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New Explanation For the Industrial Revolution

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the evolution-acting-in-history dept.

Books 504

Pcol writes "The New York Times is running a story on Dr. Gregory Clark's book 'A Farewell to Alms,' which offers a new explanation for the Industrial Revolution and the affluence it created. Dr. Clark, an economic historian at the University of California Davis, postulates that the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 came about because of the strange new behaviors of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours, and a willingness to save. Clark's research shows that between 1200 and 1800, the rich had more surviving children than the poor and that he postulates that this caused constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. 'The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,' Clark concludes. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped. Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency caused a significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England's escape from the Malthusian trap."

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Caffeine (5, Funny)

Lindsay Lohan (847467) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149653)

It's hardly coincidental that coffee and tea caught on in Europe just as the first factories were bringing in the industrial revolution.

The widespread use of caffeinated drinks helped transform human economies from farm to factory. Boiling water helped decrease disease among city workers. And caffeine kept them from falling asleep over the machinery.

In a sense, caffeine is the drug that made the modern world possible. And the more modern our world gets, the more we seem to need it. Without that useful jolt of coffee--or Diet Coke or Red Bull--to get us out of bed and back to work, the world of the average /.'er wouldn't exist.

Re:Caffeine (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149731)

Only a Slashdot would we see this explanation modded up insightful... ;)

Re:Caffeine (4, Funny)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149745)

I think OP *was* insightful. Caffeine makes working insane hours a bit more plausible for me.

Re:Caffeine (4, Funny)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150635)

That and a lack of readily available available and ready women.

Re:Caffeine (1)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149755)

Amen brother.

Re:Caffeine (5, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149819)

Boiling water helped decrease disease among city workers.

This may actually be a major component in why the Industrial Revolution took off in England.

Between the fall of Rome and the rise of London, the only cities on earth to approach a million in population were in China. Once the tea culture took root in England, the habit of boiling water allowed urbanisation to increase dramatically, where hitherto cities had been limited by our frankly shocking approach to sanitation.

Well, that and the establishment of imperial trade routes across the world, the merger with Holland linking British resources with Dutch financing, the convenience of not having to spend much on the army and instead putting all that money into boats (see Imperial Trade Routes above for the uses we found for 'em)...

Re:Caffeine (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150439)

"where hitherto cities had been limited by our frankly shocking approach to sanitation."

It should be mentioned that much was unknown about sanitation and biology in general, and even today newly created unknowns are being studied. (i.e. drugs and other chemicals that wastewater plants are not designed to detect/filter/etc).

Re:Caffeine (-1, Flamebait)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150589)

where hitherto cities had been limited by our frankly shocking approach to sanitation.

Wow true.

Imagine the population explosion if India ever introduces decent sanitation... apart from the whole "don't eat with the hand you wipe your arse with" notion of 'sanitation'.

Re:Caffeine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149855)

Lindsay? Is it really you?!? Why aren't you returning my phone calls??

Re:Caffeine (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149885)

Like all other drugs, caffeine loses its effect unless you keep increasing the dose. The stimulating effect of caffeine is vastly overestimated and doesn't last if you keep "using". If you don't believe this, don't consume caffeine in any form for half a year and then see what effect a single cup of coffee has on you after you've been weaned of caffeine. I would suggest that caffeine causes more accidents by making people think they can stay awake with coffee than it prevents by keeping people awake a little longer.

Re:Caffeine (1)

eboluuuh (1139173) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149895)

Reasonable semi-explanation.

Re:Caffeine and Inbreeding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150015)

While I'd agree that caffeine was a major contributor to the industrial revolution (and for that matter the French revolution)it seems that Inbreeding also helped prove the way for the industrial revolution. If the well off were more likely to have children that survived, who in the heck did they have children with? I'm guessing their caffeine induced hypertensive cousins.

Re:Caffeine and Inbreeding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150243)

It's a common misconception that inbreeding is always harmful. Inbreeding extremises traits. If those traits are adaptive, then inbreeding is beneficial. But it's a risky game - it could extremise maladaptive traits too.

Re:Caffeine and Inbreeding (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150485)

That's not all. On average, people carry between 5 and 10 recessive traits which, if expressed, would kill them. People related to each other are far more likely to have the same recessive traits, which are rarely expressed elsewhere, but often expressed in closely related populations.

BEER - was: Re:Caffeine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150031)

Beer, being boiled water, kept people from disease for centuries (millenia?) before.

I wouldn't want to be operating machinery though.

Just as well I won't be operating any after going to The Great British Beer Festival [camra.org.uk] tomorrow :)

Re:BEER - was: Re:Caffeine (1)

Lindsay Lohan (847467) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150163)

Beer, being boiled water, kept people from disease
Of course beer is more efficacious than coffee or tea, no arguement from me there.

