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The Decadent Western Way Of Life  
User currently offlineDocpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1971 posts, RR: 3
Posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 2936 times:

Now that I've hopefully gotten your attention.... hehe.....

People like Yyz717 always talk about how we should be grateful to the western world (including Australia and NZ) for giving us freedom and capitalism. I'm trying to recall which non-western countries have a standard of living similar to western countries and these come to mind. Incidently, they're all in East Asia:

Japan
Hong Kong
Taiwan
South Korea
Singapore

Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have/had US aid at one point in time, while Hong Kong was British till 1997. Singapore, while being the world's premier nanny state, developed largely because it built upon its port and efficient civil service that the British left behind, as well as the many Western (especially American) MNCs that invested in the then poor impoverished city-state in 1965.

Am I thus right in saying that only 5 non-western countries enjoy a standard of living that western countries enjoy? As such, what is the moral of the story? Does this thus proof that the western way of life is the only known way to a high standard of living?

This is open to debate..... Would love to hear all your points of view.

24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineOH-LZA From Finland, joined Jun 2001, 1000 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2807 times:

Costa Rica is rather developed when compared to it's neighbours. I did see that the abolition of the military in 1949 has bore fruit.

Alex


User currently offline747-451 From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 2417 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2782 times:

What exactly do you mean by "western"? Perhpas you should say "capitalist and free" since those concepts are not exclusively "western". And as far as "capitalism" and "freedom" they are more likely to yield prosperity as opposed to other options such as communism or "utopian" socialism...

User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8508 posts, RR: 12
Reply 3, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2768 times:

Western. As in what the ancient Greeks were the first to develop. Such ideas as a middle class, satire/parody/criticism of the government, democracy, religious tolerance, etc. It all goes back to the Greeks.

User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 2745 times:

I would not give the Greeks too much credit. Modernity has been defined by democratic capitalism and it has proven workable in a variety of diverse cultures. Although the revolution began in the west, I do not think it is peculiarly western. Arguable communism and socialism are equally as western in origin.

User currently offlineMhsieh From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 332 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 2701 times:

Are religious states (specifically Islamic) doomed to be poor and undevelped?
I cannot think of a religious state that is considered developed or even devoloping country.
Is there something in the Islam religion or states that has religion as it's "center piece" that is preventing them from becoming developed?
Is being a secular state the only way to modernize?


User currently offlineDavid B. From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 3148 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 2708 times:

Is being a secular state the only way to modernize?

I think so. The problem with religious states is that they put too much emthesis on religion and not on social and economic factors. Yes, religious states are poor. Religion should be seperated from politics.



Teenage-know-it-alls should be shot on sight
User currently offlineMhsieh From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 332 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 2705 times:

I think being a secular state and being in a non-tropical climate area are 2 critical requirements to becoming modern and industrialized.
Icanot think of any modern industrialized nation in the the tropics....I wonder why? Does the heat just make people lazy and unmotivated?


User currently offlineSkystar From Australia, joined Jan 2000, 1363 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 2704 times:

Isn't Singapore tropical enough?

Tropics doesn't just mean jungles, bananas and monkeys jumping from tree to tree!


User currently offlineCfalk From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 2693 times:

David B.,

Hey, for once I agree with you. However it depends on the tolerance level as well.

Where religious leadership is tolerant of other faiths, you can have a highly religious nation which is quite advanced. England is the perfect example of this. There IS a state religion, and the Queen is the Anglican version of the Pope. But they are tolerant of other religions. That smacks of confidence, and it works.

Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries are intolerant. Aposty is a crime punishable by death in Iran. The 9/11 hijackers wanted to rid the middle east of the "pollution" of western civilization. Their society is insular, and that smacks of a lack of confidence - the idea that they perhaps realize that their society and perhaps even their faith is not strong enough to stand firm in the face of challanges which an open and tolerant society would bring.

There is nothing wrong with religion. It is in the level of tolerance for others that you find trouble.

Charles



User currently offlineMhsieh From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 332 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 2692 times:

Singapore is a very unique state. It would have never developed into it's present status without the large number of non-native influences ie British and Chinese. Otherwise, Singapore would be just like Malaysia and Indonesia.

User currently offlineDocpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1971 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 2684 times:

Mhsieh said:

"I cannot think of any modern industrialized nation in the the tropics....I wonder why? Does the heat just make people lazy and unmotivated?"

