On Rebooting America
by Gary North
Niall Ferguson is my favorite Establishment analyst, because he is an historian who understands a lot about free markets. He writes for the literati. He starred in a PBS series that was worth viewing, and another is scheduled in 2012. He teaches at Harvard University and the Harvard Business School.
He thinks America is running an empire, and he thinks it will not survive much longer. As with all empires, it is going to run out of wealth to support it. So, when he wrote a piece for the Daily Beast, Newsweek, I read it.
He used the metaphor of computing to describe what has been good with the West and what is no longer good. He says the West has had six “killer apps.” These are: competition, the scientific revolution, the rule of law and representative government, modern medicine, the consumer society, the work ethic. All of this is true, but are these features fundamental? Are they, in the words of Karl Marx, more substructure or superstructure? I think the latter.
He avoids the crucial questions: (1) Why the West? (2) Why beginning in 1800? Why not earlier?
He uses the metaphor of the computer. But this analogy is strained. Why? Because we can date the invention of the computer: the war years, 1943-45. We know who did it: Mauchly, Eckert, and Von Neumann. We know their motivation. We know the applications.
We do not know exactly how or why Ferguson’s six killer apps came into existence. We do not know how they came together around 1800 to create a new civilization. Why not earlier? We do not know what social, ethical, and religious forces undergirded the six. They are not autonomous. They were not designed by men. Computers were.
He says that the USA and the West are no longer the centers of these six features.
Ask yourself: who’s got the work ethic now? The average South Korean works about 39 percent more hours per week than the average American. The school year in South Korea is 220 days long, compared with 180 days here. And you don’t have to spend too long at any major U.S. university to know which students really drive themselves: the Asians and Asian-Americans.