From sunny California, Jonah brings Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Niall Ferguson onto the Remnant to discuss how the West grew rich, the problems with contemporary historical scholarship, and other weighty issues.

Shownotes

-Sign up for the G-File at Reagan35X.com

-Niall Ferguson, Hoover Institution 

A Farewell to Alms – Greg Clarke

Empire – Niall Ferguson 

Suicide of the West – Jonah Goldberg

-The latest G-File, on the 1619 Project 

The Conservative Sensibility – George Will 

-Rich Lowry on the 1619 project

Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History – Douglass North 

Why Nations Fail – DARON ACEMOGLU AND JAMES ROBINSON

The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith

The Great Degeneration – Niall Ferguson

-Civilization: The West and the Rest – Niall Ferguson

-DoorDash, use promo code REMNANT

Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond

Virtual History – Niall Ferguson

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There are 26 comments.

  1. Hank Rhody, Missing, Inaction Contributor

    Breaking news! history departments “deeply dull places”. Details at 11:00.

    • #1
    • August 26, 2019, at 5:05 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Hank Rhody, Missing, Inaction Contributor

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq (View Comment):

    Breaking news! history departments “deeply dull places”. Details at 11:00.

    In all seriousness I did enjoy this episode quite a bit.

    • #2
    • August 26, 2019, at 6:06 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. kedavis Member

    This guy discredits himself right from the start.

    “Conception is sin?”

    Denied!

    • #3
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:41 PM PST
    • Like
  4. kedavis Member

    And I still don’t think Jonah has any basis for his assertion that “western civilization” must be some kind of unnatural miracle, because if it were natural it would have happened much earlier.

    Why?

    • #4
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:06 PM PST
    • Like
  5. kedavis Member

    And Jonah, there were books before the printing press. They were written and copied by hand.

    • #5
    • August 26, 2019, at 9:38 PM PST
    • 1 like
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Great discussion and great guest. Thanks.

    • #6
    • August 27, 2019, at 6:51 AM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    kedavis (View Comment):

    And Jonah, there were books before the printing press. They were written and copied by hand.

    But of course the problem with your thesis is… the capital cost of creating and owning a book – let alone a collection of them – was frequently greater than the value of the village the median person lived in. Such was the amount of labor required to produce a single book.

    The marginal returns to being able to read for such a person were practically nil because… there was very little around to actually read, and the sum total of recorded knowledge was pretty small by today’s standard.

    The advent of the printing press dramatically lowered the cost of both creating and disseminating knowledge and made learning to read a practical thing for people to do in both the consumption and production directions. The fact of phonetic letters was a further technological advantage the West held – as opposed to Chinese with its 80,000 or so unique characters – as evidenced by the fact that the printing press existed in China for hundreds of years prior to its widespread use in Europe and the only people who could read were still the Mandarins.

    • #7
    • August 27, 2019, at 7:11 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And I still don’t think Jonah has any basis for his assertion that “western civilization” must be some kind of unnatural miracle, because if it were natural it would have happened much earlier.

    If you’d read “Suicide of the West” you would have seen the chart that traces per capita human productivity. It explodes in conjunction with “The Miracle.”

    Why didn’t the Miracle happen before then, or wait until afterwards? Why did they coincide so neatly?

    • #8
    • August 27, 2019, at 7:13 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Blue Yeti Admin

    kedavis (View Comment):

    And I still don’t think Jonah has any basis for his assertion that “western civilization” must be some kind of unnatural miracle, because if it were natural it would have happened much earlier.

    Why?

    I suggest you read Suicide of The West and get back to us on that comment. 

    • #9
    • August 27, 2019, at 7:17 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Lois Lane Coolidge

    As I did not take Latin, can someone write the four phrases correctly spelled, please?

    • #10
    • August 27, 2019, at 7:29 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Love Niall Ferguson. Great talk.

    I agree with the analysis of Canada and the US. Individual rights in Canada are under much greater threat in Canada because of the willingness to acquiesce to authority.

    • #11
    • August 27, 2019, at 8:32 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Texmoor Coolidge

    Great episode! I would be interested in hearing what Niall thinks of Scotland today. I’m sure it would be very cutting.

    • #12
    • August 27, 2019, at 9:03 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Texmoor Coolidge

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):

    The advent of the printing press dramatically lowered the cost of both creating and disseminating knowledge and made learning to read a practical thing for people to do in both the consumption and production directions. The fact of phonetic letters was a further technological advantage the West held – as opposed to Chinese with its 80,000 or so unique characters – as evidenced by the fact that the printing press existed in China for hundreds of years prior to its widespread use in Europe and the only people who could read were still the Mandarins.