It goes without saying, however, that beer is not usually consumed immediately after it is boiled. In fact, the aftermath of boiling beer can promote pathogens in a less-than sanitary environment.

I'm not sure how serious you were. Good discussion [planetpapers.com] if you're interested.

Re:Caffeine (0, Flamebait)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150059)

Oh I see you are back, you filthy cunt. I ran you off once, I'll run you off again. Did I call you a cunt? Cause the only cunt you have is the filthy bedsores between your man tits you fucking disgusting pedophile.

Re:Caffeine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150661)

Wow, that's no way for a site admin to talk to users. You should be ashamed. It's no wonder that Digg and other sites are eating your lunch. You should grow up or post AC! Creep.

Caffeine-Time after Time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150091)

Actually I'd say the timepiece is responsible in part for the Industrial Revolution.

Re:Caffeine (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150261)

You make a very good point. I can think of a few additional facts that back you up.

You mention infected water. People were actually aware of this problem, and had a strategy to avoid it: they only drank alcoholic beverages. In pre-industrial times most western people were (by modern standards) total lushes. Not exactly conducive to industrialization.

During the early stages of the industrial revolution, there was a huge demand for tea. Every American schoolchild knows about the hassles over the colonial tax on tea. Various western powers actually invaded China to establish their right to export tea. (The Chinese didn't mind selling the tea, but they didn't care for the traders importing opium to pay for it.)

Unfortunately, most of the moderators don't get that you're serious. Most of your mods are "funny" and there was at least one "flamebait". I'll say it again: the moderator pool sucks.

Re:Caffeine (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150539)

Boiling water helped decrease disease among city workers.


Didn't drinking beer have a similar benefit over contaminated water?

Caffeine by day and alcohol by night... the yin and yang of modern existence.

From the article.... (1)

martin_henry (1032656) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149669)

The tendency of population to grow faster than the food supply, keeping most people at the edge of starvation, was described by Thomas Malthus in a 1798 book, "An Essay on the Principle of Population."

Finally I understand why I'm always running out of food in my kitchen...

Re:From the article.... (2, Funny)

adisakp (705706) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149701)

I have trouble believing slashdotters are helping the population grow rapidly. After all, wouldn't that require... well... having sex ???

Re:From the article.... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150563)

Well it depends. If your talking about increasing the human population, yes, sex (between said humans) is possible, but unlikely given the current demographic.

However, if you're talking about the cockroach population, then we've got it covered.

Re:From the article.... (0, Troll)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149857)

Or more importantly, why Africa is stuck where it is economically. Just giving them factories and modern farming isn't enough- you also need to reduce their populations significantly.

Hate to say it, but maybe the Janjaweed have a point in Darfur....

Re:From the article.... (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149915)

> Hate to say it, but maybe the Janjaweed have a point in Darfur....

How gracious of them. Anyway, they did their bit, now maybe they should go exterminate every last one of themselves.

Re:From the article.... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150489)

Personally, I agree, but that's only because my religion and chosen form of government is incompatible with theirs, and apparently cannot be allowed to co-exist (from their point of view).

Re:From the article.... (2, Informative)

Belacgod (1103921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150413)

It'd help if the factories and modern farming actually got there.

And if the major population-culler wasn't a disease that strikes you in your prime, completely debilitates you, and requires more energetic people to spend lots of time caring for you.

On the other hand, on the topic of things that will actually help, there are many organizations [worldbicyclerelief.org] doing many productive things [cooperhewitt.org] to help.

Re:From the article.... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150509)

It'd help if the factories and modern farming actually got there.

The problem is that any time the technology allows for more goods, the population WILL expand to more than cover that increase. Thus leaving your country poor.

Trend in other direction (4, Funny)

sznupi (719324) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149691)

And now, as evidenced by intro of "Idiocracy", we have a trend in other direction...

Re:Trend in other direction (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149777)

The real evidence here is that people call movie intros evidence.

Re:Trend in other direction (0, Flamebait)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150479)

Yes, because Idiocracy was such a great documentary.

How many people here were born so far inside the ivory tower that they don't realize that Idiocracy is complete BS? Personally, I'm tired of hearing that, 'Well in Idiocracy, blah, blah, blah, fucking poor people.' Ok, maybe lower income people are reproducing faster, I personally don't have that particular statistic, but for the sake of argument, lets just say that they are. You want to know what's going to happen as the poor begin to outnumber the rich?

