Jared Diamond's Frustration With His Intellectual Heirs
Print Friendly and PDF

In the New York Review of Books, celebrity economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson write in to complain that reviewer Jared Diamond wasn't quite rapturous enough about their new book attributing virtually all differences in national wealth to their unfalsifiable theory that it's all caused by the White Man hogging the good institutions: rich countries, by definition, have good institutions and poor countries have bad institutions, which is the fault of European colonialists, so all that poor countries need to do is get themselves some of those good institutions.

In response, Diamond patiently explains once again what ought to be obvious concepts, such as that geographic differences, including the prevalence of tropical diseases, actually do play a role:

Even while they are still alive, workers in the tropics are often sick and unable to work. Women in the tropics face big obstacles in entering the workforce, because of having to care for their sick babies, or being pregnant with or nursing babies to replace previous babies likely to die or already dead.

While I appreciate Diamond fighting the good fight here, I have to reflect that he helped bring Acemogluism on himself with his impressive but disingenuous Guns, Germs, and Steel. When you think to yourself, "I'm going to shade the truth a little to make some money, but surely future generations will rectify the misleading impression that political correctness persuaded me to make," it may well turn out that instead you just motivate a new generation like Acemoglu to try to make lots of money like you not by putting forward more accurate theories, but instead trying to top you by putting forward far more stupid theories.

Print Friendly and PDF