The modern world is organized a lot like feudalism

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by Neil Godfrey

Coincidentally this brief post dovetails well into the moral point of the preceding one by Tim. Though the immediate topic concerns refugees a more general failure of many Western nations is being addressed.

carens (1)
Joseph Carens

To me it seems a lot like the modern world is organized a lot like feudalism.

So under feudalism there were a few people born into nobility, the vast majority of people were born into peasantry, and they were locked into their class positions. Well, in the modern world, being born into a rich state in Europe or North America or Australia or New Zealand is a lot like being born into the nobility. (Even though some of us are a lesser nobility.) And being born into a poor state in the Global South is a lot like being born into the peasantry. That’s where the vast majority of humankind is.

And the closure of borders, keeping people from moving, just as under feudalism, keeps people in their place.

Now this is not the natural order of things. People just take it for granted. But the whole way we have organized the world is a human construction. And we have to say “What justifies that?” People in Australia, Canada . . . If they were on the other side, why would they think this set up of arrangements is fair? And what makes it legitimate? And I think it isn’t, clearly, if you think about that and that it ought to be transformed. There should be much more equality within the world as a whole and much more freedom to move.

My transcription from Radio National’s Late Night Live interview with Professor Joseph Carens, Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Who will protect the refugees? 

It’s a provocative image. I’m sure many of us have had similar visions from time to time in our more reflective moments.

Carens was responding to interviewer Philip Adams’ raising the question of a morality that extends beyond the immediate question of refugees. The program was about refugees but Carens’ ethical concerns do not begin and end there:

Adams: . . . There’s got to be a much wider sense of communal morality. 

Carens: That’s right. I think that the challenge here is to see refugees and other immigrants as people — who come to belong over time . . . who contribute to the community when they’re present, and who should be welcomed and included. And if we take that basic approach to immigration generally — of course there’ll be some adaptation by the refugees and other immigrants who come to a new country, they have responsibilities, but they also have legitimate moral claims. . . . And if they’re treated with open arms everybody will benefit. 

I think the general challenge from a moral point of view is . . . trying to show people that actually a conflict between doing the right thing (which is certainly welcoming refugees especially and other immigrants as well) and our own collective interest is not great especially if we take a long-term perspective. (Emphasis original)

As people. That’s easier said than done when so much of our media filter our information about what people are doing or experiencing in emotive ideological terminology. It takes some effort to pause to try to grasp the reality behind the jargon. Often we simply don’t know the reality until we meet and get to know some of those people themselves or go out of our way to learn about them through sources that stand apart from the political, cultural, religious interests reporting on and responding to others. The great thing is about living in the castle of the nobility is that we do have the means to “do a Moses” who, having grown up in Pharaoh’s court, “went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor” (Ex 2:11).

One more brilliant but frightening interview recently on Late Night Life:

The philosophy of giving

Intro: “Toby Ord is an Australian-born philosopher at Oxford University who as a student, worked out he could give away two-thirds of his income to charity throughout his life and still live comfortably. That’s what he and his wife, Bernadette Young, have done. But in giving money away they’ve also thought about where the money goes and how it’s used. They believe that philanthropy should be evidence-based and not just for the sake of feeling good.”

It’s a challenging and thoroughly scintillating interview. I am about to go on holidays so with guilty happiness I know I have an opportunity to forget I ever listened to it. Last time I read a book by Peter Singer I stopped eating meat. I fear now I may find myself undertaking another change of lifestyle if I continue to think too much. Yes, Toby Ord was also influenced by Peter Singer.

Giving What We Can (Wikipedia)

Giving What We Can (Facebook)

Giving What We Can (The homepage of Toby and Bernadette’s organization)

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 4.39.40 pm

Before I knew much about blogging I frequented many online discussion forums, both political and religious. I was also closely involved in “real life” community awareness raising activities: social and health issues, political and international issues, religious, ethnic and cultural issues. Inviting speakers from Israel and Palestine to speak and inform us first-hand of their views and experiences was part of this. Also speakers from Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq. Our focus in all of these was always on the down to earth reality of life and experience for “the people”. And there were of course Islamic speakers: from young students, both conservative and liberal, to an older state representative.

