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Russia and the New World Disorder
Russia and the New World Disorder
by Bobo Lo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.37
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A broad survey of today's Russian diplomacy. Today's Grand Chessboard, with Ukraine as the black queen., August 21, 2015
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This is a very long book review – my reading notes, and reactions, as much as a review. In brief, it is an excellent book, touching on all of the relevant topics. Bobo Lo has a deep knowledge of Russia, and is able to describe in excellent detail the weaknesses in the way Russia manages its affairs. Though not his central theme, he also writes accurately on the west's misperceptions about Russia.

Dr. Lo writes on behalf of the Brookings Institute, a very establishment, left-centrist think tank in Washington D.C. This book's intended audience will be diplomats and academics. Though he pitches it towards Russia itself, it is unlikely to be widely read there. The academic English makes it inaccessible, the source makes it suspect, and the message will be unwelcome.

The book is divided into three parts: background, then specifics elements of Russian foreign policy, and lastly a look to the future, what would be best for Russia to do, and what they are most likely to do. Here is the table of contents:

Part I: Context
1 The Domestic Context of Russian Foreign Policy
2 Two Worlds

Part II: Performance
3 Russia and Global Governance
4 A Postmodern Empire
5 A Turn to the East
6 Engaging with the West

Part III: Possibilities
7 A New Foreign Policy for a New Russia
8 Russia and the World in 2030

The book is strong on diplomacy and foreign relations, somewhat weaker in its analysis of economic and business trends, and relatively silent on demographic trends.

The book is well conceived for its audience. It will be a must-read for people dealing with Russia in the realms of diplomacy, defense and business. Truly a five-star effort.

That's the end of a short review. Here follow my reading notes

Dr. Lo claims that you cannot know what is going on inside the Kremlin. Those who know don't say, and those who say don't know. Putin, however, is a known quantity. People continue to fall out of his favor, and people who know him intimately have given extensive interviews. For an example, google " Yuri Shvets." What comes out is the following:
1. He never impressed anybody is a genius during his rise to power. Yeltsin picked him from obscurity because he thought he was a guy who could be trusted not to disrupt Yeltsin family interests.
2. He has surrounded himself with people from his days as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. People he has known a long time and whom he trusts. As Custine says in "letters from Russia" this has been the trait of czars throughout history. The nature of power in Russia may be absolute, but it is not possible to delegate effectively. Witness how ineffective Medvedev was and remains. Putin cannot trust him to take initiative. The same is true for the others from the Petersburg days. The result is that Putin suffers from a lack of good advice, the lack of a kitchen cabinet that will refine his ideas. He also lacks truly competent subordinates fishing carry out his plans.
3. He is described in his youth as a man who drank excessively and was unfaithful to his wife. He is narcissistic – wedded to his workout regimes and facelifts in Botox. Projecting his masculinity, as Dr. Lo sells, seems to be an important psychological trait.

Lo accepts without question the liberal agenda of the West. He does not give any credence to Putin's view that global warming is a canard, a liberal ploy to seize power – a position held by a significant number of serious scientists in the West, expressed in recent books such as The Neglected Sun – Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe. He criticizes Putin's refusal to share world concern about famine, water shortages and the like. The opposite side of the coin is that Europe is being inundated with immigrants that it is unable to assimilate but unwilling to identify as such. Uncritically accepting the modern liberal European view appears to me to be a cultural blindness on Lo's part. Putin's notion of what we owe our fellow man – less than what we owe ourselves and our progeny - appears to be closer to the world consensus than that of the altruistic West.

Putin and the West both tend to overestimate their strength with regard to Ukraine. Many Ukrainians are skeptical about the multiculturalism and destruction of the family taking place in Western Europe. For instance, there was little sense that Putin had overstepped himself in the Pussy Riot and the gay propaganda cases, which took place before the invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians are culturally conservative. Their orientation toward the West is a pragmatic matter – the West is where the jobs are, and where they would like to shop and vacation. Culturally they still have more affinity for the conservative Orthodox Christianity that Putin hypocritically espouses.

Ukrainian culture is not identical to Russian. There is a continuum, albeit with a somewhat steeper cline on the eastern border of Ukraine. The Russians, as The Marquis de Custine wrote, are a docile people who are inclined to tolerate and even support a strong czar. They put up with Ivan the Terrible and Stalin. As Timothy Snyder writes, Ukrainians suffered as these despots impose their will on them as well. Ukrainians were diluted as Catherine the great and Stalin settled thousands of ethnic Russians among them, and scattered Ukrainians throughout the Russian Far East. Nonetheless, Ukrainians are more like their neighbors to the west in their sense of freedom and fair play. Yanukovych and Putin underestimated the degree to which Ukrainians are not like Russians. Yanukovych thought that he could steal as wantonly as Putin does in Russia, and Putin expected the citizens of Crimea and Donbas would embrace the Russians. Both were disappointed; their control comes through repression, not the love of the citizenry.

The West, however, also misjudged the Ukrainians. They conflated Ukraine's desire to conclude an association agreement with the European Union with the desire to join the union. No, the Ukrainians mostly wanted travel and trade. American neocons such as Victoria Newland were disappointed that for the most part Ukrainians just wanted Yanukovych out.

Dr. Lo does not talk about the Yanukovych depredations during the years between 2004 and his ouster in 2014. The theft was blatant and shameless. It was also artless. One could say that he broke as much as he stole. His behavior discouraged foreign companies from investing. The grain embargo he imposed in 2011 in order to enrich himself through granting licenses to his friends was immensely harmful to farmers and international grain traders such as Cargill. It was a badly executed theft. The vicious tactics of his tax police collecting from small entrepreneurs, while the oligarchs were blatantly able to shift their profits offshore, created a great deal of resentment. The Ukrainians resented Russia as much for their support of Yanukovych as for anything else.

Lo absolutely gets it right when he says it is richly ironic that Putin has developed a reputation in the West is a clever chess player. His lack of strategic insight or sense of danger points to just the opposite – as no less of an authority than former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has it observed. This is absolutely true. He is playing it by ear.

The blunders are evident even to a civilian such as myself. He moves his troops all over the place along the Ukrainian border, placing between 50,000 and 100,000 of them in the border stretch between Rostov on Don and Chernigov. He sent a similar number on exercises and the Russian Arctic just to make a point. Such misuse of the military is incredibly demoralizing to the troops. A soldier wants to feel he is being used effectively, and Russian troops cannot feel anything other than being jerked around. The same goes for the troops that he has actually deployed in the Donbas. His commitment to deception dictates that support for the separatists must be arm's-length. The supplies he gives them, and the financial support he gives to the civilians in those occupied areas, is intermittent. Russia cannot afford more, either financially, or to be seen giving more. He denies Russian soldiers when they are captured or killed. This means that Russian staying power in Ukraine must be limited.

Dr. Lo writes aptly. "It is difficult to identify a cohesive Russian strategy toward Ukraine. Instead there is an odd mélange of mystical vision, historical and geopolitical anxieties, feelings of strategic entitlement, gut instincts, and tactical dexterity. Putin's approach reflects the contradictory influences of the two worlds that shaped his foreign-policy more generally. On the one hand, the Kremlin conceives of Ukraine, and Russia's relationship with it, in terms of historical inevitabilities. On the other hand, developments in the real world act as a constant reminder of the artificiality of such hopes."

He divides the former Soviet Union countries into three tiers on the basis of Russia's level of interest in them. At the top of the first tier is Ukraine, in a class by itself. Also of great interest are Belarus, the other fully Slavic country in the FSU, and Kazakhstan, physically the largest and the closest to Russia. The second tier consists of smaller countries that are not quite so central to Russia's interest: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The third category is the leftovers: Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.

Dr. Lo uses quotes from several places to express the idea that without Ukraine, Russia is just an ordinary country. He quotes Putin telling Bush in 2008 that Ukraine is "not really a country." Russia cannot seem to let it go. I will provide a bit of history that Dr. Lo does not. Kiev is the historic center of the Slavic peoples, who coalesced into Kevin Rus in the first millennium A.D. It held sway for a couple of centuries, but was riven by dynastic infighting. There was seldom an adequate plan of succession when a powerful leader died. In the 13th century the Mongols swept in with superior fighting tactics – mainly their horses – and conquered most of what is now both Russia and Ukraine. The Mongols were never as good at administration as they were at conquest, and when they receded in the 15th century Moscow to came out to be more powerful than Kiev. Each government seems to be involved in interminable wars, Ukraine the more so because its geography has it surrounded by enemies: Turkey, Romania, Hungary, the German states, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. In the 17th century Ukraine fought off the Turkic Tatars to their South only to be attacked from the west by the Poles. They ran into the embrace of Russia, which did not let go.