Well coming from a tropical country, the heat DOES make people lazy and unmotivated! That's why we have air conditioning! The heat and humidity really puts people off..... Thank god for air conditioning.... I can never study properly without it. Singaporeans and Hongkongers are known for working their butts off.....

It is true that the native population of Singapore, the Malays, are not as economically well off as the migrant races of the Chinese and Indians. But then again, if we look at all countries in the world (South Africa, Australia, USA etc) the native populations have never been able to be as economically well-off as migrants.

I suppose this debate basically comes to the Rich North Poor South phenomenon.

While OH-LZA did mention that Costa Rica is developed compared to the rest of its neighbours, I don't think it enjoys a standard of living similar to Western Europe.

Therefore is it right to conclude that Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have the highest standards of living outside the western, capitalist, free (however you wanna term it) world?

It's also interesting to not that All the above countries have/had Western aid and support at some point in time.

I would love to hear Yyz717's comments on this.... hehe.





User currently offlineEitlean From Australia, joined May 2001, 21 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 2679 times:

It seems to me that one important consideration in explaining the geography of prosperity is the history of colonialism. Inequalities in wealth across the world predominantly depend on who controls resources. Historically (within the last 500 years or so), European states have plundered tropical countries and generally the countries of 'the South' for their wealth, and continue to do so, in the form of so-called aid which is given in the context of 'economic restructuring packages'. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland etc.. they've all done it, though to varying degrees. Now its the USA that's doing it most of all, via the institutions that it has set up for this purpose, the IMF and the World Bank.

Think back to the time before Columbus - there were many empires in regions of the world which were very wealthy indeed such as the Chinese, the Mayans, the Incas, the Dogon in West Africa etc... They all had various different religions and structures of government. Just because we in the West are generally democratic and Christian doesn't mean we haven't colonised, pillaged and plundered other parts of the world to our economic benefit. Wealth is relative, because resources are limited, therefore power determines who benefits and who loses. It is in the interest of wealthy nations to continue to maintain this disparity, otherwise they would of necessity have to share, and why would they want to do this? The West is more prosperous because it is more selfish.


User currently offlineFlyBoeing From United States of America, joined May 2000, 866 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 2654 times:

Wealth is not a zero-sum game. Western countries may have "colonized, pillaged, and plundered", but the sad fact is that colonialism never paid the French, Americans, or Belgians. (India made the British Empire pay off). Western institutions make the West wealthy and the lack thereof - sometimes abetted by Western MNC's but mostly through Western apathy - makes the poor poorer.

Rich Western countries don't make up a club and say "We're keeping all the money for ourselves". That would be highly illogical. It would ignore the fact that some poor countries have things to offer the world market. The thing is that poor countries have very little to offer the world market that Western countries aren't really good at doing themselves; i.e, agricultural products and textiles. Here is how most poor countries fail at having greater things to offer the world market:

1) No strong institutions. Western countries have governments and institutions that - rightly or wrongly - ensure that contracts are fully executed without payoffs and rent-extraction.

1a) Bad Banking Systems. Often the rich simply don't lend to the poor, preferring to keep their money in Switzerland. This is endemic in Saudi Arabia, where Shari'a islamic law places strictures on "usury" to the point where capitalism and liquid finance are unrecognizable.

2) Corruption. "Baksheesh" and other forms of lubrication are invisible taxation that hurts people's perception of even growth and reduce the certainty in the economy. Corruption fosters psychological feelings of "hopelessness" among the nonexistent middle class. Corruption also manifests itself in insane tariffs that prevent real competition and build bloated industrial monopolies.

3) No Birth Control. Without labor shortages, it's a lot more difficult to build productivity-enhancing products such as IT. The "Labor intensive" method of operation is always more attractive, and this keeps salaries down. It also forces countries to subsidize gigantic costly welfare apparatuses which discourage investment.


User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2636 times:

"The West is more prosperous because it is more selfish."

This is false. The first precondition for 'western' style economic growth is the move from subsistence agriculture to a surplus agriculture. Once you have a surplus, you have something to trade. When enough people are engaged in surplus agriculture, then some of the population leaves it altogether to specialize in things metalsmithing, trading, and so on. All of this occurred on a wide scale in Europe several hundred years ago and set the stage for the modern era.