Since my job took a turn that involved regular travel and frequent moving I could not longer be involved with these activities. But I have turned to blogging as something of a partial outlet of the same interests. For various reasons Vridar has come to focus predominantly on biblical questions, especially those related to the New Testament and early Christianity. That particular interest did not arise for its own sake but out of a curiosity to understand more about the origins of the faith that has come to shape the lives and thinking — for better and for worse — of most readers.

I remain just as interested in questions of ethics and the world beyond the Bible. If I have an ulterior motive in writing critically about the New Testament and Christian origins studies it is to invite others to also think about their beliefs and the beliefs that have shaped our neighbours’ values and perceptions. I have much more I want to write about than I know I ever can find the time for, but I really don’t want to leave off the radar completely critical issues that I believe many of us continue to view through ideological or religious filters. I cannot justify ignoring the wrongs being done to many of “the peasantry” outside our “nobles’ enclave”, and so often suffered as a consequence of our actions disguised by our self-serving ideological filters as “good intentions”. I know many readers deplore posts on Vridar that attempt to raise questions about the conventional wisdom concerning Palestine and Islam. So be it. I can only hope sometime something will register to lead them to see issues from another perspective.

You can’t win ’em all, as they say. . . .

Professor James Crossley in Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism comments on the failure of bibliobloggers to shun the hard realities in the world (especially the Middle East) that in many ways are closely related to the religious/biblical beliefs that have infused our Western cultural and political outlooks. Virtually all biblioblogs either embrace the conventional values and perceptions or avoid offending readers (presumably) by not touching such topics at all.

One blog that does stand out as the exception (though not nearly as much as I’d like) is Vridar. Crossley found opportunities to make some misguided remarks about Vridar in his book’s footnotes but what disappointed me was that he missed an opportunity to point out that a significant exception in this moral arena is Vridar: this, despite two of his scholarly friends (who also despise Vridar) expressing their support for me at least on these grounds. I’m a little proud that Vridar can boast being a notable exception to the biblioblogs in this arena even if Crossley saw fit for reasons best known to him not to acknowledge that fact.


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31 thoughts on “The modern world is organized a lot like feudalism”

  1. For quite a few years now I’ve been calling the current system “Global Corporate Feudalism.” I would follow up by noting a prominent difference (at least in our whitewashed histories): the old system of feudalism had a series of interlocking dependencies in which one group would swear oaths of fealty in exchange for protection by another group. In today’s feudalism the lords owe nothing to the people who created the wealth that they now control.

    The free trade movement is a symptom of this new global system. In the early days of capitalism, labor was mobile while capital was fixed. That is to say, people could migrate from place to place, but land (from which agricultural or mineral wealth was extracted) stayed where it was. Today, it’s reversed. Capital is mobile and labor is fixed. Free trade agreements allow capital to flow freely from country to country, seeking the lowest wage and the weakest laws for the protection of workers and the environment.

    In the U.S., we continually debate about the “illegals” who come from Mexico and farther south, with most of the discussion centering on what to do with them (deportation!) and how to stop them (build a wall!). We rarely talk about the structural reasons for migration. NAFTA was supposed to level the playing field and raise everyone’s living standards, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Most Americans probably don’t know, for example, that “U.S. corn [maize] is typically dumped in the Mexican market at up to 30% below the cost of production.”* Is it any wonder that Mexican agriculture hasn’t been able to keep up?

    So from the right we hear that we need to get rid of all these unwanted brown people and keep them out by building a gigantic fence at our southern border, patrolled with well-armed troops and attack dogs. Which only goes to show: Labor must stay put; capital, on the other hand must not be hindered. So while jobs and factories move from Ohio, then to North Carolina, then to Mexico, then to China, the people who used to work in the now-shuttered plants or the now-fallow fields must remain in place. (The were “too expensive.”) And the media, if they pay attention to these people at all, can only manage to ask idiotic questions like, “Why can’t they compete?”

