May 15th, 2014

Kill the unfit

30 Day Book Meme - Day 8

Day 08 – Most overrated book

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. It keeps getting talked up as a universal explanation of human history, and I think it's terrible. Well, it's not completely worthless. It's a decent explanation of the development of societies up to about Bronze Age technology. The more easily accessed resources a society has, the faster it can develop. But that breaks down over time. Diamond winds up completely handwaving to justify European ships arriving in China instead of the other way around. The theory's even more useless for recent history. Resource-poor Japan is doing well while well-endowed Argentina goes down the tubes.

It's a popular book because it excuses history's losers from having any responsibility for their situation. This lets the winners write aid checks to assuage their guilt instead of urging lower trade barriers, less corrupt governments, and capitalist economies. I've ranted about it a couple of times.

Honorable mention to 1491, a error-ridden tale of the Americas before the Europeans arrived.


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