The West is generally (Hong Kong recently surpassed the UK in per capita GDP) more prosperous than the rest of the world for a variety of reasons. The engine of economic prosperity is free-market capitalism and derivatives thereof.

Perhaps the most important factor for the economic growth is the rule of law. Without the transparent rule of law, property rights, contracts, and dispute resolution are threatened and this dicourages people from engaging in commerce. This factor includes laws against corruption.

Another important factor is macroeconomic stability particularly a low, stable inflation rate. High inflation and deflation make long-term investments very difficult and choke economic growth.

A third factor are education levels because that directly affects labor producitivity.

There are a bunch of other factors (like infrastructure, access to the sea) and there are books written on this topic so I will not write ad nauseum. But I would like to address a couple of other points made because they were recently addressed.

Climate makes a big difference. Hot humid, weather pushes down productivity. I think Jeffery Sachs did a study on this issue.

Also colonial legacy also seems to have an effect. In places where the colonial power liked the locale, the stuck around and built institutions like legal systems. In places that were too hot and dangerous, they did not invest in these things. I cannot remember who did the study but there iss a marked difference between such places today. For instance, the British hung out in Malaysia and Singapore for a while but they did not stay in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa for long. I will see if I can find the article.


User currently offlineDirkSavage From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (11 years 6 months 4 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 2600 times:

Interesting reading:

"The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism"

By Max Weber, 1904


User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16307 posts, RR: 56
Reply 16, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2586 times:

Well, since I was quoted...I recommend the following 2 books:

The Wealth & Poverty of Nations, by David Landes,
Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond.

Both books, the former in particular, outline the combination of factors that led to the ascendency of the "West". Arguably, it began 500-600 years ago with the devolvement of the Christian Church in Europe which allowed (in limited scope anyway) commerce, education & scientific research. This led (among many things) to ship & sailing technology which encouraged the colonization of the world. The former book dispells the belief that commerce or wealth is a zero sum game and that the third world was plundered by the West. The end moral is that for a society to "become wealthy" requires the following:
1. Free enterprise as the PRIMARY wealth building block,
2. Generally free trade on an intra- and inter- basis,
3. Separation of church and state,
4. Government by democracy,
5. An independent judiciary,
6. A stable/convertable currency & banking system,
7. A strong education focus for the masses,
8. A strong focus on elimination of corruption.

The above factors will in a generation result in an economy & society that can largely move from third world to first world standard. There really is no other way. Many nations have followed this standard.....Chile, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea are examples.

The fact that this recipe was "invented" in largely anglo-saxon nations is politically incorrect to say, but the fact remains that without exception, all anglo-saxon majority nations are now wealthy regardless of geographic location due to the application of the above principles, while the third world remains largely poor due to the absense of the above principles.

Anti-Western pride would seem to be a factor in the relative non-adoption of these economic principles by many third world nations.



Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineBarfBag From India, joined Mar 2001, 2237 posts, RR: 6
Reply 17, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 2556 times:

To add to the debate, here's another book I would recommend:

"Tribes - how race, religion and identity determine success in the new global economy", by Joel Kotkin.

This is an excellent book, that explores the argument that the success of nations can itself be explained by the capabilities and beliefs of some groups of people. These people are more likely to succeed than others, because of a strong tradition among themselves that values hard work and the acquisition of knowledge and wealth. Kotkin focusses on five so-called tribes, the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese and Indians.

He uses these five tribes to illustrate how they leveraged their own distinct cultural traits to become prodigiously successful, and how economic success at large is driven not merely by Western-inspired institutions and socio-economic frameworks, but also the work ethic of people. A large amount of credit rightfuly goes to the British, and he describes how their Calvinist work ethic and the drive towards mercantile capitalism really changed the world. They are the first "tribe" who really influenced the world to such a dramatic scale. In the case of Jews, Kotkin describes how their continued marginalization throughout history compelled them to acquire knowledge and skills that proved to be extremely useful in the present global economy. The Japanese, Chinese and Indians constitute three more tribes whose own nations are are different stages of development, driven by their own "tribes".



India, cricket junior and senior world champions
User currently offlineJcs17 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 8065 posts, RR: 39
Reply 18, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 2563 times:

Well, just ask yourself this question--in the modern era (lets just say, 1900-today)... Name a significant invention to come out of a non-western country. In Western countries, I am including countries like China, Korea, Japan, etc.