The Russians were not kind masters. Catherine the great brought in Russians and Germans to settle the steppes which had been freed from the Tatars. Stalin moved Ukrainians out by the thousands to populate Siberia, moved Russians in to fill the vacuum, and lead the Holodomor which killed 3 million people (by Dr. Lo's reckoning – it could have been twice as many). They forced the Russian language on the Ukrainian people.

The upshot is that Ukraine is the largest bilingual country in the world. More than half the population speaks both languages fluently. Putin would like to pretend that Ukrainian is no more than a dialect of Russian, but it is vastly more than that. This reviewer found it easy to learn Portuguese on the strength of a knowledge of Spanish. Learning Ukrainian on the strength of Russian turns out to be more difficult. There are significant differences in the root words of the vocabulary – Ukrainian is closer to Western European languages – and far from trivial differences in the sound structure: consonants and vowels.

Dr. Lo cites a statistic that Ukraine is 17% ethnically Russian. That kind of number that is very difficult to know, and would change significantly depending on who was asking the question and how it was phrased. A respondent would be stupid to call himself a Ukrainian in the Crimea of 2015, or a Russian in Lviv. Since most speak both languages and pretty much looks the same the answer will often be whatever is most convenient at the time. This reviewer's wife speaks native Russian – the language she used in school – whereas her parents speak native Ukrainian, the language they used in school.

The Russian exercise of power has always been heavy-handed. The czars were despots. The Marquis de Custine captured their essence, Tocqueville wrote about them, Russian literature describes him in these terms, Archie Brown writes that Soviet history is a long reign of terror. Putin follows in this bloodthirsty, ham-fisted tradition.

During the Yushenko and Yanukovych years Putin would clamor for higher prices for natural gas, then turn the gas off in the middle of winter (2006, 2009) if he didn't get his way, freezing hapless souls in Western Europe – not a good idea. He would arbitrarily ban imports of foodstuffs from Ukraine such as candies, meats, wheat and other commodities. The pretexts were transparently contrived: veterinary inspections and the like. Archie Brown wrote of the Communists that they not only lied, but they lied in such a way that you knew they were lying. It was a demonstration of power to force people to swallow obvious lies. Putin seems to operate on the same principle. Today he is lying about the absence of Russian soldiers in Ukraine and guilt in downing MH17, among other things. This lack of diplomacy does not work in the 20th century. The victims can fight back, among other things by simply publicizing Putin's bad behavior. He is in bad odor throughout the world for his transgressions.

Dr. Lo often cites the extreme corruption in Russia. He says that the APEC (Asian-Pacific economic conference) in Vladivostok in 2012 cost $22 billion, 50 percent more than the London Olympics a month earlier. To put this into perspective, it is roughly 1 percent of Russian GDP of 2 trillion. The Sochi Olympics cost 2%, and the World Cup soccer championships will also be vastly expensive. All these projects are dogged by mismanagement and cost overruns. Instead of displaying Russian prowess, they showcase the worst aspects of a dictatorial economy. For an appreciation of how deeply ingrained these practices are in Russian culture, read How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business.

Dr. Lo repeatedly says that the Russian orientation has always been toward Europe rather than Asia. Although it likes to call itself Eurasian, 80 percent of the population lives west of the Urals. The people are European. They simply do not understand Asians very well. There is a collective desire to distance themselves from the Mongols, who dominated them for two centuries. The historical orientation established by Peter the Great and Catherine the great was toward the west, from which they borrowed what they could of Enlightenment ideas and modern methods in manufacture, agriculture, science and literature. Although Russia participates in many Asia-Pacific groups, it appears not to take a leadership role.

Dr. Lo repeats often that the mindset of Russian diplomacy is that of a big power. It jealously guards its prerogatives as a nation sitting at the big table with the world level players: the United States, Japan, China, and the European Union. Russia displays little finesse in dealing with smaller countries, and shows little appreciation of the power these can wield in the modern information oriented world. This is especially true in Asia. Outside of China, Russia has relatively few important trade relationships. Russia simply has little to contribute in Asia.

Dr. Lo writes "… Russia is generally viewed in a negative light – as a country with a stagnant political system, non-modernizing economy, and complacent elite. Many Asians doubt its capacity and commitment to contribute meaningfully, except as an exporter of natural resources and weapons."

The backwardness of the Russian Far East is a drag on Russian aspirations to be accepted by the Asian countries. This area has historically been poorly managed by tsars, commissars and now Putin. The rest of Asia looks at it as a source of natural resources and as a market. It certainly does not give Asia any prestige. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival gives a clear portrayal of life in contemporary Siberia.

Dr. Lo repeatedly says that Russia's Asia policy is very Sinocentric. Russia shares a 4000 km border with China and depends on China to at least be neutral in the scraps that Russia picks elsewhere in the world, notably Ukraine and Georgia. Russia lacks the finesse, the resource, and the shared interest that would draw it into greater partnership with others.

Dr. Lo writes "To alter this fate Moscow will need to recognize that tired strategic habits and an indigenous neo-conservatism offer Russia nothing. But such a message is not easily absorbed. Today the Kremlin's self-satisfaction appears stronger than ever, driven by the anticipation of a new multipolar order in which Russia stands as an equal with the United States and China. As long as this illusion persists, the likelihood of a productive approach toward Asia will be slim, and the “turn to the East” will remain a fantasy." To me that is the essence of his message, despite sounding a somewhat hopeful tone in the conclusion.

I add that the stove pipe, totally hierarchical decision-making structure that has always persisted in Russia is antithetical toward good diplomacy. Diplomats by their nature have to be empowered to engage in their opposite numbers and to work out creative solutions to mutual interests. They need to be heard and appreciated, and they need some authority. Moscow has never granted either.

Dr. Lo stresses the fact that Soviet diplomacy envisions a world of great powers, and discounts the influence of the smaller countries. This is absolutely true, and I would like to add a couple of notes. Putin did not anticipate the moral force of countries such as the Netherlands and Australia when their citizens were killed in the MH 17 disaster. Another major factor is the diaspora communities. There are strong Ukrainian communities in the United States and Canada, even Argentina and Australia, and they have a significant can't impact on the legislative process in those countries. The Russian immigrant community is not so useful. It includes a great many people who are extremely happy to be out of Russia and will do nothing to support it. On the other hand, it includes a lot of rabid Russophiles, the Internet trolls who spread Putin's propaganda on all of the conservative and libertarian websites. As overwhelming as they are, they are ultimately self-defeating. They get tangled in their own lies, which become all the more evident as the Ukraine crisis approaches its third year. Ron Paul, Mish Shedlock and Paul Craig Roberts may hate Obama, but it is becoming more difficult to see Russia as an alternative.

Dr. Lo traces the US – Russian relationship from the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are three periods of relative thaw: the early 1990s, post-9/11, and the Obama reset in 2009. Each of these was relatively limited. Both Russia and the US sought some quid pro quo on topics of interest to their countries, but they did not put in place it the foundation for a long-term relationship. The 2009 reset simply ran out of steam, and was overwhelmed by issues such as Syria, the anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow, and of course Ukraine. Lo forecasts a long period of an uncomfortable relationship before things can be reset again.

Absent from the discussion is the consideration of the economies. Russia is in a depression brought on by low energy prices. Half of its foreign exchange earnings come from energy, and that price has fallen from above $100 to below $50 a barrel. What Dr. Lo does not mention is that the United States and Western Europe seem to be teetering on the edge of recession themselves. Their central banks have employed quantitative easing to expand the money supply in each of these countries, and the game seems to be coming to an end. Russia, with less debt as a percentage of GDP and a history of enduring hard times, may be in a relatively strong position to outwait the West.

Dr. Lo could investigate other aspects of Europe's lack of resolve. The nationalist parties are becoming increasingly anti-immigrant. Germany is facing up to 800,000 asylum-seekers in 2015 alone. The latter figure would represent almost 1 percent of their population. They have been signally ineffective in absorbing the prior waves of immigrants. Ethnic Germans are increasingly restive, demonstrating in the streets against the government policy. One can anticipate that it will only become worse in the upcoming financial crisis. This is worth mentioning only insofar as Dr. Lo's projections for the future are predicated on a stability that appears under imminent threat. The enmity between Russia and the West may be overtaken by events. Domestic issues might consume both parties, reducing their interest in international involvements.

Dr. Lo does not discuss the attraction of Russia's cultural conservativism to people in the West. The nationalist parties in Western Europe and libertarians in the United States are drawn to Putin's advocacy of the white man and rejection of Western gender politics, embodied in feminism and the homosexual rights movement. The Western elites appear to be out of step with their people, forcing them in directions that they are loath to go. Moscow is benefiting and will benefit more from the reaction to the elites' "New World Order" agenda.