    * https://www.citizen.org/trade/article_redirect.cfm?ID=11330

    1. “In today’s feudalism the lords owe nothing to the people who created the wealth that they now control.”
      -Both sides (capitalists and laborers) “created the wealth”. If this was not an efficient system, worker-owned firms would be much more common. Also, capitalists still pay wages.
      “Most Americans probably don’t know, for example, that “U.S. corn [maize] is typically dumped in the Mexican market at up to 30% below the cost of production.””
      -That doesn’t sound plausible. Why would U.S. maize farmers take such a large loss?

      Labor must stay put; capital, on the other hand must not be hindered.

      -Tim is right; this is, indeed, the effective platform of the U.S. Republican party (the reverse is the effective platform of the U.S. Democratic party). This is because immigrants vote Democrat, but greater freedom for capitalists means greater profits for them, and the Republican Party is generally backed by international business more than unions, while the reverse is true for Democrats. In the U.S., unions want more members to join them, but do not like international competition.
      Just look at this:
      And Obama (a Democratic president) supported the bill!

      1. E. wrote: “That doesn’t sound plausible. Why would U.S. maize farmers take such a large loss?”

        They don’t. U.S. farming is heavily subsidized by the government. In fact it is so very heavily subsidized that I pay significantly less for medium octane gasoline mixed with grain alcohol here in Iowa than I would for regular unleaded. It’s one reason meat is so cheap in the U.S. The government props up prices and pays producers.

        Now, in general, I like the idea of small, family farms, which is ostensibly why we keep subsidizing farmers. But it has far-reaching effects. It’s one reason why we have nasty corn syrup in our sodas — it’s artificially cheaper than cane sugar.

        The study below estimates dumping margins for various crops. They estimate corn at about 19%. Other crops are subsidized at higher rates (with cotton coming in at a 38% margin), but corn probably has done the most damage to Mexico’s economy.



        Corn showed the highest losses. Average dumping margins of 19% contributed to a 413% increase in U.S. exports and a 66% decline in real producer prices in Mexico from the early 1990s to 2005. The estimated cost to Mexican producers of dumping-level corn prices was $6.6 billion over the nine-year period, an average of $99 per hectare per year, or $38 per ton.

  2. “Now this is not the natural order of things.”

    It’s not natural, then, for people to live in communities with their kin, close and distant, literal and figurative, and for them to feel territorial about the land they live on, and for them to be concerned with the integrity of the borders of their territory? This assertion beggars belief. I find it somewhat difficult to take seriously the ideas about ethics and interests of someone who begins with such a premise.

    “People in Australia, Canada . . . If they were on the other side, why would they think this set up of arrangements is fair?”

    Maybe, maybe not. Here’s an anecdote: a very close friend of mine is from Vietnam. At the time I was first making her acquaintance, about ten years ago, I believed, on radical right-libertarian grounds, there should be no limitations on international migration. I was a bit surprised to find that she (who, at that time, had never lived in a developed country) didn’t agree at all. To her it seemed obvious that Americans would be unwise to let people from Vietnam move to the United States. Would Vietnam want non-Vietnamese people from poor countries moving to Vietnam? Of course, not. Why would they? By the same token then, why would Americans want people foreign to them immigrating from poor countries? It did not seem to have occurred to her that the fact that she wanted to live in a Western country meant that it was unfair if Western countries declined to accept her.