Nothing. There might be temporary recession of sorts, but after that the offspring of the lower classes will fill in the empty hole in society left by the lack of upper class offspring. And guess what, they'll do it just as well as the upper class's progeny had been doing, proving once and for all that sociobiology is classist (and racist and sexist, for that matter) pseudoscience. Of course, this is assuming that the upper class doesn't fabricate some sort of barrier to impede the upward social mobility in order to keep secure their position at the top, and as history tells us, the rich taking advantage of the poor by denying them the opportunity to improve their live is not unheard of.

Sigh, if only Stephen Gould were alive to mock that movie.

Re:Trend in other direction (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150543)

Actually, "as evidenced" was mostly an expression which sounded good in context of what I wrote. Oh, and was chosen because...lack of better options, that's it (English is my third language; since grammar nazis haven't commented my original post, it seems that sometimes I'll say something roughly correctly...just with limited forms of expression)

A counter example (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149769)

In lots of societies, the rich reproduce faster than the poor. A counter example would be societies with polygamy. In that case, many men can't marry because the rich have all the women. Those single men don't reproduce at all. By TFA's logic, those societies should have outstripped us long ago.

Try again dude.

Re:A counter example (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149877)

A worse counter-example; 200 years after the Industrial Revolution, the rich are dying out. Their long hours managing their money means they have significantly less time for family- there isn't a first world country today that is above ZPG demographically when you eliminate immigration.

Re:A counter example (5, Insightful)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150077)

A worse counter-example; 200 years after the Industrial Revolution, the rich are dying out. Their long hours managing their money means they have significantly less time for family- there isn't a first world country today that is above ZPG demographically when you eliminate immigration.


Well, that isn't really a counter-example because weren't now in a different "revolution." This is the "information revolution" or whatever you want to call it. So I don't think you could necessarily compare today's trends to those 200 years ago. For one thing, we now have reliable forms of birth control (as well as access to it and knowledge about it), so having children is much more of a choice.

Re:A counter example (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149899)

In lots of societies, the rich reproduce faster than the poor.

That blanket statement simply isn't true. The fast majority of poor africans produce many more children than rich fat westerners. You might say it's a cultural thing, or maybe they need more children to tend the fields, but I knew a Medecin Sans Frontier doctor who worked there and had another explanation that sounds weird but kind of makes sense: when people are hungry, they compensate with sex.

Re:A counter example (3, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149953)

If you RTFA- only SURVIVING children count. If you lose 75% of your children before they reach adulthood, then you need to have more....

Re:A counter example (2, Insightful)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150065)

Don't forget a lack of sex education and contraceptives...

Re:A counter example (1)

Richthofen80 (412488) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150107)

how is it that the rich reproduce faster than the poor? The poor need more children to work the fields, or in factories. Affluent people in societies tend to have less children, as is the case in europe, japan and the US. Antecdotally, poor irish families escaping the potato famine were known for having larger families than their english counterparts

"lots of" != all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150249)

It is possible to find societies where the poor out-bred the rich just as it is possible to find societies where the opposite was the case.

The point of the GP was this: you can't blame the Industrial Revolution on the fact that the rich out-bred the poor. There have been many societies where the rich have out-bred the poor and they didn't produce any Industrial Revolutions. In fact, what TFA seems to support is the notion that the rich are superior to the poor. It stinks of Social Darwinism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism [wikipedia.org] (Me stops myself before embarking on full rant mode.)

Re:A counter example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150313)

huh? Did you RTFA? The alleged novelty is evidence that the rich *did* reproduce faster than the poor in the pre-industrial period. You're giving a supporting example, not a counter example.

Another thought... (5, Insightful)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149771)

I can see how one may come to his conclusion. It is certainly not unreasonable. I do have another thought that is in line with this thinking.

Would the better literacy and general education not yield more technology which would result in increased production? Sure longer working hours contribute, but generally speaking, if you have more educated people, you have more people thinking constructively. I tend to think that the longer hours were a not large contribution, but rather, what people were able to do in those hours was the bigger issue. So really, the better education allowed people to develop ways to produce more by changing how the labor did something instead of just doing something for longer.

Just a thought really, I hope that came through as I intended.

Re:Another thought... (2, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149865)

Would the better literacy and general education not yield more technology which would result in increased production?

Absolutely. There were a lot of large-scale circumstances that made it possible, but in the end it wouldn't have happened if not for a lot of entrepreneurial Northern gentlemen coming up with gadgets to improve efficiency [wikipedia.org] and making a fortune doing it. And making it worthwhile for people to build canals to ship their raw materials and produce around because of the hugely increased capacity. And then build an empire to keep the raw materials coming. And then build steam engines because water power just won't cut it any more...

Re:Another thought... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149901)

So what you're saying is that external education counts more than family values? Hard to separate this out- since better education WAS one of the upper class's family values in that period, and the poor had no access to education, so was it the family values, or the education encouraged by those family values? I think you've identified a chicken-and-egg problem.