Dr. Lo recognizes that Russia's current power structure is very conservative and unlikely to change. This is absolutely true. It is in the mold of Russian power structures for the past several centuries. It is an environment in which the cream does not rise to the top. Talented people such as Google's Sergei Brin immigrate to the United States, as Lo says, and to other countries in the West. Because in Russia prerogatives are jealously guarded by those in charge, talented outsiders rarely have an opportunity. Note that Putin himself was allowed to rise to power because he was considered a mediocrity, and he has surrounded himself with mediocrities. This is an ongoing problem for tyrants everywhere. By the way, this aspect of Soviet culture was very visible in Ukraine under Yanukovych. He installed thugs in positions of power, and they were resented. Thuggery is highly visible in the governments that Russia has established in Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk. Putting puppets in charge may ensure loyalty, but severely compromises competence.

Dr. Lo's assertion that something must change is at odds with the conservatism he describes. Russia has needed change for centuries. Although the people in power have changed, the nature of the society has not. It appears quite unlikely to do so now. Russia has no external enemies to speak of. China may infiltrate over the long eastern border, but even if it does it will not impact Russia to any extent whatsoever. None of its neighbors on the west covet Russian land. Russia can easily remain the static backwater that it largely is today. It can remain dependent on natural resources extraction and agriculture. If it fails to modernize, the people will not suffer anything more than they suffer already.

Dr. Lo may be correct in writing that "A Russia that fails to adapt to the demands of the New World disorder will remain backward, in comparison not only with the developed West, but also with the rising non-West. It would be less actor than acted upon, unable to defend its interests against the competing agendas of others. Such an outcome would be more than merely unfortunate; it would represent a terrible betrayal of Russia's vast potential, and the on unprecedented opportunities offered to it by the current international contacts."

Russia's isolation and conservatism will protect the people from the financial excesses that the West is now enduring. Social conservatism will protect them from the forces which are depopulating the West. The family is coming apart in the West. Feminism, homosexuality, and the very individualistic lifestyle, the lack of family values, have deprived the west of the ability to repopulate itself. Every society in the West is being overrun. They are tending away from European and more toward the social values, their societies of the immigrants: Middle Easterners, Africans, and Hispanics. Russia itself is experiencing immigration from within – the expansion of the Muslim minorities. What will inspire the Slavic, Orthodox population to once again be as fruitful as it was two centuries ago is an interesting question. Orthodoxy is a more likely bet than Western liberalism. It appears that the post-Enlightenment west has passed its apogee and is decaying. Per Helmuth Nyborg's thesis in "Doubly Relaxed Darwinian Selection," Russia may indeed rise again, having served as a repository of a western culture and genetic inheritance that the West has squandered through unchecked immigration and an unwillingness to reproduce.

In the last chapter, dealing with the future, Dr. Lo downplays the West's interest in Kiev. Russia certainly doesn't see it that way, and my view from Kiev is that western NGOs and diplomats would like to see Ukraine adopt their values. Although few in the West want to see Ukraine quickly join the European Union, they hold NATO out as a promise and will probably continue to do so. Moreover, the West would like Ukraine to validate its own courses of action in the realms of diversity, gender politics and social policy by adopting them. The Western banks and international lending institutions such as the IMF and World Bank would like Ukraine to bear enough of a debt burden that it is beholden to the west. Ukrainians are appropriately suspicious.

Dr. Lo offers the proposition that Ukraine will probably continue to be dysfunctional. My observation is that there is a lot of dysfunction remaining in the ministries. There is vast corruption in the healthcare, roadbuilding, customs, and education ministries just a name four of them. However, the light is now shining on this corruption. The Poroshenko government has appointed ministers who saying the right things about cleaning them up. This is a long process, but the progress over the course of the year and a half has not been negligible. Ukraine is under the gun to do something. Poroshenko is as aware as anybody of the West's inclination to give up on Ukraine, and he cannot afford that. Poroshenko needs the West for investment, trade, and the military equipment to hold off Russia. It must continue to improve, and however slowly it seems to be doing that. If nothing else, Ukraine has gotten rid of stupid oligarchs (Yanukovych, the Klyuyev brothers, Abuzov) in favor of smarter ones such as Akhmetov and Kolomoisky who have some talent for improving assets they steal.

The book concludes with the chapter offering Dr. Lo's opinion as to how Russian foreign policy will evolve, and the advice that Dr. Lo would offer Russia, knowing of course that it probably would not be followed. Like most forward-looking chapters at the ends of books like this, it tends to be a bit optimistic and to overlook factors that the mainstream players are loath to admit exist. The bottom line is that Dr. Lo expects Putin to continue more or less as he is, inasmuch as he has painted himself in a corner. Though the closing chapter does not say as much, Dr. Lo makes it clear earlier in the book that Putin is riding a tiger. Having invaded Ukraine, he has left himself no face-saving exit. He cannot face the Russian people if he lets go, and he cannot deal with the Ukrainians themselves or the West if he pushes ahead. The status quo, however, is bleeding him to death. The fact that there is no well-defined way out means that any prognosis is bound to be problematic. Ukraine is not Russia's entire problem, however. It is bound up in the problem of the top-down management structure that has always characterized Russia. Putin does not get good advice coming up from his supporters, and is unable to put the most competent people in positions to execute his will. His personal power depends on absolute loyalty from people who will not question his decisions.

The biggest factor absent from Lo's equation is the impending economic crash. Most pundits, even the mainstream media joining them within the last month (August 2015), are looking back at the crisis of 2008 as only a prelude. The problems have not been fixed, and central bank activity has only exacerbated them. Other complicating factors that have not been reversed, only accentuated, are the flood of immigrants into North America and Western Europe, the declining birth rates of Caucasian and North Asian people in their homelands, and the intractable gap in educational and workplace attainment between those Caucasians and North Asians and the immigrants who would replace them. To revisit his title, Dr. Lo's analysis is predicated on a stability that is unlikely to persist. There are many reasons to expect, however, that the coming disorder, due largely to financial overextension and immigration issues, will affect Russia and Ukraine less than Asia and the West. It is not inconceivable that a smug (and lucky) Putin may in five years be smirking "Told you so" from his solid perch in the Kremlin.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2015 12:54 PM PDT


Weder arm noch ohnmächtig: Eine Streitschrift gegen schwarze Eliten und weisse Helfer (German Edition)
Weder arm noch ohnmächtig: Eine Streitschrift gegen schwarze Eliten und weisse Helfer (German Edition)
Price: $11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Black talking about the realities of Africa. Has staying power 25 years after the first edition., August 18, 2015
Just as only blacks are permitted to talk honestly about race in the USA, so only an African can do so on that continent.

The German title is not nearly as fitting as the French, which I would translate as “What if Africa doesn’t feel like developing.” The book has a curious publication history. L’Harmattan, associated with l’École Polytechnique in Paris, first published it in 1990 under the title “Et si l’Afrique refusait le développement?”

The phenomenon of a highly articulate African author willing to speak plainly about Africa’s problems slowly gathered a kind of cult following. Grioo.com, a francophone African web site, developed a very active discussion of its theses. A German publisher first brought it out in 2001 under this title “Weder Arm noch Ohnemächtig,” which translates quite directly as “Neither Poor nor Powerless,” It has appeared in Italy as “E se l'Africa rifiutasse lo sviluppo?”revived the original sense of the title. Strangely for a book that has been under discussion for 25 years now, there is no English translation.

The Italian Amazon reviewers’ titles tell the story. “Africa, it’s your own fault” and “Development? Africa doesn’t have any excuses.” The lead sentence of the latter translates as “Africa is backwards and stagnant because it rejects development with all its might.” The top German reviewer on Amazon calls it “Mandatory reading for all Third World Activists.”

There must be yet more story behind the story. A fairly persistent Internet search did not divulge Kabou’s present whereabouts and activity, though the Italian reviewer indicates she has been in exile in Canada since 1995. Though the biographical material on the book cover indicates that she taught university level English, the book has not yet appeared in our language. And despite the fact that the 1990 cover stated that she was in the process of writing a book entitled “The African elites of the 1970s,” nothing new has appeared under her name in these fourteen years.

Kabou’s first chapter echoes the title. “Africa doesn’t want to develop.” To roughly paraphrase her lead paragraph: “Certain ideas owe their durability to the nobility of their context. You have to believe in Africa’s will to develop in order to justify its fight for independence. Development is among those venerable beliefs that one cannot abandon without committing a sacrilege. However, all appearance are to the contrary. Why is the international community so upset, after thirty years, that things are as they are?

The myth of Africa’s will to develop, she says, satisfies three essential needs. First, to excuse the political class of any suspicion of incompetence by turning the argument towards an interminable international plot, because they can justify staying in power as long as it endures. Secondly, to place Africa permanently among those parties whose energies are diverted to frivolous development projects. Lastly, to enrich the legions of experts on perpetual missions and studies the futility of which suffers no discussion.