  3. I can imagine: a majority-Indonesian and Indian Australia and New Zealand, a majority-Mestizo (not necessarily Mexican) U.S., and substantial Black African, Chinese, and North African minorities everywhere in Europe and North America (meaning much more densely populated U.S. inner cities, which are generally Black-majority). Also, a virtually depopulated Sub-Saharan Africa outside Southern Africa (U.N.-defined). I don’t imagine an Elysium-like scenario playing out-democracy will not disappear with Open Borders, nor will a movement of Mexican manufacturing to the Western U.S. ever be possible due to price-level differences-but there can be no doubt about the consequences of Open Borders: world CO2 emissions would skyrocket, world GDP would increase by several trillion dollars, with almost all of the benefits going to the poorer nations, stockholders, and migrants, within-country (but not between-country) income and consumption inequality rising strongly, strengthening motivation among voters for right-wing parties, though an increase in the voting share of left-wing parties, and a mild, temporary stagnation of middle and lower-class wages in the First World. Also, an increase in worldwide AIDS prevalence, a vastly expanded welfare state, and the elimination of Israel as a Jewish country.

  4. If the Israelis are replaced by a Muslim/Arab majority, it will no longer be a Jewish national home. If the nations of Europe, including Britain, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, have great Afro-Asian populations, they will no longer be European. It is quite irrelevant whether the elastic pejorative “racism” is used against this reasonable observation, or “racist” applied to people who do not consider it a desirable outcome.

  5. Ah. That makes sense. In any case, if the Mexican economy was the least bit robust (which it is not), the subsidies wouldn’t hurt, but would benefit the average Mexican. It’s a gift, for goodness sakes! And agriculture is no path to prosperity, anyway.

    NAFTA turned Mexico from an exporter of gold, leather, crops, and cattle to an exporter of this:
    I’d say that’s an improvement.

  6. Imagine what would happen if the British settlers of Australia allowed other cultures and races to migrate here. We’d no longer be an outpost of British imperial blood but a multicultural society, with all sorts of colours and customs in our midst. Unthinkable.

    The people in Indonesia and India and China would overnight lose all attachment to their family ties and local cultures and find all the money they need so they would all be over in Australia in next to no time. The 1950s fears of the Great Yellow Peril dripping lemon colour paint all over the map of the southern hemisphere realized.

    I bet those who got here first, those who have been forced to flee their homelands and risk their entire livelihoods and even their lives to get here, will be horrified and be the first to push them back, yes?

    It would be as if the Boers no longer had a national homeland in South Africa, or as if the white British stock would lose their homeland in Australia and New Zealand and be forced into the sea. Democracy would cease. British speaking whites would vanish. Really?

    Jerusalem a capital city for Jews, Moslems and Christians? Unthinkable?

    I believe the fears expressed in some of the comments to be ill-informed and unfounded.

    But yes, over time, if labour was as free to move as is capital today then who knows, maybe we will find a positive force to transform the centralized nation-states into collectives with more localized centres of administration like cantons or communes.

    Carens is not proposing his vision as a policy for obvious reasons — not the least of which is the perennial fear the nobility have always had of the peasants — but he is calling for a new ethic that encompasses humanity above national and racial interests.

    You may say he’s a dreamer but he’s not the only one. I think some day he’d like us to join him and for the world to live as one. Is that a wrong basis for a human ethic?

    1. Indonesia contains eleven times as many people as Australia. India, even more. Under any system of open borders, Australia and New Zealand will be swamped. 1/4 of people of Mexican ancestry already live in the U.S., mostly legally, under an immigration system that cannot possibly be considered even close to Open Borders.
      “The people in Indonesia and India and China would overnight lose all attachment to their family ties and local cultures and find all the money they need so they would all be over in Australia in next to no time.”
      -They wouldn’t lose their attachment to family ties and local cultures. They’d bring them here. Fifty Sunni Lebanese Arabs of the same extended family live in the town of under 100 thousand I live in now. Two hundred Pakistanis of the same extended family live in another town of a similar population just downriver. Chinese alone are a tenth of the population of New York City. And I’m sure most would find some way to save up the money, which would be less than their annual income. And just imagine the huge increase in remittances!
      “The 1950s fears of the Great Yellow Peril dripping lemon colour paint all over the map of the southern hemisphere realized.”
      “Jerusalem a capital city for Jews, Moslems and Christians?”
      -Nah. Just Muslims. Every Christian with sense would move to the West; every Jew with sense to the U.S.. I just don’t see any Mandelas in Palestine or Transjordan.
      “But yes, over time, if labour was as free to move as is capital today then who knows, maybe we will find a positive force to transform the centralized nation-states into collectives with more localized centres of administration like cantons or communes.”
      -Conceivable. Hopefully the quality of governance won’t be too varied.