America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!
User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16307 posts, RR: 56
Reply 19, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 2541 times:

Kotkin focusses on five so-called tribes, the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese and Indians.

The glaring difference here tho is that 3 of these groups (Jews, British, Japanese) are enjoying first world living standards. The other 2 (Indian, Chinese) remain largely mired in gut-wrenching poverty.

Name a significant invention to come out of a non-western country. In Western countries, I am including countries like China, Korea, Japan, etc.

I would not include China as being part of the West until they either democratize or remove their Communist govt. In answer to your question, there are vitually no non-Western inventions in use anywhere in the world today.



Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineBarfBag From India, joined Mar 2001, 2237 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 2536 times:

The glaring difference here tho is that 3 of these groups (Jews, British, Japanese) are enjoying first world living standards. The other 2 (Indian, Chinese) remain largely mired in gut-wrenching poverty.

The whole subject of Kotkin's argument (and what I was trying to explain) is not whole societies or nations but people. Western norms like democracy and the rule of law are certainly of critical importance, but within both first world and third world societies you will find certain groups of people outperforming others, and Kotkin's merely argues that.

In the case of the British and Japanese, their own societies benefited from the start of their own individual renaissances. In the case of the Jews, they were already enormously influential by the time they had a country of their own, and they took that success home. The Chinese and Indians both show the trait of being very successful abroad, but only recently have they been able to export (rather, import) their success to their native lands, because their own countries spent a better part of the last few hundred years losing the enormous clout they once had, and then sticking to ridiculous self-defeating economic policies.



India, cricket junior and senior world champions
User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2501 times:

"Well, just ask yourself this question--in the modern era (lets just say, 1900-today)... Name a significant invention to come out of a non-western country."

What is the connection between this question and standards of living exactly?

Anyway, the blue laser is from Japan. It is the underlying technology in DVDs and has a lot of other applications. A lot of western technology that fueled Europe's rise to preeminence has origins in China and the Middle East actually. Now the flow is moving in other direction.



Yyz717,

I think you completely missed the point of Barfbag's post. Under the right conditions, there are a number of winning socio-cultural formulas for economic success.


User currently offlineDocpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1971 posts, RR: 3
Reply 22, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2485 times:

Don't forget Creative Technologies (a Singaporean company) and their Soundblaster.

Anyhow, Asian companies usually build upon western inventions, as is done in Singapore and Japan.

It can be argued that Singapore is not so much a democracy but a benevolent dictatorship. No where as bad as Saddam, and criticism of government policies is allowed. Just that the government goes to great extents to prove that they're never wrong!

Even then, I think Singapore is a unique case as I can't think of any other country with a "benevolent" non-nonsense government that has a standard of living as high as ours. Usually such governments have a high corruption rate yet Singapore's government is consistently voted the least corrupt or second least corrupt government in the world, year on year.

I do think that the no-nonsense, no-opposition approach was necessary in putting Singapore in the right track when it was a poor South East Asian backwater. It is our no-nonsense workforce that attracts many MNCs to set up shop here.

However, the government has started to let go in the past 10 years and many things that would never have made it here just 3 years ago (like plays depicting homosexuality) are quite readily available now.

Anyhow, Singapore is a unique example and more of an aberration than anything.


User currently offlineJaysit From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 2473 times:

It all depends on how you define a "non-Western" invention.

I would assume that a Western invention is one that originated in Western critical modes of thought followed by a period of experimental validation, and not one that merely originates in the geo-political West.

That having been said, I remember watching a show on which a very charismatic Indian actor remarked toungue in cheek that his country's only contribution to science and technology was the number zero. Not an entirely correct statement, but he was making a not too veiled critique of India's politicians and it got a good laugh from the audience. However, in doing so he also reminded his viewers that the current "Arabic" numerical system and the decimal system had its origins in India.

"Well, just ask yourself this question--in the modern era (lets just say, 1900-today)... Name a significant invention to come out of a non-western country."

That is a loaded question. By 1900, most non-western countries were colonized, scientific inquiry was based on a critical western mode, and any scientifically oriented educational systems that existed were also based on a western model. Needless to say, all inventions in the future will be based on this model.


User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 52
Reply 24, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 2444 times:

Although I do agree Costa Rica is far more "advanced" than its Central American neighbors, I do think it still has a long long way to go before its way of life is even mentioned in the same sentence as Europe, US, Canada, East Asia, etc.

Greg



Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
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