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RE; RE: Bin Laden response


"By popular request" I won't pursue this thread further, but I thought
that your thoughtful remarks deserved a (last) thoughtful reply.

>> Speaking of culture, could it be culture that tends to make
>> Americans blame others for their problems?

Forgive me for smiling, but the blame game that most Americans play is
to blame each other for their problems... at any rate, it seems to me
that worldwide, most of the global blaming activity is focused on
America...  "Kyoto" is a small, and almost comical example (if you
understand the science base behind it), but there are many others....

>> It is also probably true that we have means to make life
>> worldwide much more endurable.  This doesn't have to be by
>> distributing the American Way everywhere.  Look at
>> micro loans in Bangladesh, for example.

I never proposed exporting American cultural values, nor have I implied
that America has the only successful culture.  In point of fact, we
inherited most of our values from Europe, and there are at present many
successful exemplar threads worldwide.  There are still  more in the
historical record.  These successes ought to be celebrated and
encouraged.  The problem is that we seem to be predisposed these days to
NOT look at the impact of cultural values on cultural success.... and in
doing so, we sow the seeds of failure to understand events.

>> Curing poverty is a hard problem, at which many rich
>> countries have failed many times.  Look at 30 years of
>> investment in Africa, for example, which produced not
>> much of anything to show for it, or earlier efforts to
>> cure diseases which led to overpopulation and more
>> different diseases. However, those same experiences
>> could be used to avoid at least those problems.  And
>> there are some solutions that demonstrably work.

I agree.  Unfortunately, what we seem to be unwilling to face or discuss
openly is that there are many many wildly unsuccessful exemplar cultural
threads in Africa...  my frustration with "professional humanitarians"
is that they seem neither to encourage useful "native" cultural trends
that succeed, nor discourage those that fail.   In my view the
difficulty is that multiculturalism and political correctness have
stifled honest assessment.  As a result, we tend to give up and treat
symptoms not causes.

>> While I don't agree that unequal distribution of world
>> resources is necessarily a *root* cause (look at Japan,
>> which has little in the way of natural resources),
>> nonetheless I always do find it ironic when Americans,
>> living off the bounty of much of a continent,
>> dismiss the possibility out of hand.

We dismiss it because natural resources are clearly NOT the most
important factor. For example:

1. The old Soviet Union was blessed with natural resources, but has
suffered under culture values that have made it very difficult for them
to succeed.

2. Africa teems with natural resources, but has the same problem.  Not
surprisingly, when students from those countries come to the US or
Europe, they do very very well.  Ditto for Russians.

3. Japan has nothing to speak of in the way of natural resources, but it
does have some great cultural values, a thriving innovative industrial
base, and one of the highest standards of living on the planet.

4. Europe's success has had little to do with their natural resources...
just look at the Netherlands for example, historically or now.

>> Speaking of unequal distribution of resources, maybe
>> we're not just talking about oil and water; maybe
>> we're also talking about information... those who know
>> more tend to be richer.  This might indicate that one
>> way to deal with poverty would be to spread
>> information.  Internet?  Education?

Exactly....  My underlying point was that an essential (but often
missing) ingredient is the belief (or cultural value) that education is
good.  Cultures and sub-cultures that don't share that cultural belief
are going to do poorly in our increasingly technological society.

>> Speaking of poverty, if it doesn't matter, why is it that
>> everyone on this list isn't as rich as Donald Trump?

Poverty, or its prospect can be a strong motivational force, but the
simple answer is that not everyone wants to be rich... for example,
nobody becomes a professor to get rich...   Professors may later stumble
into wealth but very few actively seek it.

>> Now on the one hand it is very likely true that the cultural
>> assumptions of the very rich that he shares and most of you
>> do not (pop quiz: which is more important, income or assets,
>> and why?) helped him get where he is, but on the other hand >> it
probably didn't hurt that he started with some millions in
>> pocket change and never had to worry about where his next
>> meal was coming from.

Respectfully, I disagree.  In a successful culture, anyone with the
slightest interest in education can get as much as he or she likes....
family money is relatively irrelevant...  all that is required are a few
brains and the willingness to:
1. work hard (learning is tough),
2. defer pleasures until later in life (they are distracting)

And in a successful culture, once you have an education anything is
possible...  wealth, if that is your interest, or societal
contributions, if that is your bent....   Students with wealthy (and
indulgent) parents can skip (1) and (2) above, but will never experience
the pleasure of having gotten there "on their own", and may not develop
the toughness to really compete later in life..

>> Is it an American cultural thing to equate reasoned discussion with
>> conflict? Most Scots I know seem capable of civil, even heated,
>> discussion; some even revel in it.  And indeed the parallels to which
you >> allude are relevant.

My sincere apologies for underestimating your love of reasoned
discourse...  (which I share).  It's just that most of the Europeans
that I run across are very liberal, and go ballistic when their core
belief systems are challenged.

My allusion to the contributions of the Scots, of course,  was to the
fact that their culture embraced and supported education (AND hard
work)... indeed Scotland had what amounted to the first "universal
education" system...  the domination of Scots in the industrial
revolution was a direct result of their "cultural superiority" over
their competitors in the rest of the UK and the world.

>> Will we merely say the rest of the world has bad culture
>> and it's their fault, or will we think about what is to be
>> done?

I never said that the rest of the world had "bad culture", and I never
argued for a monoculture.   I did say that culture is the dominant
factor in a society's success, and that when you find an unsuccessful
society you ought to search out the cultural root causes.   That's
important, because if we look only at the symptoms (e.g. poverty), we
will never cure the disease...  Politically correct pronouncements, no
matter how "good" they feel,  have never helped improve the human
condition very much.

Finally, the US has no permanent lock on success...  history teaches
that cultural advantage is always temporary...  in fact, since a
particularly ignorant brand of muticulturalism is on the rise in the US,
one might argue that our days are numbered.   I hope not.

This is, I promise, my very LAST post on this topic.   Sorry for wasting
the bandwidth, but I didn't want my initial remarks to be misunderstood
too much.

PS the answer to your pop quiz question is, of course,  "assets",
because (1) the tax rate is better, and (2) they give you the
opportunity to leverage other's efforts as well as your own.... and yes,
it's a real advantage all right, (but only a temporary one if you have
the discipline to save).