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Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond is one of those books by the racial egalitarians that tries to disprove theories that do not exist in the first place.  Diamond wants to show that Western dominance and technological advancement was not a matter of a higher intellect but was due to environmental and historical circumstances.  The problem is, I am not aware of any advocates who try to make the argument that because Western culture is more advanced, they are therefore the smartest. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Psychometricians have shown that East Asians are more intelligent than Caucasians, and that they do not lead us technologically (outside Japan) because of environmental or political/cultural differences.  So Diamond has written a book to disprove a theory that does not exist.  He is attacking a straw man.

What he is really doing however is attacking Western culture, for no other reason than he finds it distasteful because of his hatred for the existing power structure based on his egalitarian desire to reshape politics.  For this reason, this book is filled with a history of how plants and animals were domesticated, how germs became prevalent at the dawn of modern civilizations, and how advanced societies use weapons to suppress conquered peoples.  The detailed analysis of these issues tends to be too long, and will be of limited interest to most people.  But he does go to great lengths to show how only Eurasia could have developed in the way it did, and that other parts of the world just did not have the proper environment for modern development. I don't take issue with his arguments. In many ways they are "just so" stories that I found credible but of little real interest when it comes to judging the worth of people, which he seems to be trying to do in this book.  But one must wonder how such a mundane book, with so much speculation and so little impact on the real world, managed to get the Pullitzer Prize? And of course the reason is simple. This is another book by a Marxist with a universalist agenda.[0]  It is the same genre as Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, et al. It serves the political interests of those who review, publish and promote authors who are radical environmentalists.

So the salient parts of this book are summed up in just a few pages by Diamond, and expose his bias, no doubt a reflection of his extreme ability at self-deception in the promotion of his political agenda.  I will discuss these short but important aspects of his argument against Western culture and I should say the sociobiological paradigm he dislikes so much. In fact, he doesn't even get past the first page before he proclaims [1] the book is not racist because he ignores differences between races. So before he gets past the first page he boldly claims that only racists would include biological differences between population groups, the standard academic Marxist shrieking that we have heard for the last thirty years. Anyone who even considers racial differences is a racist.  So on this proclamation alone, the hypothesis put forth, is irreparably flawed because only a biased perspective will be allowed, one that denies that humans have a genetic basis for being human.

He later puts forth his main aim of the book via a question from Yali, a new Guinean philosopher one supposes, who asks why some people have all the power and affluence.  And the rest of the book is all about trying to show that some civilizations have all the power and affluence because of dumb luck, they happened to be born in the right place at the right time.  Which is of course no answer at all if one is interested in human nature, not just a crapshoot.[2] But he also repeats the Marxists favorite mantra, that Western racists are responsible apparently for not only holding certain beliefs, but also being more technically advanced!  That is, even though we just happened to luck out being born when and where we were, we are also to be condemned as racists for what -- not giving everything we have to other people?  Once one sees through the mixed up logic, we have to assume that Diamond's only real intent is to attack Western culture, and pointedly Anglo-Saxon Western culture in particular.

Note how he always attacks Westerners foremost when he states that "Yet many (perhaps most!) Westerners continue to accept racist explanations privately or subconsciously. In Japan and many other countries, such explanations are still advanced publicly and without apology."  But what an irony, when later in the book he uses exactly the same technique that Westerners used over 100 years ago to subjectively rank people for intelligence. He states, " While one can contest my subjective impression that New Guineans are on the average smarter than Eurasians, one cannot deny that New Guinea has a much smaller area and far fewer big animal species than Eurasia."  So there we have it, if one declares a backward people as being more intelligent than Caucasians, it is perfectly all right to do so, based on merely subjective data, though Diamond had every opportunity to administer culture free IQ tests to his natives if he so wished. So apparently he does believe there are differences in intelligence between races or population groups, and he goes on to explain why based on environmental factors.  This is the very same technique used by J. Philippe Rushton in Race, Evolution and Behavior and others that explain the higher intelligence of Eurasians because of the environmental forces from glaciation prior to about 10,000 years ago.  The difference between Rushton and Diamond is that Rushton has a massive amount of statistical data on the differences between races, gathered from around the world, whereas Diamond relies only on his own subjective observations!  Talk about the kettle calling the stove black!

