October 15, 2012

NYT: There was a sustained lack of productivity growth from 1300 to 1700. Really, what's the NYT printed on?

Thomas Edsall writes in the New York Times about a paper by economist Robert J. Gordon entitled "Is American Economic Growth Over?" Gordon argues that America has benefited from various overlapping waves of technological advance: steam, electricity, electronics. But that doesn't have to keep on happening.
"Gordon’s chart demonstrates that there was a sustained lack of productivity growth from 1300 to 1700, which supports his argument that economic expansion is a relatively recent phenomenon and by no means inevitable."

This may sound persnickety, but it's actually crucially important to understand that there was huge productivity growth in Europe from 1300 to 1700. Most notably, the greatest invention of them all, the printing press from the 1450s onward, seeded Europe with ideas and information. (The single most obvious cause of Islam falling hopelessly behind Christendom was Muslim society and state's hostility to the printing press. Around 1700, as I vaguely recall, there were about as many printing presses in the entire Muslim world as on the Spanish colony of Guam way out in the Pacific.)

But there were many other technological advances, such as the spread of clocks, which allowed life to be much more efficient, much less hurry-up-and-wait. Eyeglasses were another wonderful development, especially as they solved problems (e.g., myopia) worsened by the spread of literacy. 

Thus, the life of, say, an English farmer who owned 160 acres was much more pleasant in 1700 than in 1300. 

The problem was that England was still somewhat in the Malthusian trap, with the bottom half of society, mostly farm laborers, still hungry or at least unable to marry young. Good times led to earlier marriages which led to more babies which led to more mouths to feed which led to hard times on a per capita basis. England didn't have famines, but life was still a serious business. (Compare Pride & Prejudice to Bridget Jones's Diary in their heroines' pursuits of Mr. Darcy.)

Edsall continues:
Intellectually, both the Obama and Romney campaigns are undoubtedly aware of the general line of thinking that lies behind Gordon’s analysis, and of related findings in books like “The Great Stagnation” by Tyler Cowen of George Mason University. Cowen argues that innovation has reached a “technological plateau” that rules out a return to the growth of the 20th century. 
For Obama, the argument that America has run out of string is politically untouchable. In the case of Romney and the Republican Party, something very different appears to be taking place. 
There are two parallel realizations driving policy thinking on the right. The first is the growing consciousness of the threat to the conservative coalition as its core constituency – white voters, and particularly married white Protestants — decreases as a share of the electorate. Similarly, the conservative political class recognizes that the halcyon days of shared growth, with the United States leading the world economy, may be over. 
While Gordon projects a future of exacerbating inequality (as an ever-increasing share of declining productivity growth goes to the top), the wealthy are acutely aware that the political threat to their status and comfort would come from rising popular demand for policies of income redistribution. 
It is for this reason that the Republican Party is determined to protect the Bush tax cuts; to prevent tax hikes; to further cut domestic social spending; and, more broadly, to take a machete to the welfare state. 
Insofar as Republicans prevail in their twin aims of cutting – or even eliminating – social spending, and maintaining or lowering tax rates, they will have succeeded in obstructing the restoration of social insurance programs in the future. 
Affluent Republicans – the donor and policy base of the conservative movement — are on red alert. They want to protect and enhance their position in a future of diminished resources. What really provokes the ferocity with which the right currently fights for regressive tax and spending policies is a deeply pessimistic vision premised on a future of hard times. This vision has prompted the Republican Party to adopt a preemptive strategy that anticipates the end of growth and the onset of sustained austerity – a strategy to make sure that the size of their slice of the pie doesn’t get smaller as the pie shrinks.
This is the underlying and inadequately explored theme of the 2012 election.

I think the overclass is reasonably pleased with how things are going, especially how the triumph of globalist and diversitarian ideology allows them to push policies cutting themselves free from the broader fate of the American people. Thus, the Big Money swings back and forth between Obama and Romney and Obama. If you are on the Forbes 400, it's all good.

For those interested in their fellow American citizens' welfare, however, we need to recognize that Malthus's insights still apply to some extent, but more relatively than absolutely. Malthusian theory was largely invented not by Thomas Malthus in 1798, but by Benjamin Franklin in 1751 who framed it in happier, more American terms: the Franklinian Theory is not about starvation, it's about affordable family formation. In empty America, people can marry more universally and more youthfully than in crowded Europe. Therefore, Franklin argued, immigration should be restricted.

Few are hungry in today's America, but the steady growth in population, mostly driven by immigration of highly fertile Third Worlders, means that it is increasingly a struggle for average and, especially below average, Americans to attain the basics of middle class respectability: a stable job that pays well enough to afford to marry and a house with a yard in a decent public school district.

Is this really too much to ask?

146 comments:

Truth said...

Hey, no comments on the 2nd Presidential Debate? Maybe you missed it, it wasn't aired on network TV.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZfXvFAeHVo&feature=player_embedded#!

FredR said...

Peter Turchin has actually been working on how to apply Malthus's insights to our modern economy. Immigration looks like it'll play a big role. But I'm not sure when he's publishing his book.

Anonymous said...

That might mean fewer ivory backscratchers for the Romney types out there, so yes, it is too much to ask.

Anonymous said...

This vision has prompted the Republican Party to adopt a preemptive strategy that anticipates the end of growth and the onset of sustained austerity – a strategy to make sure that the size of their slice of the pie doesn’t get smaller as the pie shrinks.
This is the underlying and inadequately explored theme of the 2012 election.




Gee, thanks for that view from the left, Steve. Of course the above passage is a far better description of the Democratic party and its base, but you're not going to learn that by reading the NYT.

What next, you're going to mine Think Progress for their insights?

Anonymous said...

For Obama, the argument that America has run out of string is politically untouchable.


Yeah, it's politically untouchable in the sense that it is politically untouchable for Obama and the left to ever admit that there might not exist some bottomless pit of money which can fund all their fantasies. If we just "tax the rich" we can have whatever our hearts desire.

You're not going to see that pipedream debunked in the pages of the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

While Gordon projects a future of exacerbating inequality (as an ever-increasing share of declining productivity growth goes to the top), the wealthy are acutely aware that the political threat to their status and comfort would come from rising popular demand for policies of income redistribution.


Remind me again which party "the wealthy" vote for? Oh, right. In spite of what Edsall wants you to think, it is not the GOP.

Severn said...

There are two parallel realizations driving policy thinking on the right. The first is the growing consciousness of the threat to the conservative coalition as its core constituency – white voters, and particularly married white Protestants — decreases as a share of the electorate.



Oh, dear lord! Would that it were so! Not only does that realization not drive thinking on the right, 99.9% of policy makers on the right are fanatically dedicated to making whites a minority in America.

Only in the fever swamps of the NYT could the GOP be described as being driven by alarm about the racial transformation of the country.

Anonymous said...

"Malthusian theory was largely invented not by Thomas Malthus in 1798, but by Benjamin Franklin in 1751..."

This idea is so simple that it must have been "invented" by millions of people independently of each other starting in prehistoric times. The word "invented" does not belong in descriptions of sociological speculation. Such speculation is not a serious intellectual activity. Don't get me wrong, I love it myself. But when you describe such speculation with words and concepts drawn from the worlds of science and technology, you're implying claims for it which it cannot support. By the way, both Marx and Freud claimed that they were doing science. Which reminds me that you apparently think that Freud originated the idea of projection. This cannot possibly be true. That idea is also much too simple to be able to have a single identifiable author.

Severn said...

What really provokes the ferocity with which the right currently fights for regressive tax and spending policies ...


"Ferocity" is mere editorializing. But "regressive" is a word with a real meaning, and it's word one might reasonably expect a professional writer to understand. One would be disappointed.

Truth said...

Oh, wait, there was an unaired VP debate also.

Steve Sailer said...

"Only in the fever swamps of the NYT could the GOP be described as being driven by alarm about the racial transformation of the country."

A lot of what you read in columns by the smartest NYT columnists is inspired, either directly or through one or two degrees of separation, by my stuff. If you are a smart guy like Edsall, it's depressing to admit that much of what Republicans actually believe is incoherent gibberish prompted by the Overton Window of what's allowed in the Mainstream Media.

It's much more fun to engage with me intellectually, reframing my arguments in point and sputter mode. But, then you aren't allowed to mention my name, or the SPLC and the Soros interests will be all over you, so the whole thing comes out awfully cryptic.

Henry Canaday said...

Printing, eyeglasses and clocks were wonderful inventions and they led to scientific and technical changes eventually, but they simply did not have any immediate, significant and broad effects on the living standards of most people, nor did they extend lives or relieve pain.

Gee, Edsall has discovered a new economic possibility, slow growth, which leads him to the certain conviction that Republicans are just as cynical and selfish as he thought they were before he had ever hear of Gordon’s argument.

To the extent that Republican economists find Gordon’s argument interesting, is it not more natural that they would reason thus: growth potential is going to be less, and less easily achieved, than it was in the salad days of 1945-73, so we can ill afford to do dumb things that discourage growth, such as tax work and investment excessively or reward idleness, sloth and inefficiency or hamstring productivity with regulations that are not cost effective?

a very knowing American said...

"the wealthy are acutely aware that the political threat to their status and comfort would come from rising popular demand for policies of income redistribution."

One way to avoid popular demand for income redistribution is to split up the working class by promoting "diversity," so that Americans vote along ethnic lines more than class lines. Old fashioned leftists like Edsall seem clueless that the collusion of the left and right wings of the Establishment on diversity and multiculturalism is killing the chance for any kind of cross-ethnic New Deal style coalition. (Although demographic changes may make Hugo Chavez style populism a possibility in the more distant future.)

I'm looking forward to Tom Wolfe's forthcoming take on this.

Anonymous said...

So why do you have to beg for money? I mean really Steve. Is your manic cycle starting up? Are you an Obama synced?

Jehu said...

Yeah, honestly I could get behind the Republican party that exists in the fevered imagination of the NYT.
Who...whom plus ironclad support of demographic hegemony---I'd donate to and volunteer for such a Republican party.

Beefy Levinson said...

Being in favor of inviting the world is itself a form of conspicuous consumption, either by signaling to nice white ladies that you accept all of the diversity platitudes (extra credit if you use the word "vibrant") or that you have the kind of job where you get to employ illegals rather than compete with them.

gcochran said...


Gordon is right. And there were famines in England during those centuries.