      “It would be as if the Boers no longer had a national homeland in South Africa, or as if the white British stock would lose their homeland in Australia and New Zealand and be forced into the sea. Democracy would cease. British speaking whites would vanish. Really?”
      -Democracy might conceivably cease in Israel, but not in most First World countries. The ethnic unity won’t be strong enough to create any Zimbabwe-type disasters. As for Whites vanishing, there’s always Ookrayeena, Moldova, and (best of all) Belarus! Mandela wasn’t a particularly bad President, but he still failed to stop the rise in South African crime that led hundreds of thousands of White South Africans to leave the country.
      The only mass immigration I’d really be afraid of would be Sub-Saharan African. We already have a taste of it in the U.S. (in the form of descendants of slaves). It is by no means pretty.

      1. On re-reading your comment I’m not sure if you are being serious throughout or slipping into tongue-in-cheek nonsense.

        I find the fears and understanding of “the others” expressed in your comment — whether meant seriously or as a joke — somewhat unrealistic and ill-informed. Do you know any of the “extended family” “as people”?

        With respect to enclaves of unassimilated groups today: You have a strong interest in ancient history but I would invite you to acquire an informed historical perspective and knowledge with respect to immigrants and refugees to your own country and the stages they went through before assimilation. But sorry if you were in jest.

        I suppose I could roll with the joke and imagine a family of 50 breeding (incestuously, of course) like swamp mosquitoes (to use the swamp metaphor again) and like a terrifying monster movie relentlessly but surely pushing out the white race with their exponentially avalanching numbers and claiming the town as an outpost of Sunni Arabs free from all white English-speaking people at last.

        Again, when it comes to immigration and refugees I find the fear of “the other” among some well-to-do Western nations to be an interesting historical thread.

        The nobles and the peasantry — the analogy runs far deeper than economic structures.

        (I’d be interested to hear the human stories of those people if you could obtain them for us, by the way.)

        1. Totally agree. And, like you, Neil, I am also really offended by people who shut or even lock the front door of their own homes. Why are they so afraid of the racialised Other? Why do they assume that people who want to enter their homes at night would try to harm them? Would these scaredy-cats be afraid if a friend or relative (i.e. someone who looks like them, someone who counts as a “Person”) came over to visit? Not likely! People with locks on their front doors are hiding behind walls just like a feudal lord in a castle, afraid of the “rabble”, i.e. everybody not privileged enough to be granted access.

  7. Jerusalem: there is a case for a two-state solution imposed by the external powers approximately along the 1967 lines, with the Israelis given security against Islamic expansion, and the Jewish and Palestinian states each having their own political administrative capitals, and for the “Holy City” itself to become a religious centre for all three “Abrahamic” faiths protected by an impartial supra-national authority. If and when the Zionists in the USA and the Islamic regimes in the Mid-East would permit such an outcome is anyone’s guess.

    South Africa and Zimbabwe: the post-“apartheid” condition is telling its own story.

    I prefer a world where different cultures and societies can peacefully co-exist, voluntarily exchanging. ideas, to a fantasy where everyone and everything is mixed up. I defend the European civilization because (1) it is mine, and that of my family and friends, and the cultural values I respect, and (2) it can still offer values to others in the world. I do not want the “European” areas of the globe to be swamped demographically by the Muslims, the Chinese or the Africans (see e.g. the 2012 UN Population Projections), or a “combination” of any of them.

    I am prepared to debate this matter, and the related question of race, on Vridar, but only if you consider it appropriate.

    1. I have difficulty with the framing of the argument in terms of coloured peoples “swamping” white cultures. It’s not a metaphor I would want to justify.