Now, what if I wrote a book, from my work experience where I deal a lot with Blacks and with Whites, and I stated some obscure reasons for the Whites being more intelligent and then concluded, based on my observations, that the Whites were more intelligent than the Blacks without any other data but my own subjectivity.  Well, it would be dismissed as anecdotal and racist.  And that is exactly what Diamond has done.  But since he was trashing the hated Caucasian it was passed over in the book without a mention.  So goes the relentless attack on Whites.  Anything goes. Any deception, lie or perversion is allowed as long as it is Western culture that is attacked, because they all know only us Caucasians (and mostly males) are real dyed-in-the-wool racists.  So much for intellectual honesty.

But it even gets better in a jumbled explanation that is so egregiously dishonest and circular that it can only be summed up as an ad hominem attack on European culture (more pointedly of course its people, not the culture, is what is being attacked since all cultures are equally viable -- right?).[3]  First he again uses the "we are better than you are because we are more advanced than you" argument.  As I have said before, I don't know of anyone who uses this simplistic argument to rank people, and it is openly admitted that though China is lacking in technology that they are on average more intelligent than Caucasians.  So who is Diamond attributing as having this simplistic image of IQ versus technology?  A lot of very old dead people, that’s who. And none of them are going to read his book.

He later declares that Aboriginal Australians and New Guineans can master modern industrial technologies. Oh really? He states elsewhere in the book that the Aborigines are in fact having trouble with Australia's technology.  But even more obscure is why he doesn't have the same to say for American Blacks.  They have not been successful mastering modern technology (all of this is on average of course).  The American Psychological Association's task force on intelligence stated in a 1995 report "Intelligence -- Knowns and Unknowns"  that blacks are in fact less intelligent than Whites by about a standard deviation, that it is robust, there is no bias in the current tests being used, that intelligence is primarily genetic, but the differences between races in intelligence may not be genetic.  They are still searching for the mysterious "factor x" that causes all Blacks, not just the deprived, from doing so poorly at school and at work.

He later declares that "An enormous effort by cognitive psychologists has gone into the search for differences in IQ between people . . . ." Wrong again.  Almost all of the research money available has gone in search of environmental causes for the disparity between Blacks and Whites.  Very little money was available for IQ studies because of the left's sanctions against such research. Still, there is so much evidence now that virtually no one disputes the genetic basis of intelligence, and the only thing left is explaining the racial differences to everyone's satisfaction, including the radical Marxists (fat chance!).

But one question remains, why do Ashkenazi Jews in the United States show the same intelligence difference between Whites and Jews as there is between Blacks and Whites, and why do these Jews have on average ten times more wealth than the average American?  The Ashkenazi Jews, through selective breeding or eugenics, have successfully increased their average IQ to an astonishing average of 117, and their power and affluence reflect this.  And according to Diamond, that would make Jews far more prone to kleptocratic [rampant greed and corruption] behavior than Whites!

And the Jewish question arises again when he brings up technological advances.[4]  This is again that mushy debate about whether it is the culture, a few unique geniuses, or the overall intelligence of a nation or people that makes them excel.  And its gets us back again to the very popularity of this book, his Pulitzer Prize, and the success of Jews in this and other endeavors.  My question to Diamond would be, if intelligence does not account for Nobel Prizes for example, why do Jews receive 25% of them amongst Americans when they only account for 3% of the population.  Jews are quick to brag that they are useful as a people because of their Nobel Prizes, etc. while they live in the same environment and culture.  Well, either there is a difference between Jews and Whites in intelligence (drive alone is not enough) or Jews are being deceptive and are influencing the outcomes through political means.  Which is it?

