[ExI] Really? and EP

Tom Nowell nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Apr 21 23:14:13 UTC 2009

Dr Clark's evidence for evolutionary changes in human behaviour leading to the Industrial revolution requires one big supposition - that 20 generations is enough time for behavioural traits to be selected in humans to a significant degree. In the PDF downloadable from Dr Clark's website, he mentions a paper suggesting that behavioural traits in wild dogs can be modified in as little as 8 generations, but without seeing the paper he's referring to I don't know how significant those changes are, and I don't know enough about human inheritance of behaviour to tell if this is extrapolable to humans over 20 generations or if Dr Clark is grasping at straws.

What Dr Clark's research does show is that wealth is associated with higher reproductive success in part of England in a given time period - a time period that starts about the time a mostly barter economy gives way to a more money-based economy.

However, there are competing models for the rise of the industrial revolution with historical evidence behind them. One school of thought is that Protestantism encouraged a diversity of thought and founded new educational institutions that encouraged inquiry into the new and weren't obsessed with traditional learning (and it's true that many of the early industrialists studied at Protestant academies because as non-conformists they couldn't study at Oxford or Cambridge, and the industrial revolution kicked off in Birmingham, a town with many non-conformist churches).

Erik Reinert, in his work on www.othercanon.org is keen to demonstrate that the Italian city-states whose mercantilist wealth and institutions spurred on the Renaissance were copied by Henry VII; 250 years of mercantilist policies encouraging the development of manufacturing industry and developing wealth by making the best use of resources so as to minimise money given to foreigners for finished product may have been the crucial spur to the industrial revolution.

Another explanation, and one I find a good story, is that the crucial development was trust.  The anglo-saxon legal code based on contracts and a society based on loyalty, where oath-breaking would get you branded publically, formed a solid foundation for laws respecting personal property and allowing a strong basis for commerce. The early industrialists of England included a lot of Quakers, and the early Quakers were noted for bringing their accounts to church so their fellow worshippers could check the honesty of the accounts. By establishing a solid reputation for business ethics, this religious sect came to have a huge influence on British commercial life. Compare this to our current troubles in an age where huge financial instruments are only worth what people believe they are worth and people spent several years talking them into a bubble, "mis-stating" the accounts is rife (and the SEC has to frequently punish big corporations), and you see the
 difference between the current business culture and that of the industrial revolution.



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