Pillaging colonies is the UK family value (0, Troll)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149991)

I am sure all the stuff the British Empire stole from Americas, India, China had nothing to do with their prosperity and development.

Re:Another thought... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150411)

I tend to think that the longer hours were a not large contribution, but rather, what people were able to do in those hours was the bigger issue
How could longer hours not be a large contribution? Longer working hours means lower operating costs. Not a small factor in business.

You seem to want to emphasize the rosy side of the industrial revolution: improved education and better technology. But it had a dark side: peasants forced off the land (agriculture was going industrial too) and forced to put in 80 hour weeks just to make ends meet. Many factory workers were children.

Even the priv8iliged were forced to change their work habits. When you read about the lives of pre-industrial upper-middle class Brits, you're struck by how unseriously they took their jobs. Basically, they seemed to wander by the office every once in a while, when the backlog of work got out of hand. It took the industrial revolution for the work ethic we now take for granted to get established.

Re:Another thought... (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150697)

One other very important trend in England at the same time was the evolution from the rule of edict to the rule of law. In 1200 if the King (or other aristocrat noticeably higher in rank than you) wanted what you had, he took it. Which meant that as you acquired wealth you had to also acquire military power or someone would take your wealth. By 1800, there were rules which the King could not violate that regulated what he could take and under what conditions. These rules were still less than perfect (and that will always be the case), but there was a strong likelihood that if you acquired wealth, the government would not only not just take it from you, it would punish anyone who tried. Now this was imperfect, there were many people who because of their political and economic wealth could commandeer (steal) a "lesser" persons wealth, but there were lines that no one could cross and get away with it. I am sure that the fact that many of those with limited wealth were the sons (or nephews, or cousins, etc) of people with wealth and power helped this happen. For example, if Johnny Nobody works hard and manages to acquire wealth that I want and I use my greater wealth and political power to flat out take it from him, too bad who cares. Unless of course Johnny Nobody turns out to be the impoverished cousin of Lord HighAndMighty. There are several reasons why I might come to harm by essentially stealing from Lord HighAndMighty's impoverished cousin, but the vast majority of them result in the increase in the rule of law. Increase in the rule of law leads to an increase in wealth for the entire economy.

Just like the old saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149795)

A falling boat lifts all tides.

institutions (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20149811)

It's odd that Clark says that institutional change had nothing to do with it. So there was no point in Adam Smith back in 1776 writing the Wealth of Nations arguing that the laws should be changed to promote capitalism? Or what about China, which did poorly under Maoism but since then has enjoyed remarkable growth under a more capitalist set of laws?

Re:institutions (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150105)

Without the change in common values, such laws could be passed but would not have been followed. Laws require morality to underlie them if they are to be any use whatsoever.

This may be why the United States is failing (5, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149817)

"Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving," Dr. Clark writes.

And so what happens when the reverse hits a culture, and easy credit replaces thrift, prudence, negotiation, and hard work?

Re:This may be why the United States is failing (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149927)

And so what happens when the reverse hits a culture, and easy credit replaces thrift, prudence, negotiation, and hard work?

Actually, there was an awful lot of easy credit around in Britain at the time. Certainly far easier than in the mediaeval period, where getting credit rather depended on there not having been any pogroms lately. Since William of Orange had become king, access to the stock markets and merchant banks of Holland had been easy, and similar institutions were being established in London. They were prepared to finance startups much as they are today. It's really just a question of what you do with your easy credit.

Re:This may be why the United States is failing (0)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150473)

Most people in America today are using it to buy toys and get fat. In other words, for no long term investment, but rather just to live day to day at a level far above their means.

Re:This may be why the United States is failing (5, Interesting)

n dot l (1099033) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150251)

And so what happens when the reverse hits a culture, and easy credit replaces thrift, prudence, negotiation, and hard work?
At first the easy credit is funnelled into investment (because investment is already a habbit of the old savings-based society). Businesses do amazingly well with all of the new capital and a bunch of new products appear on the market.

Then, people realize that there's even more credit to be had and start spending it on a few luxuries here and there. Seeing that a few luxuries didn't lead to immediate bankrupcy, people go out and buy more and more things on credit. At some point, the loans come due and since people aren't usually willing to get rid of their stuff they pull their investments out of businesses and use them to pay the loans that have come due. Businesses suffer, wages don't go up and prices don't go down as fast as they should, people go get more loans to support their new spending habbits.

The spiral continues until many of the jobs have been outsourced to cheap foreign labour (since the locals are demanding higher wages which businesses can't/won't provide - especially when they face the threat of having their share price go down). Desperate politicians resort to pork-barrel spending and random wars to prop up the economy, but the inflation these actions cause hurts the middle and lower classes more than it helps the businesses that sustain them, forcing them further into debt. The random wars make foreign suppliers leery of said nation (they're afraid said nation might spend all its money on bombs and end up unable to pay for the last shipment of cheap stuff, let alone the next one) and the price of imports starts to go up - forcing people even further into debt yet again.