Later, in his continuing promotion of an anti-Western agenda, he makes the point that immigration is merely restoring America to what is was when only the Indians occupied the land. That is, before us racist Westerners came, multi-lingual Native Americans had the diversity that Diamond wants to see again.  But of course he fails to mention that that diversity was barbaric and inhumanly cruel. Genocide and warfare was common, along with gruesome rituals of torture for those captured in battle. Is that what he wants us to return to?  No thanks. And these were people who were of the same race, but only of different tribes.  But they, like all hunter-gatherers, had a highly evolved tribalism that clearly delineated other as less than human, and they acted accordingly.  They didn't need any fancy religion or democratic ideals to slaughter their neighbors.  It came quite naturally.

Others have extensively reviewed this book, but I wanted to put my two cents worth in.  An excellent review by Michael Levin is available at:

http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/stalkers/ml_ggs.html

[0] Note: Someone brought to my attention that Diamond was not a universalist all the time. The following revises my observation:

STUDIES OF JEWISH GENETICS AND THE RACIAL DOUBLE STANDARD: IS THERE A HIDDEN AGENDA? By Paul Grubach

In an attempt to determine how the Jewish people differ from the non-Jewish world, Israeli scientists have conducted studies which show that Jews as a group differ significantly from non-Jews in a genetic-biological sense. As we shall soon see, this information is apparently going to be used to discriminate against non-Jews.

What is even more interesting about these research projects is that they highlight the hypocritical double standard that is so deeply ingrained in certain segments of society. It's socially and morally acceptable for Jews to conduct such research projects. Anthropologist Roselle Tekiner suggested that queries into Jewish genetics may be motivated by a desire to "justify" and bolster Zionist nationalism; the idea of a "Jewish race" with a special set of "Jewish genes" could serve to unite world Jewry. There is no highly visible, widespread public condemnation of these inquiries, which there would be if others were to conduct similar studies. Indeed, Jewish Zionists and their Gentile supporters would probably be the most vocal of all protestors if, for example, it were found that German or British scientists were attempting to determine how Nordics differ from Jews and Blacks in a genetic-biological sense, and this information would be used to implement racially discriminatory policies.

Enter Dr. Jared Diamond, a prominent Jewish scientist and columnist for NATURAL HISTORY. He recently hailed GENES, PEOPLES, AND LANGUAGES, the new book by Professor Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, a population geneticist, for allegedly dismantling the idea of race.

In his books, Cavalli-Sforza himself promotes the following beliefs. The classification of humans into races has proved to be a futile exercise, and his research will lead to the elimination of alleged "racism," because he has discredited the popular assumption that there are clearly defined races. In the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, Diamond salutes Cavalli-Sforza for "demolishing scientists' attempts to classify human populations into races in the same way that they classify birds and other species into races." Apparently , Jewish scientist Diamond operates with a hypocritical double standard.

In an article that appeared in NATURAL HISTORY, Diamond discussed the genetic studies on how Jews differ from non-Jews. He made this astounding statement: "There are also practical reasons for interest in Jewish genes. The state of Israel has been going to much expense to support immigration and job retraining of Jews who were persecuted minorities in other countries. That immediately poses the problem of defining who is a Jew."

The implication here is obvious. The Zionist elite is planning to refuse a person the right to settle in Israel if they do not have "Jewish genes." With this in mind, consider point #4 of the Nazi Party program of May 25, 1920. It reads: "None but members of the nationality may be citizens of the state. None but those of German blood, irrespective of religion, may be members of the nationality." In contemporary terms, only those with "German genes" could be citizens of Nazi Germany. I can't emphasize enough that this is similar to the type of Israeli policy that Diamond describes.
 

 QUOTES FROM THE BOOK

[1]        THIS BOOK ATTEMPTS TO PROVIDE A SHORT HISTORY OF everybody for the last 13,000 years. The question motivating the book is: Why did history unfold differently on different continents? In case this question immediately makes you shudder at the thought that you are about to read a racist treatise, you aren't: as you will see, the answers to the question don't involve human racial differences at all. The book's emphasis is on the search for ultimate explanations, and on pushing back the chain of historical causation as far as possible.

