MITT ROMNEY’S latest controversial remark, about the role of culture in explaining why some countries are rich and powerful while others are poor and weak, has attracted much comment. I was especially interested in his remark because he misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar’s arguments, oversimplified the issue.
It is not true that my book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, “basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.”
That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it. My focus was mostly on biological features, like plant and animal species, and among physical characteristics, the ones I mentioned were continents’ sizes and shapes and relative isolation. I said nothing about iron ore, which is so widespread that its distribution has had little effect on the different successes of different peoples. (As I learned this week, Mr. Romney also mischaracterized my book in his memoir, “No Apology: Believe in America.”)
That’s not the worst part. Even scholars who emphasize social rather than geographic explanations — like the Harvard economist David S. Landes, whose book “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” was mentioned favorably by Mr. Romney — would find Mr. Romney’s statement that “culture makes all the difference” dangerously out of date. In fact, Mr. Landes analyzed multiple factors (including climate) in explaining why the industrial revolution first occurred in Europe and not elsewhere.
“It’s a valid question, and my answer is ‘nice try.’”—
GOP presidential candidate MITT ROMNEY, when asked “Do you personally think homosexuality is a sin?” by CNN’s Piers Morgan on the June 7, 2011 edition of Morgan’s show.
Why doesn’t he just stick with that as a stock answer?
Is London ready for the Olympics? ”Nice try.” What’s your opinion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? ”Nice try.” Are you really fit to be President? ”Nice try.”
(via The Daily Show)
Yes. Nice try getting me to say out loud that yes, I do, in fact, believe that. Way too smart to be forthcoming about my very troubling beliefs that could have very severe implications for civil rights and domestic policymaking.
Ignoring my usual ignore Mitt Romney policy to poke my head in and say I hate that smug, tone deaf, arrogant piece of shit. So, so, so much.
YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE SO MIGHT AS WELL SPEAK YOUR MIND YOU JALOPY OF A HUMAN BEING. Barack went ahead and did it. He’s not trying to appease his haters, I don’t know why you are trying to. And if you are actually AGAINST your base on the issue, WHY ARE YOU RUNNING ON THEIR TICKET.
The Wall Street Journal noted, in way of confirmation, that the extra wealth created by the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.”
2. Individual initiative is all you need for success.
President Obama was criticized for a speech which included these words: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
‘Together’ is the word that winner-take-all conservatives seem to forget. Even the richest and arguably most successful American, Bill Gates, owes most of his good fortune to the thousands of software and hardware designers who shaped the technological industry over a half-century or more. A careful analysis of his rise shows that he had luck, networking skills, and a timely sense of opportunism, even to the point of taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own.
Gates was preceded by numerous illustrious Americans who are considered individual innovators when in fact they used their skills to build upon the work of others. On the day that Alexander Graham Bell filed for a patent for his telephone, electrical engineer Elisha Gray was filing an intent to patent a similar device. Both had built upon the work of Antonio Meucci, who didn’t have the fee to file for a patent. Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb was the culmination of almost 40 years of work by other fellow light bulb developers. Samuel Morse, Eli Whitney, the Wright brothers, and even Thomas Edison had, as eloquently stated by Jared Diamond , “capable predecessors…and made their improvements at a time when society was capable of using their product.”
If anything, it’s harder than ever today to ascend through the ranks on one’s own. As summarized in the Pew research report ”Pursuing the American Dream,” only 4% of those starting out in the bottom quintile make it to the top quintile as adults, “confirming that the ‘rags-to-riches’ story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”
3. A booming stock market is good for all of us
The news reports would have us believe that happy days are here again when the stock market goes up. But as the market rises, most Americans are getting a smaller slice of the pie.
In a recent Newsweek article , author Daniel Gross gushed that “The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records.”
Thanks in good part to a meager 15% capital gains tax, the richest 400 taxpayers DOUBLED their income and nearly HALVED their tax rates in just seven years (2001-2007). So dramatic is the effect that anyone making more than $34,500 a year in salary and wages is taxed at a higher rate than an individual with millions in capital gains.
There’s yet more to the madness. The stock market has grown much faster than the GDP over the past century, which means that this special tax rate is being given to people who already own most of the unearned income that keeps expanding faster than the productiveness of real workers.
And one fading illusion: People in the highest class are people of high class.