At some point the banks realize that nobody's going to be able to repay their loans because nobody actually owns anything of value and the cheap credit dries up. This breaks the consumption cycle and plunges the nation into a depression. Small banks go out of business. Big banks, naturally, forclose on everything and find that they now own the place. They sit tight and wait for the economy to pick up again so they can sell (well, loan, really) all the stuff they just acquired for free back to the people they took it from.

This lasts until people figure out that being able to produce goods is actually important and shouldn't be neglected in favor of rampant consumerism. The banks regain their confidence in the economy and start mortgaging all the assets they foreclosed on back out again, and businesses start working hard to earn a proffit and repay those loans. At this point we come back to a thrifty, productive, society that saves its money and invests in its own enterprises.

A few generations go by. People forget all about the crash of 'whenever. The cycle repeats.

Re:This may be why the United States is failing (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150515)

It's a nice theory. It's disconnected from reality in too many places to mention. But it's a nice theory.

Re:This may be why the United States is failing (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150281)

And so what happens when the reverse hits a culture, and easy credit replaces thrift, prudence, negotiation, and hard work? - Oh, that's simple!

Idiocracy part 1 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 2 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 3 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 4 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 5 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 6 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 7 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 8 [youtube.com]
Idiocracy part 9 [youtube.com]

Selective breeding (5, Interesting)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149851)

Clark's research shows that between 1200 and 1800, the rich had more surviving children than the poor and that he postulates that this caused constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. 'The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,'

If he is correct in his hypothesis then we're in trouble. If the article post last week about Smart Teens [slashdot.org] having less sex can be extrapolated to adults then we should see the opposite happen in the US. It already felt like the general populace of the USA is getting dumber this just seems to confirm my suspicions.

Selective non-breeding (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149997)

Take a look at the high breeders in your country.... them that start at age 12 and keep popping them out until death or menopause (whichever comes first). Even if you live in a so-called first world country, it is more likely that the third-world element of that country is a growing % of the population. Give it another generation or two and pretty much any first world country has a third-world future.

Re:Selective non-breeding (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150085)

If not for us high breeders, AmerIndians would still be here smoking them pipes. You just don't like the current wave of high breeders 'cause they look different, just admit it.

Re:Selective non-breeding (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150449)

If not for us high breeders, AmerIndians would still be here smoking them pipes.

You say that as if you consider that to be a good change. I do not believe it to be so.

Re:Selective non-breeding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150777)

I probably wouldn't exist if the colonists never came to America, so for me its not bad.

Re:Selective non-breeding (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150395)

That's been the case for a while now. Miraculously, we've escaped that for the time being. You seem to be assuming that the "high breeders...them that start at age 12 and keep popping them out until death or menopause" are genetically inferior and will always be in that same socioeconomic class. However, both of those statements are untrue, and it's improbable that this collapse you speak of will occur within the next few generations.

Re:Selective breeding (4, Funny)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150099)


If he is correct in his hypothesis then we're in trouble. If the article post last week about Smart Teens having less sex can be extrapolated to adults then we should see the opposite happen in the US. It already felt like the general populace of the USA is getting dumber this just seems to confirm my suspicions.


We should introduce an artificial selection pressure. How about a mechanical sphynx that targets pre-pubescent with random algebra, English, and social questions and if you fail ti eats you.

Re:Selective breeding (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150137)

We should introduce an artificial selection pressure. How about a mechanical sphynx that targets pre-pubescent with random algebra, English, and social questions and if you fail ti eats you.

Parents would love you. They could honestly tell their kids that a sphynx would eat them if they don't do their homework!

Re:Selective breeding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150101)

I would say that maybe evolution is selecting for individuals who can survive in a society augmented by technology in which raw intelligence is no longer one of the more important survival traits. Instead individuals rely more on their social networking skills.

This, however, would not be responsible of me for two reasons. First, evolution is not really observable in human in very short term spans. Second, this has more to do with sexual selection and, therefore, is very controversial in humans.

Re:Selective breeding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150297)

Is this a problem? Do you have a solution? Perhaps anyone who has a problem with it should have 10 kids to protect their upper class from the "breeder" hordes? /end sarcasm

Re:Selective breeding (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150385)

But the good news is that this will result in upward social mobility.

Re:Selective breeding (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150811)

Less educated does not, by any means, mean dumber. It means that an effort should be made to get more people to educate themselves. We are in no trouble unless people start saying that intelligence is innate and the poor and their children are & always will be stupid, which would propagate a belief of fatalistic futility amongst such individuals, and be extremely counterproductive (not to mention rather elitist).

