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Roving Bandits in the Wild Fields

Why is corruption so bad in Eastern Europe? And what can be done about it?

hbdchick-europe-corruption-2012-hajnal-line

First off, I don’t know to what extent it can be reduced. According to the hbdchick’s theories on the Hajnal Line, ceteris paribus, Southern and Eastern Europe will always be more corrupt than the countries of “core Europe” because they did not undergo its centuries of selection for beyond-kin altruism.

Despite decades of institutional convergence under the aegis of European integration, Italy and Greece remain considerably more corrupt than Germany, Britainn, and Sweden. Poland has improved greatly since the 1990s, but reached an asymptote at around Italy’s level; Romania, at Greece’s. From the outset, this implies that Eastern European countries should keep their ambitions realistic, regardless of the policies that they choose to pursue.

Still, political economic factors do play a large role.

The main concept that I would draw upon is Mancur Olson’s distinction between “roving bandits” and “stationary bandits.”

In unstable polities, the elites can be replaced at any time, often through unpredictable and lawless methods such as coups, or “people power” driven “color revolutions” if the new gang are more pro-Western. The elites know this. As such, they have an interest in maximizing their thievery in the here and now, with corresponding disincentives to large, capital-heavy investments that will only pay in the long-term. Most likely, they will not be around to enjoy the fruits of their labor a decade or two down the line. But a Mayfair apartment and British Virgin Islands cash stash won’t go anywhere.

This describes Ukraine, and Russia in the 1990s.

In polities where the system is more stable, “roving bandits” start to settle down – they become “stationary bandits.” There are relatively greater incentives for long-term investments – if you steal less today, your pie will be greater tomorrow. Although corruption still exists, and may even remain systemic, the more predictable nature of the tariffs levied by “stationary bandits” enables corporations to account for them in their business plans. It’s not even so much the degree of corruption that’s important as its predictability. Furthermore, the bandits at the very top have greater incentives to clamp down on their underlings, since if they get start getting too greedy it will bite into their own profit margins. This in turn can pave the way for the emergence of institutions that can upgrade the war on corruption from manual to semi-autonomous mode.

This describes countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. (China would also fall into this category).

industrialized-transition These ex-Soviet countries, ruled by “stationary bandits,” have been far more successful at economic recovery (and growth) than Ukraine. For all the “Gabon with snow” jokes, Ukraine is still an industrialized country with a well educated population and a respectable average IQ of perhaps 95, with considerable natural resources, access to the sea, and Russian gas subsidies that have totalled approximately $200 billion since independence.

So the Ukrainian economy should be doing MUCH BETTER, given the huge gap between potential and reality (perhaps the biggest gap of any country in the world). But as of 2015, its inflated-adjusted GDP was a mere 60% of the UkSSR’s in 1990 (Russia: 110%; Belarus: 180%), and is now in a neck-and-neck race with Nigeria in terms of Internet penetration.

Telling example: One of the few genuinely bright spots in the Ukrainian economy has been the IT sector. In particular its presence on the video game scene is rather impressive in relative terms – Cossacks, Stalker, Metro 2033.

Why? Because that is what you get when you combine roving bandits with a high IQ population. Few people are willing to build anything substantial like a multi-billion dollar factory. Hence, so far as heavy industry goes, it just continues to coast on the ever depreciating Soviet legacy.

How much capital do you need to launch a middle-sized video game studio? Can’t imagine it’s much more than $100,000. Most of the value is in the brains, and you get some of the best cognitive bang per dollar in the Ukraine. You can sell your game on Steam, and should instability strike, you can just bugger off to someplace warmer and more civilized, like Cyprus or Malta (like 4A games, the creators of Metro 2033, did in 2014).

Incidentally one can see the same thing (if to a significantly smaller extent) in both Russia and Belarus.

How to solve – or at least mitigate – corruption follows naturally from the above observations.

(1) The roving bandits need to be settled down. (Replacing one gang with another under the cover of a color revolution doesn’t do anything – as Ukraine has already proven, TWICE).

In Ukraine’s case, that means it needs to put an end to its never-ending internecine struggles. Broadly speaking, both Novossiya supporters and Ukrainian nationalists have the right idea, even if they are otherwise diametrically opposed. (Nadia Sevchenko represents a curious convergence of these two streams: A Ukrainian nationalist to the core, she has negotiated with LDNR authorities in contravention of official Kiev policy while suggesting that Ukraine needs a period of dictatorship to get itself sorted out).

(2) East Asia furnishes many several examples of non-Hajnal societies that have successfully solved the corruption problem. One approach is greater criminal penalties for corruption (“kill the chicken to scare the monkey,” as the Chinese proverb goes); another is to richly compensate civil servants, so as to reduce the relatice incentive for additional thievery (Singapore government ministers are paid like the CEOs of big corporations, and in tandem with harsh punishments and wealth, this has helped Singapore become one of the world’s least corrupt societies, despite traditional China’s penchant for corruption).

In practice, neither of these is practical for Eastern Europe. European human rights regulations preclude the killing of chickens; and East Europeans themselves are far too populist and demotic to tolerate elitist-technocratic policies like CEO-scale salaries for bureaucrats (with the result that said bureaucrats will unofficially continue to compensate themselves at CEO levels anyway, but with huge markups).

(3) The removal of roving bandits will enable faster economic growth, and greater tax receipts allow you to pay more to develop institutions, while greater per capita wealth leads to money floating about for the development of an indigenous civil society. It also makes e-government, which makes far less demands on face-to-face interactions between citizens and bureaucrats, with all their associated potential for corruption, far more realizable.

(4) To be sure, it can be very frustrating to live in a country that is visibly and strikingly more corrupt than the fairylands of core Europe. It is understandable that people, especially young people without much life experience, want change, and they want it quick. More often than not, the result is a cargo cult approach to combatting corruption, which results in spectacles such as Anti-Corruption Forums to which the participants show up in Mercedes and Lexuses (a most apt metaphor for Euromaidan).

From this perspective, an understanding of the deep gene-cultural underpinnings of corruption might not lead you to forgive everything, but it will at least imbue you with a sense of realism as to what is and what is not possible. A slow, steady convergence over two or three decades to Italy’s or even France’s level of corruption – entirely possible, even likely. A new Sweden overnight through the power of mass lustrations and Lenin statue topplings? Nope.

Going ahead will only set you up for eventual disappointment, but in the meanwhile, you’d have wrecked your own country.

Finally, don’t worry. In the end, corruption just isn’t that important to economic growth! Just compare Chile and China: One by far the cleanest country in South Americat; the other one is far more corrupt, but a standard deviation higher in average IQ. Which of those two is the economic steamroller, and which one has nothing to write home about? Exactly. And corruption tends to diminish with increasing wealth, as the power of institutions and civil society increases. Just don’t smother your economy with regulations and central planning, don’t allow roving bandits to pick the place clean and stymie all long-term development, and the problems should ultimately resolve by itself without any particular further effort on your part.

PS. Daniel Chieh comments: “These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi’s “return of traditional Chinese virtues.” Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway. Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn’t stop all methods of “killing the chicken” as there are a number of other “greater criminal punishments” that don’t include capital punishment – which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. kill the chicken to scare the money

    A quibble. Its 杀鸡儆猴. “Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys” and is reference to using highly publicized cases to make an example of violators, in order to deter other potential violators. Its a Legalism tactic, and works well on a temporary basis.

    The idea is to occasionally use spectacular punishments, such as executions, against even financial crimes to make a point that at some point, it isn’t acceptable anymore.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    If you could add this to the above post, would be great:

    These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi's "return of traditional Chinese virtues." Honor suicides just doesn't seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn't stop all methods of "killing the chicken" as there are a number of other "greater criminal punishments" that don't include capital punishment - which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.

    The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

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  2. @Daniel Chieh

    kill the chicken to scare the money
     
    A quibble. Its 杀鸡儆猴. "Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys" and is reference to using highly publicized cases to make an example of violators, in order to deter other potential violators. Its a Legalism tactic, and works well on a temporary basis.

    The idea is to occasionally use spectacular punishments, such as executions, against even financial crimes to make a point that at some point, it isn't acceptable anymore.

    If you could add this to the above post, would be great:

    These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi’s “return of traditional Chinese virtues.” Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn’t stop all methods of “killing the chicken” as there are a number of other “greater criminal punishments” that don’t include capital punishment – which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.

    The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
    "The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo."

    Well covered by Richard O. Hammer at:

    http://www.freenation.org/a/f61h2.html#3

    Gateway to an Altered Landscape:
    Law in a Free Nation
  3. The idea is to occasionally use spectacular punishments, such as executions, against even financial crimes to make a point that at some point, it isn’t acceptable anymore.

    Sure, though it’s not a specifically Chinese thing; that is essentially what the USSR did, and in general all states that wanted to reduce corruption but did not have the effective and impartial institutions to reliably punish transgressors. The latter is generally acknowledged to be more effective (inevitability of punishment over severity of punishment).

    Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    That is certainly true.

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  4. Hajnal Line is bunk.

    Let me modify that. The line is real but’s obviously downstream from economic geography, i.e. things like average crop yields. Look at what happened after the economics got disrupted by the technological revolution. Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    The conclusions made from this line of thought are largely bunk as well. The idea that the English exhibit higher levels of “beyond-kin altruism” than the Poles, or the Greeks, etc., will cause gales of laughter anywhere outside the self-congratulating Anglosphere.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    I think that Core Europe is real, has been in pretty much those same borders for more than a thousand years. And trust towards non-relatives is a big part of its success.

    However, I don't know if hbdchick's theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church's prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference? I don't know about that. Haven't read enough to judge.

    Does she have evidence of cousin marriage in Core Europe 1,500 or 1,200 years ago? So little is known about that period.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans trusted each other enough to form republics. Most European peoples had popular assemblies in antiquity. Was the ancient Greek family structure different from the later Core European one? Not that I know. And the thing is that for pre-Roman antiquity Greece is the only part of Europe we know much about. Maybe all of Europe, or a big part of it, was already like that then in that respect.

    Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    I've seen maps of the frequency of adults living with their parents. It's dozens of times higher in Spain and Italy than in Scandinavia. So some differences in family structures persist.
  5. I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    F-35?
    Bank bailouts?
    Rigged bidding processes or even worse, no-bid like Haliburton in Iraq?

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    Big ticket corruption happens across the board and in places like the Anglosphere its legalized and people tolerate it much more due to the higher standard of living meaning that the theft is less noticeable since it is a smaller hit percentage-wise to your wallet.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.
     
    There's some legitimacy to these critiques, and I have frequently mentioned it myself at times, but denying something that virtually all indices of corruption agree on is pure svidomism.

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.
     
