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August 02, 2003

Cross-pollination

Bloggers on GNXP are mostly "thinkers", not "linkers", but I came across a couple of posts which I thought you might enjoy...

Steven Den Beste considers cross-pollination in biology, and in culture.

This is pretty much the argument of Susan Blackmore's terrific Meme Machine, with a somewhat political spin.

Posted by ole at 10:25 PM




Den Beste's piece was good until the middle when he starts taking on this paranoid tone, proclaiming that the UN, France and the like will do anything to insure that the US won't succeed in its noble aims of making democracy work in Iraq (as if that were even the main purpose of invading in the first place).

I also disagree with the common claim that a desire to wear Levi jeans or to watch Hollywood movies equates to a love of America. Many American products, such as fast food, movies, pop music, soda, etc, were once considered highly novel -- not so much because they were American, but because they were modern. Now, places like Thailand and India have their own fast food, popular entertainment, and big box stores. American products don't really have the same mesmerizing effect anymore, given the rapid pace at which other countries are modernizing. They make modern technology their own, but give it their own unique cultural flavor. Additionally, modern economies like Japan and Europe are catching up in terms of gain global appeal, as is evident with the worldwide popularity of anime and European soccer teams like Manchester United.

It is my belief that America has already experienced its peak in terms of global prominence, and is on a downhill slide from here. We just initiated a highly unpopular war which the majority of people in every other country aside from Israel opposed, and most still do not see it as justified. This will only make it less likely for other countries to accept any military adventurism in the future. This coincides with the qualitative decline of American pop culture (when was the last time Hollywood or the music industry cranked out anything half-way original or interesting?), the decline of its global appeal, and the rise of the appeal of pop culture from elsewhere. And not only are other countries making technologies and business practices are own (while modifying them to suit their own purposes), but are also developing regional trade blocks and bilateral trade agreements that don't revolve around the U.S. -- Mercosur and ASEAN are two good examples.

China, India, Southeast Asia, Russia, and perhaps Brazil are all in a very good position to become highly affluent places, as well as regional superpowers, within the next ten years. Also, the EU will continue to consolidate itself as a continental superstate. As a result of this, our bargaining position will decline. This doesn't necessarily mean that life in the U.S. will suck -- I actually think life will be better. However, we are on the path of becoming *a* power among many, as opposed to *the* power.

What's amazing is that most Americans don't even see it coming, as they still pride themselves on the U.S.'s ability to soundly kick the ass of any other country of the planet.

Posted by: Chris W at August 2, 2003 11:21 PM


I wrote:

"And not only are other countries making technologies and business practices are own "

This doesn't make any grammatical sense. I meant to write, "And not only are other countries making technologies and business practices are own", meaning that other countries are customizing American technologies and business practices to suit their own needs while considering such customized technologies and business practices to be unique to their own national culture (as opposed to considering them American imports).

Posted by: Chris W at August 2, 2003 11:28 PM


Also, the EU will continue to consolidate itself as a continental superstate.
Really? With the dramatic financial problems of Germany and France (the core of the EU)? With their upcoming demographic catastrophes?

I don't think so...

Posted by: Troy at August 3, 2003 01:24 AM


Troy wrote:

"Really? With the dramatic financial problems of Germany and France (the core of the EU)? With their upcoming demographic catastrophes?"

I hesitated to include the EU because I know that it faces the above-mentioned difficulties. However, these problems are not insurmountable if the right decisions are made.

The EU will still probably include every country within continental Europe in 10 years. Even if it fails to pass the financial reforms needed to increase its economic growth rate, the EU will still enjoy the status of a first world economic institution. There seem to be two conflicting tendencies at work in the EU, which is simultaneously leaning toward both expanded international free-trade and increased micro-management of their internal economy. Over-regulation could become problematic, but Europe tends to start the process of needed reform only when on the cusp of a major crisis.

I don't consider a shrinking population to be a crisis in itself, provided that EU nations pass needed pension reforms (which they're already starting to do). However, if the EU doesn't reverse its drive to replace their native residents with practicing Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, that will be bad. But their course isn't set in stone -- most EU countries have been experiencing a rising backlash against continued immigration from Islamic regions.

Considering that the GDP per capita currently enjoyed by western European nations is greater that of what you might consider to be the more economically robust economies of East Asia (excluding Japan and South Korea), I don't see any reason to write of the importance of the EU's influence on the global stage.

Posted by: Chris W at August 3, 2003 01:57 AM


That piece presents one side of coin: the positive aspects of cultural exchange. However there are two main problems:

-cultural exchange is rarely one of CROSS-pollination. Rather, it is the superior culture of any given time which affects other cultures most profoundly.

-one should also point out the negative aspects of cultural exchange, or cross-infection. It's not at all clear that cross-pollination is more important than cross-infecton at any given time, or more particularly at present.

Posted by: Dienekes at August 3, 2003 02:08 AM


Godless,

I didn't mean to imply that any one particular country out of those I listed would present a challenge to the US, but that all of them combined would. I do think that the ASEAN countries, India, Russia and China are likely to continue their economic ascent.

I don't think that Russia was ever much of an economic power to begin with. Although with a rapidly declining population, you're probably right that it won't become any more of an economic superpower than a country like Thailand (which is doing well, but is too small to be a huge economic factor *by itself*)

I mentioned Brazil not merely because it is the most populous country of Latin America (which doesn't necessarily mean anything), but because I have some level of optimism regarding Lula's reforms and Brazil's involvement in Mercosur (the South American regional trade bloc).

You wrote:
"Well - not exactly. Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan all have higher GDP-per-capita than the UK, France, or Germany. See here. South Korea, Taiwan and Macau are around the level of the Southern European states. And China, of course, is booming."