Thus, by page two the theme of the book is well established. The reader immediately knows whether to love it or hate it. Kabou, in her somewhat highflown and literary French, composes some delightful turns of phrase to advance her arguments. Her language is the book’s greatest strength. Organization is weaker. One comes away with a good many pithy quotes but little sense of thematic development, inasmuch as she drives home the same points chapter after chapter. Her issues are:
1. African pride is offended by the observation that their culture has invented nothing and created nothing. They are too proud to adopt the Western concept of development.
2. Africa imported a series of intellectual models from the missionaries, communists, capitalists and third-worlders, all of which were used by elites as excuses to bolster their autocracies, and none of which were appropriate to the African environment.
3. There is nothing wrong with the intelligence of Africans. Their inability to develop is attributable to illiteracy, a late start in development, and the profound sense of inferiority fostered by the westerners with whom they have come into contact.
4. Africa's refusal to develop is central to its sense of self. "Africa isn't dying: she is committing suicide in a kind of cultural drunkenness, intoxicated with her own moral gratification."
5. Africa has no tradition of self analysis. No politician can afford to tell the truth. She cites the fates of those who have attempted to do so. As noted above, one could probably add the name Kabou to that list.
6. Africa is neither poor nor powerless (the title of the book in German). She has been an equal party to, and is hence at fault for creating the supposedly unequal contracts, treaties, and debt obligations of which she continually complains.

Though Kabou doesn’t provide it, a bit of history is essential to her argument. African slaves appear commonly in Greek and Roman accounts, and the Arabs had maintained an active slave trade on both coasts of the continent since Biblical times. Modern Europe first established contact with black Africa through Henry the Navigator’s search for India in the mid 15th century. European law, inherited from the Romans, fully described a slave’s position in society. It was a matter of chance that other institutions such as serfdom were better suited to Europe’s culture and economy. Portugal had no particular use for the slaves Henry’s seamen brought back. There were more than enough landless peasants who could cheaply accomplish whatever menial work needed to be done.

Black slaves were initially a solution in search of a problem. Portugal devised the problem herself with the discovery of the warm, fertile and uninhabited Atlantic island of Madeira. It was ideal for growing sugar. Since farm laborers had to be imported in any case, why not use the Africans? That model had proven to be an economic success by the time Europeans turned to exploiting the agricultural possibilities of the New World.

Three centuries of European slavers had no desire to penetrate the continent’s interior. They were perfectly content to let Africans bring their African captives to coastal slave markets, which with their myriad diseases were insalubrious enough. The entire dark continent north of South Africa was still virgin territory when Dr. Livingston searched for the source of the Nile in the mid 19th century. The European powers, having long since colonized all of the Americas, India and the Far East, turned to equatorial Africa only after all else was taken. Black Africa bore the yoke of colonialism well less than a century. Though it was onerous indeed in places, such as the Congo as Belgium established rubber plantations, most black Africans were not much affected by European pretensions of sovereignty. It is clear beyond a doubt that black labor was more ruthlessly exploited, over a much greater period of time, in Brazil, the Caribbean and the United States. The success of countries with longer and harsher colonial histories, and of blacks themselves outside of Africa, makes abundantly clear that colonialism cannot be the root cause of Africa’s problems.

Kabou says Africans cherish the myth of an edenic life before the arrival of the Europeans. "Everywhere," writes Mohamadou Kane, "the thesis is the same, pushed by the works of historians and inspired by the nationalisms of the hour, to know that traditional Africa was a coherent and dynamic world the functioning of which was blocked by the Europeans and which therefore provoked a decline." Included in the myth are histories of great empires, peaceful coexistence among tribes, and abundant literature and culture.

Kabou defines five philosophies, more or less equated with historical epochs, of African’s relationship with the West:
Missionary
Third world Marxist
Neo-liberal, that is to say, IMF and World Bank
Leftist reaction to Western influence and return to original cultures
The cold war muddle

She rejects the idea of an innate inferiority, suggesting rather that Africans, only recently as much as 20% literate, may ground their opinions of development on 19th century European notions of race. The occident’s pretensions of a “mission civilitrice,”or civilizing mission, did not disappear with independence, but were rather heightened by the tensions brought about by the cold war.

Kabou writes on the ravages of “Fridayism.” Daniel Defoe’s literary invention thrives on the anti-dependence theme of authentic, endogenous development. Did Levy-Bruhl write that they are childlike? Did Octave Mannoni write that they instinctually see the European colonizer as their superior? Kabou maintains that Africans feel they must continually disprove these myths, dating from missionary times, of their inferiority by demonstrating that they envy nothing of the occident, that they want to guard their own culture souls against the penetration of modernity. Kabou continues with the biting observation that anyone who has visited Africa will confirm it is hardly in danger of Westernization.

Fridayism, "Vendredism" in the original, is the mystical belief that the tradition of doing nothing will carry the African through. White men have nuclear arms? They will blow themselves up. They have invented airplanes? They will die in crashes. They have a materialistic culture? They will lose sight of their traditional values. Kabou says that the Africans contentedly wait in their villages, letting time pass them by, as they wait for the developed world to collapse of its own weight.

Fridayism is the second of Africa's two faces. She quotes Robert Arnaut and Edgard Hazoumé claiming it "has at least two faces, a formal face of numbers, statistics, official declarations, the flip side of which is everyday life ruled by sinuous laws and the unspoken secret codes the observance of which impedes the imperatives of development." The elites appear ashamed of their occidentalism and work to present themselves as true to Africa's culture and traditions. "One cannot but be struck by the tenacity with which the Africans refuse methods and organization. They squander their meager resources, sabotage all that which might profit the greater number over the long term. They detest coherence, transparency, and rigor. Every level seems to favor tinkering, improvisation, and navigation by eyeball."

Fridayism is a rural mindset, and she observes that rural life works fairly well. Within the discipline of tribal life everyone has a role. The tribe has little use for layabouts. They plant, they hunt, they gather, they buy and they sell. It falls apart in the crush and anonymity of the cities, in which no tribal order is imposed and no tradition dictates how one will occupy one's time. "The refusal to develop ... flourishes less in the villages ... than on the macadam of the capitals where one sees how true African values have vanished since independence." She continues that it is paradoxically the Minister of Development, the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Education who continue to trade on the wars of liberation as excuses for the striking immobility of modern Black Africa.

Kabou holds the Japanese up as a model to be emulated. They are another people upon whom the Europeans dominated militarily and looked down, but who were wise enough to distinguish what was worth borrowing from the invaders from that which was worth keeping of their own tradition. The result is a society that is both materially rich and very traditional.

"African Mentality" is a theme to which she returns so repeatedly that it begs the question of how the book is organized. She cites the authors of theories of ontological superiority based on cranial capacity, culture, etc. On every occasion, never citing by whom, she asserts that the issues have long been laid to rest.

Her repeated explanation of why Africans have never invented anything of note, display little curiosity, and are unable to devise or follow organizational systems in either enterprise or government is one of proving the white man wrong. She imputes to every African the attitude that "the white man thinks his is the only way to live and I am primitive for not adopting it. I'll show him." The African is too proud to do things the foreigner's way. It is the "self esteem" argument that has held sway in the United States since Brown vs. Board of Education. Kabou notes, however, that most peoples of color in Latin America and Asia have successfully borrowed from Europe.

The government of India is alleged to have surveyed the rural population around 1957 to determine how their lives had changed in the ten years since the end of the two-century British Raj. Three out of four never knew the British had been there. Likewise, it seems probably that even today, and certainly for most of the past four centuries, the average African has had too little contact with Europeans to have nursed any notion of inferiority.

Occam's razor proposes that the simplest explanation of any phenomenon is the most likely, the default to be disproved. It would hold that absent any proof to the contrary, the demonstrated levels of African organization, literacy, creativity and enterprise reflect the people as they are. That mere assaults on the Africans' collective self esteem could account for so much dysfunction over such a long period is the theory that begs for support. Two books that go straight to the point are “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” and “Race Differences in Intelligence.” Both are politically incorrect to the extreme, but their statistical analyses have never been refuted, successfully or otherwise. They have, however, been successfully buried.

Kabou often touches on the lack of scruples of the higher classes. These would be for the most part the educated elites, the civil servants and government officials. She finds their rapacity, or "dents longues" inexcusable. Any official who can do so loots the government and whatever investment funds enter the continent under whatever program. An entrepreneur will get a loan, sell the shell of the business to the government at a huge profit in a "nationalization" move, or vice-versa, buy a business from the government for a song.

She notes elsewhere that corruption pervades African society. Theft is endemic. Everyone has their hand out for a bribe.

