Niall Ferguson Identifies The Six Reasons Why The West Became So Dominant

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson tackles the ultimate historian’s question in an essay for the London Times (via The Spectator): Why the West became so dominant.

The Harvard professor identifies six reasons:

1. Competition: a decentralisation of political and economic life, which created the launch pad for both nation states and capitalism.

2. Science: a way of understanding and ultimately changing the natural world, which gave the West (among other things) a major military advantage over the Rest.

3. Property rights: the rule of law as a means of protecting private owners and peacefully resolving disputes between them, which formed the basis for the most stable form of representative government.

4. Medicine: a branch of science that allowed a major improvement in health and life expectancy, beginning in Western societies, but also in their colonies.

5. The consumer society: a mode of material living in which the production and purchase of clothing and other consumer goods play a central economic role, and without which the Industrial Revolution would have been unsustainable.

6. The work ethic: a moral framework and mode of activity derivable from (among other sources) Protestant Christianity, which provides the glue for the dynamic and potentially unstable society created by apps 1 to 5

Can the rest of the world catch up? Ferguson says countries like China will have to adopt some form of these six features to achieve long-term prominence. China obviously has a ways to go in terms of property rights, consumption and competition.

But don’t forget the professor’s other thesis. The entire west is verging on a sovereign debt crisis, like nothing since the collapse of the Roman empire.

See Niall Ferguson’s Complete And Definitive Guide To The Sovereign Debt Crisis >

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