I included Japan and South Korea as exceptions, and didn't think of including HK or Singapore just because they're city states.

2002 figures from Nationmaster.com:

European countries
Switzerland $31,635.21 per person
Norway $31,601.37 per person
Belgium $28,964.63 per person
Denmark $28,963.37 per person
Ireland $28,662.22 per person
Netherlands $27,010.54 per person
Finland $26,275.43 per person
Germany $26,233.67 per person
France $25,767.16 per person
Sweden $25,617.51 per person
United Kingdom $25,427.41 per person
Italy $24,915.27 per person
Spain $20,660.18 per person

Asian countries
Japan $27,958.26 per person
Hong Kong $24,646.29 per person
Singapore $23,872.99 per person
Taiwan $17,119.03 per person
Malaysia $8,825.19 per person
Thailand $6,575.32 per person
China $4,671.81 per person
Philippines $3,963.3 per person
Indonesia $2,969.81 per person
Vietnam $2,072.79 per person
Korea, South $19,265.79 per person
India $2,543.39 per person

Taiwan is catching up with Spain and Italy, but is not quite there yet. I agree that China is booming, and many of the ASEAN countries are doing quite well, but they have a ways to go before catching up with Western or even Southern Europe. Thailand's GDP per capita is lower than Bulgaria's ($6,639.25 per person), even though its GDP growth rate from 1990-2000 is far better (3.3% vs -1.5%).

The one place where I was wrong was regarding South Korea, whose growth rate at 4.7% towers above the average European growth rate at 0.93%, but has a GDP per capita that is only slightly better than Greece ($18,890.97 per person) despite Greece's weak growth rate (1.8%).

Okay, getting a little carried away there -- nationmaster.com is too much fun ;)

My point is that we can't write off Europe just yet.

Lastly, you say that "[India] has way too many academically/economically underperforming lower castes to beat out China or the US. Caste quotas, burdensome regulation & taxation, etcetera act as a leaden weight on economic growth."

Your first sentence can be applied to the mostly rural interior of China -- the economically relevant portion of the China's population resides mainly within the coastal cities, just as the economically relevant portion of India's population resides the urban areas of the southern region. China doesn't have a caste system, but it has certainly has an autocratic government that regards the impoverished and uneducated rural population as disposable. I think that the situation of both China and India will improve, but I'm not sure that China has any extreme advantages over India...

Posted by: Chris W at August 3, 2003 04:29 AM


Godless, the webpage you link to has info that is not consistent with that of nationmaster.com, even though both list the CIA World Factbook 2002 as their source. I even checked the figures for 2001 from your webpage, and they still aren't consistent. So....I don't know...

Posted by: Chris W at August 3, 2003 04:40 AM


>> despite Greece's weak growth rate (1.8%).

The Greek economy has been growing at a rate higher than the EU average for several years now,
more than 4% in the last 3 years and is expected to grow at 3.8% in 2003. Its average growth rate since 1995 is 3.6%. The anticipated positive after-effects of the 2004 Olympics will likely keep this trend in place for some time to come.

Posted by: Dienekes at August 3, 2003 04:46 AM


Europe's Mighty Economy

"Pause for a second. Allow some awkward facts to intrude. Which economy has performed better in recent years--Europe's or America's? Surprise: According to the International Monetary Fund, an institution more often accused of imposing Washington's ways than of knocking them, Europe's has. Over the past three years, living standards, as measured by GDP per person, have risen by 5.8 percent in the European Union but by only 1 percent in the United States. An unfair comparison, perhaps, given America's recent recession? Then look at how the European Union and the United States size up since 1995, a period that includes the go-go late '90s, when America apparently advanced by leaps and bounds. While living standards in the United States have risen by a healthy 16.1 percent over the past eight years, they are up by 18.3 percent in the European Union. Another statistical sleight of hand? Not at all. Pick any year between 1995 and 2000 as your starting point, and the conclusion is the same: Europe's economy has outperformed America's."

"To be fair, on a different measure, the United States has outpaced Europe. Its economy has grown by an average of 3.2 percent per year since 1995, whereas Europe's economy has swelled by only 2.3 percent. These headline figures transfix pundits and policymakers alike. But this apparent success is deceptive. Not only are U.S. growth figures inflated because American number-crunchers have done more than their European counterparts to take into account improvements in the quality of goods and services, but America's population is also growing much faster than Europe's. It has increased by nearly one-tenth in the past eight years, whereas Europe's population has scarcely grown at all. So, although America's pie is growing faster than Europe's, so too is the number of mouths it has to feed. Most people, though, care about higher living standards, not higher economic growth. If size were all that mattered, the United States could simply annex Canada and, presto, its economy would be larger, whether people in Peoria felt any better or not."

"Even so, the Conference Board, a New York-based business-research group that is hardly a fan of European ways, has taken a stab at it. Their figures show that, although the average U.S. labor-productivity growth of 1.9 percent per year since 1995 exceeds the EU average of 1.3 percent, five individual European countries have done better than the United States. Belgium managed 2.2 percent per year, Austria 2.4 percent, Finland 2.6 percent, Greece 3.2 percent, and Ireland 5.1 percent. If you take a longer time span, 1990 to 2002, not only does the European Union as a whole outpace the United States, so do ten of the 14 individual EU member states for which statistics are available."

Posted by: Dienekes at August 3, 2003 05:07 AM


There's a couple of interesting interviews about the decline of the american empire here and here (second half of page)

Posted by: fredrik at August 3, 2003 05:24 AM


I have yet to see any other country - save India - develop a movie industry that compares to Hollywood in box office receipts. Music is more competitive, but let me see if I can find some stats...

I'm going way off-top topic here, but why are all the voices in Indian cinema dubbed over?

Posted by: Sen at August 3, 2003 01:36 PM