Anonymous said...

Key words are "per capita."

The chart does not claim there was no technological progress during the era, but that any progress leading to higher output was counterbalanced by population growth--exactly the "Malthusian trap" that you allude to.

Shouting Thomas said...

Another bottom of the recession article that assumes that the recession and its affects will last forever.

It won't. In fact, we're already slowly moving up the economic cycle.

In ten years, we'll be in a boom cycle again, and everybody will have forgotten what it was like to be in the pit of the recession.

The bottom of the economic cycle, the recession, produces unrealistic gloom and a fear of taking risks. The top of the economic cycle, the boom, produces unrealistic optimism and a willingness to take extraordinary risks.

PA said...

"it's depressing to admit that much of what Republicans actually believe is incoherent gibberish prompted by the Overton Window of what's allowed in the Mainstream Media."

Do you see the Overton Window moving right? I have a sense that it has, since about 2008. if not in the mainstream, then at least in unspoken assumptions.

elvisd said...

...but the steady growth in population, mostly driven by immigration of highly fertile Third Worlders, means that it is increasingly a struggle for average and, especially below average, Americans to attain the basics of middle class respectability: a stable job that pays well enough to afford to marry and a house with a yard in a decent public school district.

I wouldn't be so fast about assuming that everyone wants to marry, have a house with a yard, and live in a decent public school district. My experience finds there are increasingly more who don't give a damn about any of that, but rather enjoy dysfunction, matrifocalist family arrangements, and an environment of noise and edginess.

Flavius MacJosephus said...

1300-1700 corresponds almost exactly to the time that the Scots-Irish were kicked out of the British Isles by Edward I [1290] and then invited back in by Cromwell [1655].

And at roughly the halfway point between 1300 and 1700 - in 1492, at just about the same time that that God-damned NAZI, Adolph Gutenberg, was stealing the idea for the printing press from them - the Scots-Irish were kicked out of the Iberian peninsula, as well.

And towards the end there, you've finally got MacSpinoza flourishing in Orange Holland.

So, yeah, from the point of view of the island of Manhattan [which, after all, is the very epicenter of the known universe], those were some highly unproductive years - rent extraction might even have been as low as it was in the aftermath of the defeat of the Scots-Irish, at Loch Masada, by that God-damned FACIST, Benito Vespasian, in 74 AD.

Rob said...

When you've got the best country in the world, your future depends largely on which of the other six billion people on the planet you let come and share it.

Anonymous said...

The steam engine theory of progress is sort of like the Guns, Germs and steel theory of European dominance. The reason growth picked up in the 1800s is that the on June 18 1815 the last major battle between nation states until 1914 occurred. 1815 signaled the Pax Britannica where nation states were forced to be good investments by the Royal Navy. It is not clear why the British demanded high growth while empires like the the Romans, the Mongols, and the Chinese suppressed growth, but the British did demand growth, and that's all that counts.

Following the world wars the Pax Americana re established the need for nations to be good investments (ask Salvador Allende about what happens to people who didn't provide good investment returns)

With the end of the USSR for some reason the Pax NATOnia does not seem to demand nations be good investments. As an example Germany does not see anything wrong with Egypt purchasing 2 U-Boats. The fact that such silliness wrecks investment returns just does not bother Frau Merkle one bit. The US obsession with the F-35, ethanol subsidies, and all the other centrally planned waste is another example. Venezuela has no reason being a bad investment. I could rant on but it is time to stop.

Eric said...

This guy is just incoherent. Republicans don't think that way at all. The reason they want to curtail the welfare state is because they realize the welfare state means lower growth over the long run and less wealth for everyone.

It's only over on the left that people think the pie has a fixed size. That's why they're always on about income inequality instead of actual, you know, income.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Edsall seems to be mind-reading. Always a doubtful proposition.

It saves having to think, though. There's that.

MQ said...

Remind me again which party "the wealthy" vote for? Oh, right. In spite of what Edsall wants you to think, it is not the GOP.

In spite of the right-wing fantasy that public school teachers and black people are some kind of wealthy privileged class, they aren't. The more wealthy you are the more likely you are to vote Republican -- e.g. in 2008 Obama won by 12 points among people who make $100K or less and tied among those with family incomes greater than $100K. Exact margins can bounce around in different elections but it has been a pretty consistent fact since FDR.

Anonymous said...

The idea that tech is hitting a plateau is bunk. Slowly down now that the internet's in everyone's video-wristwatch, er, cellphone, sure, but these guys need to realize there's more to tech than the newest Apple earbuds. Nano technology, genetic advances, military tech: there's a lot of amazing stuff happening out there that's just not sexy to tech writers because it's not commercialized yet and won't get them on Attack of the Show.

Mr Lomez said...

The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society 1250 - 1600, by Alfred Crosby

I remember reading this in undergrad. The title makes it sound pretentiously academic, but it's actually pretty accessible and entertaining. The thesis is that Western Europeans of this period figured out some pretty novel ways to think about the world, namely how to measure things like time and distance effectively.

Perhaps of special interest to iSteve readers, Crosby also hints that Western Europeans possessed a certain mentalite that not only led to these new technologies and techniques but also to the subsequent period of European imperialism. Of course, in undergrad we were taught to be skeptical of this aspect of Crosby's argument. Europeans were lucky, not smart, and don't you forget it.

Anonymous said...

That's true about the wall street journal but a lot of rightwingers are so dumb. The Orange County register had a 6th part series on the brave illegal coming to OC by sea and migrant forum in Irvine. Whites get a nasty 6 part series on a wacky white supremist group in Huntington Beach.

JayMan said...

This meshes with a four-part series of posts on my blog:

Dark Times Ahead? - about the possible rise of violence and political strife due to deep fundamental political divides and Hispanic/immigrant pressure.

Just a reminder… - The opening of Idiocracy, about dysgenic breeding.

Human Labor Becoming Obsolete?About the left half of the bell curve becoming permanently unemployable thanks to automation.

Solutions, Again - what to do about the above problems, knowing what we know.

This also follows a comment I left over at Razib Khan's:

"The end of science will likely never happen, but plateaus in our rate of discovery are likely. While genetics and neuroscience are likely to yield discoveries for quite some time to come, there are two basic limits when it comes to overall progress of science:

1. Real physical limits. For example, not much new has been added to our knowledge of physics for some time, despite the fact that there is clearly far more discover. However, much of this discovery may be beyond our technological and intellectual reach for quite some time. In short, we may have already picked most of the low-hanging fruit.

2. Cognitive and temperamental limits. Science can only progress with smart, dedicated scientists. Since people (Flynn effect notwithstanding) aren’t getting any smarter, we may start to see a slow-down in the rate of progress simply because we’re tapping out our intellectual ability."

In short, overall progress probably really is slowing, despite continuing strong in some sectors. But because of this fact, it's really hard to say what this means for society, because a few key discoveries can remarkably change our lives.

However, despite all this, the two facts that seem to remain clear are that lowering the average IQ of your population and allowing an unchecked stream of immigrants are probably not going to help your country economically; yet we keep right on doing it... :\

"Few are hungry in today's America, but the steady growth in population, mostly driven by immigration of highly fertile Third Worlders, means that it is increasingly a struggle for average and, especially below average, Americans to attain the basics of middle class respectability: a stable job that pays well enough to afford to marry and a house with a yard in a decent public school district."

Interestingly, I've noticed that this ideal: home, spouse, land, plenty of resources to raise your children, is synonymous with the "good times" in the collective consciousness. This is what made 1950s America such a romanticized and missed time: good living was easily had. As I've noted over at Hail To You, should wealth return to the middle class, another baby boom will likely occur.

sunbeam said...

Man, this is something that could be turned into a book, all the references you've put in this.

To start with, the printing press was invented in China:

http://io9.com/5910249/printed-books-existed-nearly-600-years-before-gutenbergs-bible

That is a quibble, I don't know if Gutenberg heard some story about how they did it in China or came up with it on his own. Not being a history detective I find either plausible.

Your point about there being some progress in Europe is valid, but I'd like to point out that it wasn't till 1400 or 1500 that you could make a real argument Europe was more advanced than Rome had been. For example Romans ... all kinds of stuff that would surprise you. Glass windows, that wonderful concrete, etc. They used solar heating in the design of buildings as well.

I didn't read the article you linked, I've read many in the same vein. This is obviously a deep topic. But as everyone knows the advance of knowledge and technology has been explosive since 1750 or so, or more precisely when the steam engine came into use. Of course I'm of the peak oil and energy school, you know where to find us on the web. So very much to say about this, and this forum is too limited to do it.

I'm not keen on large scale immigration into this country, nor even small scale to be honest. In some ways it wouldn't help much if we did stop immigration. Outsourcing with all the new communication technologies, and global shipping can still gut just about every industry we have.

And more importantly automation and robotics is coming on like a steamroller. I'd estimate in a decade there won't be any need for immigrant workers in California agriculture.

And no, neither statement above is incongruous with peak oil.

Just saying that curtailing immigration along isn't going to do a whole lot for most Americans given the current trends. It might actually make the powers that be turn the knob up to 11.

Lastly in my opinion, married white protestants are kind of lumped together too much. I have no idea what the soul of someone from Nebraska is like, but if not for black people and all the issues that surround them, the South would be as solidly Democratic as ever.

It's my opinion, but in a lot of ways the modern Republican Party is a Rump of a Rump party.

It's going to be an interesting 8 to 10 years if you like to observe politics.

fondatori said...

I guess it is always 1950 and the Republicans are the party of the rich. Actually it seems to me like the Republicans represent the 'new money' among the rich while Democrats represent the old money. Thus the obsessive focus in the Times on the wickedness of 'high income earners' (scum who don't already own things need income, the bastards).

I'd imagine our country's energy policy is driven by the fact that the brahmins don't want a bunch of oilmen hanging around the Hamptons farting and laughing with their mouths open.

Truth said...

"Henry Canaday said..."

A little off topic here, Hank, but you have a pretty famous cousin. It seems the Canaday's of Virginia had a pretty active HR department down on the farm.

Eric said...

in 2008 Obama won by 12 points among people who make $100K or less and tied among those with family incomes greater than $100K. Exact margins can bounce around in different elections but it has been a pretty consistent fact since FDR.

$100k? How quaint. When people say "rich" they're not talking about people with a household income of $100k. The super rich - the Soroses and Turners and Buffets of the world - are Democrats, for the most part. The "plutocrats", as dishonest hacks in the Times might call them.

