The Right Coast

April 04, 2004
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Jared Diamond is the author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies". The book is a fascinating study of how social and economic progress differs among different peoples depending, very crucially, on geography and on the availability of animals and plants capable of being domesticated (aka genetically modified). Geography matters because a big east-west "horizontal" land mass, extending over the same latitudes, allows lots of trade and exchange of ideas. On a north-south land mass like Africa or the Americas, there will be less trade in plants or animals, and hence in ideas, because plants and even animals do not thrive in unfamiliar latitudes. Isolated places like Australia and New Guinea will tend to do even less well.

Here is a speech by Diamond at the Museum of Natural History in New York on how to get rich. Well, about what kind of human organization -- of groups, enterprises, or countries -- is likely to be most successful in life.

And here is a link to a webpage of articles by and about Diamond in the New York Review of Books. Diamond's most recent piece NYRB piece is about Easter Island. Diamond gives evidence that the statue-building polynesians on the island destroyed their natural habitat, and hence their future. He draws some rather heavy-handed parallels to the world as a whole today. He may well be right about Easter Island. Whether he has a point about today's world is a more complicated question, which TheRightCoast -- or at least this post -- will not attempt to answer.