Applying Occam's razor again, it is worth questioning whether the "take the money and run" attitude makes sense in its context. The alternative of honoring contracts, investing, and long term planning is predicated on expectations about the future. It assumes that labor and capital can be organized to produce a profit, that the currency will be stable and exchangeable, that government will enforce contracts and respect private property. If the people are smart enough to recognize that they are incapable of organizing and managing for a profit, it is rational to export, hide or spend rather than invest capital. As Kabou notes, the queue of first world do-gooders willing to throw more money into Africa seems never to end. They meet their fundamental needs by debt, deception and improvisation.

Three recent books illustrate the more recent problems of Africa. The Crisis Caravan: What's Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? documents how Western do-gooders and media feed the problem, and Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa is a sobering history of South Africa’s slide since the black majority governments came to power in the 1990s. Racism, Guilt, Self-Hatred and Self-Deceit is a bracing account of how the Africans describe themselves to an outsider.

She writes of the presumption of African leaders. Houphouët-Boigny refusing to sell his resources “below market." Also, "Africa has two faces." First the formal one of figures and statistics and official declarations. She suggests these are hasty and “suicidal” assimilations into a very traditional culture.

Two quotes from the book:

"I am black. The Black didn't invent the computer. The computer is anti-black." and "Technology degrades family live and human relations. Even the Occidentals say so. Therefore, Africa ought to reject technology." and "We are victims of colonialization, so the Europeans owe us indemnities." These views are taken defensively, she says, in defense of Africa's refusal to develop itself. "The sociological and especially psychological conditions of the success of free enterprise are not met yet in Black Africa, far from it. Their emergence initially depends on the introduction of a vast debate on post-independence African mentalities, and the relationship of the latter to the concept of development itself. Africa must be invited to reconsider its ideological and social choices, to be brought to understand clearly why generalized economic liberalism can lead only to catastrophe. In other words, instead of encouraging the Africans to cut their throats by programs self-imposed austerity and deprivation, we should first seek to know why audacity, imagination, and inventiveness remain so rare after thirty years of independence. One needs, in a word, to realize that Africa saddled itself with a powerful cultural device making it possible to repress any desire for creativity." Aren't these almost an echo of the complaints about black schoolchildren in the United States? And if so, are blacks being somewhat unfair when they blame their situation on white racism?

The notion that Africa is undergoing cultural change is a myth. Today's African mentality is a kind of jail in which an impervious border separates the notions of "a Black thing" and "a White thing." . Indeed, far from prefiguring a promising a liberating synthesis of new energies, this conscience is a rather desiccated object surrounded by barricades. The fallaciousness in the dualism of "tradition and modernity" is in this: it postulates the progress of mindsets towards an opening which will occur all the less because African sensitivities are ossified and shrunken and contorted after having demonized the values of modernity. This drama is far from being finished. We will see it when we address the current misadventures of the negrism. For the moment, let us specify that, as opposed to what implies a African literature of African identity which would preach reconciliation today, after having promoted, from 1960 to now, the myth of a conflict


The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve
The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve
by G. Edward Griffin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.05
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a monster book in every sense. Must reading, as the financial world crumbles in 2015, August 13, 2015
The first sentence is "thick books can be intimidating." It is a tribute to the author that he has been able to arrange so much material in such a useful fashion. He addresses a number of themes which seem to have only very loose connection with one another, but pulls it together into a cohesive book.

A good place to start would be to read about the author, G. Edward Griffin in Wikipedia. It is not flattering, saying "he is the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island (1984) which promotes conspiracy theories about the Federal Reserve system."

There are a number of conspiracies described in the book, starting with the secret conclave that took place on Jekyll Island in 1910. The fact that it took place, and the secrecy surrounding it are well known. The conjecture as to what took place has to be based on the historical record after the fact. The Federal Reserve is a fact. The fact that Wilson was elected by virtue of Teddy Roosevelt's being induced to run on the Bullmoose party ticket is a fact. The legislative histories that he cites are fact.

He presents other stories, and theories as to what is behind them, which one will certainly not find in the average American history book: Andrew Jackson's fight with Biddle over the second national Bank of the United States. Some very interesting observations on Abraham Lincoln, strong pluses and strong minuses. The ongoing and hidden involvement of European bankers – yes, primarily Jewish – in the American economy. The hidden connections between eminently Protestant bankers such as J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers and the European Rothschilds and Warburgs. The conspiracy to draw America into World War I through the sinking of the Lusitania in order to protect the interests of the European bankers. He describes the very close relations between England and the United States, and offers a theory that its efforts to protect British interests led the Federal Reserve to make policies which promoted the Great Depression. The same with regard to the American entry into World War II. Griffin provides extensive footnotes for his sources. He is modest enough not to claim absolute authenticity for most of these histories, but leaves it as a.challenge for others to refute them or present more plausible explanations.

Going back to the Wikipedia entry, it appears to be contrived as a smear more than the source of information. It associates Griffin with other conspiracy theories. It labels him as an HIV/AIDS denier. The very colored word "denier" convinces me that the Wikipedia authors in turn hold a bias. It turns out that I have read and reviewed a book by one of the prominent such "AIDS deniers," Peter Duesberg. The book makes sense to me, and most telling, the Wikipedia entries for Duesberg and Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis, who wrote his forward, are similarly slanted. I assume if there were any reputable scientific research to refute them, it would be mentioned on Wikipedia. No – only ad hominem attacks against the authors. He raises my suspicion that Griffin, Duesberg and others are probably right in many or most particulars.

The Jekyll Island book was published in 1994 and has been through about 20 printings since. It is organized according to these general topics, according to the book's outline. These are Griffin's titles, augmented by my explanatory phrases:

1. What creature is this? – What is the Federal Reserve?
2. A crash course on money – gold, fractional reserve banking, fiat money.
3. The new alchemy – how bankers create something from nothing and grow Rich
4. A tale of three banks – the first three central banks of the United States
5. The harvest – the immense profits occurring to bankers from the Federal Reserve system
6. Time travel into the future – what the author foresaw in 1994.

We learn in the "crash course on money" that the United States currency was backed by silver until it was gradually phased out between the 1930s and the 1970s. In my youth there were silver certificates on which were printed the statement that the United States would exchange five dollars in silver for the certificate itself. Those are history. The first step was to reduce the amount of precious metals available to a fraction of the currency outstanding, followed by abandoning any backing by metals whatsoever. What we have had since Nixon is pure fiat money.

Griffin asserts that the way the system works is purposefully convoluted, in order that the common man not understand it well. The essence of money creation is as follows. The United States treasury needs money. It sells treasury bonds, receiving dollars in the present in exchange for a promise to repay at a stated interest rate sometime in the future. Five years is a common maturity. The Federal Reserve buys those treasury bills via an electronic transaction. No real money changes hands. The Federal Reserve books the treasury bills that it has as assets. It is then able to create offsetting liabilities by printing Federal Reserve notes. These circulate as money.

The mechanisms are far more varied than this, but the essence is that they create money from nothing. Actually, printed money is only a small fraction of the money in circulation. The mechanisms used to create bank credits are the same in that the banks make" something from nothing," but they are able to make vastly more of it.

Whichever mechanisms are used, the outcome is always the same – inflation. The government creates money for its use. As the amount of money in circulation grows more rapidly than the fundamental value of assets in society, the value of money shrinks. Today's dollar buys only two percent as much as it did when the Federal Reserve was created. Inflation is thus a hidden tax. The loss in the purchasing power of the fiat currency accrues to the benefit of the government. Griffin says that this tax amounted to about 50 percent over the period of World War I. It is an ideal tax because it is hidden and never subjected to a vote.

Griffin makes the theme repeatedly that the banks take advantage of the lack of financial sophistication on the part of the average person. Central banks control the availability of money, and interest rates. They are able to induce citizens to borrow by setting rates low, then force foreclosures by setting rates high in making money tight, leading to the inability to roll loans over and loss of the employment needed to service loans. The banks have an advantage over the bank customer. As I write, in 2015, the Federal Reserve has set interest rates so low that all investors who are obliged to seek a non-zero return – insurance companies, pensions, etc – are being forced into stocks. The PE ratios of stocks is at an all-time high, and the accounting tricks used to conjure them up are likewise at a peak. The federal government turns a blind eye to financial manipulation by others, since they themselves are so dependent on deception.

At another level, the major national banks have an advantage over local banks. Local banks, following standard banking practice, leverage their deposits and make loans totaling several times their asset base. When they get into trouble they have to turn to the big banks to bail them out. The big banks, on the other hand, have the Federal Reserve to back them up. The Federal Reserve has the power of the United States government. As has been witnessed in the crises of my lifetime, the savings and loan debacle and the crisis of 2007 come to mind, the government has simply created money to prevent the banks from failing. Big banks bail out little banks, and the taxpayer bails the big banks out.

This is a "heads I win, tails you lose" sort of proposition for the megabanks. As long as the federal government stands behind them, they cannot lose. In good times they make very strong profits and pay high salaries. In bad times the taxpayer shoulders the losses. This may come in the form of direct bailouts, inflation, or through other combinations of mechanisms.

