[ExI] Impressive book: Farewell to Alms

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Mon Feb 4 10:00:30 UTC 2008

On Feb 4, 2008 5:42 AM, The Avantguardian wrote:
> I don't think this is some relatively new phenomenon. Whereas it has
> been exacerbated in modern times due to birth control and the other
> things that you mention, I would argue that historical records do not
> support the notion of differential reproductive success of the rich.
> Unlike Genghis Khan and Muslim shieks with harems, the rich as a class
> of preindustrial England were not known for producing a prodigious
> number of offspring.
> Clark seems to ignore the fact that the industrial bootstrap of England
> happened amidst the Victorian Era and the rich of the period were more
> than just random individuals who had amassed resources but a closed
> socioeconomic class of lords and ladies and the oddball merchant or
> banker. And while the occasional daliance of an earl or count with a
> maid or mistress may have given rise to an illegitimate child or two,
> it was a frowned upon exception that would have been scandalous in the
> Victorian court-- not the rule. I just don't see the early factories
> and coal mines of England being staffed by the bastard children of
> English nobility nor do I see the ladies of the Victorian court being
> kept barefoot and pregnant.

Clark analysed the data from old wills to reach his conclusion.

The problem with this is that in olden times *everybody* had big
families, because they lacked reliable birth control and knew that
half the children would probably die from disease or malnourishment.
The Catholic Church also ordered them to reproduce. Remember the song
'Every sperm is sacred' from the film 'The Meaning of Life'.

But the great majority of the poor were illiterate and had no
possessions to leave in a will and they vastly outnumber the will data
that Clark analysed.

Besides, as someone else pointed out, if the poor were breeding
furiously with a very high death rate, doesn't that mean that the
selection pressure was being applied with horrendous efficiency to the


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