So now what? (4, Interesting)

pinkstuff (758732) | more than 7 years ago | (#20149941)

The poor are now having more surviving children [stuff.co.nz] than the rich. So are we now going to go back to the middle ages?

Re:So now what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150209)

It is a near certainty that the future will be characterized by backward means of survival. While sociopolitical pressures may be underway to move us there; I believe that the real pressure toward simpler living will be found in dwindling energy reserves. The industrial age must end on that basis alone, I fear.

Re:So now what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150221)

Yep.

Re:So now what? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150421)

No, just back to Malthusian agronomics- because every new advance in creating food will just increase the population of the poor.

Class System (2, Interesting)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150013)

I could see how a class system in place, and the working class dieing at a higher rate, could support his theory of natural selection help the economic growth. The wealth moved downwards, which in turn turned raised the overall economy. We see this when the working classes started to buy more creating more of a demand and thus the start of the industrial revolution.

And he hits it on the head when he shows how China and Japan didn't have the same factors until much later. China is pushing to create a modernization push at the expense of the health, thus the supporting his 'germ' argument that can still stifle the lower class. (Of course, the new black death could be aids, which china is starting to have issues with the new high level of prostitution and drug use) so it will be interesting to see how it works out for them.

Re:Class System (1, Troll)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150185)

I could see how a class system in place, and the working class dieing at a higher rate, could support his theory of natural selection help the economic growth. The wealth moved downwards, which in turn turned raised the overall economy. We see this when the working classes started to buy more creating more of a demand and thus the start of the industrial revolution.

What is for me very sobering is the effect that the welfare state has had recently in the United States. The rich have very few children as a result of the costs, while the poor have a large number since their expenses are insulated from them by state support.

It wasn't until recently, with the welfare reform act passed by Bill Clinton that this trend was at least thwarted. (now, more kids != more $$, so at least, once you get ON public assistance, you are disincentivized from having more)

Otherwise, this trend is a harbinger of very, very bad things...

classist aristocratic bullshit (0, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150083)

he's basically barfed up the morlock and eloi, 800 years before rather than 800 years hence. what eugenics bullshit is this? does anyone take it seriously? except for the racists and phrenologists amongst us of course

HG Well's offspring should sue this crackpot for copyright violation. if copyright law is as retarded as it seems to be: no protection expires, they probably have a case. and so maybe some equally retarded asshole 800 years from now will write that it was the copyright holders and intellectual property law that led to the internet and information revolutions of 1950-2350

that idea should seem antithetical to you. just as antithetical as this social darwinist's caste-system-divines-all brainfart

pure aristocratic bullshit

Re:classist aristocratic bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150217)

Excellent rebuttal -- eloquent, thought-provoking, and educational. Have you considered a publishing career?

Re:classist aristocratic bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150769)

You Sir are nothing short of breath-taking!
I would like to formally submit my request for your periodic newsletter and if possible an 8x10 glossy; An artists rendering would be absolutely divine.

Whatever the normal fee is, double it!

Best regards,
Jean-Luc Warm Diarrheal III

 

And thanks to the contraceptive... (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150097)

...that trend has un/fortunately reversed in all first-world countries.

Thanks for news! (1)

profesjonalna (1139631) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150127)

Brilliant idea. Thanks for very interesting article.

Complexity is the Norm (2, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150141)

Weather improved after the last big Volcanic explosion at an Asian volcano, and thus food production went up, and that will count for something, along with a switch from alcoholic drinks to minimize bad water quality to coffee and tea as noted by other slashdotters.

General production of more advanced materials started to make a significant difference with cast iron, steel from Bessemer's furnaces in 1850s, and concrete in 1840s and steam engines w/Fulton's steam boat in the first decade of the 1800s, and not the least were steam powered looms just before 1800 which allowed large improvements in cloth and reduction in prices which freed huge numbers of people from subsistence clothing jobs.

Lots of things came together at once to make manual labor less intensive, even with just simple tools.

why are the british a bunch of fags? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150173)

except for johny lydon i can not think of one brit that isn't a crying little faggot.

i.e. the poor are irrational and lazy (5, Interesting)

dircha (893383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150279)

According to the article, as a result of the rich reproducing more successfully than the poor and replacing the poor in the jobs and communities, says the author, "Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,"

In other words, the poor are poor because they are irrational and lazy and passed these values onto their children.

More, he is suggesting not only have these values been passed from rich people in one generation to the next, but in fact that as a result of this period of the rich being overwhelmingly more successful in procreating, rapid biological evolutionary processes have produced genetic advantages in these societies that underscore purely social evolution.