Loans to sovereign entities are another issue altogether. Banks love them because they are large in size and quite profitable. There are fees to be made upon initiation. There is interest to be made as the loans are repaid. There is money to be made refinancing the loans when, as is almost inevitably the case, the borrower cannot service them. Griffin makes the case that the banks and do not want to be repaid. They would like the loans to be rolled over forever. Witness what's happening in Greece today. The banks simply refuse to accept that Greece is bankrupt.

Griffin makes the case that the banks actually enjoy loaning money to profligate dictators like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe they know that he will steal the money, and that that will not be repaid. They will make their money renegotiating it, and being paid back through bailouts provided by the taxpayers of the rich countries. American taxpayers have bailed out any number of insolvent countries, enriching bankers in the process. In the most recent bailout of Greece, in this year 2015, I read that 80 percent of the funds went to banks, primarily Germans.

Griffin contends that bankers like war. He says that the international banks made loans to both alliances leading up to World War I, and actually encouraged war because war always increases business for bankers. This goes back to the foundation of the house of Rothschild, funding wars in Germany. When the five Rothschild sons moved to the capitals of Europe, they would often wind up funding both sides of a conflict. The bankers won regardless of the outcome of the war.

Critics charge Griffin with being anti-Semitic, but his charges are really anti-banker. He says that the bankers are rather bloodless sorts who have no affection for their customers and generally have no patriotism. They pursue profits regardless of human concerns. The fact that Jews are disproportionately represented in banking, and that Jews tend to have the intelligence that required to excel at the profession, is simply a circumstance.

The book hangs together remarkably well. Moreover, though it is twenty one years old it also describes today's situation extraordinarily well. Though the conspiracies described may not have all played out exactly as described, the gist seems to be on target. This is a book you will remember…. especially when the house of cards comes tumbling down. The foundations are shaking as I write.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2015 6:41 AM PDT


The Secrets of the Federal Reserve
The Secrets of the Federal Reserve
by Eustace Clarence Mullins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.26
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Generally well drawn, but problematic, July 31, 2015
The first chapters of the book are a fascinating account of political intrigue at the highest levels, a century ago. Even back then the politicians and bankers were lining their pockets at the expense of the little guy, as well as less well-connected banks and businesses.

Mullins documents his sources extensively. This is good. However, in one very telling instance it leads to a major problem. Mullins gives an account of a 1773 meeting convened by Mayer Bauer, later to call himself Rothschild, of thirteen Jewish goldsmith/moneylenders. Per Mullins, Rothschild presented a 14-point program whereby these men would band together to dominate world finance.

Mullins cites as his source a book by William Guy Carr entitled "Pawns in the Game" for a lengthy address supposedly made by Mayer Rothschild (Bauer) to a group of Frankfurt goldsmiths in 1773.

Locating and downloading "Pawns in the Game" on the Internet, I find that this privately published 1956 book with an overtly Christian theme has a 24 point program which includes Mullins' 14. It cites as its source Professor S. Nilus in 1901. Google says that this would be Sergei Nilus, a Moscow mystic Christian.

Googling Sergei Nilus, I find the entry "Sergej Nilus und die "Protokolle der Weisen von Zion" He is the supposed author. Looking that up, I find that the 24 points track exactly those named in Wikipedia for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been fairly thoroughly discredited as a manuscript. It is a well-crafted fraud, aligning neatly with widely held fears of Jewish financiers, but a fraud nonetheless.

I do not think that this single error totally damns "Secrets of the Fed," but it does support the anti-Semitism critique and leads one to question the authenticity of other sources. Still and all, I believe that most of the reportage on the founding of the Federal Reserve is probably factual. It hangs together and is consistent with what I know of the history of the era. I am, however, reading "The Creature from Jekyll Island" as a more credible source.

I add, reading Jekyll Island, that while it does not cite the specifics of the Elders of the Protocols of Zion, it makes a strong case for the involvement of cabals of Jewish bankers behind central banking. This would fit in well with what evolutionary psychologists have said about Jewish interests. They are a separate population with interests antithetical to their Christian hosts. There is in general no love lost, whether in Inquisitions, Holocausts, porgrams or holodomors. The thesis in Jekyll is that bankers, who skew quite Jewish, rather coldly take advantage of their host countries' populations' lack of financial sophistication.


The Life History Approach to Human Differences: A Tribute to J. Philippe Rushton
The Life History Approach to Human Differences: A Tribute to J. Philippe Rushton
by Helmuth Nyborg
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Renaissance man of modern social sciences, and the left's devastatingly effective effort to muzzle him, July 30, 2015
J. Philippe Rushton posed an immense problem for progressives. It was tough enough to dismiss intelligence researchers such as Murray, Herrnstein and Jensen who continually reinforced findings dating back to the First World War that there are significant differences in the average intelligence of the races. They smeared them as mightily as they could, and disparaged the whole field of intelligence measurement.

Then came Rushton advocating a life history approach, an r/K approach to explaining differences among populations, that integrates observations and measurements of every facet of the human animal: the big 5 personality traits (OCEAN, for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), educational accomplishment, criminality, fertility, sexuality, muscularity, physical dimensions, length of gestation, incidence of twins… literally hundreds of measurements. Rushton demonstrated that all of the variables correlate along a continuum: black – Caucasian – East Asian. Moreover, his life history theory provided a satisfactory evolutionary explanation of how these differences came about. It all fit together.

Rushton had to be silenced. In this the left was effective. They managed to prevent some papers from being published. They worked feverishly to get him fired, despite tenure. They prevented his speaking at conferences. They smeared him, quite effectively, as a sex-obsessed racist. Please, readers, let us know what you have heard of Rushton via your comments on this review.

Though the major thrust of this book is the substance of Rushton's work, a theme running through most of the articles is the abuse that was heaped on him. Rushton's only defenses were his impeccable manners, his absolute refusal to be ruffled or to give up, and his prodigious intellect and energy. The piece by Linda Gottfredson which describes this perfectly appears independently on the Internet. Google "Resolute Ignorance on Race and Rushton" for the excruciatingly well written and documented paper describing the systematic abuse to which he was subjected and the willful misinterpretation of science.

The r/K theory of reproduction strategies is the unifying theme running through Rushton's work. r-specialized organisms produce vast numbers of offspring and make no parental investment in them. Oysters spew hundreds of thousands of eggs into the water. Enough of them survive to perpetuate the oyster. The K-specialized gorilla, on the other hand, gives birth every five years, but a high percentage of those young gorillas survive to adulthood. In brief, r-specialized animals make sure via copious reproduction that there are always young animals in place to fill an available niche. K is a shorthand for carrying capacity. K specialized animals' strategy is to saturate the carrying capacity of their ecological niche. r/K is non-controversial, mere common sense when talking about oysters and elephants, aspens and avocados. When applied to human beings it becomes highly inflammatory. Yet, as Rushton shows, it fits.

East Asians have less sex, smaller sex organs, longer gestation, bigger skulls, higher intelligence, fewer babies, less testosterone, less musculature, less impulsiveness, less crime, more stable societies, higher levels of education, higher levels of life achievement, etc. etc. than Caucasians. Nobody disputes this.

Why this is so seems clear. As humankind migrated out of Africa about 50,000 years ago there was strong selection pressure for traits that enabled them to survive in the cold. They needed to develop clothes and warm housing. They needed to plan ahead, as plant foods and even game animals were scarce for substantial portions of the year. They needed to cooperate in the hunt… they became so effective that they hunted the mammoth to extinction, whereas their African cousins left the elephants alone – other game was easier. They needed the stability that comes with pair bonding. They could not afford to have men competing with one another for sex, and there was more and more to teach the children.

These suites of traits appear to have evolved independently, but the r/K driver was the same for each. Caucasians, under less severe environmental stress, evolved in the same direction as the East Asians but by almost every measure to a lesser extent. No argument here either. The controversy attaches itself to the populations at the other end of the spectrum. That is why progressives, and their confederates in academia such as Stephen Jay Gould, were so vicious in their attacks.

This book is a collection of papers which had appeared elsewhere. If you Google rushton-the-great-theoetician.pdf (with the misspelling intact) you will get a 20-page paper providing a much fuller summary of his contributions to science than this review. For readers who prefer the convenience of an e-book, the Ulster Institute offers this book in downloadable form.

