by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 27, 2011
With Kevin Holtsberry, and Ian Morris, speculating on the identity of future superpowers.
Coffee and Markets,
Why the West Rules--for Now
The podcast discussion was interesting. As an undergraduate I studied history and the role of geography is history was a rising field. I think that it is symptomatic of the effort by many social science and humanities writers to assert a precision in their field that only truly exists in the hard sciences.
Grand unified theories such as Mr. Morris’ either completely trivialize events and human motivation or are focused on post hoc explainations. The author appears to be squarely in the post hoc category - looking at historical developments and then searching for the geographic cause. His approach lacks predictive powers and you can’t run an experiment in history. I imagine his book is very interesting, but I doubt it can establish anything more than the watered down version of his premise – merely that geography matters.
I understand that he made a prediction, but it is a non-controversial one. The rise of the east is economic “low hanging fruit.” As global trade has become easier, capital will seek out low wages for investment, this will increase productivity in low wage areas. As he pointed out – Chinese productivity has tripled. The trend can only go on for so long, particularly in a place where human freedom is not respected. Every ounce of economic productivity is more difficult than the last.
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