[2]            Probably the commonest explanation [why some have power and affluence] involves implicitly or explicitly assuming biological differences among peoples. In the centuries after A.D. 1500, as European explorers became aware of the wide differences among the world's peoples in technology and political organization, they assumed that those differences arose from differences in innate ability. With the rise of Darwinian theory, explanations were recast in terms of natural selection and of evolutionary descent. Technologically primitive peoples were considered evolutionary vestiges of human descent from apelike ancestors. The displacement of such peoples by colonists from industrialized societies exemplified the survival of the fittest. With the later rise of genetics, the explanations were recast once again, in genetic terms. Europeans became considered genetically more intelligent than Africans, and especially more so than Aboriginal Australians. Today, segments of Western society publicly repudiate racism. Yet many (perhaps most!) Westerners continue to accept racist explanations privately or subconsciously.  In Japan and many other countries, such explanations are still advanced publicly and without apology.

[3]        A seemingly compelling argument goes as follows. White immigrants to Australia built a literate, industrialized, politically centralized, democratic state based on metal tools and on food production, all within a century of colonizing a continent where the Aborigines had been living as tribal hunter-gatherers without metal for at least 40,000 years. Here were two successive experiments in human development, in which the environment was identical and the sole variable was the people occupying that environment. What further proof could be wanted to establish that the differences between Aboriginal Australian and European societies arose from differences between the peoples themselves?

The objection to such racist explanations is not just that they are loathsome, but also that they are wrong. Sound evidence for the existence of human differences in intelligence that parallel human differences in technology is lacking. In fact, as I shall explain in a moment; modern "Stone Age" peoples are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialized peoples. Paradoxical as it may sound, we shall see in Chapter 15 that white immigrants to Australia do not deserve the credit usually accorded to them for building a literate industrialized Society with the other virtues mentioned above. In addition, peoples who until recently were technologically primitive -- such as Aboriginal Australians and New Guineans -- routinely master industrial technologies when given opportunities to do so.

An enormous effort by cognitive psychologists has gone into the search for differences in IQ between peoples of different geographic origins now living in the same country. In particular, numerous white American psychologists have been trying for decades to demonstrate that black Americans of African origins are innately less intelligent than white Americans of European origins. However, as is well known, the peoples compared differ greatly in their social environment and educational opportunities. This fact creates double difficulties for efforts to test the hypothesis that intellectual differences underlie technological differences. First, even our cognitive abilities as adults are heavily influenced by the social environment that we experienced during childhood, making it hard to discern any influence of preexisting genetic differences. Second, tests of cognitive ability (like IQ tests) tend to measure cultural learning and not pure innate intelligence, whatever that is. Because of those undoubted effects of childhood environment and learned knowledge on IQ test results, the psychologists' efforts to date have not succeeded in convincingly establishing the postulated genetic deficiency in IQs of nonwhite peoples.

My perspective on this controversy comes from 33 years of working with New Guineans in their own intact societies. From the very beginning of my work with New Guineans, they impressed me as being on the average more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American is.

[4]        If, on the other hand, no such difference in human neurobiology exists to account for continental differences in technological development, what does account for them? An alternative view rests on the heroic theory of invention. Technological advances seem to come disproportionately from a few very rare geniuses, such as Johannes Gutenberg, James Watt, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers. They were Europeans, or descendants of European emigrants to America. So were Archimedes and other rare geniuses of ancient times. Could such geniuses have equally well been born in Tasmania or Namibia? Does the history of technology depend on nothing more than accidents of the birthplaces of a few inventors?

Still another alternative view holds that it is a matter not of individual inventiveness but of the receptivity of whole societies to innovation. Some societies seem hopelessly conservative, inward looking, and hostile to change.


Written by Matt Nuenke August 2000.

appended August 2005:

July 24, 2005
Jared Diamond: the New King of All Media
By Steve Sailer

Stephen Jay Gould's death in 2002 opened up the position of our most celebrated scientist-seer, a post currently filled in Britain by Richard Dawkins. The job requirements seem to include starting out as a specialist in one of the life sciences and then developing a taste for generalizing about humanity. Among the contenders: Gould's old rival, Edward O. Wilson (author of Sociobiology and Consilience and the younger Steven Pinker (How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate).

