Niall Ferguson: The 6 Killer Apps of Prosperity

Loknath Rao, a regular friend of this blog, sent me the following TED video with the comment, “Precisely your views. Thought you would like it.” Here it is for your delight.

Some of the ideas that Ferguson talks about are covered quite well in Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, a book that I’d used in the economic development class I taught this Summer at UC Berkeley. (For the curious, the Econ171 class blog may be of interest.)

Ferguson talks about “natural experiments” of the kind that were conducted in the two Germanies, and the two Koreas, after the second world war. One side got communism and the other capitalism. The resulting divergence speaks for the failure of one and the success of the other.

There is a similar natural experiment in the Indian subcontinent. It began in earnest after the British left in 1947 and the preliminary results are in but the end game — easily predicted — will take another decade or so. The end result will be the final proof that Islam as an ideology is a well-rounded failure in economic and sociological terms. The great divergence is not just limited to economic ideologies; religious ideologies matter more than what most observers are willing (or allowed) to admit.

Author: Atanu Dey


8 thoughts on “Niall Ferguson: The 6 Killer Apps of Prosperity”

  1. Hi Atanu

    Thanks for sharing the lecture notes that I only saw now.

    I have been inspired by several UCB lectures esp. on economics and public policy on UCB youtube channel. I am a regular viewer of the same and must admit they are enlightening and sincere. Videos from Stanford and MIT OCW lectures complement my structured learning for free that I attempt. These schools are really into great service. The world must learn from these videos.

    I think schools like UCB should offer more and more online education in subjects like Economics and produce men of rational thought for the advancement of aspirants from third world countries like India, whose appalling quality of education in liberal subjects like Economics has produced venal bastards (using your phrase again) like Nehru, ManMohan, Chidambaram, Montek Singh and the scores of self procliamed saviours of India from St.Stephens, Presidency college and Delhi School of Economics who went to Oxbridge at Indian ex-chequers expense and came back brainwashed. Sagarika Ghose is another living example of such scum.

    I would definately be interested to enrol if at all UCB offers online masters program in economics in near future esp. given the afforable tuition and the high quality of education. If I end up making millions, I can donate to the cause too.



  2. I have thought much on these issues as to why the West beat the rest. The greatest killer app the West has developed and used with ruthless capacity,is, of course, killing and appropriation of the wealth of the killed. From the days of Hernando Cortez to Obama, if there is one defining feature of how dominance is acquired, it is violence and killing.

    When Niall speaks of South America, one should ask where did all the natives go? Which of the 6 killer apps was applied?

    The West has long lived on the loot of the rest. The concept of property rights gave a fertile breeding ground for Capitalism and the attendent control of economies across the world through mere paperwork and a supporting legal framework.

    But, as Niall himself says,


  3. I have a problem with an “historian” like Ferguson masquerading as an economist and an “economist” like Amartya Sen as a “———” fill in the blank with whatever we need for the day – historian, Sanskritist, philosopher, and so on. It is a cold hard fact that the Europeans settled the New World by exterminating millions of the indigenous inhabitants. This is a campaign that continued well into the 20th century.

    To quote George Monbiot
    Columbus…slaughtered the native people…Haiti and the Dominican Republic…soldiers tore babies from their mothers and dashed their heads against rocks…they hung 13 Indians in honour of Christ and the 12 disciples, on a gibbet just low enough for their toes to touch the ground, then disembowelled them and burnt them alive…By 1535 the native population of Hispaniola had fallen from 8m to zero…

    And then the great icons of the American Revolution Washington and Jefferson,
    George Washington ordered the total destruction of the homes and land of the Iroquois. Thomas Jefferson declared that his nation’s wars with the Indians should be pursued until each tribe “is exterminated or is driven beyond the Mississippi”. During the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, troops in Colorado slaughtered unarmed people gathered under a flag of peace, killing children and babies, mutilating all the corpses and keeping their victims’ genitals to use as tobacco pouches or to wear on their hats. Theodore Roosevelt called this event “as rightful and beneficial a deed as ever took place on the frontier.”

    In California…the Spanish systematised this extermination. A Franciscan missionary called Junipero Serra set up a series of “missions”…The native people were herded in under force of arms and made to work in the fields on one fifth of the calories fed to African-American slaves in the 19th century…Junipero Serra, the Eichmann of California, was beatified by the Vatican in 1988. He now requires one more miracle to be pronounced a saint


    The true value of slavery (from Africa) and later indentured labour that the Brits extracted from India would probably run into the trillions of current dollars. On my first visit to Virginia I was struck by the many neatly manicured commons and open spaces, that look like they have been maintained for centuries, in contrast to the more open spaces of the MidWest. And then when I visited California and some of the “missions” I was again struck by the same thing. The colonisers used masses of slave labour to tame the land and carve it up for themselves at the cost of millions of lives.


  4. Em, Marichi,

    The other side of the coin has much explaining to do. Viz. the killing of natives by their own kings and their armies. The world that was not west had kings, emperors and self-appointed barons who appropriated everything wholesale.. economy, people, reglion, culture, death, devastation for milleniums in certain cases.

    More people have died in instigated clan fights from enemies within. More people have died of destitution and hunger because of misrule by lords of the land unlike in the west. The west who were equally poor but smart took advantge of these weak Govts to further corrupt the east to achieve their selfish ends. This is precisely what has happened to the colonies established by Britons, Dutch, Spanish and Protugese.


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