    And the Chinese only “simplified” the characters in the 2oth century which follows Niall’s comments about China finally modernizing and literacy.

    • #13
    • August 27, 2019, at 9:11 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Joe D. Lincoln

    It would be great if you would some day go through exactly what you mean when you discuss: Fabians, Jacobins, Whigs (or waggishness), and Tories. I’m probably missing some terms you throw around so easily along these lines.

    I’ve looked all of these up and have a vague understanding of each of them, but not a really great idea.

    • #14
    • August 27, 2019, at 11:05 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    And Jonah, there were books before the printing press. They were written and copied by hand.

    Yes, and they where extremely expensive. Only the wealthy could afford them. The printing press democratized the spread of knowledge because even families of modest means could afford a book.

    • #15
    • August 27, 2019, at 11:14 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. kedavis Member

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And I still don’t think Jonah has any basis for his assertion that “western civilization” must be some kind of unnatural miracle, because if it were natural it would have happened much earlier.

    If you’d read “Suicide of the West” you would have seen the chart that traces per capita human productivity. It explodes in conjunction with “The Miracle.”

    Why didn’t the Miracle happen before then, or wait until afterwards? Why did they coincide so neatly?

    But what would you EXPECT? That one would happen WITHOUT the other? WHY?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiU6USML2bw

    It may be considered a “miracle” that these things both happened together – as I would expect they would – in “the West” rather than in Asia as was also discussed for various reasons including things such as the accidents of how languages developed so that disseminating knowledge was easier than in Chinese, or even Arabic for that matter.

    But I take a wider view somehow. As with people who are astonished that life exists on Earth, because if the sun were 10 degrees warmer or 10 degrees cooler, there wouldn’t be life on Earth, or something.

    Maybe not. In that case, there could be life on Mars, or on Venus. And the “people” on whichever it was, would call THAT Earth, and there would still be Life On Earth. Does that make it a “miracle?” I don’t think so.

    • #16
    • August 27, 2019, at 5:25 PM PST
    • Like
  17. ericB Listener

    kedavis (View Comment):

    As with people who are astonished that life exists on Earth, because if the sun were 10 degrees warmer or 10 degrees cooler, there wouldn’t be life on Earth, or something.

    Maybe not. In that case, there could be life on Mars, or on Venus. And the “people” on whichever it was, would call THAT Earth, and there would still be Life On Earth. Does that make it a “miracle?” I don’t think so.

    The reason Earth’s suitability for life is amazing is that it doesn’t depend on getting one single dial set right (e.g. warmth of/from the sun). There are numerous factors that must all be set within narrow tolerances and must all align to give a combination that becomes suitable for life. The combination makes Earth stunningly unusual. Getting one or two factors right on Mars or Venus wouldn’t work.

    To consider just one aspect, our moon is uncommonly rare and beneficial. A scientific paper in the journal Nature stated “the sequence of conditions that currently seems necessary in these revised versions of lunar formation have led to philosophical disquiet.” For much more, see the review article Moon Strike. The moon is just one factor among many making Earth distinctly suitable for both life and science. See The Privileged Planet.

    When many independent considerations each need to get it right within narrow tolerances and work together, then that is something quite significant.

     

    • #17
    • August 28, 2019, at 3:32 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. ericB Listener

    About “app” #6, the important contribution of the Protestant Reformation’s high view of work is not captured or conveyed by “the idea that … you should kinda really work …”. Societies everywhere have told the workers “you should work”, but work is typically considered a necessary evil to be avoided. The Reformation change is twofold.

    1. It was rediscovered that even before sin, God gave Adam work to do and God also is portrayed as doing work to make and transform creation. Hence, work cannot be inherently evil. Work is good.
    2. It was rediscovered that the Bible describes all the followers of Christ as being “saints”, meaning being “set apart to God”. Hence, it was not only the clergy who served God in their work. Every legitimate occupation became a means for devotion and a way to glorify God through serving others. “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11 CSB)

    In this way, attitudes toward work were culturally transformed so that centuries later even those who are not religious may still carry an attitude toward work that feels that effect. Sadly that may be eroding.