In 2005, UCLA geographer and physiologist Jared Diamond has made his bid, becoming omnipresent in the media with: An environmentalist bestseller, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; An exhibit at the LA Natural History Museum based on Collapse; and A three part documentary currently showing on PBS based on his 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, which stars Diamond and his Captain Ahab beard.

(Note that Diamond is not shy about giving his books ambitious subtitles!)

Before Diamond began writing for a popular audience, around his 50th birthday in 1987, he was a professor at UCLA's medical school and a leading birdwatcher in New Guinea. His early magazine articles in Discover and Natural History were collected in his initial and, to my mind, best book, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal. His subsequent big books, Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, were both sketched out in tour de force chapters in The Third Chimpanzee.

The power-to-weight ratio of Diamond's writing didn't improve when he expanded them into doorstop books. As a prose stylist, Diamond, while perfectly adequate, isn't quite in the same class as Gould, Dawkins, Wilson, or Pinker, and his long books can be a tough slog.

Third Chimpanzee was also distinguished by a fair degree of courage. Diamond tackled politically incorrect questions like: Why did most of the big mammals that lived in North America at the time the Indians arrived? such as wooly mammoths, camels, and horses? go extinct so quickly after the first Indians arrived across the Bering Strait?

Diamond's answer: the Indians ate them.

In fact, back in 1986 Diamond published a study in Nature that is so unfit for polite society that it would probably get him lynched by his current admirers if they ever heard of it: "Ethnic Differences: Variations in Human Testis Size." Personally, I don't have a lot of first-hand experience, so I couldn't give you my opinion on the validity of Diamond's findings on racial differences in testicle size. But Diamond seemed pretty fascinated by the subject.

Unfortunately, the market for the uncomfortable truths is a lot smaller than the market for what people want to hear. So after his initial book, Diamond remained a cult figure.

But Diamond has certainly solved that problem. He turned to the topic of race, offering impressive-sounding rationalizations for what intellectuals wanted to believe anyway.

Diamond helped launch the Race Does Not Exist fad with his November, 1994 Discover article "Race Without Color." In this, he suggested that we could define races on any physical characteristic we chose. Norwegians and Nigerian Fulanis could belong to the Lactose Tolerant race and Japanese and Nigerian Ibos belong to the Lactose Intolerant race.

The reason that defining Fulanis and Ibo as belonging to separate races is obviously ridiculous is because the most useful definition of race is not built on any particular trait. Instead, it's built on ancestry. We all intuitively know that Fulanis and Ibos are more racially similar to each other because they have more recent ancestors in common with each other than they do with Norwegians or Japanese. Race starts with boy meets girl, followed by baby.

That line of thought suggests that the most useful definition of a racial group is "a partly inbred extended family," as I pointed out a few years later in response  to Diamond.

But, when it comes to race, obfuscation pays a lot better than illumination.

Diamond turned himself into Jared Diamond, Superstar! with his 1997 bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel. This book purported to Disprove Racism, which he defined tendentiously as merely believing that genetic differences in human capabilities along racial lines exist.

This book certainly made him a fixture as a speaker at the tonier sort of conference. (For instance, I saw Diamond at legendary financier Michael Milken's annual confab.)

Diamond's goal in his book was to explain why Eurasians conquered Africans, Australians, and Americans instead of the other way around. Conventional social scientists shy away from such a fundamental question out of fear of what they might find. And Diamond duly proclaimed genetic explanations "racist" and "loathsome." He set out to reaffirm the equality of humanity by showing the radical inequality of the continents. To him, the three most important engines of history were location, location, and location.

Diamond asked: "Why didn't rhino-mounted Bantu warriors swarm north to decimate horse-mounted Romans and create an empire that spanned Africa and Europe?"

His answer: rhinos and other African animals are impossible to domesticate, unlike Eurasian beasts such as horses and cattle.

Guns, Germs, and Steel contained a lot of useful information and reasonable speculation. But a little thought raises serious questions: Not all sub-Saharan Africans lack domestic animals. For instance, the Fulanis are mostly lactose tolerant precisely because they evolved an ability to drink cow's milk as adults because they herd cattle on a massive scale.