      I don’t know what you mean by an “Islamic regime” or what “Islamic regimes” you have in mind. The only one I know of that is a threat to anyone is ISIS. Wahabi Saudi Arabia is effectively an ally of Israel and the U.S.

      Are you really suggesting South Africa would be better off under apartheid? No doubt some of the whites would be better off.

      I’m not sure I have quite expressed the point of my post well enough. What is wrong with understanding and treating people as people in preference to conceptualizing them as “races” threatening to “swamp” our “home nations”?

      I thoroughly enjoy tasting foreign cultures — both here and abroad.

      (Today I passed through Singapore and am currently in Thailand. Not so much in Singapore or in Japan, no doubt, but certainly in poorer countries like Indonesia or Cambodia I am very conscious of my privileged status and do try to be generous where I can. Later this week I will be in Japan. Last month I was in Indonesia meeting some lovely people. The mayor of my hometown in Australia is Chinese; the treasurer of our nation is of Palestinian descent; we have government representatives speaking with Greek accents; I pass on my way to work each morning aboriginal people speaking a dialect I cannot understand but who are some of the gentlest people anyone could meet; I work beside men and women from Nepal and the Philippines; I buy most of my regular household needs from Indians and Vietnamese. My taxi driver is likely to be from Pakistan or Afghanistan. After the fall of Saigon Australia welcomed the boat people with open arms; after the Tiananmen Square massacre we opened our doors to all Chinese who felt threatened here. I don’t feel swamped. I feel lucky and privileged. We are a poorer and shameful nation for having turned out backs on this past humanitarianism. I feel utterly ashamed to be part of a nation that turns away desperate people from countries we have invaded and other places where life and limb are terribly insecure.)

      Imagine if the hordes had been kept out of the Roman Empire. We’d still be witnessing gladiatorial contests, emperor worship and taking slavery for granted. European culture? Don’t knock it. It’s responsible for us living like nobles by means of conquest and exploitation of the outside peasant world.

      1. A few brief comments at random to clarify my position.

        The role of Saudi Arabia in relation to ISIS is an interesting question. The Islamic tradition is banti-Jewish, anti-Christian and (watch your neck) anti-Pagan too. Except for Egypt, there is a general hostility to the presence of Israel in the Arab world, and in Iran, largely over its maltreatment of Palestinians.

        There is a difference between enjoying the cultures of various nations as a visitor, student or even friendly settler, and importing those cultures wholesale into your own nation.

        No-one can help how they are born, or their “color”. It so happens that the peoples of “Black” Africa and of China are different in pigmentation from Europeans, but that is not the point of my objection to the notional invasion and occupation of my nation by immense numbers with different and even incompatible cultures (i.e. languages, religions, customs, traditions, &c). However, it is quite reasonable, if not axiomatic, to assert that if you replace a race in a particular territory by another, there will also be a cultural replacement. The fate of the Native Australians hardly refutes this point.

        Are there genetic aspects to cultural differences? Probably – it all depends – but maybe not very important. Attempts to research this matter and publish the results have been affected since 1960s by an ideological establishment, by no means different from the institutional barrier to raising Christ Myth theories.

        Apartheid. There were alternatives proposed, but not adopted for various reasons including the explosion in the numbers of “black” people. There were alternatives to rushed and under-funded comprehensive schools in England, but that does not mean that 11-plus selection was ideal or that non-selective education today is ideal either. I have stopped beating my wife (unlike some of our Muslim fellow-citizens).

        I presume your “Don’t knock it” is anachronistic sarcasm. No Europe, no Vridar.

        1. @ David

          “The Islamic tradition is anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and (watch your neck) anti-Pagan too. ”
          Neither the Islamic tradition (which I assume means history) nor the Islamic religion was/is Anti. To have a difference (in theology or historical trajectory) does not make one Anti anything….