    I agree and have in fact been pointing it out for years.

    It is however a long and gradual process, and I would be extremely surprised if these countries will ever converge with Britain or Sweden (though I will be less surprised if Britain and Sweden "deconverge" to East/South European levels as population replacement proceeds apace).
    , @Esn
    I think there's more legitimacy to this than people realize. For one thing, a lot of the things that are considered corruption in Russia are totally legal in the Anglosphere - the whole "lobbying" thing, for example. This actually goes to Karlin's point about "stationary bandits". In the West, the bandits have been stationary for so long that the banditry has become institutionalized, legal and acceptable. When I visited Russia 2 years ago and told people how our political process works, they were genuinely shocked.

    It's like the statistic about Sweden having the world's highest rate of rape - because they consider even small transgressions to be rape. I don't know how much that applies to the "corrupt" countries, but probably "some". Perhaps it simply means that their polities are less stable and their laws are therefore not as well attuned to their society's natural inclinations of behaviour, whereas the less-corrupt countries are like Terry Pratchett's Ankh Morpork - there's not much illegal behaviour because murder, thieving and prostitution have all been legalized, regulated and taxed...

    The other thing about "corruption" is that it can be a good thing, if the government is bad at its job and the bribes are reasonable. All corruption is, perhaps (at least, if we're talking about local, small-scale corruption, not deep-state type corruption), is a devolution of power from the centre to the periphery. That's not always bad; it all depends on the type of people who use that power.

    In my visit to Russia, I noticed a greater willingness of public workers to ignore the rules if it seemed to make sense to them - for example, letting someone on a bus who didn't have enough for a full fare, but obviously badly needed to get on. In my home country, I'm used to public officials sticking to the letter of the law carefully even if it makes little sense, as they're afraid for their jobs. The worst of them will maliciously apply rules to the letter as an acceptable way of self-expression. It's not always a good thing.
  6. @Niccolo Salo
    I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    F-35?
    Bank bailouts?
    Rigged bidding processes or even worse, no-bid like Haliburton in Iraq?

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    Big ticket corruption happens across the board and in places like the Anglosphere its legalized and people tolerate it much more due to the higher standard of living meaning that the theft is less noticeable since it is a smaller hit percentage-wise to your wallet.

    I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    There’s some legitimacy to these critiques, and I have frequently mentioned it myself at times, but denying something that virtually all indices of corruption agree on is pure svidomism.

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    I agree and have in fact been pointing it out for years.

    It is however a long and gradual process, and I would be extremely surprised if these countries will ever converge with Britain or Sweden (though I will be less surprised if Britain and Sweden “deconverge” to East/South European levels as population replacement proceeds apace).

    Read More
    • Replies: @inertial
    To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so "objective" corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Is giving money to government a official in order to expedite your case corruption? How about giving plum government jobs to your relatives and friends? For a long time no one in the world saw anything unusual in that. How about the old American practice of patronage? It wasn't considered corruption until, suddenly, it was.

    Practices that seem natural to you will appear corrupt to people from other cultures. I had a discussion once where someone denounced the old English legal institution of plea bargaining. I was startled at first but then I thought about it and I started see how this could be viewed as corruption. Imagine someone includes that definition in a corruption index. The English speaking countries won't fare so well anymore.

    Basically, corruption is defined as whatever practice is considered bad at any given moment in a given society.
  7. @inertial
    Hajnal Line is bunk.

    Let me modify that. The line is real but's obviously downstream from economic geography, i.e. things like average crop yields. Look at what happened after the economics got disrupted by the technological revolution. Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    The conclusions made from this line of thought are largely bunk as well. The idea that the English exhibit higher levels of "beyond-kin altruism" than the Poles, or the Greeks, etc., will cause gales of laughter anywhere outside the self-congratulating Anglosphere.

    I think that Core Europe is real, has been in pretty much those same borders for more than a thousand years. And trust towards non-relatives is a big part of its success.

    However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference? I don’t know about that. Haven’t read enough to judge.

    Does she have evidence of cousin marriage in Core Europe 1,500 or 1,200 years ago? So little is known about that period.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans trusted each other enough to form republics. Most European peoples had popular assemblies in antiquity. Was the ancient Greek family structure different from the later Core European one? Not that I know. And the thing is that for pre-Roman antiquity Greece is the only part of Europe we know much about. Maybe all of Europe, or a big part of it, was already like that then in that respect.

    Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    I’ve seen maps of the frequency of adults living with their parents. It’s dozens of times higher in Spain and Italy than in Scandinavia. So some differences in family structures persist.

    Read More
    • Replies: @5371
    I'm sure you know this, but none of the theories originate with hbdchick or anyone else on the internet. They just apply them in a disturbingly mechanical and absolutist way.
    , @Anatoly Karlin

    However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference?
     
    Yes, that, plus the manorial system, which pushed for the nuclear family and moved people about a lot.

    I really recommend you read hbdchick's 101 on this: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/big-summary-post-on-the-hajnal-line/

    Then we can debate specifics.
  8. Scandinavians are the most egalitarian people on earth. And Europeans in general are more egalitarian than Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians. And this has been true for a very long time. Ancient Greeks were more egalitarian than Egyptians, Mesopotamians or Persians. When Alexander started calling himself a God, and generally lording it over people, the Greeks said that he was aping Persian customs, turning native.

    The Aztec and Inca empires were far more primitive than Spanish society, yet at the same time less egalitarian.

    Etc., etc.

    This is probably related to trust towards strangers, family structure, Europe’s and Core Europe’s success and lots of other things.

    But my point is that it’s older than the Catholic Church’s prohibitions against cousin marriage.

    I’m guessing that this egalitarianism, as well as most other things that set Europe apart, was a product of farming in high latitudes. The farming belt extends much further to the north in Europe than in East Asia.

    Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages – I’m guessing that’s the key.

    Nuclear families instead of extended ones, a preference for dealing with the inanimate forces of nature, which eventually bore fruit in the scientific and industrial revolutions, a lower ability to get their way in politics because there was no politics on an isolated farm, trust towards strangers (no strangers to distrust for miles around you), egalitarianism (no complex social hierarchies as there would be in a village), etc.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    One can add the high frequency of social awkwardness among northern Europeans. All ethnic groups above a certain IQ level produce some nerds. East Indians, Chinese, Jews, southern Europeans. But they're normally a small minority.

    What you have in the stereotypical Finnish or, to a lesser extent, British behavior, is some nerdy traits among a huge slice of the male population. That's unusual. And I'm guessing that also comes from this isolated-homesteads period, which did happen in Europe.

    , @Glossy
    Oh, and the reason for isolated homesteads, which were a real thing that I've read about, not a figment of my imagination, and which, I think, gave way to villages by the Dark Ages if not before:

    Very simple. The northern climate could only support a low density of farmers with the technology of the time.
    , @inertial
    I think Greek egalitarianism vs. Egyptians or Persians hierarchy had less to do with family structure or whatever and more to do with the fact that the Near Asian societies were much older and so much more advanced toward centralism.

    The Greeks were initially barbarians on the edge of civilization. The quickly mastered the arts of civilization and later contributed to it (did they ever) but in some respects they remained behind. Greece was a patchwork of city states - quite similar to Egypt before the First Kingdom or to Mesopotamia before Sargon of Akkad. I bet those petty Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers were pretty egalitarian. But once you start to centralize there is a certain logic to how these new superkings must carry themselves. I think Alexander realized that; it's unlikely that he just suddenly grew vain for no reason.
  9. @Glossy
    Scandinavians are the most egalitarian people on earth. And Europeans in general are more egalitarian than Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians. And this has been true for a very long time. Ancient Greeks were more egalitarian than Egyptians, Mesopotamians or Persians. When Alexander started calling himself a God, and generally lording it over people, the Greeks said that he was aping Persian customs, turning native.

    The Aztec and Inca empires were far more primitive than Spanish society, yet at the same time less egalitarian.

    Etc., etc.

    This is probably related to trust towards strangers, family structure, Europe's and Core Europe's success and lots of other things.

    But my point is that it's older than the Catholic Church's prohibitions against cousin marriage.

    I'm guessing that this egalitarianism, as well as most other things that set Europe apart, was a product of farming in high latitudes. The farming belt extends much further to the north in Europe than in East Asia.

    Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages - I'm guessing that's the key.

    Nuclear families instead of extended ones, a preference for dealing with the inanimate forces of nature, which eventually bore fruit in the scientific and industrial revolutions, a lower ability to get their way in politics because there was no politics on an isolated farm, trust towards strangers (no strangers to distrust for miles around you), egalitarianism (no complex social hierarchies as there would be in a village), etc.

    One can add the high frequency of social awkwardness among northern Europeans. All ethnic groups above a certain IQ level produce some nerds. East Indians, Chinese, Jews, southern Europeans. But they’re normally a small minority.

    What you have in the stereotypical Finnish or, to a lesser extent, British behavior, is some nerdy traits among a huge slice of the male population. That’s unusual. And I’m guessing that also comes from this isolated-homesteads period, which did happen in Europe.

    Read More
  10. @Glossy
    Scandinavians are the most egalitarian people on earth. And Europeans in general are more egalitarian than Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians. And this has been true for a very long time. Ancient Greeks were more egalitarian than Egyptians, Mesopotamians or Persians. When Alexander started calling himself a God, and generally lording it over people, the Greeks said that he was aping Persian customs, turning native.

    The Aztec and Inca empires were far more primitive than Spanish society, yet at the same time less egalitarian.

    Etc., etc.

    This is probably related to trust towards strangers, family structure, Europe's and Core Europe's success and lots of other things.

    But my point is that it's older than the Catholic Church's prohibitions against cousin marriage.

    I'm guessing that this egalitarianism, as well as most other things that set Europe apart, was a product of farming in high latitudes. The farming belt extends much further to the north in Europe than in East Asia.

    Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages - I'm guessing that's the key.

    Nuclear families instead of extended ones, a preference for dealing with the inanimate forces of nature, which eventually bore fruit in the scientific and industrial revolutions, a lower ability to get their way in politics because there was no politics on an isolated farm, trust towards strangers (no strangers to distrust for miles around you), egalitarianism (no complex social hierarchies as there would be in a village), etc.

    Oh, and the reason for isolated homesteads, which were a real thing that I’ve read about, not a figment of my imagination, and which, I think, gave way to villages by the Dark Ages if not before:

    Very simple. The northern climate could only support a low density of farmers with the technology of the time.