People who make $100k to $500k or so are more likely to be Republican, sure. That's because they still have to work to maintain their standard of living, and when taxes go up it means something.

John Lilburne said...

There were both lots of technological developments and the malthusian trap. Although life in europe, due to the christian ethos, was on average much better than in other regions(they wernt called oriental despots for nothing).
There were periods of real difficulty. In the 1350's between 30-50% of the british population died due to war , famine and plague caused ultimately by the end of the medieval warming. Likewise during the english civil war between 6-10% of the population died. Both war and peace and practical technological innovation are cyclical(ala Kondratiev) and we are entering a period of stagnation and difficulty

John Lilburne said...

The world had both malthusian traps and innovation.
During the period on average, because of the christian influence, the malthusian trap in the west was much more pleasant than in the east( the eastern rulers were not called oriental despots for nothing). However war and peace and innovation wre cyclical (ala Kondratiev). Periods of great growth wre followed by periods of great collapse. After the end of the mdieval warming , the population of England fell 30-50% due to war famine and the plague. After the marvels of the elizabethan age , again the 4 horses wre released and in the english civil war between 6-10% of the population died and there was widespread white slavery (in america). Unfortunenately we are entering another period of Kondratiev stagnation with the the possibility of unpleasant consequences

Anonymous said...

I was wondering why yet again some fresh insight-free blather from Edsall was reprinted until I got to the obligatory "Soros/SPECTRE Fears Me" comment. So you heard from the reliable source or friend-of-a-friend that Edsall mentioned the blog and this is your gold-and-blue-tie-wearing method of signaling to him; from the guy's age I'd seriously doubt he uses any web site aside from e-mail, but the linked Campaign Stops column doesn't offer any trace of your topic stable (high-low coalitions, sorting, the price tag of feminism, or the obvious superiority of English speakers, to name a few routine themes). He doesn't show any awareness of that self-styled heterodox school of thought, actually resembling nothing so much as a doddering pre-Watergate anti-commerce liberal of the type which used to comprise 100% of the East Coast media's old guard instead of barely 2/3rds now. Anthony Lewis or William Raspberry would churn out this stuff 20 years ago. New social-science studies, same moral.

Anonymous said...

What next, you're going to mine Think Progress for their insights?

Since that tends to represent the new breed who've grown up in the post-national USA & been inculcated with the multicult, it might make for a more interesting source to pick apart, in contrast to the old white men of the NY Times.

Enoch Powell said...

The Left has systematically destroyed economic productivity in the West during the past several decades. Therefore if we are in a state of stagnation because of rigid, pathological overregulation, it must be a "normal" state of affairs, just like that period of several centuries between 1300 and 1700 when nothing much happened at all except the birth of the modern world in Europe. And that wasn't important at all compared to the development of African tribal masks which look so awesome lined up on the railing of the loft over my living room.

Yes, that's it. Chronic stagflation and economy-killing debt from income confiscation and redistribution must be mankind's default mode, because the lively, vibrant, diverse tyranny of the Left would certainly precipitate a staggering amount of creative economic growth if that were the sort of thing that happens much. Guess it doesn't though.

Anonymous said...

I often find myself gazing at a gothic church, with its spires, arches and stained glass arranged in glorious, immense symmetry... and thinking 'what poor dummies they were in the Dark Ages.'

Gilbert P.

map said...

The rich...

Democrats believe that Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House to raise taxes on herself.

Veracitor said...

The top class always favors a relatively stagnant world because they want their own offspring to remain on top (remember, status is always relative-- it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven).

The biggest enemy of the top class is simply reversion toward the mean among their descendants. In a world of innovation there's always some clever peasant getting ahead. To keep the less-clever children of the plutocrats on top, the world must be made boring so connections will matter more than talent-- you can give all your children connections, but talent is a crapshoot.

Cowen's Stagnation book is flawed because he neglects the chief reason our economy (indeed, the OECD economy) is wheezing: stifling government "regulation." The real goal of all the bureaucracy and red tape is specifically to prevent innovation, in order to maintain the relative position and power of existing firms and people. It's not like it's some kind of secret; all regulation stems from rent-seeking and in most industries converts economic competition into political competition.

The top class prefers political competition because the outcome is so strongly determined by the initial conditions... and the current top class IS the initial condition.

The only reason computer/electronics/communications stuff has fermented with innovation over the last forty years is that the top class hasn't been able to figure out how to throttle it with regulation, for reasons it would take me another 40 minutes to explain, so goodnight.

Steve Sailer said...

The sheer existence of Gothic cathedrals doesn't fit with many contemporary theories.

Simon in London said...

"What really provokes the ferocity with which the right currently fights for regressive tax and spending policies is a deeply pessimistic vision premised on a future of hard times."

I think he just made that up. For a Republican, even an overclass Republican, to be pessimstic is practically treason.

Simon in London said...

Steve Sailer:
"A lot of what you read in columns by the smartest NYT columnists is inspired, either directly or through one or two degrees of separation, by my stuff. If you are a smart guy like Edsall, it's depressing to admit that much of what Republicans actually believe is incoherent gibberish prompted by the Overton Window of what's allowed in the Mainstream Media.

It's much more fun to engage with me intellectually, reframing my arguments in point and sputter mode. But, then you aren't allowed to mention my name, or the SPLC and the Soros interests will be all over you, so the whole thing comes out awfully cryptic."

OK, that does make more sense than that the author actually believes that mainstream Republicans believe what he claims they believe.

Anonymous said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head Steve.
- All this talk of a 'great stagnation' and dearth of inventions is pure bullpoopy. At no time in human history have there been more dedicated scientists and technologists working on pure research, and with pure pure research you occasionally hit a golden nugget. When and where you hit the golden nugget is another matter, but who would have thought dissecting a frog in the 1700s would have given us the modern world?
The USA and the EU are stagnating, but China is most certainly not. Is it beyond comprehension that in these days of no capital control the globalists aimply shift their assets to China where they continue to grow?
As Steve rightly says the modern era represents the triumph of the globalists and free market dogma - their side won and got all it wanted. Manifold reasons for that, which I haven't got time to go into.
Anyway, the upshot is this. No matter how much yer typical dumb-ass economist bullshits and obfuscates and lies and lies and lies otherwise (some of them actually beieve in the crap they spout), as long as wages in China are but a small fraction of those in the USA, American wages will converge downwards to meet Chinese wages - and the same goes for 'open borders' with India.

Simon in London said...

sunbeam:
"To start with, the printing press was invented in China"

Sure, but Gutenberg invented moveable-type printing, as opposed to whole-page wood-block printing. To print Chinese you need a huge number of different symbols. 26-letter Roman alphabet enabled efficient moveable type printing; that was the big breakthrough.

Matthew said...

Audacious Epigone posted a map recently showing that, if only those earning >$100k had voted, McCain would've beat Obama 298-240. Several years ago someone analyzed the Forbes 400 and determined, based on their political contributions, that 72% were Republican or Republican leaning.

OTOH, rich states tend to be more Democratic than poorer states, and the counties surrounding rich people playgrounds like Aspen, Vail, Sun Valley, Park City, and Jackson Hole, all tend to tilt far to the left.

Matthew said...

"Another bottom of the recession article that assumes that the recession and its affects will last forever. It won't. In fact, we're already slowly moving up the economic cycle."

Nice theory, except that much of the middle didn't do too well during the last "boom." Hate to see what it'll look like for 'em when they don't have homes artificially inflating in value, or what happens when the government finally gets around to trying to reduce that deficit down to a reaosnable size, either via tax increases or spending cuts - or both.

Peter A said...

If you only look at economic statistics for Europe for thsoe 4 centuries, you might be able to stay "no productivity growth", but that seems a tremendous oversimplification. Certainly in Spain productivity came to a stop sometime around the mid-1500s as tremendous riches started flowing in from the New World and everyone in the Iberian peninsula stopped working hard.

The 30 Years War had a devastating effect on Central European productivity - arguably Germany/Bohemia/Poland didn't recover until the late 19th century - you could even argue that Eastern Germany and Poland still have never really caught back up to the rest of Europe after that disaster.

Peter A said...

"The reason they want to curtail the welfare state is because they realize the welfare state means lower growth over the long run and less wealth for everyone."

It's a simplistic argument. Some level of welfare appears to be a net good - for example Prussia/Germany with its fairly developed school and health benefits completely outperformed the Hapsburg Empire in the latter half of the 19th century. Despite the fact that Austria-Hungary started the 19th century with a better industrial base than Prussia, more resources and better farmland. The Scandinavian states have done pretty well over the past hundred years as well. A literate, educated, healthy population is a net benefit to long term national growth, even if it requires a little socialism to pay for it. No, the welfare state per se is not the issue - it's the population mix, and the GOP doggedly refuses to address that.

Anonymous said...

There were great technical advances from 1300 to 1700.
Ship building is one example. The ships of 1300 were generally small, coastal hugging affairs, not capable of crossing wide oceans. By 1700 multi-rigged tall sailing ships had reached an apogee of craftsmanship, and a regular trade with America, the far East was got up.
Likewise the design of coaches, carriages, horse harnesses etc enable road tarnsport to improve.
Windmills were pretty much unknown in 1300, but by 1700 they enjoyed a perfection. An igenious Dutchman built a waterworks in lOndon in the 16th century that was powered by water turbine driven pumps under the arches of London Bridge.
Fine metalwork, using such components as screws (unknown in 1300),gear wheels, springs, cams, locks etc abounded by 1700. Carpentry and joinery found a peak of perfection - carpentry tools were perfected, important since you must realise that iron was scarce until the 1800s. Look at the perfection of something like the Palace of Versailles in terms of architecture, furniture etc. Consider the development of perspective drawing, detail and design of that period. Look at the enormous advance of mathematics in that period and its use in acoouning systems, banking etc.
Look at 17th century townhouses in London. Many are still preserved entire and are inhabited.
They contain all the elements of a moder house, wooden stairs, joinery, glass window, chimney flues etc, built from standard sized brick and slate roofed, basically they are identical to a house of 1950.
You can't say that about a 1300 cottage.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but Gutenberg invented moveable-type printing, as opposed to whole-page wood-block printing.

