The Great Divergence

Between 1500 to 1700 there was a battle of ideas between Europe and China which they were not aware of at the time. Today this battle is about how to govern large populations most efficiently.

Kenneth Pomeranz in the book The Great Divergence from 2000 essentially claims that China was at a comparable level of development during the time of 1500-1700 but due to geographical reasons, ie availability of coal, Europe won this game.

This is the politically correct version, no doubt. Apparently people working in the field of comparable history over this era belong to one of two schools. One where people imagine that the West always was more or less ahead. We actually started out about 2000 years earlier with the domestication of animals. The other, which Pomeranz belongs to, claims that there is not much difference and that circumstances matter most. People from the different schools tend to call each other names.

Niall Ferguson, that discusses the matter in his book The Ascent of Money where he refers to Pomeranz book, don't think China will change to a democratic governance. They will keep autocracy, something that made them follow Mao in his madness. His head still features on the "Red Back" despite his mistake The Great Leap Forward that killed 30m people. This worries me. As I pointed out earlier on my blog, the battle is about whether or not creativity will reach the same per capita level in an authoritarian system as in a more free setting.

Stability, for example, is a problem for China which is hardly discussed here in the West. When there is a need for discussing stability, people suffer unnecessarily. This is not a trivial issue. Making people more stable could become an industry? The earlier we begin to discuss what may be lost in this process, the better.

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