From Why Nations Fail
- In last year's "Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation", a book of world history, German academic Christian Welzel proposes that the people of North America and West Europe, also Australia/New Zealand and Japan/South Korea, have been lucky geographically living in a cold wet climate. It got them emancipated. Food could be hunted for in many places, water sources couldn't be easily monopolized. It was harder to enslave people. The Middle East and the other unfortunate regions of the world depended on agriculture developed much earlier than in Europe. This made it difficult for people to run away, and scarce water readily monopolized made sure there were few places to run to. The decentralized slavery of feudalism in Europe and America, where monopolies of power were divided among municipalities, principalities, etc, allowed the development of merchant capital investment and the industrial revolution which in turn provided economic security. From that security, the argument goes, developed imagination of possibilities of freer ways of life, which when social opportunity, education and connection to others allowed them to be acted upon, lead to demands on masters for changed institutions to protect those new possibilities. What do you think?
- What do the authors say about the ongoing, intensifying redistribution of wealth in the direction of the rich in those very cold wet regions?
- Contingencies of history can disrupt the process of emancipation. And not to worry either about the new economy's supposed isolation of individuals from each other: in this world of freedom it is actually the opportunity for individually chosen connections.
- A new study* of the poor in the United States shows that they are less connected, less liable to want to get an education. Poverty seems to be removing the economic stability supposed to be the beginning of the process of emancipation.
- How can we decide the question?
- One thing strikes me right off. If monopoly of resources is what stops the process from even beginning, and our North American and West European societies are in the grips of rapidly enlarging monopolies, is not the project of emancipation fundamentally threatened?
- Institutions have to be adapted. Then the process can continue.
- The withdrawal of security, according to theory, removes the desire for emancipation. The development of monopolies leads to the withdrawal of security for the majority of people. The progress of monopoly decreases the demand for emancipation, facilitating further monopolization.
- Then that has to be understood and prevented.
- Will that happen? Atomization, isolation of individuals, even without economic insecurity, leads to selfishness, founding security in power over strangers that is associated with acquiring possessions. Selfishness might allow ever freer choice of associations, but it does not allow for concern for the impoverishment of those who suffer the effects of monopoly control of markets and bribed governments. The result is the poor don't care to be free, and the rich don't care about the poor.
- Like ancient Athens, we'll have a creative, emancipated upper class supported by a mass of slaves. Do you think the masters of North America and West Europe deliberately create economic insecurity with their monopolies to undermine the emancipation project?
- You're asking, have they noticed that wars and economic crises serve their interests?
- I guess that bankers know when they come out with more money.
- Level Germany and Japan to the ground the Germans and Japanese feel the loss and capitulate. Try the same with more enslaved societies with different result. Our societies are vulnerable.
- Someone probably noticed.**
* Robert D. Putnam's upcoming book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, 2015
** Emancipation progressing by means of monopoly economics endangers not only the functioning of democratic institutions that support it, but more importantly the practice of moral universals which give emancipated life under those institutions meaning and value. In North America and West Europe public life is lead under principles of compromise: insecure individuals make demands on each other. Functional public life demands the opposite, independent individuals of settled private life contributing mutual respect to the development and support of institutions. In North America and West Europe, public life is not built on the practice of universal principles in private life, nor does it give opportunity within itself for the practice of universal principles. See: Killer Metaphysics