He did, but Koreans invented and used metal movable type over 100 years before Gutenberg. Alas, like with so many other Asian inventions, they kept it exclusively for the elite (top 0.1-1.0%) and never bothered to realize its revolutionary potential. Since this is a well-established pattern, it's got to be one of the examples of HBD in action.

Anonymous said...

One way to avoid popular demand for income redistribution is to split up the working class by promoting "diversity," so that Americans vote along ethnic lines more than class lines. Old fashioned leftists like Edsall seem clueless that the collusion of the left and right wings of the Establishment on diversity and multiculturalism is killing the chance for any kind of cross-ethnic New Deal style coalition.

Ironically left/liberals seem utterly blind to the fact that what they would regard as a nice sort of socialist/co-operative/synergistic society is unworkable in a multiracial context.

Where any signs of such a state to appear amongst any sector of the white population they would be leading the charge to destroy it. Most obviously by inserting non-whites into the situation.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago someone analyzed the Forbes 400 and determined, based on their political contributions, that 72% were Republican or Republican leaning.


I don't believe a word of that. The sort of people who can drop a million dollars or more on political campaign contributions tend to be 80% Democrat. I just glanced a the first few names on the Forbes 400 - Gates, Buffett, Ellison, etc. All Democrats.

Steve Sailer said...

I looked through the latest Forbes 400 a few weeks ago and the names I recognized as having a public political leaning seemed pretty mixed.

njartist said...

How much of that article do we have to read to realize it is a hack job; that the argument is being used for partisan political purposes?

Anonymous said...

Why do you even read the NYT? Why don't you stick to the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Quadrant Magazine and, of course, the New Zealand Herald so you stay abreast of events where it really matters?

1). In the Netherlands great progress was made in agriculture and the development of navigation and shipbuilding. Peter the Great went there for a good reason in the late seventeenth century. Western Europe was making vast technogical progress and he wanted Russia to catch up.

The arrival of the sweet potato had a vast effect in China leading to a spurt in Chinese colonisation of tribal lands. Other food crops from the New World also had a major impact.

Population in Europe was kept in check by recurrent bouts of plague. The result was that restrictive feudal labour practices had to be abandoned. The fifteenth century has been called the golden age of the English working man. Around ten per cent of the population died in the great famines of the early fourteenth century. Thereafter, the population of England was spared real hunger and was overall far better nourished.

Land once used for subsistence agriculture was given over to wool and the Netherlands became the centre of a vast international cloth trade. That's how Lady Di's family entered the ranks of the aristocracy.

Another major invention was, of course, gunpowder there was a vast improvement in methods of metal production.

Newton, Leibnitz, Napier, Copernicus had an impact. Mathematics was not only more advanced in the seventeenth century than it had been in the fourteenth century; there was also a much better oppreciation of how to apply it.

2). In reply to: "To start with, the printing press was invented in China"

There is a long-standing tendency among European historians and commentators to talk up Asia while talking down Europe. The urge is to say that Europe was really backward compared to China and the Middle East until quite recently and that now the world is returning to normal. The worst example of this was Joseph Needham, who presided over the compilation of a huge collection of works on the subject of Chinese technology. Many of the individual contributions are good, but Needham's motivations are best described as bizarre. More recently, an ex-submariner called Menzies has been telling us that the whole world was mapped by Zheng He in the fifteenth century.

Talk of Europe being technologically retarded may sometimes be true, but usually must be taken with a pinch of salt.

P.S. Ed West was a DT commentator who often quoted the most revered author of this blog. Has he been purged or is he on sabbatical? Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

In spite of the right-wing fantasy that public school teachers and black people are some kind of wealthy privileged class, they aren't. The more wealthy you are the more likely you are to vote Republican


In spite of the left-wing fantasy that they represent "the working class" against "the rich", the reality is that the two parties can be fairly accurately summed up as the rich and the poor (the Democrats) vs the middle-class (the GOP).

The poorer you are, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. And the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. "Wealthy" in this case has nothing to do with making a piddly 100k a year. That's a middle-class income in much of the country.

njartist said...

Anon @ 10/16/12 1:14 AM
Yes, it is amazing what occurred in technology as soon as the West began to recover from the collapse of Roman civilization caused by the Muslim destruction of the seventh century.

Anonymous said...

it is increasingly a struggle for average and, especially below average, Americans to attain the basics of middle class respectability: a stable job that pays well enough to afford to marry and a house with a yard in a decent public school district.

Is this really too much to ask?



Yes.

The people who have such things have them because someone built them, specifically their forebears. Also, such things must be maintained, and not everyone is able to do that. So, yes, it is far far too much to ask. The lower classes cannot build and maintain such social institutions. It has never been done and it never will be done.

Anonymous said...

Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press.
On top of that, paper was made in water powered paper mills.

The Chinese were doing everything by hand. Huge difference.

BrokenSymmetry said...

"Really, what's the NYT printed on?"

To ask the question is to answer it.

"Needham's motivations are best described as bizarre"

As in, he had an affair with his young Chinese graduate student and contracted an incurable case of yellow fever. He did marry her eventually, decades later when he was in his 90s.

Ceylon Heights said...

"NYT: There was a sustained lack of productivity growth from 1300 to 1700. Really, what's the NYT printed on?"

-Don't look for logic out of the NYT. Anytime I decide I'm going to read an article from there I decide ahead of time that I'm not going to be bothered if they rely on the logic and facts of Alice-in-Wonderland. Generally, I'm not disappointed.

Ophelia said...

"Truth said...

Hey, no comments on the 2nd Presidential Debate? Maybe you missed it, it wasn't aired on network TV."

-Not surprised we didn't hear about it from the MSM,as even Obama lost that one too...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UAyxWTEHII&feature=related

pat said...

You have to be carefull with your starting points and end points when you analyze a trend. Obama likes to pick the depth of the 2007economic crisis as the starting point for his administration. But that was - as the song says - a short, sharp shock. His performance looks much different if you start a bit later. Virtually no economic growth at all.

Similarly using 1300 - the start of the fourteenth century - biases the analysis.

After the the fall of Rome there was the literal Dark Ages. But in Europe by the year 1000 there was an improvement in climate and industry. There was steady economic growth leading up to the Thirteenth Century - known to historians as "The Golden Century". Europe had been technologically inferior to China for centuries but in the Golden Century most of the powered industry (water wheels) in the world were in abbeys in Northern Europe. There had not been a famine in Europe for more than a century. Peace, prosperity and Mother Church. Life was good.

Then came the disastrous fourteenth century - the low point in the history of the Western World. First the climate changed. Cold and rains ruined the crops. Famine everywhere. Then The Black Death came and killed a third of the population in just a few years. Then the Black Death returned and drove the total to something like half. The High Middle Ages was time of religious unity but in the Fourteenth Century we had the Great Schism. There were now two popes - or none. God seemed to have abandoned man. Politically there was the Hundred Years War. It wasn't so much a war of battles and manuvers but decades of pillage by both sides. The French attacked their own people as well as the English. Before the rise of the nation state the nobility ravaged all peasants irrespective of their nationality.

Recovery came only in the fifteenth century. 1453 is conventionally given as the beginning of the Modern Period. That was the date of Guttenberg and the Fall of Constantinople. The Voyages of Discovery soon followed and the discovery of the New World.

The Fifteenth Century was probably the most innovative and best century for the West - the Fourteenth was certainly the worst.

Albertosaurus

Peter A said...

The urge is to say that Europe was really backward compared to China and the Middle East until quite recently and that now the world is returning to normal.

In terms of average standard of living - shelter, nutrition, clothing - Europe probably did lag behind China, India and the Middle East until the 17th or even early 18th century. Maybe someone has the numbers - but I recall that agricultural productivity was much lower in Europe, especially Northern Europe. It is basically a question of climate and geography. It was much easier to produce agricultural surplus in Egypt or the Yellow River than along the Seine or the Rhine. Cotton and silk are better than wool, etc. While the geographical scarcity eventually encouraged greater technological advances, exploration and more flexible political structures, it took a while for the effects of those advances to be felt. An alien dropped onto the earth in 1550, unless very perceptive, would almost certainly have seen the societies that produced Istanbul, Damascus and Suzhou as more advanced than the societies that produced squalid little stone towns like London and Paris. Even the Aztec capital struck the first Spanish explorers as much wealthier, cleaner and nicer than contemporary Madrid.

Anonymous said...

All growth in technology is incremental ie it is grown from the previous technological base that supported it.
Breakthroughs can and do occur but without having the means at disposal to exploit them, they would be meaningless.
The great industrial andvances of the 18th and 19th centuries would not have been possible without the base of knowledge, technology and means of production that was developed from 1300 - 1700.
For example, steam power would have been impossible without the fine metallurgy and precision grinding techniques, precise measurement etc that preceeded it. It was the theories concerning air pressure, vacuums etc that were developed in the renaissance that spurred it on. James Watt, who perfected it was inspired by the higher mathematics, his precision drawings (another renaissance idea), clearly show that he was inspired by mathematical rationality and geometry.


sunbeam said...

Anonymous said:

"2). In reply to: "To start with, the printing press was invented in China"

There is a long-standing tendency among European historians and commentators to talk up Asia while talking down Europe. The urge is to say that Europe was really backward compared to China and the Middle East until quite recently and that now the world is returning to normal. The worst example of this was Joseph Needham, who presided over the compilation of a huge collection of works on the subject of Chinese technology. Many of the individual contributions are good, but Needham's motivations are best described as bizarre. More recently, an ex-submariner called Menzies has been telling us that the whole world was mapped by Zheng He in the fifteenth century."

The problem with this statement is that everything I've ever read indicates that Europe really was backward compared to China specifically until sometime in the 1700's maybe.

Unless you are a scholar of such things, and even then honestly, what you read is all you have to go on to be honest. I guess it's also a case of what you find credible.

To address just nautical matters, my understanding is that Europe pretty much copied ship designs from the Middle East, which were copied from India, which were copied from China, from antiquity to sometime around the 1700's again.

Here is a wiki page about Zheng He's treasure ships:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_ship

Now it's wikipedia, but it has most of the arguments pro and con. Please pay attention to the disparity between the Chinese ships and those of Columbus.

