Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Civilization by Niall Ferguson

This book is very readable. However, this is what you can really say about all Niall Ferguson’s books. I know some talk about him as being very right wing. Personally, I do not think that he is so easily cataloged. What he certainly is, is opinionated.

What I liked about this book was him talking about the rise of the West because of 6 killer apps. The killer apps were competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumer society and the work ethic. For a quick review of these points, see the bottom of the Guardian article, linked to below.

Niall Ferguson also thinks that when civilizations fall, it is not a slow decline, but civilizations, basically fall off a cliff. Is the US going to going that way? It is hard to say, but they seem to ignoring parts of the 6 killer apps that made them so powerful in the past. He asks if the threat to Western Civilization is not from others, but the west’s lack of understanding or faith in our own cultural heritage.

With China, it is trying to use some of these killer apps without others. For example, to Niall Ferguson, democracy goes with property rights and China does not want to go that way. He thinks that nationalism might become a problem with China. (He says if religion is the opium of the masses, then nationalism is the cocaine of the middle classes.)

He thinks the problem with Islam is that it could not reconcile itself to scientific progress and that this has been disastrous for them. He also asks if the head scarf is freedom of expression or subjugation of women.

On the Russians, he notes that they could duplicate the atomic bomb, but not blue jeans. He quotes Regis Debray in that there is more power in rock music, videos, blue jeans, fast food, news networks and TV satellites than in the entire Red Army.

For a good review, that also explains the 6 killer apps, see the one in the Guardian. Also, Amazon has some excellent reviews, see Amazon. Look towards the bottom of the page.

On YouTube you can hear a lecture on this book by Niall Ferguson.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Ferguson. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama

I remember reading a review of this book. One of the comments said why would anyone buy a book by Fukuyama? The commenter went on to say that Fukuyama was totally wrong with his book called The End of History. There is a very good reason for this. Fukuyama is a very interesting writer. I have never been dissatisfied with any book by him. Both the End of History and this book is discussed in a Globe and Mail article.

This particular book is from Pre-human Times to the French Revolution. Fukuyama expects to write a 2nd volume on this subject. I certainly look forward to it.

This book is not only about economics, it is also about history. Like his remark about the Ming Dynasty. He says that it failed to tax citizens adequately to support an army to defend the country against the Manchus.

He also talks about the needs of Democracy. He says it needs a state that is effective and powerful, the rule of law and a government that is accountable. He talks of Afghanistan, which has a weak state and it cannot uphold laws on its territories. He says that Russia has a strong state, it holds democratic elections, but their problem is the rulers are no bound by law. He also says that Singapore has a strong state, the rule of law, but only an attenuated form of democratic accountability.

He talks about why Europe is different. It was only in Europe that the state was not build on top of tribally organized institutions. Apparently Europe exited tribalism via the rule of the Catholic Church. This is very interesting.

Another great review of this book is at PLOS Blogs. To hear a John Hopkins lecture by Francis Fukuyama, go to YouTube.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Fukuyama. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.