Reading Ian Morris' Why The West Rules--for now from 2010. Morris creates an index composed of organizational function, ie, city size, calorie consumption, information capacity and military capacity, equally weighted, and follows this from 14,000 BCE till today.
The West, which in essence is everything west of India, starts out 2,000 years ahead of the East mostly due to the availability of plants and animals to domesticate. The West leads over the East until after the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty after which, and during the age when Muslims and Christians dominated the West, the West passes the East during the Industrial Revolution around 1800.
Like Kenneth Pomeranz Ian Morris speculates on how the West leaped ahead. They both focus on the utilization of coal. Interestingly, metallurgy was more advanced in China and they had used coal for heating since the 11th century but they did not mechanize pumping of water with a coal-fueled steam engine like James Watt did. This was a collaborative endeavor with an investor, metallurgy and academic skills. The preparation of the field with science and efficient economy was naturally important for the whole thing to actually take off.
Morris' explanation for why the many more Chinese did not succeed is that they did not enter into the scientific revolution but instead initiated a second renaissance, succumbing to authorities from the past. He also describes how the Chinese due to lack of interest turned down mathematics form Portuguese Jesuits despite the fact that the Jesuits won competitions in China on predicting solar eclipses. It is evident from this that they did not get that idea formed by Francis Bacon to find new knowledge that would "liberate mankind".
Freedom was already important in the West at the time of the American Revolution and meritocracies, like the one in China, can probably act as a filter to weed out creative non-conforming elements that show less interest in learning classics by heart. This phenomenon might still be important for how to arrange education in society. Learning without problem solving, as in a primary education, is probably only good up to a point, then it becomes inefficient.
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