I really don't want to get in a google war, and their are some criticisms of the alleged size of these Chinese ships. But from http://www.vancouvermaritimemuseum.com/?p2=/customcode/vmmuseum/page2.jsp&page2=239:

"The argument rages on, aided or confused by the discovery of a gigantic rudder-post believed to be from one of the giant warships. Excavated from the mud in a backwater of the one of the Ming naval shipyards at Nanking, the rudder-post is 36.2 feet long and 1.25 feet in diameter. Using these measurements, naval architects estimate that the rudder attached to the post was nearly half its length in height and breadth, or 452 square feet of wood. That means that thirty men could comfortably lie down on it! The ship to which such a rudder belonged would, following the rules of thumb for Chinese ship construction, be at least 400 feet long. One rudder post, as a solitary find, and possibly never fitted to a ship, does not represent a fleet. But it is a tantalizing hint of a navy of gigantic ships that outweighed, out-gunned and out-classed anything afloat in a European navy of the time."

I might note that the wiki page made mention of the fact that a smaller replica (233 feet) of one of these ships has been built, and will set sail in 2013. That might help to answer some questions about the seaworthiness of these things, though it won't answer all of them. It's entirely credible to me that the Chinese found some way around the large wooden ship problems found by the British.

Though I'm not too sure that a Junk derived design is subject to the same kind of loading as the V-hull British ships. I'm no Naval Architect though.

Ships are just one example of the accomplishments of Chinese civilization compared to European. I could add gunpowder, firearms, paper, lots of other things I'm sure I could google. Exam based Civil Service come to think of it, bureaucracy but it's still better than living with what the local aristocrat decides to appoint.

And just to state it, I'm not an Asiaphile or whatever the word is. I don't prowl the web looking for hot asian girl porn (strangely it seems to prowl looking for me).

Just a statement of fact as far as I can tell. Though rereading this it seems like China and Asian Civilization are synonymous to me. China just has been that big a deal historically.

Anonymous said...

What about the technological improvement of that most vital of all inventions, back in the day, the plough? - that implement upon which society and surplus value literally depended on.
Have a look at a wikipedis article on the history of the plough - and the mouldboard - and you will see it was perfected from 1300 - 1700.

Anonymous said...

The richest state is tiny New Hempshire. Actually, alot of purple states have higher income than Blue States. Both California and New York have high poverty. California has the central Valley. And among the 10 largest counties in the Us, Los Angeles is poorer than slighlty red Orange County or purple San Diego. LA is almost as blue as the bay area.

Truth said...

"-Not surprised we didn't hear about it from the MSM,as even Obama lost that one too..."

That one was REALLY really borderline.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in Italy there wasn't a dark sge until 600,there was a decline. Justinian's reconquest against the Goths finally destroyed the old Roman system in Italy. And the Byzantines lost alot of Italy to the Lombards. Southern Italy where the Byzanintes held on and parts of Central Italy like Venice would be the best developed area till the year 1000. Venice was one of the first great merchant states in the west.

Cail Corishev said...

'[T]he chief reason our economy (indeed, the OECD economy) is wheezing: stifling government "regulation." The real goal of all the bureaucracy and red tape is specifically to prevent innovation, in order to maintain the relative position and power of existing firms and people.'

A thousand times yes. That's why people who say, "But taxes on investment are actually fairly low right now, and ObamaCare really just moves the costs around," are missing the point. Taxes and fees don't make small businesses happy, but they can live with them. It's the constantly-growing regulatory code, plus anti-business litigiousness, that makes businessmen wary of expanding and hiring people. I was just talking to a friend of mine who runs a small heating and air-conditioning business, and he was telling me about new OSHA regs that have gone into effect in the last two years -- there are always new ones making yesterday's normal methods illegal today. And he knows that if OSHA shows up, they're going to find something to nick him for, because it's impossible to keep up with every rule. The amount of liability insurance he carries is also ridiculous, but necessary in a judicial climate where anyone who gets injured expects to be compensated by every business within earshot -- and judges and juries go along with it.

It's the regulations and licensing that serve to protect incumbent corporations from upstart competitors. Government is just a willing accomplice, paid off with the fees and fines. (Atlas Shrugged is brilliant on this, with James Taggart and the other tycoons pushing for regulations to protect their fiefdoms.)

As you say, the tech sector surged because it caught the regulators by surprise, and they've never been able to catch up with it and figure out how to control it. Computer geeks tend to lean very libertarian, so they don't have much interest in collective action in the first place. A few of the big corporations like Microsoft and Cisco run certification programs, but most geeks can't be bothered with that foolishness; they just want to get cool stuff done. Heck, half of them give their work away for free; how do you regulate or tax that away?

Bill said...


Steve said . . .

it is increasingly a struggle for average and, especially below average, Americans to attain the basics of middle class respectability: a stable job that pays well enough to afford to marry and a house with a yard in a decent public school district.

Is this really too much to ask?


Anonymous replied ...

Yes.

The people who have such things have them because someone built them, specifically their forebears. Also, such things must be maintained, and not everyone is able to do that.


Carpenters, roofers, bricklayers, and drywall hangers can't have houses in decent neighborhoods because they can't build and maintain houses? Because they can't build and maintain neighborhoods, churches, etc? Are you high?

neil craig said...

I believe the suggestion that we have hit a technological plateau is a nonsensical excuse put forward by the political class.

Because it is the political class who are intorducing all the taxes, regulations and Luddite bans that are holding productivity growth in the "PC" countries, but not in the developing ones.

Moore's Law has speeded up so that instead of taking 2 years to double computer capacity it now about 1. SpaceX are an examople of the same in other fields.

This is indicative not of technological growth being at the top of the S curve, where it would be tailing off, but still near the base point where it is still accelerating.

Kylie said...

"I often find myself gazing at a gothic church, with its spires, arches and stained glass arranged in glorious, immense symmetry... and thinking 'what poor dummies they were in the Dark Ages.'"

I often think of Gothic churches and wonder how many dozens, if not hundreds, of them there are in sub-Saharan Africa, forgotten monuments to the engineering genius of blacks.

Anonymous said...

"It's only over on the left that people think the pie has a fixed size. That's why they're always on about income inequality instead of actual, you know, income." - They did quite a bit to make sure the pie was fixed size actually:

http://www.financialpost.com/m/wp/fp-comment/blog.html?b=opinion.financialpost.com/2012/10/05/and-now-peak-growth-theory

With the albatross of disparate impact around the nation's neck, how could there be growth? with Americans wrecking the economy, the environment, and our farmland to exercise their freedom of association how could there be growth? Patent reform hasn't kicked in yet I don't think, but when it does, there is yet another stone of triumph the economy will have to drag around, and there are certainly many other issues that make growth impossible, even if we had the capacity to grow which might not be the case either.

Rrrrrroger said...

I'm not quite ready to vouch for the chart, but I don't think Mr. Edsall is reading it right. 400 years of growth at a compounded rate of .2% is a lot of growth. If that's the average growth rate for the next 400 years people are going to wind up being pretty rich.

MQ said...

To counter some of the fantasy-based stuff above, the median income for white households with a head between 45 and 54 (peak earning years) is about $70,000. $100,000 will put you right around the top fifth of household income. $200,000 will put you in the top 5 percent. Any household making $500,000 is rich by any measure.

Going back and forth about a couple of plutocrats used as talk show fodder doesn't tell you much, but there are plenty of those on the Republican side..Koch and Adelson come to mind.

beowulf said...

"129 of the billionaires on our list have given to at least one of six partisan committees that funnel cash into election efforts: the Democratic and Republican national committees, congressional committees and senatorial committees. Their donations to these groups since 2005 total $8.6 million, of which $4.2 million has gone to the Republican groups and $4.4 million has gone to the Democratic groups."
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonbruner/2011/09/27/billionaires-hedge-their-bets-on-politicians-infographic/

Anonymous said...

Hi Sunbeam!

In my youth, I wrote about this sort of thing, but my academic career never really took off, so maybe I wasn't smart enough.

I can, however, read Dutch, Portuguese and Classical Chinese and have read some of the sources for myself.

Those sources are, however, often frustratingly incomplete. Reading Portuguese sources is excruciating as they are a long catalogue of miraculous conversions to Christianity among the benighted locals.

Zheng He was an interesting guy and the Chinese fleet must have been a wonder to behold. I am not disputing that, but the sources are scanty to say the least. The suggestion that the Chinese mapped the entire planet in the fifteenth century is based on the flimsiest evidence imaginable. The theory really only reflects one European's desperate desire to prove that the marvellous Asians did everything first.

There is very little available information about Chinese navigation. The best available source is a Chinese book at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the name of which I have forgotten, which gives the compass bearings and wind directions etc for C17th Chinese traders. It is, however, noteworthy that, when the Japanese started sending out official trading ships of their own, they often used Western technology. There is even a manual of Western navigation, written in Japanese, called the Genna Kokaiki.

Also, there is a big difference between speculating about something and actually doing it. People say the notion of the atom goes back to the Greeks. They did not have the technology to prove or disprove the existence of the atom, and so the musings of Greek philosophers are mere idle speculation. The fact that a Chinese may have speculated on the possibility of something does not mean that they actually developed the technology.

The writings of idle speculators often get preserved, while the actual doings of more practical people never get written down.

Alot of technology was picked up by Europeans from elsewhere. That's a fact, but even thirteenth century Europe was not the backward hellhole it is often portrayed as being. Gothic cathedrals are engineering marvels that rival anything being built elsewhere on earth at the time.

The Aztec capital must have been an amazing site, but the suitability of the location for agriculture and the absence of many Old World pathogens made it possible to concentrate a huge population in one place. Precolumbian Mexico achieved marvels of political and social organisation on a very weak technological base - no iron, or even bronze. Ocean transport was so underdeveloped that the Incas and Aztecs barely knew of each other's existence.

You are right when you say that one's views are are a reflection of what one has read. That applies to the primary sources as well as the secondary sources. The Chinese were always far more important in international trade in the Far East that Westerners, but their activities were never as well recorded.

My own view, however, based on twenty years in the Ivory Tower, is that the strong anti-Western bias of many Westerners is reflected in their view of medieval and Early Modern history. I just hope that, by reacting to their prejudices, I am not overcompensating.

Asians have the opposite tendency, ie to overstate the achievements of early Asia, although I have noted that Chinese and Koreans scholars are catching up with the Japanese in terms of professionalism and objectivity.

When talking about China, it is also important to remember the sheer size of the place. The fact that someting was done on a larger scale does not mean it was technologically more advanced.