This book absolutely rates five stars. It provides a good overview of Rushton's life work, a survey of the state of the art in Evolutionary Psychology, Behavioral Genetics and Differential Psychology. It describes Rushton the man and the hostile intellectual environment in which he worked. It affords the statistician a good overview of the uses to which the most advanced statistical techniques are being used, and of Rushton's contribution to that field as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2015 11:56 PM PDT


Why Did Europe Conquer the World? (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
Why Did Europe Conquer the World? (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
Price: $16.17

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting blend of economic modeling and standard historical method gives good insight into Europe's rise., July 12, 2015
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This is a book by an economist. As is de rigueur in their profession, it involves a number of economic equations. Mathematical expressions to explain why actors act the way they do. Economists are inclined to confess with some honesty that the models are not perfect, but they're the best that they have. Is there question is not the models don't work, but that no model is perfect.

The model in this instance is the tournament model. It is kind of like game theory. If the costs of going to war are small, and the rewards are large, leaders will go to war. They get the glory, and the peasants get the shaft.

That simple rule seemed to prevail in late medieval and early modern Europe. The countries were always at war. The kings and princes benefited from war. As the author points out with an impressive array of statistics, kings and princes rarely died when they lost, however many subjects may have died, and they gained great riches and renown when they won. If you were a sovereign, war was the thing to do.

His thesis is that European powers were always at war, that war brought about innovation and improvements in technology, and that because Europe can was the first to innovate, especially with gunpowder, the singular most important invention of the period, they came to dominate the world.

The author says that other people have had theories as to why the West came out dominant, and those theories are lacking. There is Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel which posits that it was a matter of geography. The geography of Eurasia allowed agricultural technology to spread East-West and allowed the Eurasian peoples to develop civilization earlier. There is a trade argument. Once the Portuguese in particular learned open ocean navigation, the Europeans had advantage. They could trade easily with one another on the open Atlantic, as well as the Mediterranean. More than that, their ships carried them to the four corners of the earth. As Hoffman indicates, they were able to bring their war machines which were more effective than any of the locals they encountered. They were certainly vastly more effective than those of the Native Americans, Stone Age people who simply could not resist Pizarro, Cortez and the other conquistadores. But Europeans also dominated in Japan, India, Indonesia and other places where they touched down. Western technology simply overwhelmed the natives' ability to defend themselves. As always, as the author carefully points out, there was dissension among the tribes wherever they went, and certain of the locals found it beneficial to ally themselves with Europeans.

To quote from the book, " Above all else, we want to explain improvements in the gunpowder technology and understand why the Europeans pushed it further than anyone else. We can distill what the model says on that subject into four essential conditions for advancing the gunpowder technology via learning by doing:

"1. There must be frequent war. Rulers must therefore face similar political costs of mobilizing resources and must be battling for a prize that was valuable relative to the fixed cost of establishing a fiscal system and a military apparatus. There cannot be huge differences in the size of their countries or economies or their ability to borrow, although credit can allow the ruler of a small country to fight a larger opponent.
"2. Frequent war, though, is not enough, for rulers must also lavish huge sums on it. Once again, the prize must be valuable, but in addition, the rulers’ political costs of summoning resources must not only be similar, but low.
"3. Rulers must use the gunpowder technology heavily, and not older military technologies.
"4. Rulers must face few obstacles to adopting military innovations, even from opponents. Each of the four conditions is necessary with high probability: if one of them fails to hold, the gunpowder technology will likely fail to advance.

"Together, however, the four conditions are sufficient. When they all hold, learning by doing will in fact improve the gunpowder technology. Greater relevant knowledge (so the model also implies) will spur innovation to an even faster pace and ensure that it does not wane as the gunpowder technology ages."

The author's attempts to mathematicise history, to devise formulas to explain his thesis, are interesting. It involves parametrizing historical financial data – productivity, GDP, prices – in a way that can be compared across very different cultures and across time. This is difficult enough. He then goes into the productivity of soldiers. How do you measure their productivity? Their killing efficiency? It is a bold effort even to attempt. By doing so, however, Hoffman gives good insight into the ways in which weaponry, tactics, and even the psychology of soldiering changed through the period under study.

Though the introduction and first chapter would lead one to think otherwise, Hoffman is, in the end, quite modest in the claims he makes for his models. They are useful tools, but they are only that, a tool to augment the standard techniques of historical explanation.

Hoffman's publisher being Princeton, a bastion of political correctness, may have led him to leave important variables out of his equation. He discusses evolutionary anthropologists at length. These academics would attribute differences in inventiveness to cultural factors. He makes no mention whatsoever of evolutionary psychologists, who have a lot to say about the evolution of intelligence. Other authors such as Harpending and Cochran, Clark and Wade write extensively about major, recent evolution among different peoples. Evolving intelligence would appear to be a variable not to be left out of the regression.

Overall, a five-star effort. Hoffman's book has a lot of explanatory power, and it introduces a useful synthesis of tools for analysis of history.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2015 12:33 AM PDT


Short History of Man: Progress and Decline
Short History of Man: Progress and Decline
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Edition: Paperback
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief and accessible. Not very new, nothing unexpected, but not politically correct., June 21, 2015
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Hoppe's overriding thesis is that a productive social order is the prerequisite for good government. Philosophers should be looking for a maximally productive society – that is where one is most likely to find good government. Democracy, unfortunately, winds up with the now enfranchised left half of the bell curve, the incompetents, voting themselves booty from the productive members of society. The state itself encourages the process. Its functionaries scrape off their generous portion of the pelf as they redistribute it.

Hoppe leans heavily on recent findings by Clark , Wade , Cavalli-Sforza, [[ASIN:59368021X Richard Lynn ]] and others that humans have been under extraordinary evolutionary pressure for the last 100,000 years at least. His bibliography is a bit dated: add also Cochran and Harpending and Spencer Wells, and look to the authors he cites for their more recent books. The strong conclusion throughout is that human intelligence has improved vastly, and recently. Moreover, it increased differentially as separate human groups survived different evolutionary pressures.
• First, and most important, was the evolution of language. Hoppe puts our acquisition of the ability to use language descriptively and argumentatively at somewhat more than 50,000 years ago. In doing so he evinces more certainty than scholars like Pinker , Burling , Fitch , and Lieberman who have made language their life's work. Let's say that Hoppe is at least right that language is recent.
• Second, man's facility in making tools, his inventiveness, exploded during the period 100,000 to 50,000 years ago. This is what others would call the Middle Paleolithic. Spearheads, fishhooks and other tools became more sophisticated, made from a broader range of materials including bone, antlers and tusks. Supporting the language thesis, the evidence that materials were traded over distance increases significantly.
• Third, man changed his environment radically, emigrating from tropical Africa to the temperate, even frigid climates of Europe and Asia. He had to learn how to make clothes and shelter. He had to learn how to hunt large animals cooperatively. He had to extend his planning horizon from the next meal to the next year, planning to survive the winter.
• Fourth, the establishment of permanent settlements with the invention of agriculture brought property rights and nuclear families. Inheritance became important. With children being raised by fathers, not by villages, survival depended all the more on having been fathered by somebody with "the right stuff." More evolutionary pressure.
• Fifth, the settler had to master commerce. Trade entered the picture. A pastoralist would trade with a farmer. They needed units of account. They needed to account for stored goods, especially food. They need to reckon the value of assets such as land, crops and implements.
All these environmental pressures favored increased intelligence. He posits that the two major revolutions, the Neolithic Revolution which brought agriculture and pastoralism, then later the Industrial Revolution, were triggered more by increases in intelligence than anything else. Certainly there were other preconditions, such as property rights, but without smarts they would not have happened. He notes that men have long had both the incentive and time to invent things to improve their lives. What seems to have been missing was the mental wherewithal. One certainly can make the same observation today. In the jungles of the Amazon or the roads of Haiti, people just while their time away doing nothing. In the US the poor waste days on end in front of the TV. Occam's razor says the simplest explanation is best. Go with Hoppe's proposition that they probably don't have the wit to make better use of their time, to improve their lot. Conversely when people did develop the smarts, they changed things.

Up until the Industrial Revolution there was a Malthusian limit to population growth. Like any animal population they had the alternatives of fighting for scarce resources – hunting territory – or moving to where there were no other people. But humans had a third possible alternative: innovate. Even that had its limits. Until two centuries ago, as people got smarter and more productive, their numbers grew to absorb the excess. Average wealth remained relatively static. But then, suddenly, with the surge of invention and the harnessing of water and fossil fuel power, our living standards exploded upward. That was the good news. The bad is that evolution stopped working. Not just the most fit, but everybody survived. Tocqueville wrote with amazement that because England fed them, there were more beggars in rich England than poor France. We have coined a term for the phenomenon – dysgenics – and the evidence is all around us. The less fit are having more children, and the developed world is growing dumber generation by generation. SAT and NAEP scores have been falling for half a century. Hoppe cites a 20-year-old work by Richard Lynn. Lynn and his associate Helmuth Nyborg have only strengthened their argument in the intervening decades.