    • #18
    • August 28, 2019, at 4:07 AM PST
    • Like
  19. kedavis Member

    ericB (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The reason Earth’s suitability for life is amazing is that it doesn’t depend on getting one single dial set right (e.g. warmth of/from the sun). There are numerous factors that must all be set within narrow tolerances and must all align to give a combination that becomes suitable for life. The combination makes Earth stunningly unusual. Getting one or two factors right on Mars or Venus wouldn’t work.

    To consider just one aspect, our moon is uncommonly rare and beneficial. A scientific paper in the journal Nature stated “the sequence of conditions that currently seems necessary in these revised versions of lunar formation have led to philosophical disquiet.” For much more, see the review article Moon Strike. The moon is just one factor among many making Earth distinctly suitable for both life and science. See The Privileged Planet.

    When many independent considerations each need to get it right within narrow tolerances and work together, then that is something quite significant.

     

    Then again, considering the size of the universe etc, we may be basically talking about an (almost) infinite number of monkeys with typewriters inevitably coming up with Shakespeare.

    And maybe even Shakespear’s Sister!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Bu_Rkz55w

    Also remember that both Mars and Venus would be very different than they currently are, if they had more or less heat from the sun, etc. And Mars also has moons. Not exactly like ours, but still.

    • #19
    • August 28, 2019, at 5:55 AM PST
    • Like
  20. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    ericB (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The reason Earth’s suitability for life is amazing is that it doesn’t depend on getting one single dial set right (e.g. warmth of/from the sun). There are numerous factors that must all be set within narrow tolerances and must all align to give a combination that becomes suitable for life. The combination makes Earth stunningly unusual. Getting one or two factors right on Mars or Venus wouldn’t work.

    To consider just one aspect, our moon is uncommonly rare and beneficial. A scientific paper in the journal Nature stated “the sequence of conditions that currently seems necessary in these revised versions of lunar formation have led to philosophical disquiet.” For much more, see the review article Moon Strike. The moon is just one factor among many making Earth distinctly suitable for both life and science. See The Privileged Planet.

    When many independent considerations each need to get it right within narrow tolerances and work together, then that is something quite significant.

     

    Then again, considering the size of the universe etc, we may be basically talking about an (almost) infinite number of monkeys with typewriters inevitably coming up with Shakespeare.

    And maybe even Shakespear’s Sister!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Bu_Rkz55w

    Also remember that both Mars and Venus would be very different than they currently are, if they had more or less heat from the sun, etc. And Mars also has moons. Not exactly like ours, but still.

    Mars’s moons are basically captured asteroids, they do not have a tidal effect on Mars. Its the tidal effect on earth that is widely believed to have provided the petri dishes where the chemical building blocks of life first mixed. Even if Mars was warmer – it may not have developed life. As long as the alternative Mars is the same size, its core cools and solidifies causing its magnetic field to fail and the solar winds rip the atmosphere of Mars away. Killing any life that did evolve on Mars. So regardless Mars ends up in the same place.

    Considering all the factors that make earth possible, life maybe a 1: 100 billion long shot. Which still means there could be dozens of earth like planets in this Galaxy alone.

    • #20
    • August 28, 2019, at 8:39 AM PST
    • Like
  21. ericB Listener

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    Considering all the factors that make earth possible, life maybe a 1: 100 billion long shot. Which still means there could be dozens of earth like planets in this Galaxy alone.

    That probability estimate is far too generous. Even considering only the probabilities of having a moon like ours, the considerations quickly build up to make the probability so vanishingly small that it causes “philosophical disquiet” to the researchers doing the work. Any outcome that would have allowed for “dozens of earth like planets in this Galaxy alone” would not have caused such “philosophical disquiet.” See the Moon Strike article for a start.

    And that is just to form the moon. There are many other distinctive traits. Even numerous monkeys typing on typewriters are overwhelmed by the compounding of requirements because independent probabilities multiple to such a degree that they exceed the opportunities available.

    There have been multiple authors that have reviewed the situation to conclude that it is unlikely to find other planets fully like Earth with its myriad of factors hospitably tuned for life. (Also for making Earth distinctively well suited for scientific research.) Even now, the most earth-like planet yet found is dead Mars.

    But back to the podcast topic and the question of whether this development is significant, one would want to consider the rarity of finding the necessary convergence of key contributing factors that made this historic economic change possible.

    • #21
    • August 28, 2019, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    ericB (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    Considering all the factors that make earth possible, life maybe a 1: 100 billion long shot. Which still means there could be dozens of earth like planets in this Galaxy alone.