It's true that Africans never domesticated the ostrich, but a Mr. Hardy pulled off the trick in the 19th Century. In the late nineteenth century, South African farmers raised almost a million of these 300-pound birds to supply the fancy hat industry with feathers.

Most strikingly, Diamond failed to recall that elephant-mounted African warriors did swarm north to decimate horse-mounted Romans and almost create an empire that spanned Africa and Europe in perhaps the most famous feat of ancient warfare: Hannibal crossing the Alps. (Although a biopic with Denzel Washington as Hannibal has long been under development in Hollywood, the North African Carthaginians were actually the Semitic descendents of the Levantine Phoenicians.)

But those are quibbles compared to the central contradiction in Guns, Germs, and Steel: Diamond makes environmental differences between the continents seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat genetically adapted to their homelands through natural selection.

Most of his readers must have assumed that natural selection can't work fast enough to diversify humans. But Diamond knows that's not true, as his lactose tolerance illustration demonstrated.

This mutation didn't begin to spread until people started milking animals sometime in the last 13,000 years. However, by now 98 percent of Swedes are lactose tolerant as adults versus two percent of Thais.

This example of human biodiversity is hardly trivial: evolving the ability to digest milk has had a sizable economic and cultural impact on, say, the Swiss.

Self-defeatingly, Diamond began Guns, Germs, and Steel by making a eugenic argument that New Guineans are smarter than whites because "natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in New Guinea than in more densely populated, politically complex societies?"

Of course, the reality is actually that while New Guineans are, on average, no doubt better at Stone Age life than you or I would be, people whose ancestors have survived for many generations in "densely populated, politically complex societies" tend to be better at functioning in the modern world.

As far as I can tell, Diamond only lectures, never debates. I've never heard of him ever allowing himself to be dragged into a public discussion with a well-informed opponent.

I talked to Diamond once after he gave a speech. We were chatting nicely until I asked him a tough question along the lines outlined above: Wouldn't different agricultural environments select for different hereditary traits in different locales?

I mentioned how James Q. Wilson's The Marriage Problem has a couple of chapters on how tropical agriculture in West Africa affects family structures. Since women can raise enough food to feed their kids, men don't invest as much in their individual children. So wouldn't the kind of man with the most surviving children be different in a tropical agricultural environment, where he doesn't need to work too much to support them, than in a temperate agricultural environment, where he does?

Now, Diamond has spent a lot of time bird-watching in New Guinea, which is similar to Africa. So he knows all about what tropical agriculture selects for. But he had no intention of touching that tar-baby with a ten-foot pole. To get away from me and my question, he grabbed his papers and literally dog-trotted at about 5 mph out of the auditorium!

Diamond can run, but he won't be able to hide from the facts forever. I hear there are now several scientific papers in the publication pipeline about racial differences in genes that affect cognition and personality, each comparable in importance to the recent blockbuster paper on the genetic roots of Ashkenazi Jewish IQ. Diamond's latest bestseller, Collapse, is about "ecocide" or unintentional ecological suicide, due to environmental disasters such as deforestation. Ecological concerns are pooh-poohed by many free-market ideologues, but environmental problems, which economists call "externalities," are indeed inherent in any economic system. And Diamond supplies a lot of useful, if overstated, information.

But "ecocide," while significant, is less important than Diamond implies. That's why he spends so much time on trivial edge-of-the-world doomed cultures, like the Vikings in Greenland and the Polynesians on Easter Island, rather than on more important collapses such as the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Generally, homicide, not suicide, is the main cause of collapse. Societies get invaded and overwhelmed.

Diamond cites the disappearance of the Maya? but what about the Aztecs and the Incas, still going strong when the Spanish arrived? He points to the Anasazi Indians? but there were also the Cherokee, the Sioux, and countless others. He notes the Easter Islanders? but I counter with the Maoris, the Tasmanians, the Australian Aborigines, the Chatham Islanders (exterminated by the Maori), and so forth. He cites the Vikings in Greenland? but how about the Saxons in Britain and the Arabs in Sicily, both conquered by descendents of the Vikings?

Still, Collapse can be valuable, especially if you look for the parts where Diamond shows more courage than is normal for him these days.