Finally, as another poster commented, scientific discoveries mean little if they do not form part of a tradition. Kowa Seki in Japan discovered calculus, but his discovery was not taken up by others.

alonzo portfolio said...

Insofar as Republicans prevail in ... aims of cutting .. social spending and .. lowering tax rates, they will have succeeded in obstructing the restoration of social insurance programs in the future.

OK help me here, my IQ's only 127. Is that a tautology, something else, what?

Bob Arctor said...

Peter A:
"An alien dropped onto the earth in 1550, unless very perceptive, would almost certainly have seen the societies that produced Istanbul, Damascus and Suzhou as more advanced than the societies that produced squalid little stone towns like London and Paris."

"Istanbul" (not called that until the 1920's) in 1550 was built almost entirely by Greek, Armenian, and Albanian Christian Europeans.

BrokenSymmetry said...

"but I recall that agricultural productivity was much lower in Europe, especially Northern Europe"

The topsoil in Europe is very poor due to recent glaciation. The huge leap in agricultural productivity from the 17th to the early 20th century was due to imports of guano and nitrates as fertilisers (mainly from Chile). IIRC many alarmists feared that Europe would slip into the Malthusian trap as these supplies were projected to run-out but luckily Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch came up with the Haber process.

Eric said...

It's a simplistic argument. Some level of welfare appears to be a net good - for example Prussia/Germany with its fairly developed school and health benefits completely outperformed the Hapsburg Empire in the latter half of the 19th century.

Well, of course I'm oversimplifying. How many thousand words would people be willing to read in a blog comment?

If welfare states didn't start growing like a cancer it may be that they encouraged growth. But they do, eventually, sucking up all the air in the room.

Dutch Boy said...

The English peasant class was insecure in 1700 because the English elite had seized the land in the 16th century and driven the peasants off it or mad them into poverty-stricken tenants.

Anonymous said...

The English peasant class was insecure in 1700 because the English elite had seized the land in the 16th century and driven the peasants off it or mad them into poverty-stricken tenants.

"How the English People Became Landless"

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/janusg/landls.htm

Anonymous said...

Real physical limits. For example, not much new has been added to our knowledge of physics for some time, despite the fact that there is clearly far more discover. However, much of this discovery may be beyond our technological and intellectual reach for quite some time.

Despite the hooplah over the Higgs Boson, particle and quantum physics are largely stagnant, and will be for a long time. The really exciting discoveries may require a particle collider the size of the Earth, or the solar system.

Philip Neal said...

Muslim printing presses: true but unfair. Because of its cursive nature, the Arabic script requires very accurately engineered founts of moveable type if adjacent letters are to combine properly - far more accuracy than is needed for the printing of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. It was not technologally possible to print Arabic with moveable type until the late 18th century.

Anonymous said...

I often find myself gazing at a gothic church, with its spires, arches and stained glass arranged in glorious, immense symmetry... and thinking 'what poor dummies they were in the Dark Ages.'

Try gazing at an Egyptian pyramid.

The "Dark Ages" and "Middle Ages" were mostly Protestant inventions anyway. In the High Middle ages, the Holy Mother Church was so strong and confident that it could tolerate friendly discussion and debates, and a suprising amount of actual dissent. It was during the Counter-Renaissance that the Church (and its Protestant copies) became repressive.

Anonymous said...

Philip Neal said...

Muslim printing presses: true but unfair. Because of its cursive nature, the Arabic script requires very accurately engineered founts of moveable type if adjacent letters are to combine properly - far more accuracy than is needed for the printing of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. It was not technologally possible to print Arabic with moveable type until the late 18th century.

IIRC, shortly after Gutenberg, an Ottoman engraver devised an Arabic script (or font) that was more "blocky" and without ligatures, ideal for movable-type printing. It caught on about as well as printing itself in Islamdom. Even today this script is rarely used.(Mind you, modern computers, video displays, and printers can handle "true" cursive Arabic just as well as block Arabic.)

Anonymous said...

Bob Arctor said...
Peter A:
"An alien dropped onto the earth in 1550, unless very perceptive, would almost certainly have seen the societies that produced Istanbul, Damascus and Suzhou as more advanced than the societies that produced squalid little stone towns like London and Paris."

"Istanbul" (not called that until the 1920's) in 1550 was built almost entirely by Greek, Armenian, and Albanian Christian Europeans.

Yes, Byzantium was a Christian state until 1453. The technology that permitted the Ottomas to batter down its walls was provided by a rengade Hungarian.

Ron Woo said...

"When talking about China, it is also important to remember the sheer size of the place. The fact that someting was done on a larger scale does not mean it was technologically more advanced."

While this is no doubt true in essence, it is eminently likely that China was the most technologically advanced civilization for the bulk of the Common Era.

I have my reservations about some of Joseph Needham's scholarly views, but his indefatigable chronicling and cataloging of Chinese technological innovations throughout the ages does make a strong case for the Middle Kingdom's superiority in most areas prior to the modern era.

Anonymous said...

Byzantium was founded and built entirely by Greek pagans.

Anonymous said...

East Asians do not receive the scrutiny European people do and they don't scrutinize each other or their history like Europeans do. You can go on Wikipedia and erase half of the purported Chinese inventions right off the top because there is no physical evidence they existed. Most of the purported Chinese invention claims rest on brief, opaque passages in books. This past summer Chinese archaeologists were in East Africa trying to find evidence of Zheng He's voyages to that region where he supposedly shipwrecked. They found nothing of importance. Yet there is a lot written as if there is concrete evidence. Yellow fever is the main reason Westerners have treated East Asia with kid gloves. East Asian women tend to be loose so even white guys who have difficulty attracting white women can feel like rock stars in East Asia.

Most Europeans were doing something around the farm from 1300 to 1700 so it would not be a surprise if innovations during that time didn't have the wide impact inventions after the Industrial Revolution did.

Anonymous said...

it is eminently likely that China was the most technologically advanced civilization for the bulk of the Common Era.


It really isn't. It was not more advanced than the Roman Empire. For the last thousand years it was not more advanced than Europe.

And I blow my nose on your "Common Era". If you want to say "the last two thousand years, say that. If you want to say "since the time of Christ", say that. This "Common Era" twaddle is a way for non-European people to dodge the fact that the world uses the Christian calendar.

Anonymous said...

everything I've ever read indicates that Europe really was backward compared to China specifically until sometime in the 1700's maybe.


Then everything you've ever read was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.

To address just nautical matters, my understanding is that Europe pretty much copied ship designs from the Middle East, which were copied from India, which were copied from China, from antiquity to sometime around the 1700's again


That's utter nonsense.


Please pay attention to the disparity between the Chinese ships and those of Columbus.


One disparity is that the facts about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria are just that - facts, while all we have about the "Chinese ships" are myths and legends.

their are some criticisms of the alleged size of these Chinese ships

Yes, like the fact that it is not physically possible to build an ocean-going wooden sailing ship of the size suggested - 450 feet. That seems like an incontrovertible criticism. If these ships existed they were river barges, not oceangoing vessels of exploration.

That's not to say that the Chinese never engaged in voyages of exploration - just that they did not do it in the ships suggested.

The largest wooden ship ever built was the Wyoming, constructed in the US in 1909. However, "because of her extreme length and wood construction, Wyoming tended to flex in heavy seas, which would cause the long planks to twist and buckle, thereby allowing sea water to intrude into the hold (see hogging and sagging). Wyoming had to use pumps to keep her hold relatively free of water. In March 1924, she foundered in heavy seas and sank with the loss of all hands."

The Wyoming was only 350 feet long.

Anonymous said...


While this is no doubt true in essence, it is eminently likely that China was the most technologically advanced civilization for the bulk of the Common Era.


I am a Sinophile, but this is just not necessarily true. They always had lots of human labor available, which mitigates against advanced technology.


I have my reservations about some of Joseph Needham's scholarly views, but his indefatigable chronicling and cataloging of Chinese technological innovations throughout the ages does make a strong case for the Middle Kingdom's superiority in most areas prior to the modern era.


Needham simply did not understand military technology and was following his dick much of the time.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

The most important innovations have to do with energy. The ones mentioned by the study are vastly more important than the printing press.

The printing press did not help feed more people, for example.

Anonymous said...

In terms of average standard of living - shelter, nutrition, clothing - Europe probably did lag behind China, India and the Middle East until the 17th or even early 18th century.

There isn't a shred of evidence to support that. The average Chinese peasant, like the average Indian peasant and the average peasant on Europe, had a desperately hard life.


Cotton and silk are better than wool, etc

No, they are not. Each is "better" in a particular climate. If you had to walk around Northern Europe you'd be a lot happier doing it wearing wool than wearing silk or cotton.


An alien dropped onto the earth in 1550, unless very perceptive, would almost certainly have seen the societies that produced Istanbul, Damascus and Suzhou as more advanced than the societies that produced squalid little stone towns like London and Paris.

Istanbul is a European city. So is Rome, which you failed to mention in your little list for some reason.

Anonymous said...

This "Common Era" twaddle is a way for non-European people to dodge the fact that the world uses the Christian calendar.

I'm not a great fan of the "Common Era" but the so-called Christian calendar seems like an after-the-fact rationalization. Was Jesus born in 1 AD? Nope. Did the earliest Christians actually use the Christian calendar? Nope, they used the emperor-based Roman calendar.

"Late Roman Calendar" and "Late Roman Era" might be better, and certainly more accurate, names than "Christian".

Anonymous said...

I'm not a great fan of the "Common Era" but the so-called Christian calendar seems like an after-the-fact rationalization. Was Jesus born in 1 AD? Nope. Did the earliest Christians actually use the Christian calendar? Nope, they used the emperor-based Roman calendar.


Remind me again which calender we use? Why is "zero" in it where it is? Why does the so-called "Common Era calender" track that other calender exactly, but use slightly different terminology?

Anyone smart enough to use a computer already knows the answers to all these questions, and they have jack to do with "after-the-fact rationalization". Or at any rate, with after-the-fact rationalization on the part of Christians or Europeans.

Anonymous said...

An alien dropped onto the earth in 1550, unless very perceptive, would almost certainly have seen the societies that produced Istanbul, Damascus and Suzhou as more advanced than the societies that produced squalid little stone towns like London and Paris.


I don't know. If the alien in question was knowledgeable about mathematics, he'd certainly have noticed that squalid little London and Paris were vastly more advanced in it than Istanbul (which is actually in Europe), Damascus or Suzhou. The same is true for astronomy and engineering.

