Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kanji Vs Chaos

The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.

What was the source of European World Dominance ?

(I have no contact with Minerva, have only rarely seen an owl, and haven't done my homework).

The question really is why Europe not China.  There is some interest as we might want to know if it will last.  My guess is conventional and obvious.

Here we have two great centers of civilization, which were about equally rich and powerful in say 1492 and not at all equally rich and powerful in 1892.

1. It all came from Lebanon.  Huh.  Yeah the Phonecians (typo uncorrected as a feeble attempt at a pun) with their phonetic alphabet.  It is very very hard to read and write Chinese.  This makes it easy for the tiny elite which can read to rule unchallenged.   Basically the literate took option of living well as corrupt magistrates.  In Europe there weren't enough corrupt magistrate jobs so some literate people had to produce wealth.

2.  The benefits of barbarism.  The problem is that the Mongols were too disciplined and orderly.  So the barbarian conquest of China changed only the uppermost caste.  The barbarians who over run civilized Europe wasted no time before getting down to fighting each other.  So there wasn't one super state and one monarch whose hold on power was based on keeping everyone else fairly poor.  Rather warring monarchs needed strong countries to fight each other.

Doesn't work so well see "Princes and Merchants" Delong and Shleifer)

3. Rice (recall no homework done).  European grains made it, barely, possible for whole towns full of people to survive in remote wastelands like Switzerland which was free because it was so poor.  Chinese farmers need rice paddies so they remain under the thumb of aristocrats.

Doesn't work so well. What did Switzerland ever constribute to European greatness ? The Cuckoo Clock ? (Graham Greene 1950).

4. Christianity ?
  Take no thought for the morrow, turn the other cheek.  Yep that's a world conquering religion right there.

5. Judaism ?

More promising than Christianity as the sectarian division generated lots of literate people who had no chance of becoming corrupt magistrates. Still uh 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella.  Come on.  Those excluded from history are excluded from history.

6. Protestants vs Catholics.  The protestant ethic and the rise of Europe ?  The Chinese were so tolerant that they were semi Confucian, semi Buddhist, semi Taoist, semi history that goes back to mythology.   The Jews were really excluded, but Protestants not so much.

See Ferdiand and Isabella again.  Well maybe they were just barbarian conquerors with no future.  It's not like Spainish world domination is threatened by Chinese GDP growth.

OK so it's either Phoenicians or war, religious persecution and intolerance.  I bet on this alphabet.

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