A British economist has developed an interesting theory about how industrial society developed: genes for thrift and industry proliferated in 18th Century England because the elite had most surviving children. I will present his argument, before discussing its manifold ramifications for the contemporary Anglosphere:
A British economist is causing controversy with his new interpretation of what triggered the Industrial Revolution, writes Roger Highfield.
The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of steam power and mass production, with cotton mills, potteries, foundries and steel works sprouting up all over England's green and pleasant land.
The seismic effects spread from Britain at the end of the 18th century and rippled across the world. It marked a major turning point in history that was as significant as the invention of farming in around 6000 BC.
This period is seen by historians as the point at which modern society was born.
From the bucolic stories of rural villages told by Jane Austen in the 1810s to Charles Dickens's depiction of urban poverty in Victorian Britain, classic literature gives a vivid picture of the revolution's impact.
But scholars still argue about when the revolution really started, when its impact was first felt and whether it was too gradual to count as a sudden overthrowing of all that had been before.
The most elusive element of all, though, is what triggered it in the first place. Now, that last part of the puzzle may have been solved by a British economist. Next week he will tell the World Bank that it was a change in the cultural - perhaps even genetic - make-up of society that paved the way for the machine age. In A Farewell to Alms, published this month, Glaswegian Professor Gregory Clark of the University of California, Davis, argues that the revolution was not industrial at all.
Its roots did not lie in the technologies of Arkwright and Watt but in profound changes that had taken place in society over hundreds of years.
The problem facing all early societies lay in what Clark calls the "Malthusian trap", in honour of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who showed that living standards in pre-industrial societies would always be driven back down to a subsistence minimum by population growth, as long as technological advance was slow.
In pre-industrial societies women typically had five children. If living standards were good, most of those children survived to adulthood and rapid population growth followed. But with limited resources, only two of those five children survived to adulthood and the population remained stable.
Prof Clark explains that advances in the pre-industrial world, such as innovations in agriculture that boosted crop yields, did allow for a larger population to be supported (world population grew from perhaps 100,000 in 100,000 BC to 770 million by 1800) but as long as society was in the Malthusian trap, these innovations could not allow living standards to rise in the long term.
The average person in 1800 was no better off in material terms than in 100,000 BC.
In all pre-industrial societies in the Malthusian trap, some types of people were more successful at survival and passing on their genes, as Charles Darwin argued.
In the case of hunter-gatherer and "shifting cultivation" societies such as the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin, alpha males who killed the highest number people tended to sire the most children.
But in settled agrarian societies, with law and order, reproductive success shifted from the violent to the prosperous. We can see this in feudal England, where the successful reproduction of the richest, not strongest, dates back to the Middle Ages.
Records show, says Prof Clark, that "unusually in England, this selection for men was based on economic success from at least 1250, not success in violence". Later, around 1600, we can use an unusual source - the wills of 2,000 Englishmen, from squires to shepherds - to figure out even more exactly how reproductive and economic success were linked. These wills reveal how rich men were at death and also how many surviving children they had.
Prof Clark concluded that wealth, not social status or literacy, was the best predictor of the number of surviving children. Overall, the rich were leaving twice as many children as the poor. Survival of the fittest here meant survival of the richest.
He argued that this meant downward social mobility, as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the rich produced surplus children who were then forced to take over the occupations of the poor. The more abundant children of the rich had to slide down the social hierarchy to find work, bringing with them bourgeois values. Consequently, today's population is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages.
The downwardly mobile had a radically different outlook from the poor, who were more attuned to the outlook of the early agriculturalists, whom Prof Clark regards not as noble savages but "impulsive, violent, innumerate, illiterate and lazy".
The spread of the progeny of the wealthy introduced characteristics such as hard work, patience and peacefulness. The rise in the preference for saving money over the instant consumption of it was mirrored by a steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.
We see in England, from at least the Middle Ages, that the people who succeeded in the economic system - who accumulated wealth, got skills, became literate - were increasing their representation in each generation. This was an ideal society to exploit the introduction of industrialisation. As well as passing on these cultural traits, Prof Clark thinks the genes linked with them began to spread, meaning that in biological terms, people were better mentally equipped to learn about and accept mechanisation.
This resulted in a more organised society and more efficient methods of production. So, in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was genetically adapting to the modern world.
This may seem a short time for DNA make-up to change, but, in support of his thesis, Clark points out that a Siberian effort to domesticate foxes paid off in just 30 generations. Honing traits such as patience can be remarkably rapid, he claims. "The triumph of capitalism in the modern world may thus lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality."
Why did the Industrial Revolution start in England and not in the much larger populations of China or Japan? Because their elite classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, had surprisingly few children, Clark argues. Thus they would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that lit the touchpaper of the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
He adds that early English society was also surprisingly stable. "In most English villages, nothing happened from 1200 to 1800." This encouraged the survival of the richest, not the fiercest.
His conclusion is provocative because it revives the old notion that changes in people's behaviour drive events, rather than changes in institutions. Indeed, it may get Prof Clark into trouble, given the implication that other societies are less "evolved".
But he makes a sobering point. In one crucial sense we have changed little: despite material affluence, longer life spans and less inequality, we are no happier than our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Source: Daily Telegraph
In short, the genetic traits that created the industrialized Anglosphere were a fortuitous 'demographic accident'. However, since the Anglobitch was fully 'liberated' by Anglo White Knights and collectivists in the late Sixties, the Anglosphere has experienced the reemergence of the older, 'savage' genes eradicated by informal population eugenics in the late 18th Century. Of course, the UK is the leader of this particular trend, with its massive Welfare State and 'women on pedestals' agendas. This is most clearly expressed in the re-emergence of a vast, work-shy British underclass closely akin to Professor Clark's "impulsive, violent, innumerate, illiterate and lazy" pre-industrial peasants. In short, the specific brand of feminism that now rules the Anglosphere allows women to indulge their ingrained preference for shiftless, low IQ sociopaths and then leech off the taxpayer for the rest of their lives - producing a progeny of idle degenerates, into the bargain.
Clearly, advanced society is built on fragile genetic foundations: little wonder that the matriarchal holocaust unleashed by Anglo feminism is wreaking such havok across the Anglosphere.