In other words, not only are the poor poor because they are irrational and lazy, but also because their are genetically inferior to their rich masters.

Therefore - and this is suggested later in the article - the reason that today's third world countries have not experienced industrial revolution and modernizations essentially amounts to the following: 1) their peoples are lazy and irrational, and 2) they do not have access to the superior rich genetic lineage that underscored the industrial revolution in England.

Suffice it to say, the primary criticisms of the author's hypotheses by other scientists and historians is the utter lack of convincing and systematic evidence.

Take out the word rich and replace... (1, Insightful)

msimm (580077) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150351)

with motivated or socially responsible. Maybe anyway. Just a thought.

Re:i.e. the poor are irrational and lazy (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150611)

I agree. Isn't it funny that people would prefer to attribute the characteristics of the lower class to Lamarckian evolution/intentional reluctance to better themselves rather than the sociological and economic influences they were born into? Especially so when you consider that the belief that being poor is an innate genetic trait or that its intentional doesn't help things any.

Re:i.e. the poor are irrational and lazy (1)

unchiujar (1030510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150627)

I can see how the type of behaviours for the rich vs poor might be inherited. As part of the poor part of the population you expect to live at most 30-40 years (wild guess) because that is the amount of time you see your peers live therefore you are less inclined to be thrifty because you both don't have the resources to spare and there is no point in sparring them (short life expectance) and also reinforce this behaviour in your peers (you will die sooner because of not being thrifty and prudent) while the rich have the elders among them and understand that they will need resources when they will be old (and they do expect to reach senectitude) and they also reinforce this behaviour in their children and peers.

Also, among the rich people, there are those that die young, but those are selected against because while they have the conditions to live longer they nevertheless die. As the generations pass there will less rich people that tend to die young.

It's not necessarily a question of genetic baggage both of learned behaviour because of the position on person is in.

P.S Too lazy to put commas in. Grammar Nazies to the rescue !!!

After Billy Madison's I.R. thoughs: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150283)

Principal: Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Billy Madison: Okay, a simple "wrong" would've done just fine.

Hunters and gatherers were not poor (5, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150291)

The NYTimes article, not the paper itself, makes this typical leading statement: "For thousands of years, most people on earth lived in abject poverty, first as hunters and gatherers, then as peasants or laborers. But with the Industrial Revolution, some societies traded this ancient poverty for amazing affluence."

That is false, at least as far as hunters and gatherers. See, for example:
"The Original Affluent Society" -- by Marshall Sahlins
http://www.eco-action.org/dt/affluent.html [eco-action.org]
"Above all. what about the world today? One-third to one-half of humanity are said to go to bed hungry every night. In the Old Stone Age the fraction must have been much smaller. This is the era of hunger unprecedented. Now, in the time of the greatest technical power, is starvation an institution. Reverse another venerable formula: the amount of hunger increases relatively and absolutely with the evolution of culture. This paradox is my whole point. Hunters and gatherers have by force of circumstances an objectively low standard of living. But taken as their objective, and given their adequate means of production, all the people's material wants usually can be easily satisfied. ...
The world's most primitive people have few possessions. but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilisation. It has grown with civilisation, at once as an invidious distinction between classes and more importantly as a tributary relation that can render agrarian peasants more susceptible to natural catastrophes than any winter camp of Alaskan Eskimo."

Hunter and gatherers has much more free time than most people today -- and time is also a form of wealth.

Hunter and gatherers had much more free time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150689)

If the lifespan of the average hunter gatherer ended at 2 or 3 decades, I suspect we have gained in the free-time bargain despite our seemingly endless workweek.

Re:Hunters and gatherers were not poor (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150703)

Hunter and gatherers has much more free time than most people today -- and time is also a form of wealth.

This works only for so long as there is something to hunt and gather. "Easily satisfied?" Only an academic could write such nonsense. Nanook of the North [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hunters and gatherers were not poor (3, Insightful)

dircha (893383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150743)

"Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people."

Responding to this quote, while from the research that has been done happiness does not seem to be significantly a function of wealth or life expectancy, concluding from this to minimize the very real hardships of poverty reduces the human experience to utilitarianism.

I feel fairly confident in saying that the life I am privileged to is in many ways qualitatively better - though not more valuable - than the life of a member of a hunter gatherer society. How can I make this comparison? On the premise that if neutrally presented with the opportunity to benefit from many of the amenities and conveniences my life affords me, most hunter gatherers would accept the opportunity to avail themselves of these. This to me seems like the appropriate way to make this comparison.

And this doesn't mean they would abandon their traditions and beliefs, and doesn't mean they would leave their land.

It's simply that I surmise most would prefer to have access to modern medicine, to sanitized water, to refrigeration, to vaccinations, than to not. Now, this may not be correct, but it certainly seems to me to be a reasonable, probable hypothesis, and I suspect many would agree.