Hoppe finds that the third momentous event to be explained (besides agriculture and the industrial revolution) is the invention of the state. The state is supposed to administer justice, but it also has the power to legislate – to establish what justice is. The state will, and can, inevitably break the law and make the law in its own favor and produce social injustice and moral corruption. As I write this, Greece is collapsing (again!). The state borrowed money, supposedly to be spent in the public interest on things such as roads, but certainly to be paid back by the taxpayers. Cronies favored by the state took the money via generous salaries, sweetheart contracts and other forms of corruption. Some roads got built. Now the bill has come due, and the Greek people, only the supposed beneficiaries but certainly the stuckees expected to repay this debt, are rebelling. To the libertarian Hoppe, this is the story of government throughout history. Take what you can. Help your friends. To hell with the taxpayer.

The most surprising aspect of the discussion is a reflection on feudal monarchy as an ideal system for a state. According to Hoppe, a feudal king didn't make laws, he simply applied them. There was recourse to other judges if the king's judgments were unfair. Per Hoppe, the state was minimal, and private property was more secure than it has been since. Other historians – Stephen Pinker, Gregory Clark and Fritz Rörig to name three off the top of my head – look back on that benighted era as a time of violence and uncertainty. One can grant Hoppe some nice features, but to grant that the human condition was better seems inconsistent with other historians. I add on the day it comes out that the first paragraphs of Why Did Europe Conquer the World? read "Imagine that a time machine could carry you back to the year 900 and land you anywhere on earth for an extended stay. Where would you go live? As you consider the possibilities, you might want a bit of useful advice— namely, avoid western Europe at all costs. 1 Why reside there, when it was poor, violent, politically chaotic, and by almost any yardstick, hopelessly backward? There were no cities, apart from Córdoba, but it was part of the Muslim world."

More to the point is a discussion of current states that seem to work. Some spin-offs of England – Hong Kong, Singapore and the Emirates – have not been democratic but have worked well. The argument, which I believe Hoppe makes elsewhere, is that these models can be expanded to apply to larger polities, or that the large polities can be broken up into manageable-sized pieces so that government is again local. Switzerland, in which most government takes place at the canton level, is the favored example of such a place. One can also look back at the early United States, in which the state and local governments were much more powerful vis-à-vis the Federal Government. The federal government's income was mostly limited to tariffs, and its expenses mostly to defense. State populations were small enough that people knew one another. A libertarian would agree that such state as existed was somewhat corrupt – any state is bound to be – but those states were preferable because they were less powerful and more local.

Like every philosopher, Hoppe at times ventures off into abstruse realms that the common reader finds difficult to follow. He opens with the proposition that questions of justice and of right and wrong are not scientific questions at all, and that sociology is dogmatically committed to some very into ethical relativism. The empiricist philosophy rules out the existence of any non-hypothetical, non-falsifiable or synthetic a priori laws and truth. Hoppe regards this philosophy is wrong and unscientific, and unmitigated intellectual disaster.

Hoppe then introduces a new word, praxeology. He defines it as a logic of action. With this preamble he launches into his history of man, things as they were, per praxeology, rather than things as modern liberals would like to see them. The question of equality pervades the discussion. Hoppe argues that we aren't equal, we can't be equal, and a state system premised on equality (viz, democracy) is bound for failure. The strong and unscrupulous will bow unctuously to the gods of equality as they rob you blind. Better, in his view, to acknowledge the great inequalities that exist in human ability and find a system that maximizes the overall good. I gather that it should be something like a benign aristocracy, one in which the rulers have a vested interest in the future of the polity they govern rather than an incentive to take as much loot as possible during their limited term of office. I look forward to reading more on the subject.


Why You Are A Racist
Why You Are A Racist
by Art Odell
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia for life in the United States of classical times - half a century back, June 16, 2015
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This review is from: Why You Are A Racist (Paperback)
All civilizations eventually become effete and are overrun by barbarians. Greece by Macedonia and Rome by Goths et al. Modern Russia, Europe and the US are being overrun by Muslims, Africans and Hispanics. Odell, born in the 1950s, bewails the collapse of the United States. His themes include the decline of religion, increasing diversity, homosexuality and political correctness.

One strength of the book is in the sources he cites. Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Truman and especially Tocqueville did not see a happy outcome for the mixture of the races in the United States. Tocqueville quoted Jefferson as follows: “Nothing is more clearly written in the book of destiny than the emancipation of the blacks; and it is equally certain that the two races will never live in the state of equal freedom under the same government, so insurmountable are the barriers which nature, habit, and opinions have established between them.”

The book is a collection of essays. Though the copyright is 2012, most are dated a decade or more earlier. The first few essays are historical and include the most useful quotes. Most of the rest are reading notes, primarily from his daily perusal of the New York Times.

Odell has a naïve faith in the power of truth. He hopes that if he states the blindingly obvious – that Blacks commit much more crime than whites, that this is true in every country in the world, even and especially in countries that have no whites, and that blacks and whites generally fear and often hate one another – liberals must abandon their perverse misconceptions. No, that's not how it works. It is a function of human irrationality.

The book would be richer if it alluded to irrationality studies, from authors such as Kahneman and Tversky, Ariely, Trivers, Shermer and all. The human animal is systematically irrational. We want to believe that there are solutions to insoluble problems. This is related to what philosophers call the moralistic fallacy, the assumption that whichever aspect of nature which has socially unpleasant consequences cannot exist.

Politicians exploit the moralistic fallacy all the time, encouraging us to believe that it is only a lack of effort and goodwill that makes the problems refuse to go away. With regard to the race problem, they blame persistent but unquantifiable and invisible white racism.

It would also be useful were he to quote authors such as Richard Lynn, Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, Helmuth Nyborg, Philippe Rushton, Nicholas Wade and others on why the races are different. The human species is a product of evolution; exceptionally rapid evolution, the genomic record tells us. The changes we have made in our own environment since leaving Africa, first adapting to cold climates, then to agriculture, and then to trade and ultimately finance put the human populations that left Africa under enormous evolutionary pressure. Get smart or die.

The book loses focus when Odell addresses other issues such as homosexuality and other peoples such as Orientals and Jews. He has some interesting sources. His observations are consistent with those of other authors. However, it is not wise to pick fights with the whole world at once.

Odell's prescription to remedy the ills he describes is the ballot box. Vote! There are other alternatives. The first question is at what level of society should one seek salvation. Odell favors the national level – fix the United States. This will never happen. The demographic changes are irreversible.

The second alternative is community. He sent his children to private religious schools in Peekskill. He notes with consternation that the lovely towns between it and New York City have become increasingly diverse, and hence increasingly dangerous over his lifetime. Community may be a solution, but it may cease to be an option. Liberals are at work forcing diversity, often in the forms of unassimilable immigrant asylum seekers, into every corner of the country.

A third alternative would be emigration. Australia and New Zealand are taking stronger measures than the United States to retain their Anglo Saxon heritage. I emigrated to Ukraine. Perversely, its legacy of domination by the Russians, and of pervasive corruption, has protected its ethnic integrity.

Readers who appreciate this book will find likeminded people at blogs such as vDare, American Renaissance and The Independence Institute. All are dedicated to Odell's quixotic belief that the United States can be saved. Pessimists who believe that the currents of history cannot so easily be turned aside may take interest in The Dark Enlightenment, neoreaction and other sites that pose the question of what comes après le déluge.


Democracy in America - Volume 1
Democracy in America - Volume 1
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a classic which every educated American has to have read, June 12, 2015
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It is almost two centuries since the first glowing reviews of this book appeared. What can one add? It is the classic, something every educated American has to have read.

An advantage of older texts is that the authors had no premonitions about political correctness. They told it as they saw it. Tocqueville's views on Black slavery reflect what he heard and observed. He may not have been right, but he is worth reading if only because his opinions would not find a publisher today. You can find the most telling, and longest, chapter by Googling "THE PRESENT AND PROBABLE FUTURE CONDITION OF THE THREE RACES THAT INHABIT THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES." He foresaw that the problems among the races could not be resolved, and predicted the kinds of conflicts that would arise.

His prognostications about the fragility of American democracy, and the forces that might undo it, are also quite on target.

As a companion read about Russia of this period, I recommend the Marquis de Custine's Letters from Russia. The differences among Europe, America and Russia that one witnesses today were acutely observed two centuries ago by these two remarkable Frenchmen.


On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fortunately, Darwin was a gifted writer, June 12, 2015
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This classic needs no introduction. It is mandatory reading for anyone pretending to know anything about the life sciences. Fortunately, Darwin was a gifted writer. It is very accessible. There is ample human interest in his personal experiences, whether sailing around the world on the HMS Beagle, exchanging correspondence with the leading minds of his day, or engaging his ever-curious mind in conversation with all whom he encountered in life.

Don't be afraid to give it to adolescents. I found a musty old volume in the UC Berkeley library at the age of fifteen and was fascinated. It is now, via Amazon and the Internet, much more accessible. Do it!


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