I have a confession: I spend too much time railing against cultural Marxism rather than boasting of the West’s merits. Western civilization is like a lion. Just turn it loose; it will defend itself. Yet, there are fellow-proponents of Western civilization who speak of its success as happenstance. Most deny genetics has anything to do with it and an increasing number also deny cultural developments. Environmental determinism, exemplified by Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, explains everything in terms of environmental influences rather than a interplay of genes, culture and environment – what Greg Cochran and the late Henry Harpending called the ‘endless dance of biological and cultural change’, in their brilliant book, The 10,000 Year Explosion.
Popular historian, Neil Ferguson, is famous for presenting six ‘killer apps’ which set ‘the West apart from the rest’. But these are presented as tick-boxes to be imposed by some state; as though, overnight, any population could suddenly become identical to white middle class people in the West. After all, that’s what happened in Iraq, right? No, saying that competition, science, property, modern medicine, consumerism and a strong work ethic made Westerners more successful is putting the cart before the horse. Culture is a manifestation of the individuals interacting within a society. It is a bottom-up, organic process; the success of the West wasn’t something created by the state but by individual Westerners, despite the rise of statism. To explain what I mean, I present to you my four killer apps of Western civilization in a helpful acronym – WEST:
The ability to defer gratification, called ‘low time-preference’, is crucial for advanced civilizations. All of these killer apps can be partially explained by the cold winters theory. As humans left Africa, they had to keep moving to avoid over-foraging and threats from competition. Some encountered increasingly colder environments. Like the parable of the lazy squirrel, those who were unable to forgo the pleasure of consuming food now, were unable to survive the harsher winters and so they became food for someone else. This produced a population better able to defer gratification with each generation. Lower time-preference produces a culture with a superior work ethic and allows the development of a capitalist class.
Again, cold winters favoured those stricter adherents to the group’s honour code, designed for co-operation and survival. Even the ferocious Indo-Europeans, from whom Europeans are descended, developed egalitarian and libertarian aristocracies. Their legacy was the equality of free men, bound to each other in honour, oaths, and fealty. No man could violate the property of another without impunity and, thus, advanced, private systems of government developed in Northern Europe. There was no state, but there was most certainly law and order to which all were accountable, even the king. Juries of free men required one to prove a matter to their face, the laws being intuitively private property-oriented enough to be passed on by oral tradition. Of course, as agriculture advanced our ability to store and trade food, equipment, jewellery etc., the trustworthy were more successful in business and better able to reproduce. This too helped the development of the influential Western bourgeoisie who asserted rights and the rule of law, despite the rise of statism.
Understandably, many suppose that the lack of writing in ancient Europe (and even later in Northern Europe) meant that the people had lower average IQ’s but this does not necessarily follow. Harsher winters required the ability to make clothes, fires and, later, to think abstractly about private property in order to optimise one’s personal resource accumulation. This would explain the higher average IQ’s of Europeans and East Asians. In fact, the lack of writing is easily explained – there was no need for it. There were no states requiring a large census, taxation and other systems of administration. All matters of law, production and culture could be handled through speech.
Do not confuse temperance with timidity! Yes, cold winters, agriculture and trade favoured those who could smile and say, ‘Thank you, come again,’ but, whereas the East Asians have very low average levels of testosterone, European levels are significantly higher. After all, Europeans, especially Northern Europeans are descended from warrior nomads from the Ukrainian steppe. This reminds me of John Wayne’s line in McLintock: ‘You’ve got to be a man first before you can be a gentleman.’ Whilst the ideal of the stoic gentleman seems quintessentially Western, we were competitive barbarians first. It was competition of thought which produced different schools of philosophy and eventually the scientific method. It was competition which caused us to look inward and display greater degrees of Plato’s self-mastery. The higher degree of psychopathy in European peoples is, arguably, what causes that dynamic and creative innovation of the new, without concern for the status quo. The rest have been good at following sages, but the West has been good at revolutions. This may also explain the West’s uniquely restless rationalism noted by Weber, that frustrating but fascinating quest for the truth.
These killer apps make Western civilization what it is – a combination of evolutionary factors, including genes and culture. We cannot be something we are not, nor can we expect the rest of the world to be just like us. We wouldn’t drop a Russian in the middle of the Australian desert and expect him to survive in the same way an aborigine does; likewise, we should stop dreaming of a burden on white people to make the world ‘safe for democracy’ or whatever is vogue with the political class. The world is more interesting when there is variety and competition, and the existence of Western Civilization provides wonderful havens, full of opportunity for those who display the characteristics above and feel more akin to the West than their own culture. The West is best, but also a rare and precious thing, formed by the people and for the people, not a set of policies for mass-production.