    That probability estimate is far too generous. Even considering only the probabilities of having a moon like ours, the considerations quickly build up to make the probability so vanishingly small that it causes “philosophical disquiet” to the researchers doing the work. Any outcome that would have allowed for “dozens of earth like planets in this Galaxy alone” would not have caused such “philosophical disquiet.” See the Moon Strike article for a start.

    And that is just to form the moon. There are many other distinctive traits. Even numerous monkeys typing on typewriters are overwhelmed by the compounding of requirements because independent probabilities multiple to such a degree that they exceed the opportunities available.

    There have been multiple authors that have reviewed the situation to conclude that it is unlikely to find other planets fully like Earth with its myriad of factors hospitably tuned for life. (Also for making Earth distinctively well suited for scientific research.) Even now, the most earth-like planet yet found is dead Mars.

    But back to the podcast topic and the question of whether this development is significant, one would want to consider the rarity of finding the necessary convergence of key contributing factors that made this historic economic change possible.

    Until we find another planet capable of supporting life, we have no data on alternative possible evolutionary processes a planet must go through to be productive.

    Perhaps earths arent rare – but exist in systems that are so violent that life has no time to evolve before being extincted by an asteroid impactor. We can debate Drake’s Equation until the cows come home, but we have zero data to fill in to the equation.

    We’re in an extremely rare condition here. Its perhaps entirely possible that this is the only life in the Galaxy or even the local group. This is one of the divisive factors of “Firefly” – there where no aliens – the entire galaxy was populated solely by humans.

    • #22
    • August 28, 2019, at 10:15 AM PST
    • Like
  23. Lois Lane Coolidge

    Joe D. (View Comment):

    It would be great if you would some day go through exactly what you mean when you discuss: Fabians, Jacobins, Whigs (or waggishness), and Tories. I’m probably missing some terms you throw around so easily along these lines.

    I’ve looked all of these up and have a vague understanding of each of them, but not a really great idea.

    I can’t define anything for Jonah, and I’m not going to take on all those terms, but I can tell you when historians talk about whiggish history, they mean history that is somehow believed to be teleological, i.e. this happens so that could happen, which leads to that next thing happening, which is a necessary next thing.

    In other words, there is less “randomness” in events as all actions taken by historical actors have some purpose.

    One reason that American historians can be “whiggish” is our culture could be said to have a strong foundation in religion that lends a natural propensity to this sort of analysis.

    To give you a good example of this, Martin Luther King Jr would say something like the long arc of history bends towards justice. To believe this means you have to believe there is an order to events that doesn’t just happen but has purpose.

    Ferguson rejects this approach, which is one reason why he makes a comment somewhere in there about throwing out Manifest Destiny interpretations of our country’s past.

    I hope that helps!

    • #23
    • August 29, 2019, at 5:44 AM PST
    • 1 like
  24. ericB Listener

    In the midst of all this [protesting in Hong Kong], Communist Party leaders know what many of the commentators and so-called experts in the West have long forgotten: That the ideas about justice and freedom that motivate many of the protesters in Hong Kong are rooted in Christianity.

    How can we be sure Communist leaders know this? Because of a 2011 study by the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    As one Academy member put it, “…we were asked to look into what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.”

    After researchers studied everything from a “historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective,” they “realised that the heart of [the West’s] culture is [its] religion: Christianity . . . The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics.”

    That’s quite a conclusion, to which an official of the Academy added, “We don’t have any doubt about this.”

    Chuck Colson pointed out eight years ago that the connection between Christianity and the success of the West has created a conundrum for Beijing. As he put it back then, Communist Party officials know that “the industriousness and creativity of the West was born out of the Christian worldview, which sees every individual created in the image of God, desiring freedom, creative in nature, motivated by civic duty and love of neighbor.”

    From Hong Kong’s Lesson…

    • #24
    • September 17, 2019, at 5:26 PM PST
    • Like
  25. MISTER BITCOIN Coolidge

    Niall Ferguson is brilliant and funny.

    I always learn something new whenever I hear him speak.

     

    • #25
    • September 25, 2019, at 11:22 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. MISTER BITCOIN Coolidge

    Niall Ferguson best lines of the episode:

    I’m a Marxist too except I side with the bourgeoisie.

    Americans have a love affair with British Whigs because there are true Tories in America.

     

    • #26
    • September 27, 2019, at 6:56 PM PST
    • 1 like