loose to graze on their own in winter, people needed to make major investments in barns, and in growing and storing hay, to keep a lot of their herds going through the winter.

Ireland, according to Crotty, with a relatively mild oceanic climate, didn 't have this problem, and stayed closer to early Indo-European traditions (which show some convergence with East African pastoralism, including independent evolution of lactose tolerance). In contrast, most of Northern Europe was protocapitalist well before the Industrial Revolution. This seems plausible.

On the other hand, maybe just as important is the way state formation, and the attendant decline in tribal social structure, and tribal kinship, set in on the borders of the Roman Empire, while Ireland and the remoter Slavic world lagged behind.

He's referring to Peter Turchin's theory that state-formation was strongest on "meta-ethnic frontiers," which I discussed here.

I do get an impression (no more than an impression -- it would be nice to see numbers) that Northern Europe in the last millennium was relatively capital intensive and East Asia relatively labor intensive. In the former, you really needed a well-built house, and shelter for livestock, and supply of firewood, feed, and food, and other capital stock to make it through the winter. There were times in the agricultural calendar when work loads were incredibly intense -- so much so that you needed draft animals to do a lot of the work -- and other times where there wasn 't a lot more to do than sit around the stove in the dark. On the other hand, East Asian agriculture (especially South China) seems to have involved more year round endless toil (double or even triple cropping) but maybe less in the way of capital requirements to survive. Probably both the Northern European obsession with capital accumulation at the expense of sharing with kin, and the extreme East Asian work ethic look pretty demented from an earlier tribal perspective.

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

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Crotty's cattle/mild-climate theory certainly must go a long way in explaining why the Irish are not so well endowed IQ-wise. There really was never much need to work out how to survive the winters -- one just moved cattle from the summer grazing grounds up on the hillsides down to lower ground. Most brainpower was, no doubt, devoted to protecting one's cattle from raiders -- or on planning raids. ;-)

On the other hand, maybe just as important is the way state formation, and the attendant decline in tribal social structure, and tribal kinship, set in on the borders of the Roman Empire, while Ireland and the remoter Slavic world lagged behind.

As late as the Early Medieval Period, the Irish were very much marrying their first cousins (had to keep all that cattle in the family!) -- and weren't opposed to forms of polygamy (concubinage). The legal classes in Ireland at the time were shocked and stunned at the Roman Catholic Church's regulations on cousin marriage and, partly in response, set down Ireland's "laws" (as they saw them) -- laws that very much allowed cousin marriage. [See: Cattle Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland]

It's not surprising, then, that Ireland was (up until very recently) full of clans and septs that never managed to unite against any common enemy -- or get organised in any other way! Too busy stealing the others' cows.

SKT said...

It sounds a lot like Jared Diamond's deterministic theories about agricultural endowments driving long term economic development. I think they're interesting, and they may help explain things between say 10,000 BC and 2000 BC, but they're not as good as explaining the more important developments of the last 500 years.

Anonymous said...

The Scots and Irish sure kept their clannishness compared to other northern Europeans. Look at who is voting for Obama and who is not for some big clues. All the Scandinavians in Minnesota come out in droves for Black Jesus, but the Scots-Irish in Kentucky and West Virginia want nothing to do with it.

I guess those Scots-Irish are just low IQ deviants from the more right thinking whiterpeople.

testing99 said...

Both the Scots and the Irish suffered terribly from Viking onslaughts, from the 700's onwards to the 1100's, much more so than other Europeans. Compared to other parts of Europe, there were more navigable rivers and/or fjords, more scattered settlements (vulnerable), and greater raiding/settlement parties.

Hard to start a society when you're constantly being raided, half your population hauled off to slavery. It tends to provoke isolationism, clannish-ness, and fighting.

simon newman said...

"maybe just as important is the way state formation, and the attendant decline in tribal social structure, and tribal kinship, set in on the borders of the Roman Empire, while Ireland and the remoter Slavic world lagged behind"

The last tribal area in northwest Europe was the Scottish Highlands; the clans were finally broken after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. I don't recall any stereotypes of Scots Highlanders as being lazy and feckless. Of course the Scots highlands are very cold, compared to Ireland, as well as being poor farming land, somewhere where you'd expect people to have to plan for the winter. I think this counter example supports Crotty's hypothesis.

simon newman said...

testing99:
"Both the Scots and the Irish suffered terribly from Viking onslaughts, from the 700's onwards to the 1100's, much more so than other Europeans."

No, north-east England (for one) suffered much more than did western Ireland. As an explanation this is up there with explaining all of Africa's modern problems by the trans-Atlantic slave trade from a small part of west Africa.

Anonymous said...

Irish Catholic Americans have higher incomes than WASP Americans. Must be their inferior IQ's.

The so called "Scotts-Irish" people are mostly descendants of Anglo-Saxons and Picts. They are not Irish at all. The real Scottish people of course are of Irish descent.

J. said...

Just for the record, the world´s coldest, cruellest winters are in Mongolia. Locals developed big, ball like heads, very efficient from the energy-conservation point of view. I dont know about their IQ but they conquered the known world several times.

Josh said...

For what its worth here is Hibernia girl on Crotty:"Crotty is best known in Ireland for his constitutional action agaianst the governments attempt to ratify the EU's Single European Act Treaty by simple majority vote in the Dail rather than referendum.The Supreme Court(uhm,THERES,not ours,although Justice Stevens thinks we should obey foreign courts :) )upheld Crotty.People owe it to him therefore that all new EU treaties transferring further slices of sovereignty to Brussels must be put to popular referendum in Ireland." I assume its the same guy.

simon newman said...

anon:
"Irish Catholic Americans have higher incomes than WASP Americans. Must be their inferior IQ's.

The so called "Scotts-Irish" people are mostly descendants of Anglo-Saxons and Picts. They are not Irish at all. The real Scottish people of course are of Irish descent."

On your first point, income correlates strongly with urban location. In the USA Irish-Americans are more likely to live in cities, Scots-Irish are more likely to live in rural areas. My Tennessee small-town in-laws live in the middle of nowhere and do very nicely on moderate income.

On your second point, Scots Irish/Ulster Scots are a mix of Romano-British (from south-west Scotland), Anglo-Saxon (mostly from south-east Scotland and northern England), Celtic Picts, Gaelic Scots descendants of the Dal Riati Irish who had previously invaded Caledonia from north-east Ireland, and native northern Irish (closely related to western Scots). I'm Ulster-Scot on my mother's side; a McBride. The McBrides are native to Donegal in north-west Ireland, but they're also a sept of the Scottish MacDonald clan.

If you look at Scots-Irish senator Jim Webb, he has the same classical Irish head shape as Irish actor Colm Meaney and IRA/Sinn Fein leader Martin Maginess. Anyway, we Scots Irish have never gone for racial purity or one-drop theories. It's more about culture and religion (Protestant) than genes.

Anonymous said...

"Irish Catholic Americans have higher incomes than WASP Americans. Must be their inferior IQ's."

Source for that please and what do you mean by WASP in this context other than white and not Irish Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Josh: I assume its the same guy.

Yup. Same Raymond Crotty.

Josh said...

To"hibernia girl. Uhmm...are you seeing anyone at present?