    Read More
    • Replies: @jtgw
    I was going to say "I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of 'Core European' peasants lived in villages during the Middle Ages" but I guess you've explained your statement here. So the claim is that the pre-Christian pattern of isolated homesteads evolved a certain pattern of behavior that persisted during the Christianization period, when population grew and farmers congregated in villages? It's an interesting thesis, though I wonder why the new living patterns didn't in turn evolve new patterns of behavior. Do you have a source for this idea?
  11. I’m somewhat skeptical of the Hajnal line in two ways.

    Firstly, I’ve often wondered what data it could possibly be based on. For example, take Ireland – most surviving parish records only go back to about 1850, civil registration for Catholics only began in 1864. All the censuses from the 1800s were mostly destroyed.

    Secondly, I’ve come to observe that many countries ranked with a low level of corruption, could be said to be extremely corrupt. The leaders in many Western countries are intentionally replacing their own populations, while promoting a massive racial spoils industry. A lot of legislation is written for special interests, like the recent healthcare bills in the USA. Seldom is anyone held accountable, like Hillary with her private server.

    I’m a whole lot more optimistic about Eastern Europe than Western Europe.

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  12. It would certainly be interesting to see Nadia Savchenko (with an a – the surname is misspelled in the article) become Ukraine’s Pinochet… I mean, President. There were whispers of such a possibility in Kiev as late as six months ago but they have since mostly died down.

    Savchenko, unlike Poroshenko or Saakashvili, seems to be the type that would get along better with Trump (or, for that matter, Putin) than she would have with Hilary. What is certain is that American Feminists would have a major puzzle on their hands if she assumed power.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    This is how I first became aware of Savchenko's existence:

    I was kind of obsessed with the coverage of the Donbass war. So I used to read and watch everything I could about it. One day a video popped up of some POWs being interrogated. They all said that they never shot at anyone, only cooked meals at the base, painted fences for the Ukrainian army, were dragged from their homes against their will by recruiters, never meant any harm to anybody, etc.

    This monotonous stream was broken up by a crazy, angry guy talking about the Ukraine. He was fighting for the Ukraine when they got him. The interrogator looked at his documents, muttered something about the POW's grades in basic training or whatever, and said "well, Nadezhda Victorovna." And I thought "OMG, that's a girl?"

    That's how I first became aware of her existence.

    Who knows, you may be right about the presidency. The Ukrainian public is now overdosing on crooked politicians, so they'll eventually want the utter opposite. And she seems sincere.

  13. @Chopperator
    It would certainly be interesting to see Nadia Savchenko (with an a - the surname is misspelled in the article) become Ukraine's Pinochet... I mean, President. There were whispers of such a possibility in Kiev as late as six months ago but they have since mostly died down.

    Savchenko, unlike Poroshenko or Saakashvili, seems to be the type that would get along better with Trump (or, for that matter, Putin) than she would have with Hilary. What is certain is that American Feminists would have a major puzzle on their hands if she assumed power.

    This is how I first became aware of Savchenko’s existence:

    I was kind of obsessed with the coverage of the Donbass war. So I used to read and watch everything I could about it. One day a video popped up of some POWs being interrogated. They all said that they never shot at anyone, only cooked meals at the base, painted fences for the Ukrainian army, were dragged from their homes against their will by recruiters, never meant any harm to anybody, etc.

    This monotonous stream was broken up by a crazy, angry guy talking about the Ukraine. He was fighting for the Ukraine when they got him. The interrogator looked at his documents, muttered something about the POW’s grades in basic training or whatever, and said “well, Nadezhda Victorovna.” And I thought “OMG, that’s a girl?”

    That’s how I first became aware of her existence.

    Who knows, you may be right about the presidency. The Ukrainian public is now overdosing on crooked politicians, so they’ll eventually want the utter opposite. And she seems sincere.

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  14. @Daniel Chieh
    If you could add this to the above post, would be great:

    These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi's "return of traditional Chinese virtues." Honor suicides just doesn't seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn't stop all methods of "killing the chicken" as there are a number of other "greater criminal punishments" that don't include capital punishment - which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.

    The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

    “The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.”

    Well covered by Richard O. Hammer at:

    http://www.freenation.org/a/f61h2.html#3

    Gateway to an Altered Landscape:
    Law in a Free Nation

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  15. @Anatoly Karlin

    I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.
     
    There's some legitimacy to these critiques, and I have frequently mentioned it myself at times, but denying something that virtually all indices of corruption agree on is pure svidomism.

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.
     
    I agree and have in fact been pointing it out for years.

    It is however a long and gradual process, and I would be extremely surprised if these countries will ever converge with Britain or Sweden (though I will be less surprised if Britain and Sweden "deconverge" to East/South European levels as population replacement proceeds apace).

    To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so “objective” corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Is giving money to government a official in order to expedite your case corruption? How about giving plum government jobs to your relatives and friends? For a long time no one in the world saw anything unusual in that. How about the old American practice of patronage? It wasn’t considered corruption until, suddenly, it was.

    Practices that seem natural to you will appear corrupt to people from other cultures. I had a discussion once where someone denounced the old English legal institution of plea bargaining. I was startled at first but then I thought about it and I started see how this could be viewed as corruption. Imagine someone includes that definition in a corruption index. The English speaking countries won’t fare so well anymore.

    Basically, corruption is defined as whatever practice is considered bad at any given moment in a given society.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so “objective” corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.
     
    Well to some extent, sure. But "has a government official demanded money for a service that should be free in the past year?" is pretty clear yes/no corruption in Sweden, the US, Russia, China, and Nigeria (and provides an objective measure of it, like Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer and the World Bank's Enterprise Surveys).
  16. @Glossy
    Scandinavians are the most egalitarian people on earth. And Europeans in general are more egalitarian than Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians. And this has been true for a very long time. Ancient Greeks were more egalitarian than Egyptians, Mesopotamians or Persians. When Alexander started calling himself a God, and generally lording it over people, the Greeks said that he was aping Persian customs, turning native.

    The Aztec and Inca empires were far more primitive than Spanish society, yet at the same time less egalitarian.

    Etc., etc.

    This is probably related to trust towards strangers, family structure, Europe's and Core Europe's success and lots of other things.

    But my point is that it's older than the Catholic Church's prohibitions against cousin marriage.

    I'm guessing that this egalitarianism, as well as most other things that set Europe apart, was a product of farming in high latitudes. The farming belt extends much further to the north in Europe than in East Asia.

    Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages - I'm guessing that's the key.

    Nuclear families instead of extended ones, a preference for dealing with the inanimate forces of nature, which eventually bore fruit in the scientific and industrial revolutions, a lower ability to get their way in politics because there was no politics on an isolated farm, trust towards strangers (no strangers to distrust for miles around you), egalitarianism (no complex social hierarchies as there would be in a village), etc.

    I think Greek egalitarianism vs. Egyptians or Persians hierarchy had less to do with family structure or whatever and more to do with the fact that the Near Asian societies were much older and so much more advanced toward centralism.

    The Greeks were initially barbarians on the edge of civilization. The quickly mastered the arts of civilization and later contributed to it (did they ever) but in some respects they remained behind. Greece was a patchwork of city states – quite similar to Egypt before the First Kingdom or to Mesopotamia before Sargon of Akkad. I bet those petty Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers were pretty egalitarian. But once you start to centralize there is a certain logic to how these new superkings must carry themselves. I think Alexander realized that; it’s unlikely that he just suddenly grew vain for no reason.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander's conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC - 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don't think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don't think this was ever done before the Greeks. It's very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides' time Greek historians got rid of Gods' will and Gods' wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I'm sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.
    , @5371
    There was nothing the least egalitarian about those rulers.
  17. @inertial
    I think Greek egalitarianism vs. Egyptians or Persians hierarchy had less to do with family structure or whatever and more to do with the fact that the Near Asian societies were much older and so much more advanced toward centralism.

    The Greeks were initially barbarians on the edge of civilization. The quickly mastered the arts of civilization and later contributed to it (did they ever) but in some respects they remained behind. Greece was a patchwork of city states - quite similar to Egypt before the First Kingdom or to Mesopotamia before Sargon of Akkad. I bet those petty Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers were pretty egalitarian. But once you start to centralize there is a certain logic to how these new superkings must carry themselves. I think Alexander realized that; it's unlikely that he just suddenly grew vain for no reason.

    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander’s conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC – 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don’t think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don’t think this was ever done before the Greeks. It’s very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides’ time Greek historians got rid of Gods’ will and Gods’ wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I’m sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    All pre-Greek historical writing was wall-to-wall God's will. Not just the Bible. Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian stuff. The supernatural was everywhere. All explanations of what we now think of as natural phenomena relied on the supernatural. All political discourse was mostly about the supernatural. What Gods want. This was how rulers explained why they ruled, how tax collectors explained why they collected taxes, how conquerors explained why they killed and plundered. And Greek culture started that way too - Homer is all about Gods' meddling in human affairs. But at some point in the 5th century the Greek intellectual elite saw past that. That was an enormous achievement.
    , @inertial
    Yeah, yeah, but there is such a thing as the lifecycle of civilizations. They all start out wild, energetic, and egalitarian; but eventually they create great empires (if they are lucky) and turn into something else. The Romans followed the same path a few centuries later.
    , @Anatoly Karlin
    Classical Greece was also the first society in the history of the planet to attain "craftsman literacy" (~10%).

    The rest of of the region was stuck at "priestly literacy" (1-2%). Only the Phoenicians may have (speculatively) been a bit higher.
    , @krollchem
    Many of the advances ascribed to the Greeks were previously invented by the Assyrians.. http://patentednews.com/mesopotamia/assyrian-inventions/
    http://period7assyria.weebly.com/inventions.html
    http://ancientassyria.weebly.com/advanced-technology.html

    To be honest, the Assyrians may have acquired some of their advances from other groups they conquered.
  18. @Glossy
    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander's conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC - 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don't think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don't think this was ever done before the Greeks. It's very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides' time Greek historians got rid of Gods' will and Gods' wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I'm sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

    All pre-Greek historical writing was wall-to-wall God’s will. Not just the Bible. Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian stuff. The supernatural was everywhere. All explanations of what we now think of as natural phenomena relied on the supernatural. All political discourse was mostly about the supernatural. What Gods want. This was how rulers explained why they ruled, how tax collectors explained why they collected taxes, how conquerors explained why they killed and plundered. And Greek culture started that way too – Homer is all about Gods’ meddling in human affairs. But at some point in the 5th century the Greek intellectual elite saw past that. That was an enormous achievement.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    One more thing:

    As Greek culture declined, became simpler in the later Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, it became less egalitarian. I'm guessing this was because the Greeks mixed with the peoples whom they conquered.

    Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian. Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from), yet had a much simpler culture.
  19. @Glossy
    All pre-Greek historical writing was wall-to-wall God's will. Not just the Bible. Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian stuff. The supernatural was everywhere. All explanations of what we now think of as natural phenomena relied on the supernatural. All political discourse was mostly about the supernatural. What Gods want. This was how rulers explained why they ruled, how tax collectors explained why they collected taxes, how conquerors explained why they killed and plundered. And Greek culture started that way too - Homer is all about Gods' meddling in human affairs. But at some point in the 5th century the Greek intellectual elite saw past that. That was an enormous achievement.

    One more thing:

    As Greek culture declined, became simpler in the later Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, it became less egalitarian. I’m guessing this was because the Greeks mixed with the peoples whom they conquered.

    Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian. Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from), yet had a much simpler culture.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    You have a real knack for getting things backwards, glossy.

    Konstantin Leontiev (1831-1891):

    "Social science was hardly born when, ignoring the experience of centuries and the examples of nature they respect so much, people refused to see that there was no logical relation between the egalitarian-liberal forward movement and the idea of development. One can even say that the egalitarian-liberal process is the very antithesis of the process of development. In the case of the latter, the inner idea holds the social material in its organizing, despotic embrace and sets a limit to its centrifugal and disintegrating trend. Progress, which is hostile to every kind of despotism - the despotism of classes, workshops/factories, monasteries, even wealth, and so on - is nothing but a process of disintegration..."

    "The phenomena of egalitarian-liberal progress are comparable to the phenomena of combustion, decomposition, the melting of ice (water less free, limited by crystallization); they may be likened, for example, to the phenomena of the cholera process, which gradually transforms originally rather diverse people into more uniform corpses (equality), then into almost completely comparable skeletons (equality), and finally into free elements (relatively so, of course), such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on..."

    "In these processes of decomposition, combustion, melting, the progressive movement of cholera, one perceives the same phenomena."

    "1.The loss of the peculiarities which till then distinguished the despotically formed whole tree, animal, whole texture, whole crystal, etc.

    2.A greater resemblance in the component parts, a greater inner equality, a greater uniformity of the structure, etc.

    3.The loss of former, strict, morphological outlines,; now everything merges, more freely and uniformly."

    "Whichever of the states, ancient or modern, we may examine, in all of them we find one and the same thing in common: simplicity and uniformity in the beginning, greater equality and greater freedom (at least de facto, if not legal freedom) than there will be later...glancing at a plant sprouting from the soil, we do not yet know what it will become. There are too few distinct features. Afterwards we note a greater or lesser assertion of power, a more profound or less sharp division of classes, a greater variety of life and diversity of character in the regions.

    "At the same time, the wealth increases, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other; the resources of pleasure become more varied, on the one hand, while, on the other, the variety and refinement (development) of sensations and needs gives birth to greater sufferings, greater grief, greater mistakes and greater undertakings, more poetry and more comedy; the exploits of the educated - of Themistocles, Xenophon, Aristophanes, Alexander - are on grander scale and more appealing than the simple and crude exploits of Odysseus and Achilles. Then a Sophocles appears, an Aristophanes appears, the ranting heroes Corneille appear, the laughter of a Moliere resounds...Shakespeare or Goethe."

    "In general, these complex, flowering ages are dominated by some kind of aristocracy...The\ eupatridae of Athens, the feudal satraps of Persia, the optimates of Rome, the marquises of France, the lords of England, the Spartans of Laconia, the dvoryane of Russia, the pans of Poland..."

    "At the same time, because of the inner necessity of centralization, there also exists a tendency towards absolute monarchial power, which, either de jure or de facto, always asserts itself in an age of flowering complexity. There appear on the scene remarkable dictators, emperors, kings, or, at least, demagogues and tyrants (in the Hellenic sense) of genius, such as Themistocles, Pericles, and so on."

    "Between a Pericles and a lawful hereditary ruler and religiously consecrated sovereign, there is a whole ladder of diverse personal rulers, who are needed everywhere in complex and flowering ages in order to unify all the component parts, all the real social forces, full of life and ferment..."
  20. @Glossy
    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander's conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC - 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don't think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don't think this was ever done before the Greeks. It's very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides' time Greek historians got rid of Gods' will and Gods' wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I'm sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

    Yeah, yeah, but there is such a thing as the lifecycle of civilizations. They all start out wild, energetic, and egalitarian; but eventually they create great empires (if they are lucky) and turn into something else. The Romans followed the same path a few centuries later.

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  21. @Glossy
    I think that Core Europe is real, has been in pretty much those same borders for more than a thousand years. And trust towards non-relatives is a big part of its success.

    However, I don't know if hbdchick's theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church's prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference? I don't know about that. Haven't read enough to judge.

    Does she have evidence of cousin marriage in Core Europe 1,500 or 1,200 years ago? So little is known about that period.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans trusted each other enough to form republics. Most European peoples had popular assemblies in antiquity. Was the ancient Greek family structure different from the later Core European one? Not that I know. And the thing is that for pre-Roman antiquity Greece is the only part of Europe we know much about. Maybe all of Europe, or a big part of it, was already like that then in that respect.

    Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    I've seen maps of the frequency of adults living with their parents. It's dozens of times higher in Spain and Italy than in Scandinavia. So some differences in family structures persist.

    I’m sure you know this, but none of the theories originate with hbdchick or anyone else on the internet. They just apply them in a disturbingly mechanical and absolutist way.

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  22. @inertial
    I think Greek egalitarianism vs. Egyptians or Persians hierarchy had less to do with family structure or whatever and more to do with the fact that the Near Asian societies were much older and so much more advanced toward centralism.

    The Greeks were initially barbarians on the edge of civilization. The quickly mastered the arts of civilization and later contributed to it (did they ever) but in some respects they remained behind. Greece was a patchwork of city states - quite similar to Egypt before the First Kingdom or to Mesopotamia before Sargon of Akkad. I bet those petty Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers were pretty egalitarian. But once you start to centralize there is a certain logic to how these new superkings must carry themselves. I think Alexander realized that; it's unlikely that he just suddenly grew vain for no reason.

    There was nothing the least egalitarian about those rulers.

    Read More
  23. @inertial
    To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so "objective" corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Is giving money to government a official in order to expedite your case corruption? How about giving plum government jobs to your relatives and friends? For a long time no one in the world saw anything unusual in that. How about the old American practice of patronage? It wasn't considered corruption until, suddenly, it was.

    Practices that seem natural to you will appear corrupt to people from other cultures. I had a discussion once where someone denounced the old English legal institution of plea bargaining. I was startled at first but then I thought about it and I started see how this could be viewed as corruption. Imagine someone includes that definition in a corruption index. The English speaking countries won't fare so well anymore.

    Basically, corruption is defined as whatever practice is considered bad at any given moment in a given society.

    To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so “objective” corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Well to some extent, sure. But “has a government official demanded money for a service that should be free in the past year?” is pretty clear yes/no corruption in Sweden, the US, Russia, China, and Nigeria (and provides an objective measure of it, like Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer and the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys).

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  24. @Glossy
    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander's conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC - 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don't think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don't think this was ever done before the Greeks. It's very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides' time Greek historians got rid of Gods' will and Gods' wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I'm sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

    Classical Greece was also the first society in the history of the planet to attain “craftsman literacy” (~10%).

    The rest of of the region was stuck at “priestly literacy” (1-2%). Only the Phoenicians may have (speculatively) been a bit higher.

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  25. @Glossy
    I think that Core Europe is real, has been in pretty much those same borders for more than a thousand years. And trust towards non-relatives is a big part of its success.

    However, I don't know if hbdchick's theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church's prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference? I don't know about that. Haven't read enough to judge.

    Does she have evidence of cousin marriage in Core Europe 1,500 or 1,200 years ago? So little is known about that period.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans trusted each other enough to form republics. Most European peoples had popular assemblies in antiquity. Was the ancient Greek family structure different from the later Core European one? Not that I know. And the thing is that for pre-Roman antiquity Greece is the only part of Europe we know much about. Maybe all of Europe, or a big part of it, was already like that then in that respect.

    Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    I've seen maps of the frequency of adults living with their parents. It's dozens of times higher in Spain and Italy than in Scandinavia. So some differences in family structures persist.

    However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference?

    Yes, that, plus the manorial system, which pushed for the nuclear family and moved people about a lot.

    I really recommend you read hbdchick’s 101 on this: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/big-summary-post-on-the-hajnal-line/

    Then we can debate specifics.

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    • Replies: @5371
    There wasn't the same "manorial system" over the whole area where delayed marriage became the norm, or anything like it.
  26. It might be worth considering that Russia’s and, by extension, Kazakhstan’s and Belarus’, bandits are still in a transitory phase between roving and stationary. Political stability and predictability, while a staple for over a decade and a half, are still dependent on one man who is, at the end of the day, only human. Consider what Russia would look like if Putin were to suddenly become incapacitated, step down, or otherwise stop being president. While much capital has been invested in the creation of institutions, one which has not been created is a viable political system that would allow for an orderly transfer of power.

    Russia still suffers from a dearth of investment by Russians themselves. Furthermore, the bandits are quite intent on holding a large portion of their assets outside of the country, even with the risk of sanctions and confiscation hanging over their heads. Money is still being spirited out. I think it will take at least one more peaceful transfer of power, from Putin, before Russia’s bandits feel comfortable enough to become stationary.

    Otherwise, the concept that corruption will take time, decades and generations, to root out is very important. I often point this out to impatient Russians who want the country to become Switzerland overnight. To me, a good example is driving (road) culture, which has improved considerably over time (the 90s was something truly resembling Mad Max). This is a result of imperatives from, and interaction between, both the authorities and society. So it is with corruption.

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    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    I agree with this.

    I too would sooner classify Russia as transitional between the two states, but decided against it so as not to make the argument too convoluted.
    , @Philip Owen
    I totally agree about the driving, at least in an urban environment but on main roads between cities it is still a very wild place.
  27. @Niccolo Salo
    I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    F-35?
    Bank bailouts?
    Rigged bidding processes or even worse, no-bid like Haliburton in Iraq?

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    Big ticket corruption happens across the board and in places like the Anglosphere its legalized and people tolerate it much more due to the higher standard of living meaning that the theft is less noticeable since it is a smaller hit percentage-wise to your wallet.

    I think there’s more legitimacy to this than people realize. For one thing, a lot of the things that are considered corruption in Russia are totally legal in the Anglosphere – the whole “lobbying” thing, for example. This actually goes to Karlin’s point about “stationary bandits”. In the West, the bandits have been stationary for so long that the banditry has become institutionalized, legal and acceptable. When I visited Russia 2 years ago and told people how our political process works, they were genuinely shocked.