          Successful mixing of different cultures (Multiculturalism)—The Prophet(pbuh) faced this problem when he arrived in Yathrib(Medina—the area changed its name after the arrival of the Prophet) The Meccans that came into Yathrib with the Prophet were refugees of persecution and many had come with nothing but the clothes on their back. To avoid the 2 peoples from clashing, and to solve the income disparity between the 2 groups—the Prophet instituted a system of mentoring (Ansar) in which each Meccan family was given a Medinan family and the two could exchange “cultures/ways”, learn of each other, respect each other and the Medinan family could help the Meccan refugees to settle in and begin earning….
          That is how you implement the first, most basic, principle of human decency—Reciprocity.

          Those cultures who disregarded this principle and instead based their actions on the notion—“They are heathens with no rights, we are better than they are”—now are afraid that what they did to others, is what others will do to them….
          …But it is never too late to change our ways for the better….everyone has the capacity for excellence and we must all aspire to gracious living with our brothers in humanity….

          Scientific racism—There are many ways we justify our prejudices. A more critical examination of why we are holding on to that prejudice may be necessary….?…..

        2. I’m not sure you have addressed the points of my post or of my comments. You speak of racial and cultural replacements. I don’t know why or how such a concept is relevant.

          But what is interesting is the fear that appears to be expressed on the part of “the nobility” of “the peasantry”. It appears the fear is that “they” are threatening to do to “us” what “we” did to “them”. I can understand such a fear, but it is hardly grounded in the reality of what is happening today.

      2. Vietnamese and Chinese are both especially highly upwardly mobile groups of immigrants (on average). Also, average IQs of above 98 in the U.S. in the second generation, even if from refugee backgrounds. The same cannot be said for many other immigrant groups. I agree with Neil, therefore, that the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act was shameful, as well as the segregation of Chinese in government schools in San Francisco until the early 1970s.

        The end of Apartheid was neither a catastrophe nor a fantastic success. The economy improved, unemployment stayed high, the housing situation deteriorated, crime got worse, AIDS got worse, and skilled Blacks received greater opportunity for upward mobility.

        Neil, I, too, understand the feeling of being surrounded by highly skilled individuals from every part of the world. It’s a good feeling, and, I think, one that shows how great America, Australia, Canada, and other such countries are. However, I am the first to understand that the reason Indian (especially) immigration to the U.S. has been such a success has been due to its extremely selective nature, which, due to its size, has quite likely deprived India itself of useful talent. I support immigration policies like Australia’s, which encourage skilled immigration, thus making Australia the only non-Arab state in which immigrant students score higher on PISA than the children of less recent immigrants.

        1. I’m really quite uneasy with this recent fascination with average IQs of populations. I have grave misgivings about our ability to measure intrinsic intelligence, or even to define exactly what intelligence is. If IQs rise because of social advantages (i.e., strong family pressure to do well), then it would appear that the “intelligence” we’re measuring is actually a person’s level of knowledge and education, not innate ability.

          1. “I have grave misgivings about our ability to measure intrinsic intelligence, or even to define exactly what intelligence is. If IQs rise because of social advantages (i.e., strong family pressure to do well), then it would appear that the “intelligence” we’re measuring is actually a person’s level of knowledge and education, not innate ability.”
            -This is definitely the case for those having grown up in obviously different environments. First generation southern European immigrants to the U.S. in the early 20th century, for example, had quite low average measured IQs. Today, however, the gap is barely perceptible. For tests once thought to be the most independent of environment, the Flynn effect may result in huge artificial measured IQ differences between countries. For a good discussion of the Flynn effect, see
            I suspect a huge proportion of the Flynn effect has been due to stuff like television, cars, traffic lights, changes in education methods, and mass production of playthings. Maybe greater use of interchangeable parts.

            But within basically identical environments, substantial IQ (and other test score and other achievement) gaps continue to persist as well. This is why I concentrate so much on second-generation immigrants and upward mobility. The performance of the first generation of immigrants doesn’t really matter for the future of countries.