Although I agree with you that free time is a form of wealth.

Re:Hunters and gatherers were not poor (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150801)

This is ridiculous. Hunter-gatherers were/are neither rich nor eco-friendly. This is just patronizing nostalgia for a "simpler time". If it's so great, why don't you go live off the land? There are still people who do it.

Rich replacing the poor? (3, Informative)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150361)

Sounds fishy to me. As established in many places and times, the poor compensate for infant mortality be fecundity and as things get a little better, they outnumber the rich. I'd need more proof of solid numbers that the absolute numbers of children born to poor is less than the number of children born to the not-poor.

The ideas taking hold, on the other hand, have been noticed before, but I agree with the old-fashioned historians who say religion was responsible for that. The power of the state to enforce religious values all the way from the top to the street created a new culture, even among the poor. The king or government's incentive? A less violent population is less likely to cause problems later. Encourage the idea of non-violence in the poor and turning the other cheek, and you can avoid usurpers rallying an army or peasant-lead revolts. Encourage the ideals of hard-work to get more value of the land you own. Saving money by using the church owned banks.

Eventually, society learns to depend on the state instead of family bonds for their security and to enforce contracts, and you start to see a modern world of high mobility and capital flow (you no longer HAD to marry the miller's daughter to get the miller to invest in your factory).

Aliens (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150393)

They are responsbile.

Reaganomics in Victorian times? (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150619)

This gives a whole new meaning to "trickle down economics"...

The prosperity happened on the backs of the ... (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150673)

...colonies. So many industries destroyed in so many colonies. Weaving, spinning yarn, farmed dyes, local foundries all destroyed in the Indian sub continent, (India+Pakistan+Afghanistan+Bangaladesh+Sri Lanka+Burma). Farmers abandoning food crops to favor cash crop creating famines... London commodity traders who had knowledge about the entire world production statistics, but local farmers were farming/producing blind...

The Industrial revolution was accompanied by untold misery to the world.

nazi bullshit (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150751)

'the rich are better people and work harder'... wow. i guess i should throw out 90% of the direct observation i have made of human nature over the course of 30 years of my life. and forget about that whole 'eugenics' thing that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Other options (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20150839)

The article presents the choice of either "institutions" or "genetic adaptation" being at the heart of it - yet the book reportedly argues more strongly that there is an evolutionary component than that the evolution is in the medium of genes. If we grant that behavior changed more than institutions did, and furthermore that there was a drift of behaviors evolved for upper-class niches into the lower classes as children of the upper class moved down in society, then we should consider media of behavior which are susceptible to something like evolution, yet which are not genes. One popular at /. is "memes." But memes seem too contagious for the explanation required here, since they don't explain the growing 1st World-3rd World gap, even though 1st World memes can be found in the strangest corners of the 3rd World.

Another explanation could be one that makes sense in our folk language, but gets zero contemporary respect in academia: spirits. This wouldn't be spirits of the ghost-in-machine sort, but spirits in the same way we still know what it means to talk of the spirit of a city, or a country, or a people; or the difference in spirit between two authors, or two musical performers, or two dancers. It is a truism, of course, to say that the Medieval upper class had "gentler spirits." But could that truism be ... well ... true? Are there aspects of human character, transmitted through culture and family, which fit the general folk concept of spirits? If there are, it could even turn out that they - like other environmental factors - affect gene expression, and thus alter the balance of the cerebral and hormonal systems in a way which could look superficially like - but not actually be - a rapid evolution in the fundamental genetics.

If so, then this book would really be about spirits of the upper class fanning out into positions in the rest of a class-based society. That could also account for the British success at colonial administration - that when you took middle class Brits and sent them abroad, they generally had the right attitudes to run things passably well.

There's another implication here: That the spirits of the upper class, when spread through the other classes, lift the whole society in terms of wealth. A society which ennobles everyone should come out far ahead of one which tries to make the mass of people take on the spirits of sheep, herded, unthinking, obedient, and scared of the Musl^H^H^H^Hwolves.

Screwing is double-plus good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150861)

Anyone advocating screwing, for reproductive purposes only (of course), between the rich and/or presumably smart, is AOK in my book: otherwise we'll be overwhelmed by the masses, who screw (and reproduce) just for the hell of it.

Come to think of it, screwing just for the hell of it, is AOK in my book for anyone....

liberal arts articles on slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20150871)

i cant believe all these people who froth at the mouth about the pointless waste of time that 'liberal arts' is will find such interest in posting dozens of comments to a threat about a liberal arts topic. economics is not engineering, history is not engineering... and yet, they seem drawn to it strangely, like a young man first hitting puberty... unable to understand his urges.

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