    It’s like the statistic about Sweden having the world’s highest rate of rape – because they consider even small transgressions to be rape. I don’t know how much that applies to the “corrupt” countries, but probably “some”. Perhaps it simply means that their polities are less stable and their laws are therefore not as well attuned to their society’s natural inclinations of behaviour, whereas the less-corrupt countries are like Terry Pratchett’s Ankh Morpork – there’s not much illegal behaviour because murder, thieving and prostitution have all been legalized, regulated and taxed…

    The other thing about “corruption” is that it can be a good thing, if the government is bad at its job and the bribes are reasonable. All corruption is, perhaps (at least, if we’re talking about local, small-scale corruption, not deep-state type corruption), is a devolution of power from the centre to the periphery. That’s not always bad; it all depends on the type of people who use that power.

    In my visit to Russia, I noticed a greater willingness of public workers to ignore the rules if it seemed to make sense to them – for example, letting someone on a bus who didn’t have enough for a full fare, but obviously badly needed to get on. In my home country, I’m used to public officials sticking to the letter of the law carefully even if it makes little sense, as they’re afraid for their jobs. The worst of them will maliciously apply rules to the letter as an acceptable way of self-expression. It’s not always a good thing.

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    • Agree: jtgw
    • Replies: @jtgw
    You could say that bribes simply reflect the true price of the services in question. Of course, it's not a genuine market-pricing mechanism, since the government officials can use force against you (while the assumption behind market pricing is that neither buyer nor seller can resort to force in the transaction). But I agree that to a large extent the uncorrupt countries have simply institutionalized and regularized the thievery and extortion. You can then argue that it's still better because costs are now predictable, while corrupt officials seem to be capricious and unpredictable in the costs they impose, but you rightly point out that relying on bribes may introduce needed flexibility into the system.

    I think that, rather than corruption per se, it's better to focus on things like social trust. While Danish officials can sometimes be heartless and mean-spirited, reflecting the worst character features of the conscientious bureaucrat (and also reflecting lack of trust in the transaction), the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn't need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy. So Denmark is great despite its high level of bureaucracy, not because of it. A lot of that I believe is due to those centuries of culture-gene coevolution that Anatoly and hbd chick are talking about.
  28. @Glossy
    Oh, and the reason for isolated homesteads, which were a real thing that I've read about, not a figment of my imagination, and which, I think, gave way to villages by the Dark Ages if not before:

    Very simple. The northern climate could only support a low density of farmers with the technology of the time.

    I was going to say “I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of ‘Core European’ peasants lived in villages during the Middle Ages” but I guess you’ve explained your statement here. So the claim is that the pre-Christian pattern of isolated homesteads evolved a certain pattern of behavior that persisted during the Christianization period, when population grew and farmers congregated in villages? It’s an interesting thesis, though I wonder why the new living patterns didn’t in turn evolve new patterns of behavior. Do you have a source for this idea?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    I'm assuming that this isolated-homestead period changed some of the genetics that govern personality. You only need a few thousand years to do that.
    , @Esn
    "I think that, rather than corruption per se, it’s better to focus on things like social trust. [...] the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy."

    Not sure if this applies to your point, but... I found it easier to make both friends and enemies in Russia. Back home, I can generally expect politeness, tolerance, and good social etiquette from those I meet, but am often left feeling uncertain about people's real thoughts. Which one of those counts as "social trust"? I trust to have polite and civilized interactions with people at home, whereas in Russia I trusted in it being easier to find how people really felt (which in my case was a positive, because I seem to be not very good at social signal detection and need all the help I can get).

    On the other hand, I went hiking through Scandinavia some years back, and they had an honour system - there was nobody at the overnight "huts", you paid for your stay by writing down how long you stayed and how many people, and slipping money into a wooden box, then cleaned everything before you left. Russians said that such a system could never work in Russia. That is certainly one type of "social trust", but I'm unsure if it's the only one...

  29. @Esn
    I think there's more legitimacy to this than people realize. For one thing, a lot of the things that are considered corruption in Russia are totally legal in the Anglosphere - the whole "lobbying" thing, for example. This actually goes to Karlin's point about "stationary bandits". In the West, the bandits have been stationary for so long that the banditry has become institutionalized, legal and acceptable. When I visited Russia 2 years ago and told people how our political process works, they were genuinely shocked.

    It's like the statistic about Sweden having the world's highest rate of rape - because they consider even small transgressions to be rape. I don't know how much that applies to the "corrupt" countries, but probably "some". Perhaps it simply means that their polities are less stable and their laws are therefore not as well attuned to their society's natural inclinations of behaviour, whereas the less-corrupt countries are like Terry Pratchett's Ankh Morpork - there's not much illegal behaviour because murder, thieving and prostitution have all been legalized, regulated and taxed...

    The other thing about "corruption" is that it can be a good thing, if the government is bad at its job and the bribes are reasonable. All corruption is, perhaps (at least, if we're talking about local, small-scale corruption, not deep-state type corruption), is a devolution of power from the centre to the periphery. That's not always bad; it all depends on the type of people who use that power.

    In my visit to Russia, I noticed a greater willingness of public workers to ignore the rules if it seemed to make sense to them - for example, letting someone on a bus who didn't have enough for a full fare, but obviously badly needed to get on. In my home country, I'm used to public officials sticking to the letter of the law carefully even if it makes little sense, as they're afraid for their jobs. The worst of them will maliciously apply rules to the letter as an acceptable way of self-expression. It's not always a good thing.

    You could say that bribes simply reflect the true price of the services in question. Of course, it’s not a genuine market-pricing mechanism, since the government officials can use force against you (while the assumption behind market pricing is that neither buyer nor seller can resort to force in the transaction). But I agree that to a large extent the uncorrupt countries have simply institutionalized and regularized the thievery and extortion. You can then argue that it’s still better because costs are now predictable, while corrupt officials seem to be capricious and unpredictable in the costs they impose, but you rightly point out that relying on bribes may introduce needed flexibility into the system.

    I think that, rather than corruption per se, it’s better to focus on things like social trust. While Danish officials can sometimes be heartless and mean-spirited, reflecting the worst character features of the conscientious bureaucrat (and also reflecting lack of trust in the transaction), the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy. So Denmark is great despite its high level of bureaucracy, not because of it. A lot of that I believe is due to those centuries of culture-gene coevolution that Anatoly and hbd chick are talking about.

    Read More
    • Replies: @ussr andy

    the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy.
     
    or clan elders (3rd World). or a lawyer caste (America.) ...

    many wannabe mediators of social transactions.

  30. @JL
    It might be worth considering that Russia's and, by extension, Kazakhstan's and Belarus', bandits are still in a transitory phase between roving and stationary. Political stability and predictability, while a staple for over a decade and a half, are still dependent on one man who is, at the end of the day, only human. Consider what Russia would look like if Putin were to suddenly become incapacitated, step down, or otherwise stop being president. While much capital has been invested in the creation of institutions, one which has not been created is a viable political system that would allow for an orderly transfer of power.

    Russia still suffers from a dearth of investment by Russians themselves. Furthermore, the bandits are quite intent on holding a large portion of their assets outside of the country, even with the risk of sanctions and confiscation hanging over their heads. Money is still being spirited out. I think it will take at least one more peaceful transfer of power, from Putin, before Russia's bandits feel comfortable enough to become stationary.

    Otherwise, the concept that corruption will take time, decades and generations, to root out is very important. I often point this out to impatient Russians who want the country to become Switzerland overnight. To me, a good example is driving (road) culture, which has improved considerably over time (the 90s was something truly resembling Mad Max). This is a result of imperatives from, and interaction between, both the authorities and society. So it is with corruption.

    I agree with this.

    I too would sooner classify Russia as transitional between the two states, but decided against it so as not to make the argument too convoluted.

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  31. I say, fix human and national mentality failings with technology.

    Somalia don’t have landlines but the decentralized mobile networks work just fine.

    I’m imagining something along the lines of Wikipedia coupled with public-key encryption, logging every tiniest thing plus algorithms that detect irregularities etc.

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  32. @Glossy
    One more thing:

    As Greek culture declined, became simpler in the later Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, it became less egalitarian. I'm guessing this was because the Greeks mixed with the peoples whom they conquered.

    Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian. Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from), yet had a much simpler culture.

    You have a real knack for getting things backwards, glossy.

    Konstantin Leontiev (1831-1891):

    “Social science was hardly born when, ignoring the experience of centuries and the examples of nature they respect so much, people refused to see that there was no logical relation between the egalitarian-liberal forward movement and the idea of development. One can even say that the egalitarian-liberal process is the very antithesis of the process of development. In the case of the latter, the inner idea holds the social material in its organizing, despotic embrace and sets a limit to its centrifugal and disintegrating trend. Progress, which is hostile to every kind of despotism – the despotism of classes, workshops/factories, monasteries, even wealth, and so on – is nothing but a process of disintegration…”

    “The phenomena of egalitarian-liberal progress are comparable to the phenomena of combustion, decomposition, the melting of ice (water less free, limited by crystallization); they may be likened, for example, to the phenomena of the cholera process, which gradually transforms originally rather diverse people into more uniform corpses (equality), then into almost completely comparable skeletons (equality), and finally into free elements (relatively so, of course), such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on…”

    “In these processes of decomposition, combustion, melting, the progressive movement of cholera, one perceives the same phenomena.”

    “1.The loss of the peculiarities which till then distinguished the despotically formed whole tree, animal, whole texture, whole crystal, etc.

    2.A greater resemblance in the component parts, a greater inner equality, a greater uniformity of the structure, etc.

    3.The loss of former, strict, morphological outlines,; now everything merges, more freely and uniformly.”

    “Whichever of the states, ancient or modern, we may examine, in all of them we find one and the same thing in common: simplicity and uniformity in the beginning, greater equality and greater freedom (at least de facto, if not legal freedom) than there will be later…glancing at a plant sprouting from the soil, we do not yet know what it will become. There are too few distinct features. Afterwards we note a greater or lesser assertion of power, a more profound or less sharp division of classes, a greater variety of life and diversity of character in the regions.

    “At the same time, the wealth increases, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other; the resources of pleasure become more varied, on the one hand, while, on the other, the variety and refinement (development) of sensations and needs gives birth to greater sufferings, greater grief, greater mistakes and greater undertakings, more poetry and more comedy; the exploits of the educated – of Themistocles, Xenophon, Aristophanes, Alexander – are on grander scale and more appealing than the simple and crude exploits of Odysseus and Achilles. Then a Sophocles appears, an Aristophanes appears, the ranting heroes Corneille appear, the laughter of a Moliere resounds…Shakespeare or Goethe.”

