Sunday, March 03, 2013

Niall Ferguson’s Civilization

Ferguson claims that 6 “Killer Applications” helped the West conquer the world in the last 500 years.

According to Ferguson, competition among the relatively small countries in Western Europe stimulated innovation, while lack of competition turned the once-great giant China stagnate and mediocre.

Development of science in the West make tremendous advances in military power, allowing the West to defeat the Ottoman Turks and subsequently Qing China.

Accumulation of private property simulated investment in the West.  Yet much of the development was made possible by declaring the Indian’s land owner-less, hence up for grabs by the colonizing Europeans.

The arguments regarding medicine were even stranger.  He claims that the challenges of colonization (e.g., tropical and infectious diseases) stimulated developments in medicine, and also provide plenty of subjects (indigenous people) for clinical trials.  The advances in medicine are, of course, beneficial.  Does that mean that the evils of colonization are thus justified?
Consumption of clothing and other goods created the demand for industrialization.  While he did admit that the West industrialized at the expense of countries such as India, he seems to argue that the benefits outweigh the evil.

The positive Protestant outlook on work encouraged Western Europeans to work hard and become prosperous.

Towards the end of the book, he laments “Empire has become a dirty word, despite the benefits conferred on the rest of the world by the European imperialists.”  That, to me, is hard to stomach.  The West may have developed a number of good ideas, but that still does not justify the evils of imperialism.

1 comment:

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