Six Ideas That Set the West Apart from the Rest (And Why It’s All Over Now Baby Blue)

We’re tackling another big question today with the help of Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson. And the question goes like this: Why has the West created so much prosperity and stability over the past several centuries, when the rest of the world did not? For Ferguson, the “great divergence” can be explained by six big ideas, or what he calls killer apps for the benefit of his technophile TED audience:

1. Competition
2. The Scientific Revolution
3. Property Rights
4. Modern Medicine
5. The Consumer Society
6. Work Ethic

These apps, it turns out, are open source. Anyone can download and use them. And that’s precisely what Asia has done. The great divergence is over (baby blue)…

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Comments (3)
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  • Chris L. says:

    The actual ‘killer’ apps:

    1. Competition through exploitation and warfare
    2. Scientific knowledge preserved by Arabs
    3. Property consisting of global theft of native lands
    4. Modern Medicine (also from the Arabs)
    5. Consumption to the point of environmental devastation
    6. Slave labor

  • Pozarski says:

    Slaves (also from Arabs).;)

  • DS says:

    As an Indian I’m deeply offended by this speech, and not just disappointed, but shocked, that Open Culture (which I otherwise hold in the highest regard)would stoop so low as to host such an offensive speech. The bounties reaped by Western imperialism are casually brushed away by Niall Ferguson and Imperialism is in fact justified by him, the intent being that the West colonized the East because they were smarter. He even says, “So the Empire wasn’t all bad.” Atrocious. The West did come up with some great institutions, but their wealth and power, for a very long time, came via colonizing, exploiting and perpetrating all kinds of atrocities on the colonized, be they Indians, Africans, Native Americans, Australian aborigines, etc. The colonizers also brutally decimated large swathes of these native populations. To brush off the possibility of this argument with such cold arrogance is probably a typical Niall Ferguson trait. His mimicry of non- western accents, like he does in the end, is another symptom of his racist way of thinking. It’s also unfair on his part to lump the entire world, which is not the colonizer, as ‘the East’, whether it’s Africa or Latin America. It’s an Us vs Them scenario and very much a case of Othering, the very trait of colonial racism. I’m glad that Pankaj Mishra has raised his voice against this rather idiotic personage.

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