    “In general, these complex, flowering ages are dominated by some kind of aristocracy…The\ eupatridae of Athens, the feudal satraps of Persia, the optimates of Rome, the marquises of France, the lords of England, the Spartans of Laconia, the dvoryane of Russia, the pans of Poland…”

    “At the same time, because of the inner necessity of centralization, there also exists a tendency towards absolute monarchial power, which, either de jure or de facto, always asserts itself in an age of flowering complexity. There appear on the scene remarkable dictators, emperors, kings, or, at least, demagogues and tyrants (in the Hellenic sense) of genius, such as Themistocles, Pericles, and so on.”

    “Between a Pericles and a lawful hereditary ruler and religiously consecrated sovereign, there is a whole ladder of diverse personal rulers, who are needed everywhere in complex and flowering ages in order to unify all the component parts, all the real social forces, full of life and ferment…”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    While I rarely agree with your posts, I did very much enjoy this quoted passage and have another writer now to read about. Thank you!
  33. @jtgw
    You could say that bribes simply reflect the true price of the services in question. Of course, it's not a genuine market-pricing mechanism, since the government officials can use force against you (while the assumption behind market pricing is that neither buyer nor seller can resort to force in the transaction). But I agree that to a large extent the uncorrupt countries have simply institutionalized and regularized the thievery and extortion. You can then argue that it's still better because costs are now predictable, while corrupt officials seem to be capricious and unpredictable in the costs they impose, but you rightly point out that relying on bribes may introduce needed flexibility into the system.

    I think that, rather than corruption per se, it's better to focus on things like social trust. While Danish officials can sometimes be heartless and mean-spirited, reflecting the worst character features of the conscientious bureaucrat (and also reflecting lack of trust in the transaction), the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn't need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy. So Denmark is great despite its high level of bureaucracy, not because of it. A lot of that I believe is due to those centuries of culture-gene coevolution that Anatoly and hbd chick are talking about.

    the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy.

    or clan elders (3rd World). or a lawyer caste (America.) …

    many wannabe mediators of social transactions.

    Read More
  34. @jtgw
    I was going to say "I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of 'Core European' peasants lived in villages during the Middle Ages" but I guess you've explained your statement here. So the claim is that the pre-Christian pattern of isolated homesteads evolved a certain pattern of behavior that persisted during the Christianization period, when population grew and farmers congregated in villages? It's an interesting thesis, though I wonder why the new living patterns didn't in turn evolve new patterns of behavior. Do you have a source for this idea?

    I’m assuming that this isolated-homestead period changed some of the genetics that govern personality. You only need a few thousand years to do that.

    Read More
    • Replies: @jtgw
    Hm, well, you know what they say about assuming. ;)
  35. @AP
    You have a real knack for getting things backwards, glossy.

    Konstantin Leontiev (1831-1891):

    "Social science was hardly born when, ignoring the experience of centuries and the examples of nature they respect so much, people refused to see that there was no logical relation between the egalitarian-liberal forward movement and the idea of development. One can even say that the egalitarian-liberal process is the very antithesis of the process of development. In the case of the latter, the inner idea holds the social material in its organizing, despotic embrace and sets a limit to its centrifugal and disintegrating trend. Progress, which is hostile to every kind of despotism - the despotism of classes, workshops/factories, monasteries, even wealth, and so on - is nothing but a process of disintegration..."

    "The phenomena of egalitarian-liberal progress are comparable to the phenomena of combustion, decomposition, the melting of ice (water less free, limited by crystallization); they may be likened, for example, to the phenomena of the cholera process, which gradually transforms originally rather diverse people into more uniform corpses (equality), then into almost completely comparable skeletons (equality), and finally into free elements (relatively so, of course), such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on..."

    "In these processes of decomposition, combustion, melting, the progressive movement of cholera, one perceives the same phenomena."

    "1.The loss of the peculiarities which till then distinguished the despotically formed whole tree, animal, whole texture, whole crystal, etc.

    2.A greater resemblance in the component parts, a greater inner equality, a greater uniformity of the structure, etc.

    3.The loss of former, strict, morphological outlines,; now everything merges, more freely and uniformly."

    "Whichever of the states, ancient or modern, we may examine, in all of them we find one and the same thing in common: simplicity and uniformity in the beginning, greater equality and greater freedom (at least de facto, if not legal freedom) than there will be later...glancing at a plant sprouting from the soil, we do not yet know what it will become. There are too few distinct features. Afterwards we note a greater or lesser assertion of power, a more profound or less sharp division of classes, a greater variety of life and diversity of character in the regions.

    "At the same time, the wealth increases, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other; the resources of pleasure become more varied, on the one hand, while, on the other, the variety and refinement (development) of sensations and needs gives birth to greater sufferings, greater grief, greater mistakes and greater undertakings, more poetry and more comedy; the exploits of the educated - of Themistocles, Xenophon, Aristophanes, Alexander - are on grander scale and more appealing than the simple and crude exploits of Odysseus and Achilles. Then a Sophocles appears, an Aristophanes appears, the ranting heroes Corneille appear, the laughter of a Moliere resounds...Shakespeare or Goethe."

    "In general, these complex, flowering ages are dominated by some kind of aristocracy...The\ eupatridae of Athens, the feudal satraps of Persia, the optimates of Rome, the marquises of France, the lords of England, the Spartans of Laconia, the dvoryane of Russia, the pans of Poland..."

    "At the same time, because of the inner necessity of centralization, there also exists a tendency towards absolute monarchial power, which, either de jure or de facto, always asserts itself in an age of flowering complexity. There appear on the scene remarkable dictators, emperors, kings, or, at least, demagogues and tyrants (in the Hellenic sense) of genius, such as Themistocles, Pericles, and so on."

    "Between a Pericles and a lawful hereditary ruler and religiously consecrated sovereign, there is a whole ladder of diverse personal rulers, who are needed everywhere in complex and flowering ages in order to unify all the component parts, all the real social forces, full of life and ferment..."

    While I rarely agree with your posts, I did very much enjoy this quoted passage and have another writer now to read about. Thank you!

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    Thank you. Nineteenth century Russian reactionaries can be fun. The nobleman Leontiev was interesting - in one of his essays he had compared Dostoyevsky unfavorably to the obscure Russian/Ukrainian folk-writer Maria Vilinskаya . Liberal commoners such as Belinsky, in contrast, wanted a uniform culture and were opposed to "Little Russianism."
  36. @Daniel Chieh
    While I rarely agree with your posts, I did very much enjoy this quoted passage and have another writer now to read about. Thank you!

    Thank you. Nineteenth century Russian reactionaries can be fun. The nobleman Leontiev was interesting – in one of his essays he had compared Dostoyevsky unfavorably to the obscure Russian/Ukrainian folk-writer Maria Vilinskаya . Liberal commoners such as Belinsky, in contrast, wanted a uniform culture and were opposed to “Little Russianism.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @jtgw
    It's an interesting passage, but I'm not sure the argument entirely fits together. He starts by claiming that "progress" is a process of decay and equalization, but then starts speaking about the original simplicity of everything, suggesting that progress can also lead to greater complexity. Does he clarify the connection between these ideas in the original text?
  37. @Anatoly Karlin

    However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference?
     
    Yes, that, plus the manorial system, which pushed for the nuclear family and moved people about a lot.

    I really recommend you read hbdchick's 101 on this: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/big-summary-post-on-the-hajnal-line/

    Then we can debate specifics.

    There wasn’t the same “manorial system” over the whole area where delayed marriage became the norm, or anything like it.

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  38. @AP
    Thank you. Nineteenth century Russian reactionaries can be fun. The nobleman Leontiev was interesting - in one of his essays he had compared Dostoyevsky unfavorably to the obscure Russian/Ukrainian folk-writer Maria Vilinskаya . Liberal commoners such as Belinsky, in contrast, wanted a uniform culture and were opposed to "Little Russianism."

    It’s an interesting passage, but I’m not sure the argument entirely fits together. He starts by claiming that “progress” is a process of decay and equalization, but then starts speaking about the original simplicity of everything, suggesting that progress can also lead to greater complexity. Does he clarify the connection between these ideas in the original text?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    In short, he equated civilization lifecycles to those of living lifecycles. From the beginning, we are simple, undifferentiated cells and grow to become entire human beings with specialization; then it begins to gradually go downhill, taken down by attacking foreign bodies or internal cancers, until finally we return to a state of nonliving simplicity.
  39. @Glossy
    I'm assuming that this isolated-homestead period changed some of the genetics that govern personality. You only need a few thousand years to do that.

    Hm, well, you know what they say about assuming. ;)

    Read More
  40. The effects of Islamic immigration into countries within the Hajnal Line — France, Sweden, Germany, etc. — show how fragile a culture or country can be that is based on beyond-kin altruism. Throw in a certain percentage of lower-IQ aliens who only know clan-based or tribal social arrangements and you get a general decline in social conditions.

    In short, diversity might have its merits when the people imported have higher IQs and/or are acculturated to beyond-kin altruism … but the contrary appears to have a fatal downside. Indeed, it might be the case that a successful advanced industrial/information society requires a certain quotient of population acculturated to beyond-kin altruism because that society requires a certain level of trust and transparency that are not possible in clan-based societies.

    Anatoly, if this makes sense, do you have any ideas regarding what that immigrant quotient might be that can throw a beyond-kin altruistic society into decline?

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  41. @JL
    It might be worth considering that Russia's and, by extension, Kazakhstan's and Belarus', bandits are still in a transitory phase between roving and stationary. Political stability and predictability, while a staple for over a decade and a half, are still dependent on one man who is, at the end of the day, only human. Consider what Russia would look like if Putin were to suddenly become incapacitated, step down, or otherwise stop being president. While much capital has been invested in the creation of institutions, one which has not been created is a viable political system that would allow for an orderly transfer of power.

    Russia still suffers from a dearth of investment by Russians themselves. Furthermore, the bandits are quite intent on holding a large portion of their assets outside of the country, even with the risk of sanctions and confiscation hanging over their heads. Money is still being spirited out. I think it will take at least one more peaceful transfer of power, from Putin, before Russia's bandits feel comfortable enough to become stationary.

    Otherwise, the concept that corruption will take time, decades and generations, to root out is very important. I often point this out to impatient Russians who want the country to become Switzerland overnight. To me, a good example is driving (road) culture, which has improved considerably over time (the 90s was something truly resembling Mad Max). This is a result of imperatives from, and interaction between, both the authorities and society. So it is with corruption.

    I totally agree about the driving, at least in an urban environment but on main roads between cities it is still a very wild place.

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  42. The House of Lords is a great example of absorption of the potentially corrupt. Instead of leaving the powerful and wealthy outside the system of creating law, you bring them inside. The need to lobby MP’s is greatly weakened when the chairman of the defence contracting company is a Lord who can ask for an amendment of a bill in Parliament directly.