Some notable scientific figures from 16th century northern Europe include Johannes Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and John Napier. What was going on in China at the same time? Essentially, nothing.

Anonymous said...

I have my reservations about some of Joseph Needham's scholarly views, but his indefatigable chronicling and cataloging of Chinese technological innovations throughout the ages does make a strong case for the Middle Kingdom's superiority in most areas prior to the modern era.

What we need is some Chinese Needham to do the same for the West and then it might be possible to answer the question. It may happen. The quality of Chinese scholarship is improving all the time.

Take studies of the Korean War. The main authority in the West is an unreconstructed Communist wanker called Bruce Cumings. The best scholarship is being do by two chjildren of the PRC, Yang Kuisong and Shen Zhihua. The latter's book has been translated with an introduction by Yang.

It's ironic that the top Western scholar is a commie and the real work is being done by two Chinese dudes willing to risk imprisonment.

Anonymous said...

it is eminently likely that China was the most technologically advanced civilization for the bulk of the Common Era.


The Soviet Union was in the habit of claiming to have invented all sorts of things: the airplane, the transistor, etc.

None of that was "eminently likely".

sunbeam said...

There are several Anonymous posters in this thread.

One of them seems to be constantly berating and insinuating that the posters who claim Asia or at least China was more advanced than the West for the majority of recorded history are stupid, or letting their yellow fever talk for them.

Yet he never says anything factual, or points out any specific problem with any argument.

Let alone provide a link to an example.

The point can be argued, and deserves to be argued. But he isn't bringing anything useful to a debate like that.

David said...

>we are in a state of stagnation because of rigid, pathological overregulation<

Deregulation and the lowering of federal tax rates has been the overall story for the past 40 years.

What happens when you remove the last regulation - and the economy still stays in the tank? Do you keep on blaming the pinko commies then, or do you call for a whole new round of "free trade" agreements to spur the new _____ (fill in the blank) economy, with plenty of "hard-working" new immigrants brought in to re-vibrant-ize the American Dream?

David said...

The Chinese printing press was the original "ancient Chinese secret." It had no effect on the West because nobody ever heard of it.

Anonymous said...

Remind me again which calender we use? Why is "zero" in it where it is?

There is no zero; it goes straight from 1 BC to 1 AD. None of these years have any special historical significance.

When was Jesus born, anyway? Wikipedia says 4 BC. If the whatever-you-want-to-call it calendar started 4 years earlier, or 313 years later with the conversion of Constantine, you would have a much better case.

pat said...

Needham was of course a doctrinaire socialist who is not to be trusted, especially in regard to anything to do with the communist regime in China. He was deeply involved with communist spys and agents. He made accusations that the United States had used biological weapons in Korea. He was controversial to the extent that some forgive him for being merely a dupe while others feel that he actively promoted his anti-Western agenda. No one denies that he was guilty.

He was banned from the US for many years.

The problem with assessments of any Chinese technology is that almost all of them rely on Needham's scholarship, and Needham lied.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Hi Sunbeam. I am the NZ ex-academic who disagrees with you on Asian technical superiority. I agree we should keep it polite. An internet conversation is not something to get hot under the collar about.

As I mentioned earlier, we need a Chinese Needham to work on the West. Has someone ever done something similar for Europe?

Unfortunately, there are very few ways to make valid comparisons. The Jesuits at the court of Kangxi could more than hold their own scientifically, but he reigned in the early C18th which is too late for our purposes. Also by this time, the Church was not the main centre of learning in the West.

I am a devoted reader of isteve and the inductivist. I will give myself an identity in future rather than posting anonymously.

If you live in small society like NZ you start to like anonymity. There is never more than 2 degrees of separation in this country.

neil craig said...

An alien dropped in 1550 would have seen European galleons all over the world. An alien dropped in 1150 would indeed have seen China and the moslem world more advanced. Shortly thereafter the Mongols wiped out much of China and the middleeast and conquered Russia, Poland & Hungary but went home to elect a new Khan.Had they continued westwards the efect on European civilisation would have been quite destructive. I don;t think an assessment of their resopective histories can be made without considering that.

Anonymous said...

One of them seems to be constantly berating and insinuating that the posters who claim Asia or at least China was more advanced than the West for the majority of recorded history are stupid, or letting their yellow fever talk for them.

Yet he never says anything factual, or points out any specific problem with any argument



Like the fact, contrary to what was being claimed, Europe in the 16th century was on the cutting edge of science while China was a stagnant intellectual backwater? Names were provided to back that up.

Like the fact that the alleged 450 foot Chinese ships could not have existed?

You're the guy who is factually challenged. You're the guy saying idiotic things such as "my understanding is that Europe pretty much copied ship designs from the Middle East, which were copied from India, which were copied from China, from antiquity to sometime around the 1700's again".

I could have explained the difference between junk rig, lateen rig, and squared rig sails to you, and the origin of each, but space limits how many of your errors I can correct in detail. The best I can do is to point out a few of your factual errors in the hopes that you will then dig a little deeper on your own.

Anonymous said...

An alien dropped in 1550 would have seen European galleons all over the world. An alien dropped in 1150 would indeed have seen China and the moslem world more advanced.


Even that is debatable. By 1150 Europeans were engaged in the construction of things like Chartres Cathedral and Wells Cathedral. The architecture and engineering on display there can stand comparison to anything going on in China or the Muslim world at the same time. In fact they are better than anything going on in China at the time.

The problem here is the widespread belief in a "Dark Age" in Europe. This belief (which is of European origin but which has been picked up by non Europeans) is largely wrong.

Anonymous said...

it goes straight from 1 BC to 1 AD. None of these years have any special historical significance.


Then what is the basis for a calender which counts backwards and forwards from a certain date 2,012 years ago? According to you, it's just some inexplicable historical anomaly which has no special historical significance.

I'm not sure if you're stupid or dishonest, but you are one of the two.

Anonymous said...

Look up Needham on Wiki and youll see what a "stooge" he was. He was just another Commie academic, who sought to undermine his own society. His views are NOT trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

Then what is the basis for a calender which counts backwards and forwards from a certain date 2,012 years ago? According to you, it's just some inexplicable historical anomaly which has no special historical significance.

The problem is that Jesus was NOT BORN on that certain date. Maybe you think he was (and on December 25 to boot), but unbiased historians say most likely 7 BC to 4 BC.

Anonymous said...

The point was not that Chinese technology was not more advanced than Western at some time. It was. The point is, that this time was further in the past than Needham, PC apologists, and Sino-Asian nationalists claim. My own guess would be 1000 AD. As for Needham being a commie stooge, well he was, and that makes his somewhat suspect. But he could be right about some things, like a certain other commie stooge named Chomsky re. linguistics.

Anonymous said...

The problem here is the widespread belief in a "Dark Age" in Europe. This belief (which is of European origin but which has been picked up by non Europeans) is largely wrong.

It is largely wrong because it was standard Judeo-Protestant propaganda slamming the "backward Catholics". The liberals and progressives picked it up too. In many ways, the Reformation was a step backwards from both the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Eric said...

Deregulation and the lowering of federal tax rates has been the overall story for the past 40 years.

In what universe? In this one we've seen more and more regulation, and while tax rates went down the amount of taxes people actually pay keeps going up.

David said...

>while tax rates went down the amount of taxes people actually pay keeps going up<

A sign of a healthy economy, if true.

Anonymous said...


The problem is that Jesus was NOT BORN on that certain date. Maybe you think he was (and on December 25 to boot), but unbiased historians say most likely 7 BC to 4 BC.


Seriously folks, it doesn't matter at all how close the year 1 A.D. is to the actual birth of Jesus. I would have thought that obvious at least to iSteve commenters. We have that calendar because of the cultural influence of Christianity on Europe and the world has Europe's calendar because of the influence of Europe on the world.

That is it. That is all there is.

Of course Christians wanted the calendar to begin accurately right at Jesus' birth, but hey, that is actually hard to do after centuries have passed. So, they settled on something they hoped was accurate and the gov't enforced it. Pretty simple. You don't have to believe the Jesus was born right then. You just have to believe that Christians in Europe set up the Christian calendar. If you don't believe that, you are an idiot.

Anonymous said...

It is largely wrong because it was standard Judeo-Protestant propaganda slamming the "backward Catholics". The liberals and progressives picked it up too. In many ways, the Reformation was a step backwards from both the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Anti-Catholic bias may color the negative reputation of the Dark Ages, but pro-Catholic and anti-Protestant bias also colors the kind of revisionism you see glorifying the Dark Ages.

The fact is that it was no accident that the scientific revolution quickly followed the Reformation. The experimentation in religious and moral belief unleashed by the Reformation encouraged the application of experimentation to all questions and overthrew the hegemony of Scholastic argumentation.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Jesus was NOT BORN on that certain date. Maybe you think he was (and on December 25 to boot), but unbiased historians say most likely 7 BC to 4 BC


What a moron you are. The people saying that are Christian scholars who base it on the text of the Bible. The same Bible you don't believe in.

Whether Jesus was "born on that certain date" is really irrelevant. Unless you think that MLK Day can't really have anything to do with MLK, because MLK Day does not actually fall on MLK's birthday.

Anonymous said...

He made accusations that the United States had used biological weapons in Korea.

The US was using chemical weapons heavily during the Korean War - around 70,000 gallons of napalm a day - so it wasn't that much of a stretch to argue biological weapons were being used as well.

It isn't a completely settled question. It isn't implausible that biological weapons may have been used. And it hasn't been just eccentric characters like Needham that have made the claim, but contemporary scholars and historians have claimed it as well. Endicott and Hagerman are mainstream contemporary historians who wrote a book arguing that the US did engage in biological warfare during the Korean War, launching a number of biological attacks to spread anthrax, cholera, and smallpox viruses, as well as other disease-causing agents:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=19891

Anonymous said...

So much to say, so little time. In short, the dark ages may have been dark regarding uniform government authority, but apparently were not for technical development.

Here's one top 10 list. ("(5th – 15th Centuries AD), often termed The Dark Ages, were actually a time of great discovery and invention.")