A close reading demonstrates that Diamond is quite unenthusiastic about mass immigration. For instance, in his chapter about the ecological fragility of Australia, he relays this optimistic hope for better policy in the future: "Contrary to their government and business leaders, 70 percent of Australians say they want less rather than more immigration."

Diamond also points out that the quality of immigrants matters. In an interesting chapter comparing the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola, the mediocre but livable Dominican Republic and dreadful Haiti, he notes that one reason the Dominican Republic is now both more prosperous and less deforested and eroded than tragic Haiti is the difference in their people: "…the Dominican Republic, with its Spanish-speaking population of predominantly European ancestry, was both more receptive and more attractive to European immigrants and investors than was Haiti with its Creole-speaking population composed overwhelmingly of black former slaves."

Ironically, when I left the "Collapse" exhibit, with its warnings about overpopulation, at Los Angeles's Natural History museum, I turned out of the parking lot onto Martin Luther King Boulevard, where the billboards were in Spanish. In LA, the African Americans have been pushed off even MLK Blvd, by Latin American immigrants.

Diamond writes:

"I have seen how Southern California has changed over the last 39 years, mostly in ways that make it less appealing. The complaints voiced by virtually everybody in Los Angeles are those directly related to our growing and already high population. While there are optimists who explain in the abstract why increased population will be good and how the world can accommodate it, I have never met an Angeleno who personally expressed a desire for increased population in the area where he or she personally lived. . . . California's population growth is accelerating, due almost entirely to immigration and to the large average family sizes of the immigrants after their arrival."

Unfortunately, Diamond's bravery then breaks down again. Rather than call for doing something about immigration, such as enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration, he merely laments, "The border between California and Mexico is long and impossible to patrol effectively."

No, it's not. Israel, with two percent of America's population, is successfully fencing off its West Bank border, which is ten percent as long.

In another important section, Diamond illustrates how ethnic diversity makes environmental cooperation more difficult. He praises the Dutch as the most cooperative nation on earth and attributes their awareness of and willingness to tackle problems to their shared memory of the 1953 flood that drowned 2,000 Netherlanders living below sea level. (Unfortunately, he doesn't mention whether Holland's rapidly growing immigrant Muslim population remembers when the dikes failed 52 years ago.)

Diamond notes that there are three possible solutions to what Garrett Hardin called "the tragedy of the commons," or the tendency for individuals to over-consume resources and under-invest in responsibilities held in common, leading to ecological collapse.

# Government diktat.
# Privatization and property rights -- but that's impractical with some resources, such as fish.
# "The remaining solution to the tragedy of the commons is for the consumers to recognize their common interests and to design, obey, and enforce prudent harvesting quotas themselves. That is likely to happen only if a whole series of conditions is met: the consumers form a homogenous group; they have learned to trust and communicate with each other; they expect to share a common future and to pass on the resource to their heirs; they are capable of and permitted to organize and police themselves; and the boundaries of the resource and of its pool of consumers are well defined."

Wow!

A classic supporting case that that Diamond doesn't bring up: American shrimp fishermen in Texas were universally denounced as racists in the late 1970s when they resisted the government's efforts to encourage Vietnamese refugees to become shrimpers in their waters. French director Louis Malle made a movie, Alamo Bay, denouncing ugly Americans fighting hardworking immigrants.

What got lost in all the tsk-tsking is that fishing communities always resist newcomers, especially hardworking ones, because of the sizable chance that the outsiders who don't know the local rules or don't care about them will ruin the ecological balance and wipe out the stocks of fish? all things for which Vietnamese fishermen are now notorious.

The evidence Diamond assembles indicates, although of course he never dares to state it bluntly, that the fundamental requirement for dealing effectively with environmental danger is: start with a population that's limited in number, cohesive, educated, and affluent.

Needless to say, mass immigration from the Third World works against all those characteristics.

My conclusion: keep in mind while reading Diamond's bestsellers that, after a promising start, he mostly sold out to political correctness. Then you can salvage something from his books.

It's not edifying behavior from a tenured professor, but in the current climate, we have to take what we can get.

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