    This system has declined recently. Fewer heads of PLCs (and Trades Unions) are being made Lords. Retired politicians are an increasing share. It is “democratic” even socialist thinking. It’s wrong. Outsiders bring expertise not just wealth and power to the process. The Commons is there to keep an eye on the money. Absolutely the last thing the UK needs is a democratically elected Lords.

    Russia tries to make Duma Deputies give up their business interests. This simply results in a requirement to deceive from the outset. Put the rich and powerful in plain sight. Removing the Monarchies and Aristocracies of Southern and Eastern Europe removed a check on corruption – no knighthood for you you naughty boy.

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  43. @jtgw
    It's an interesting passage, but I'm not sure the argument entirely fits together. He starts by claiming that "progress" is a process of decay and equalization, but then starts speaking about the original simplicity of everything, suggesting that progress can also lead to greater complexity. Does he clarify the connection between these ideas in the original text?

    In short, he equated civilization lifecycles to those of living lifecycles. From the beginning, we are simple, undifferentiated cells and grow to become entire human beings with specialization; then it begins to gradually go downhill, taken down by attacking foreign bodies or internal cancers, until finally we return to a state of nonliving simplicity.

    Read More
  44. Anatoly,

    Some day when you get a chance I would request that you discuss the recovery of Poland vis-a-vis the Russian Federation after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps a few things you might discuss:

    Was the Polish recovery that successful? Everyone in America says it is, but how come the European landscape is still littered with Polish economic refugees? (I know that is still the case for Ireland.)

    Was Poland subjected to the same shock therapy as Russia? Or did the shock therapy differ? Was the shock therapy successful in Poland as we are constantly told of in the West?

    Was there an absence of Polish plutocrats who would have otherwise economically raped the system? If so,what accounts for their absence?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    #Dan Hayes Poland is the biggest receiver of european budget funds, they receive billions from polish migrants remittances and from factories that move to exploit cheap polish labour and tariff free trading with other european countries.
    , @anarchyst
    Let's not forget the Katyn Forest massacre, in which the "chosen" communists murdered the Polish intelligentsia (and unsuccessfully tried to blame it on the Germans) to keep them from subverting Stalin's plan for that part of the world. It is possible that things would have been very different (and more difficult for the "chosen" communists) if the Polish leadership had survived.
    It is interesting to note that Germany and the Allies got together to ascertain the truth about this Soviet-planned and imposed massacre.
    , @Anon 2
    A few remarks about Poland:

    1. Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne).
    Already in 1433 Poland had Neminem Captivabimus, i.e.,
    due process, about 250 years before the English Habeas
    Corpus Act of 1679. About 10-12% of the citizens were
    eligible to vote in the Polish-Lithuanian Res Publica
    ("Lithuania" included Belarus and western Ukraine), the
    federal republic usually known as the Commonwealth.
    This level of voting eligibility wasn't reached in France or England
    until the early 19th century. In the U.S., for example, only 10-15%
    were eligible to vote until 1850. Rule of law, respect for private
    property, early form of stock exchange have existed for centuries.

    2. What is hard for Russians to understand is that Poland began as
    a Western country, along with Bohemia, and the Polabian Slavs. These
    3 entities originated around AD 850-900, and evolved together for hundreds
    of years. All three were part of Western Christendom. Then, as a result
    of the German Drang Nach Osten and Ostsiedlung (eastern settlements),
    Poland was pushed east and began to look like an eastern European
    country. The early connection with Denmark and the Vikings was lost.
    Today even when I travel to Lodz (Łódź), a mere 100 miles west of Warsaw,
    it feels more Western than the capital despite Warsaw's cosmopolitan
    status. In western Poland people look more German and have a German
    work ethic. Polabian Slavs (Sorbs) still remain in Lusatia (Łużyce), a region
    which straddles the German-Polish border. The northern Sorbs in Germany
    speak a dialect which is very close to Polish. The southwestern part of Poland
    (around Lubań) is the oldest part of Poland. In AD 623-658 it was already part
    of the oldest western Slavic state, Samo's Empire. Thus historically, Poland
    has been part of the western trinity of nations: Bohemia, Lusatia, and Poland,
    in close contact with Italy and France since the 9th century.

    3. By about 1550 80% of the world's Jews lived in Poland, i.e., Polish-Lithuanian
    federal republic. If you don't believe me, visit the new Polin Museum in Warsaw.
    The reason was that the Jews were expelled from W. Europe and were banned
    from settling in Russia. As a result of the Warsaw Confederation (1573), religious
    tolerance was extended to nobility and free persons - first such document in Europe,
    and while the western Europeans were butchering each other during the religious
    wars, Poland was peaceful, and in fact became known as a "state without stakes,"
    an early form of the United States, that attracted thousands of people from all
    over Europe who sought religious freedom in a vast land where they could
    live in peace. Parliamentary democracies, however, don't fare well when surrounded
    by absolute monarchies like Prussia or Russia, and so this utopian state
    went into decline, but only after 800 years of relative success (and I'm not
    minimizing excesses of democracy like "liberum veto" but that's a whole other
    topic)
  45. @jtgw
    I was going to say "I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of 'Core European' peasants lived in villages during the Middle Ages" but I guess you've explained your statement here. So the claim is that the pre-Christian pattern of isolated homesteads evolved a certain pattern of behavior that persisted during the Christianization period, when population grew and farmers congregated in villages? It's an interesting thesis, though I wonder why the new living patterns didn't in turn evolve new patterns of behavior. Do you have a source for this idea?

    “I think that, rather than corruption per se, it’s better to focus on things like social trust. [...] the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy.”

    Not sure if this applies to your point, but… I found it easier to make both friends and enemies in Russia. Back home, I can generally expect politeness, tolerance, and good social etiquette from those I meet, but am often left feeling uncertain about people’s real thoughts. Which one of those counts as “social trust”? I trust to have polite and civilized interactions with people at home, whereas in Russia I trusted in it being easier to find how people really felt (which in my case was a positive, because I seem to be not very good at social signal detection and need all the help I can get).

    On the other hand, I went hiking through Scandinavia some years back, and they had an honour system – there was nobody at the overnight “huts”, you paid for your stay by writing down how long you stayed and how many people, and slipping money into a wooden box, then cleaned everything before you left. Russians said that such a system could never work in Russia. That is certainly one type of “social trust”, but I’m unsure if it’s the only one…

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  46. Anon says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Dan Hayes
    Anatoly,

    Some day when you get a chance I would request that you discuss the recovery of Poland vis-a-vis the Russian Federation after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps a few things you might discuss:

    Was the Polish recovery that successful? Everyone in America says it is, but how come the European landscape is still littered with Polish economic refugees? (I know that is still the case for Ireland.)

    Was Poland subjected to the same shock therapy as Russia? Or did the shock therapy differ? Was the shock therapy successful in Poland as we are constantly told of in the West?

    Was there an absence of Polish plutocrats who would have otherwise economically raped the system? If so,what accounts for their absence?

    #Dan Hayes Poland is the biggest receiver of european budget funds, they receive billions from polish migrants remittances and from factories that move to exploit cheap polish labour and tariff free trading with other european countries.

    Read More
  47. @Dan Hayes
    Anatoly,

    Some day when you get a chance I would request that you discuss the recovery of Poland vis-a-vis the Russian Federation after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps a few things you might discuss:

    Was the Polish recovery that successful? Everyone in America says it is, but how come the European landscape is still littered with Polish economic refugees? (I know that is still the case for Ireland.)

    Was Poland subjected to the same shock therapy as Russia? Or did the shock therapy differ? Was the shock therapy successful in Poland as we are constantly told of in the West?

    Was there an absence of Polish plutocrats who would have otherwise economically raped the system? If so,what accounts for their absence?

    Let’s not forget the Katyn Forest massacre, in which the “chosen” communists murdered the Polish intelligentsia (and unsuccessfully tried to blame it on the Germans) to keep them from subverting Stalin’s plan for that part of the world. It is possible that things would have been very different (and more difficult for the “chosen” communists) if the Polish leadership had survived.
    It is interesting to note that Germany and the Allies got together to ascertain the truth about this Soviet-planned and imposed massacre.

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  48. Anon says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Does “chosen” mean “Jewish”?

    The Katyn order was signed by Stalin, Molotov, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, and Kalinin. That’s three Russians, one Armenian, one Georgian, and one Jew. It was as much Armenian or Georgian communists as Jewish ones that were responsible.

    Incidentally, the Katyn Forest Massacre was a massacre of soldiers — specifically the officer corps – not intelligentsia. But you’re correct — they were Polish.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    They were reserve officers from the intelligentsia, not some sort of career soldiers.
  49. @Glossy
    Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander's conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC - 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don't think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don't think this was ever done before the Greeks. It's very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides' time Greek historians got rid of Gods' will and Gods' wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I'm sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

    Many of the advances ascribed to the Greeks were previously invented by the Assyrians.. http://patentednews.com/mesopotamia/assyrian-inventions/

    http://period7assyria.weebly.com/inventions.html

    http://ancientassyria.weebly.com/advanced-technology.html

    To be honest, the Assyrians may have acquired some of their advances from other groups they conquered.

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  50. @Anon
    Does "chosen" mean "Jewish"?

    The Katyn order was signed by Stalin, Molotov, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, and Kalinin. That's three Russians, one Armenian, one Georgian, and one Jew. It was as much Armenian or Georgian communists as Jewish ones that were responsible.

    Incidentally, the Katyn Forest Massacre was a massacre of soldiers -- specifically the officer corps - not intelligentsia. But you're correct -- they were Polish.

    They were reserve officers from the intelligentsia, not some sort of career soldiers.

    Read More
  51. @Dan Hayes
    Anatoly,

    Some day when you get a chance I would request that you discuss the recovery of Poland vis-a-vis the Russian Federation after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps a few things you might discuss:

    Was the Polish recovery that successful? Everyone in America says it is, but how come the European landscape is still littered with Polish economic refugees? (I know that is still the case for Ireland.)

    Was Poland subjected to the same shock therapy as Russia? Or did the shock therapy differ? Was the shock therapy successful in Poland as we are constantly told of in the West?

    Was there an absence of Polish plutocrats who would have otherwise economically raped the system? If so,what accounts for their absence?

    A few remarks about Poland:

    1. Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne).
    Already in 1433 Poland had Neminem Captivabimus, i.e.,
    due process, about 250 years before the English Habeas
    Corpus Act of 1679. About 10-12% of the citizens were
    eligible to vote in the Polish-Lithuanian Res Publica
    (“Lithuania” included Belarus and western Ukraine), the
    federal republic usually known as the Commonwealth.
    This level of voting eligibility wasn’t reached in France or England
    until the early 19th century. In the U.S., for example, only 10-15%
    were eligible to vote until 1850. Rule of law, respect for private
    property, early form of stock exchange have existed for centuries.