For 1200 to 1700:

Blast Furnace
Liquor (distillation; original Arab but rapidly widespread in Europe)
Eyeglasses
The Mechanical Clock
Spinning Wheel
Quarantine (thinking of this as medical technology)
The Printing Press of Gutenberg

The Hanseatic league largely invented the iron mounted sea-going rudder, the pintle-and-gudgeon rudder, probably around 1200. A big deal, in retrospect. Many folks would probably put things in there like flintlocks.

Maybe canal systems like the canal systems connecting to the Po river valley in Northern Italy. Probably started by those terra-forming monks, the Cistercians (who drained the swamps of Europe and were the first aggie institutes) and then continued to be developed throughout the period, largely for military purpose (barging granite for forts) and marble for cathedrals; Leonardo was a military engineer on some of these canals.) The canal system may have had a good bit to do with the Renaissance (did all canals lead to Venice?). Up until after 1700 canals were probably the most efficient form of "land" transportation, by far. The rest of Europe was also soon busy canal building.

Those cathedrals didn't happen by magic, it was the work of large organizations like the Cistercians with a technical bent.
("It is from the 12th century Byland Abbey in Yorkshire that the oldest recorded example of architectural tracing is found."; "Cistercians "were catalysts for development of a market economy" in 12th century Europe." I think they introduced Adam Smith's wool industry to England.)

Hum, A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 1200-1550 (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks). Even a good bit of the history of the US, way later, was due to canals. ("Low bridge, everybody down, 15 years on the Erie canal..." (that's from 1905!))

Anonymous said...

The US was using chemical weapons heavily during the Korean War - around 70,000 gallons of napalm a day

Hardy har har. High explosives are chemical weapons too, under that usage of the term. What are Amatol and PTX-1 and Torpex if not "chemical weapons"?

Why are lefties so depressingly stupid?

Anonymous said...

The fact is that it was no accident that the scientific revolution quickly followed the Reformation.

The fact is that there was no "scientific revolution" which quickly followed the Reformation.

the kind of revisionism you see glorifying the Dark Ages

There were no "Dark Ages".

Anonymous said...

The fact is that there was no "scientific revolution" which quickly followed the Reformation.

You've never seen a historical timeline?

There were no "Dark Ages".

If you don't regard an environment of theocracy, anti-experimentalism, the domination of sophistry and Scholastic disputation, etc. as "Dark", then yes, there were no "Dark Ages".

Anonymous said...

In short, the dark ages may have been dark regarding uniform government authority, but apparently were not for technical development.

They were "Dark" even for technical development because those developments pale in comparison to the explosion in natural knowledge and technology that came after the Dark Ages.

Anonymous said...

Hardy har har. High explosives are chemical weapons too, under that usage of the term. What are Amatol and PTX-1 and Torpex if not "chemical weapons"?

Napalm kills not only by contact or simply as part of an explosive force, but by consumption of the oxygen from the surrounding environment, thus causing asphyxiation. This is clearly a case in which deaths arise from the chemical properties of napalm, and thus qualifies napalm as a chemical weapon.

Anonymous said...

You've never seen a historical timeline?

I have, you clearly have not. Check out the post at 10:41 PM.

If you don't regard an environment of theocracy, anti-experimentalism, the domination of sophistry and Scholastic disputation, etc. as "Dark", then yes, there were no "Dark Ages"

You're switching gears. Even if we assume that the Reformation ushered in the end of theocracy, which it didn't, that has nothing to do with science.

Anonymous said...

Napalm kills not only by contact or simply as part of an explosive force, but by consumption of the oxygen from the surrounding environment, thus causing asphyxiation. This is clearly a case in which deaths arise from the chemical properties of napalm, and thus qualifies napalm as a chemical weapon.


That's incredibly idiotic. People killed by bombs are killed by the "chemical properties" of the high explosives, which are what cause the explosive force.

The term "chemical weapons" has a legal definition, and yours isn't it. Mustard gas is a chemical weapon. "Nerve gas" is a chemical weapon. Napalm is not a "chemical weapon" under any of the international agreements covering chemical weapons. Your own private opinions don't count.

Anonymous said...

If you don't regard an environment of theocracy, anti-experimentalism, the domination of sophistry and Scholastic disputation, etc. as "Dark", then yes, there were no "Dark Ages".



If the "domination of sophistry" denotes a "Dark Age" then we're living in one right now. You need a better definition than that.

Anonymous said...

You're switching gears. Even if we assume that the Reformation ushered in the end of theocracy, which it didn't, that has nothing to do with science.

The Reformation ushered in the end of a single dominant theocracy embodied in the Catholic Church.

It has everything to do with science. Science is the primacy of experiment over argumentation. Theocracy is the primacy of argumentation over experimentation.

Anonymous said...

People killed by bombs are killed by the "chemical properties" of the high explosives, which are what cause the explosive force.

They're killed by the explosives. The chemical properties themselves don't directly kill. When chemical properties directly kill, that's what qualifies something as a chemical weapon.

The term "chemical weapons" has a legal definition, and yours isn't it. Mustard gas is a chemical weapon. "Nerve gas" is a chemical weapon. Napalm is not a "chemical weapon" under any of the international agreements covering chemical weapons. Your own private opinions don't count.

My definition is the definition for chemical warfare. Napalm isn't officially classified as a chemical weapon under certain agreements, but that isn't purely objective and has to do with politics.

The fact is that when used in war, napalm kills not only by contact or as part of an explosion, but by consuming oxygen out of an area and causing asphyxiation. These deaths arise from the chemical properties of napalm, and thus qualifies napalm as a chemical weapon. This has been demonstrated repeatedly to occur. Officially, napalm is claimed not to do this when it's used in war, and that's why it's not officially classified as a chemical weapon.

Anonymous said...

If the "domination of sophistry" denotes a "Dark Age" then we're living in one right now. You need a better definition than that.

You don't need a better definition for an anti-scientific age. And yes, we are in a theocratic age that places religious taboos and restrictions.

Anonymous said...

My definition is the definition for chemical warfare.

Is it? Where you you getting this definition from, and what makes it "the" definition?

The fact is that when used in war, napalm kills not only by contact or as part of an explosion, but by consuming oxygen out of an area and causing asphyxiation. These deaths arise from the chemical properties of napalm


The fact remains that this argument, if it can be called such, is imbecilic. People who die when a bomb goes off die "from the chemical properties" of the weapon, so according to your own asinine definition, bombs are chemical weapons. Or at least, you have yet to offer a credible argument for why they are not.


They're killed by the explosives. The chemical properties themselves don't directly kill.

Like every lefty I've ever encountered, you posses the intellect of a head of cabbage. The chemical properties of a bomb are the explosives. If you wrote "People are killed by bullets, but not by the physical properties of bullets", you'd have something equally stupid.

Anonymous said...

The Reformation ushered in the end of a single dominant theocracy embodied in the Catholic Church


You know absolutely nothing about the history of religion in Europe. Why do atheists feel the need to shoot their mouths off on topics they don't understand?

Europe was never a "theocracy". Parts of it more closely approached that status after the Reformation, under the the various "national religions". The Church of England, for example. But the Church (later the Catholic Church) was always an example of the separation of church and state.

Catholic Spain had a Throne and an Altar. In Anglican England the two were fused together.


Theocracy is the primacy of argumentation over experimentation.

You're tossing around words you don't understand. Like all ideologues, you are ignorant of history.

Anonymous said...

People who die when a bomb goes off die "from the chemical properties" of the weapon, so according to your own asinine definition, bombs are chemical weapons.

No, they die from the explosive force of the weapon. This means it's a conventional weapon.

The chemical properties of a bomb are the explosives.

If the weapon kills by explosive force, then it's a conventional weapon.

If it's the toxic properties of the chemicals rather than their explosive properties that kill, harm, incapacitate, etc., then it's a chemical weapon.

Anonymous said...

You know absolutely nothing about the history of religion in Europe. Why do atheists feel the need to shoot their mouths off on topics they don't understand?

I think you're the one who's ignorant here. Why do papists feel the need to shoot their mouths off on topics they can't understand?

Europe was never a "theocracy". Parts of it more closely approached that status after the Reformation, under the the various "national religions". The Church of England, for example. But the Church (later the Catholic Church) was always an example of the separation of church and state.

Europe was a theocracy before the Reformation. The CofE was much more tolerant of non-conformist protestants. The Catholic Church didn't have genuine separation of church and state. It was simply a division of labor. It tolerated Catholic leaders who submitted to its authority on morals.

You're tossing around words you don't understand. Like all ideologues, you are ignorant of history.

"Primacy", "argumentation", "experimentation" are very basic terms.

Anonymous said...

"They were "Dark" even for technical development because those developments pale in comparison to the explosion in natural knowledge and technology that came after the Dark Ages."

Which begs the question, did that explosion happen because of a break with the past and with previous developments, or because of them? Why did this explosion (say, 1400 to 1800) happen in Europe? Gunpowder production in England started in 1346... Much of the power for the Industrial Revolution came from water wheels, for instance, all those mills at Lowell, Masachusetts (the initial point at which the industrial revolotion came to the US):

"By the eleventh century there were parts of Europe where the exploitation of water was common place.[35] The water wheel is understood to have actively shaped and forever changed the outlook of Westerners. Europe began to transition from muscle labor, human and animal labor, towards mechanical labor with the advent of the Water Wheel."

Anonymous said...

Europe was a theocracy before the Reformation.

You either don't know what the word "theocracy" means, or you don't know anything about European history. Europe was never a "theocracy" - a form of government in which God/ a priesthood is the supreme civil ruler.

The CofE was much more tolerant of non-conformist protestants.


I notice you don't try to claim that it was tolerant of non-protestants. But you don't know anything about English history. The reason why there is a "no establishment of religion" clause in the US Constitution is because the CoE was famously intolerant of everyone outside the CoE. You could look it up.

Anonymous said...

If it's the toxic properties of the chemicals rather than their explosive properties that kill, harm, incapacitate, etc., then it's a chemical weapon.


Napalm is not toxic. You can take a bath in the stuff and not die, or even get very sick. Its non-toxicity is why it's not a chemical weapon.

Napalm, like gunpowder or like modern high explosives, will sit there harmlessly unless a source of ignition is introduced. It's perfectly safe to touch any of the three with your skin. Once ignition begins, what is known as an "exothermic reaction" commences - it is this chemical reaction which produces the weapon's effect. There is no ignition source or exothermic reaction in chemical weapons. Instead it's the poisonous result of physical contact with the chemical which kills/injures its victims.

Stick to liberal arts, kid.