The Offshore Islanders
October 10, 2007, 12:29 AM
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This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

I wonder if Britain and Japan both benefited from being "offshore islanders" (the title of Paul Johnson's idiosyncratic and fascinating 1972 history of England, back when he was a leftist patriot). The stability of Britain is quite remarkable — there are old deeds and other legal documents still on file from many centuries past, ready to be consulted if a question of exactly where the boundary of a piece of property rests. Perhaps not being invaded since 1066 meant the evolution (whether cultural or genetic) of middle class traits could proceed quickest there because the settled distribution of property allowed for fair competition.

A reader in what has been, more than anywhere else, the crossroads of the world—Istanbul—writes in response to my review of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms that living in the historic center of all the action has its downside:

As erudite as Max Weber and his theory of the Protestant work ethic is (maybe; haven't read him much other than in short extracts), he seems he was lacking a very crucial, fatally crucial model for social science: the Darwinist paradigm of game-theoretic racing/survival conditions.

Somebody has to whisper in the ears of modern social "scientists" with their confused paradigms: it's not that religion suddenly got hold of Europeans—the religion which Freud wrongly identified as the suppression of natural desires to create a neurotic bourgeois personality—and the "stifling" work ethic was born and thus capitalism.

It's that the "beta" layers of society who already had "religion" in their genes, and therefore were not "neurotic" or "oppressed" or anything by it, who therefore had the right attitude for creating prosperity—a combination of thriftiness, mutual respect of rights, cooperativeness, hard work, and tons of creativity—outlasted the rest of the suckers who ate or killed themselves out of the gene pool.

This itself can explain the root causes of practically all the problems that the rest of us suckers are suffering from. To you, an American, it may be rather hypothetical, but to me, as a "turd" worlder, it is crystal clear: if we had these qualities only at twice the present levels, you'd see us reach Korean levels of productivity. But, alas, as the ultimate dumping ground of every imaginable race around the old world, as the crossroads where every bully ethny that got to be anybody met with each other, as the genetic junkyard of practically the last two millennia, we didn't stand a chance, did we?

Isolation? What isolation? Never heard of the word before, sir!