            1. I forgot to mention the differences accounted for by better nutrition and a cleaner environment. For example, the correlation between lead exposure and lower IQs (as much as 10 points) is quite strong. Removing lead from paint and gasoline is having a positive effect there.

              Another problem that remains, however, is the constant stress many children feel in the lower classes. Living in constant danger, not knowing where the next meal is coming from — all these external pressures put their young brains in a continuous fight-or-flight conflict. It isn’t good for learning or for showing off ones intrinsic “intelligence.”

              1. Nutrition yes. Lead paint and car fumes, where? I made a list once of spurious reasons why some students didn’t do so well on IQ tests, and when these were shown to false, up came some more ridiculous explanations. All this recalls the evasions of Professor Otto Klineberg at the London Institute of Education back in the 1960s.

              2. To David Ashton: Concerning lead in the environment and its action as a neurotoxin, see the below links. You can cross it off your supposed list of “spurious reasons.”

                Lead poisoning and brain cell function

                Lead Toxicity

                In the pediatric population, fatalities associated with lead encephalopathy were reported in the 1960s. Today, with aggressive management of ICP [intracranial pressure], these deaths are preventable. Occasional cases of acute lead encephalopathy still occur, and these often result in severe neurologic damage. Mounting evidence suggests that lead poisoning in childhood produces a long-term problem with learning, intelligence, and earning power. Asymptomatic lead poisoning has a far better prognosis.


                [Lead] interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning and behavior disorders.

                . . .

                One of the largest threats to children is lead paint that exists in many homes, especially older ones; thus children in older housing with chipping paint or lead dust from moveable window frames with lead paint are at greater risk.

                So, what did Klineberg do to irritate you, besides his contribution to Brown v. Board?

              3. Tim, isn’t China one of the most polluted places on Earth? If so, why is there so little apparent IQ (or life expectancy) effect of this pollution in the general Chinese population that I know of? While I don’t dispute that severe lead pollution may cause severe intellectual deficiencies, I doubt such severe lead pollution ever had very wide-reaching effects.

                Nutrition is largely an African and South Asian issue. Not much of a first-world one. And how big of an issue is stress in the general (first-world) population?

                Car fumes would be most expected to affect those most likely to own cars, but lead paint would be most likely to affect people with lower incomes.

  8. Global Corporate Feudalism—an interesting term and food for thought…….

    Today “wealth” is created virtually—on computers by means of global indexes (stock markets) so loyalty goes to the bank/finance houses not the workers….in other words—the privileged protect the privileged….

    Agribusiness and food valuation and distribution—The commodities exchanges and commodities futures have done much to create inequity and injustice. Corporate Agribusiness is all about exploitation—making profits at the expense of nations, people, and environment.
    Subsidies are a “National Security” issue for some countries—so agriculture products are subsidized—then some quantity of these products (such as rice) are thrown into the sea…or left to rot…in order maintain price(for profit)….!!!! There is so much food that is wasted it is truly sad….If food production, distribution, and valuation were done by other means (economic rules) perhaps the whole world could have free food…

    Nation-State—I think it will be necessary in a globalized world to rethink the idea of nations with borders, jurisdictions and laws….one perspective could be to think of a plurality of systems—with all peoples everywhere free to adopt whichever system they think fits them best….

    Loyalty to a territory(borders)—was by no means a universal concept—during tribalism—the loyalty was to a tribe and identity was from the tribe not some artificially formed “territory”–other means of loyalty and identity were religion and or ethnicity(customs and language). Territorial borders were often fluid and so could not play a significant role…when they were able to be fixed and were named—then they could serve as an object of identity and therefore loyalty…

    “If the nations of Europe, including Britain, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, have great Afro-Asian populations, they will no longer be European.”—-Fascinating how this word is defined in terms of countries that are included and those that are excluded—what does “Europe” and “European” mean in this sentence?

  9. Dr Keith, an associate of Crossley by the way, has announced that he will be representing St. Mary’s center for the scientific study of religion, not in London from now on, but in Kentucky.

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