    2. What is hard for Russians to understand is that Poland began as
    a Western country, along with Bohemia, and the Polabian Slavs. These
    3 entities originated around AD 850-900, and evolved together for hundreds
    of years. All three were part of Western Christendom. Then, as a result
    of the German Drang Nach Osten and Ostsiedlung (eastern settlements),
    Poland was pushed east and began to look like an eastern European
    country. The early connection with Denmark and the Vikings was lost.
    Today even when I travel to Lodz (Łódź), a mere 100 miles west of Warsaw,
    it feels more Western than the capital despite Warsaw’s cosmopolitan
    status. In western Poland people look more German and have a German
    work ethic. Polabian Slavs (Sorbs) still remain in Lusatia (Łużyce), a region
    which straddles the German-Polish border. The northern Sorbs in Germany
    speak a dialect which is very close to Polish. The southwestern part of Poland
    (around Lubań) is the oldest part of Poland. In AD 623-658 it was already part
    of the oldest western Slavic state, Samo’s Empire. Thus historically, Poland
    has been part of the western trinity of nations: Bohemia, Lusatia, and Poland,
    in close contact with Italy and France since the 9th century.

    3. By about 1550 80% of the world’s Jews lived in Poland, i.e., Polish-Lithuanian
    federal republic. If you don’t believe me, visit the new Polin Museum in Warsaw.
    The reason was that the Jews were expelled from W. Europe and were banned
    from settling in Russia. As a result of the Warsaw Confederation (1573), religious
    tolerance was extended to nobility and free persons – first such document in Europe,
    and while the western Europeans were butchering each other during the religious
    wars, Poland was peaceful, and in fact became known as a “state without stakes,”
    an early form of the United States, that attracted thousands of people from all
    over Europe who sought religious freedom in a vast land where they could
    live in peace. Parliamentary democracies, however, don’t fare well when surrounded
    by absolute monarchies like Prussia or Russia, and so this utopian state
    went into decline, but only after 800 years of relative success (and I’m not
    minimizing excesses of democracy like “liberum veto” but that’s a whole other
    topic)

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  52. “Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne).”

    Hilarious. The tribes which lived in what was not yet called Poland in 800 AD would have had tribal assemblies (veches in Slavic), but so did every single European tribal people: Germanics, Celts, Finno-Ugrians, etc. The Germanic assemblies, for example, were called “things”.

    These tribal assemblies were not parliaments. A parliament is formed when people elect representatives. A popular assembly is just tribesmen meeting at a forest clearing.

    Almost nothing is known about not-yet-Poland in 800 AD because it was completely illiterate, in contrast to what’s now Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. It didn’t even have runes like what they used in Scandinavia. Moreover, the literate peoples of Western Europe had so little interest in what was going on in that corner of the world at that time that they hardly recorded any information about it. The written history of Poland really starts with Christianization, which introduced writing into an illiterate society in the second half of the 10th century.

    In comparison, France, for example, became majority Christian in the 4th century AD. Its elites have been literate since Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul more than 2,000 years ago. Most large French cities were founded by Romans, the ones on the Med coast by ancient Greeks before them. THAT’s the historical difference between Eastern and Western Europe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    LOL, your entire comment is based on the fact that you failed to understand what "Anon 2" wrote.
    , @Anon 2
    You misunderstood me. AD 800 referred to roughly the time when
    modern Europe arose from the Dark Ages (which by the way
    were not so dark but that's a separate topic), i.e., reign of
    Charlemagne. The parliamentary system in Poland had its
    beginnings in the Middle Ages, and was in full swing by
    the time of Neminem Captivabimus (1433)
  53. @Glossy
    "Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne)."

    Hilarious. The tribes which lived in what was not yet called Poland in 800 AD would have had tribal assemblies (veches in Slavic), but so did every single European tribal people: Germanics, Celts, Finno-Ugrians, etc. The Germanic assemblies, for example, were called "things".

    These tribal assemblies were not parliaments. A parliament is formed when people elect representatives. A popular assembly is just tribesmen meeting at a forest clearing.

    Almost nothing is known about not-yet-Poland in 800 AD because it was completely illiterate, in contrast to what's now Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. It didn't even have runes like what they used in Scandinavia. Moreover, the literate peoples of Western Europe had so little interest in what was going on in that corner of the world at that time that they hardly recorded any information about it. The written history of Poland really starts with Christianization, which introduced writing into an illiterate society in the second half of the 10th century.

    In comparison, France, for example, became majority Christian in the 4th century AD. Its elites have been literate since Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul more than 2,000 years ago. Most large French cities were founded by Romans, the ones on the Med coast by ancient Greeks before them. THAT's the historical difference between Eastern and Western Europe.

    LOL, your entire comment is based on the fact that you failed to understand what “Anon 2″ wrote.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    Even if he didn't claim that Poland was a parliamentary democracy in 800 AD, but simply that it was the first one to appear in Europe after 800 AD, that's still not true.
    , @Glossy
    On to the Wikipedia:

    "Until 1468, sejms gathered only the high ranking nobility and officials, but the sejm of 1468 saw deputies elected from various local territories"

    ...


    "The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I.

    This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name"

    To repeat, "two burgesses were elected from each borough". In 1295. However, Italy had so many republics going back to before 1000 AD, and especially in the 12th century, before they started swallowing each other up, that I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had elected representatives even before the English.
  54. @AP
    LOL, your entire comment is based on the fact that you failed to understand what "Anon 2" wrote.

    Even if he didn’t claim that Poland was a parliamentary democracy in 800 AD, but simply that it was the first one to appear in Europe after 800 AD, that’s still not true.

    Read More
  55. @AP
    LOL, your entire comment is based on the fact that you failed to understand what "Anon 2" wrote.

    On to the Wikipedia:

    “Until 1468, sejms gathered only the high ranking nobility and officials, but the sejm of 1468 saw deputies elected from various local territories”

    “The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I.

    This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name”

    To repeat, “two burgesses were elected from each borough”. In 1295. However, Italy had so many republics going back to before 1000 AD, and especially in the 12th century, before they started swallowing each other up, that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them had elected representatives even before the English.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon 2
    Of course, all sorts of assemblies have existed
    for centuries but they had no real power. That
    came only with Habeas Corpus as a counterweight
    to the power of the king, and that's when parliamentary
    democracy effectively began. Poland had an early
    version of Habeas Corpus before anyone else in
    Europe.

    Morally speaking there is nothing great about Western
    Europe unless you think of colonialism, slave trade,
    and the plunder of resources in America, Africa, India, etc
    as morally unsurpassed in human history.
    Just one example, Jules Verne, the great French sci-fi
    writer, admitted at one point that his family got rich
    from slave trade. Maybe you admire that, I don't
    , @AP
    That's great, it's what you should have written the first time.
  56. @Glossy
    "Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne)."

    Hilarious. The tribes which lived in what was not yet called Poland in 800 AD would have had tribal assemblies (veches in Slavic), but so did every single European tribal people: Germanics, Celts, Finno-Ugrians, etc. The Germanic assemblies, for example, were called "things".

    These tribal assemblies were not parliaments. A parliament is formed when people elect representatives. A popular assembly is just tribesmen meeting at a forest clearing.

    Almost nothing is known about not-yet-Poland in 800 AD because it was completely illiterate, in contrast to what's now Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. It didn't even have runes like what they used in Scandinavia. Moreover, the literate peoples of Western Europe had so little interest in what was going on in that corner of the world at that time that they hardly recorded any information about it. The written history of Poland really starts with Christianization, which introduced writing into an illiterate society in the second half of the 10th century.

    In comparison, France, for example, became majority Christian in the 4th century AD. Its elites have been literate since Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul more than 2,000 years ago. Most large French cities were founded by Romans, the ones on the Med coast by ancient Greeks before them. THAT's the historical difference between Eastern and Western Europe.

    You misunderstood me. AD 800 referred to roughly the time when
    modern Europe arose from the Dark Ages (which by the way
    were not so dark but that’s a separate topic), i.e., reign of
    Charlemagne. The parliamentary system in Poland had its
    beginnings in the Middle Ages, and was in full swing by
    the time of Neminem Captivabimus (1433)

    Read More
  57. @Glossy
    On to the Wikipedia:

    "Until 1468, sejms gathered only the high ranking nobility and officials, but the sejm of 1468 saw deputies elected from various local territories"

    ...


    "The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I.

    This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name"

    To repeat, "two burgesses were elected from each borough". In 1295. However, Italy had so many republics going back to before 1000 AD, and especially in the 12th century, before they started swallowing each other up, that I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had elected representatives even before the English.

    Of course, all sorts of assemblies have existed
    for centuries but they had no real power. That
    came only with Habeas Corpus as a counterweight
    to the power of the king, and that’s when parliamentary
    democracy effectively began. Poland had an early
    version of Habeas Corpus before anyone else in
    Europe.

    Morally speaking there is nothing great about Western
    Europe unless you think of colonialism, slave trade,
    and the plunder of resources in America, Africa, India, etc
    as morally unsurpassed in human history.
    Just one example, Jules Verne, the great French sci-fi
    writer, admitted at one point that his family got rich
    from slave trade. Maybe you admire that, I don’t

    Read More
  58. @Glossy
    On to the Wikipedia:

    "Until 1468, sejms gathered only the high ranking nobility and officials, but the sejm of 1468 saw deputies elected from various local territories"

    ...


    "The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I.

    This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name"

    To repeat, "two burgesses were elected from each borough". In 1295. However, Italy had so many republics going back to before 1000 AD, and especially in the 12th century, before they started swallowing each other up, that I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had elected representatives even before the English.

    That’s great, it’s what you should have written the first time.

    Read More
  59. anon says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Bulgaria has an unelected dickhead prime-minister. Romania just got rid of its thirs similarly unelected dickhead. They are equally useless, but, as a bouns, they are so widely disliked, they never get past 10% if they choose to stand for election. (Similar to Monti in Italy.) So why the hell would any Bulgarian or Romanian want to increase the salary for Merkel’s unelectable viceroys?

    Also, in the last year, in Romania, two rich businessmen (Vonica and Condrea) who made money by overcharging the state healthcare system committed suicide very rapidly after hearing they will be probed. They weren’t even accused of anything. Sounds very similar to what the Chinese do. I wouldn’t call it honorable suicide, but they were removed nevertheless, by means that would theoretically horrify Westernophiles.

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