Why Nations Succeed and Fail

As an amateur historian, familiar with the histories of many nations, I am always asking myself why nations succeed and fail. Many answers have been suggested. Most of them proved to be nonsense. However, I have found two principles that are iron-clad, and one observation that is very troubling.

In the 19th century, it was the popular belief that civilization was the singular invention of Nordic man. Oddly enough, this idea originated out of the United States and Britain, not Germany -- which only picked it up later. These Aryan supremacists never could explain why civilization came out of the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean, so theoreticians like British-German Houston Stewart Chamberlain and America's Madison Grant came up with the fanciful idea that the ancient Greeks -- even the elite royalty of Ancient Egypt -- were all Nordics. These ancient civilizations fell as they interbred with inferior stocks.

Yes, there is evidence that fair-haired, blue-eyed people once had a larger geographic range than they do today, and the Macedonians may have been fairer in the past -- Alexander the Great by legend had one blue eye, and one black eye -- but how does that explain Japan?! 

The Nordicists always had a problem with the Japanese. The Japanese clearly had a very high civilization. The Nazis were forced to declare them to be honorary Nordics. Theories about an ancient Nordicity to the root ethnic stock of the Ainu flourished, and still flourish, in spite of DNA evidence. However, even if one ignores the DNA -- which can be subject to politically correct interpretation -- the fact is plainly obvious: The Japanese are not Nordic, and they have a very high civilization, one of the most stable civilizations in history.

The Nordicists themselves admitted that Nordics may not be the brightest of the lot.

The mental characteristics of the Mediterranean race are well known, and this race, while inferior in bodily stamina to both the Nordic and the Alpine, is probably the superior of both, certainly of the Alpines, in intellectual attainments. In the field of art its superiority to both the other European races is unquestioned -- The Passing of the Great Race, Chapter 11, Madison Grant

The detestable Aryanist Revilo P. Oliver started off one of his screeds against the Jews with this startling concession.

They [the Jews] are a highly intelligent people, quite possibly much more intelligent than we are. -- What We Owe Our Parasites, Revilo P. Oliver.

Well, those two bon mots from the doyens of Aryan supremacists pretty much shoot down any claims of Übermensch.

Is it a republican form of government which produces a high civilization? Clearly republics are a better form of government. They do have a degree of freedom; and, when run properly, have a more adaptability than monarchies or tyrannies. But can anyone say that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a better run country than Norway with its monarchy? Is republican Peru better than Sweden or Monaco?

Republican government helps, but it is not the all-deciding factor.

Economic freedom helps, but is it universally required?

Totalitarian quasi-socialist Nazi Germany was more successful economically than South America which was more open economically. One would be hard pressed to duplicate Nazi Germany's economic success from 1933-39 even with the best of free market policies today.

Is it Christianity which produces high civilization? 

Certainly, Christianity helps, but it is not universally required.

Zimbabwe is majority Christian, tending to the Protestant -- so much for those who claim Protestantism is the signature requirement -- yet it is a disaster. Celtic-Latin Catholic France is clearly better run than Zimbabwe. But again, what do you do with Shinto Japan which seems to outperform both of them?

Nor is Catholicism the standard either -- or Italy, Portugal, and Spain would have continued to rule the world, as the Pope originally wanted when he split the world in 1494 between Portugal and Spain. Lest one consider this idiocy uniquely Catholic, Cromwell wanted to split the world between Protestant Britain and the Protestant Dutch.

Christianity, of whatever stripe, has not helped much of Southern Africa. The continent is a mess.

However, we can clearly observe that wherever Islam rears its head, civilization dies. That does not tell us what is best, just merely what to avoid.

Natural wealth is a major factor, but if natural wealth were all, then Argentina should rule the world. Japan depends on imports.

Is there a generalized form of race as a principle? Forgetting Nordicism, are whites in general better?

South Korea is a rebuke to that. In fact, South Korea breaks every mold. A highly industrialized, extremely well-educated democracy, which outperforms Europe and the West in innovation. Moreover, South Korea is prosperous in spite of religious fractures. About half are irreligious, one-quarter Buddhist, with the remainder split between Protestants and Catholics.

Is it ethnic homogeneity? Prosperous and free Switzerland is a rebuke to that. It is split between Latins, Celts, and Germans, Catholics, and Protestants. Iceland is ethnically a Celtic-Nordic blend which stabilized a millennia ago. It is homogeneously Lutheran Protestant. Yet, it had a major economic collapse.

In all my studies of history, I have come to three generalizations which hold universally. These are not merely recommendations, but sine qua non requirements. One of these observations will be extremely controversial.

1) A civilization's height and stability depend on how well they treat its women. This should be a no-brainer. Civilizations which are overly male dominated are overly violent. Islamic cultures come to mind. To regard women is to place feminine virtues above brute force, which is then relegated to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Islam seems incapable of absorbing this fact. The more civilized the nation is, the better it treats its women. This is an invariable and iron-clad rule.

This is why China, and India -- and to a lesser extent: South Korea -- with their high rates of female infanticide and sex-selective abortions, are headed for trouble. To devalue women is to negate the balance to testosterone inspired violence. The society will break down. I defy anyone to find an exception to it.

2) Islam is sheer poison. Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Shintoism all have their problems and issues, yet all can produce high civilization. Islam produces nothing, borrows everything, and then corrupts whatever it borrows. Even its vaunted mathematical genius -- the creation of numbers and algebra -- were the inventions of Ancient Greeks, Zoroastrian Persians, and Hindus. The Muslims merely transmitted the work of others.

Islam considers all history before Mohammed as Jahiliyyah (ignorance), and allows no additions apart from Islam. It has no concept of progress.

There may be no superior religion required for civilization -- though Christianity is recommended, especially for its ethics -- but there is one religion which destroys all civilization: Islam.

3) There is no superior race, with each ethnic group producing its own peculiar form of indigenous genius, and having the ability to learn and appreciate the genius produced by others. However, up to this time in history, sub-Saharan Africa seems peculiarly immune to this general rule. Africa was de-colonized 50 years ago. During that time, Singapore rose to heights. India is now an industrial power. Yet, all of Africa, even Christian Africa, remains a complete mess.

Asia, Europe, both produced high civilizations. Both produced genius. Even pre-Columbian America, cut off from cross-civilizational influences, could produce Mexican pyramids and Machu Picchu.

Outside of Ethiopia, which is a law unto itself, the best that came out of sub-Saharan Africa were the Zimbabwe ruins -- and these may have been organized not by indigenous Africans but by Jewish refugees (the Lemba) who fled from Senna in Yemen. They intermarried with the Africans. The best that can be honestly attested to sub-Saharan Africa is that Africa has produced unique music, but even that music seems to have been improved by outsiders who encounter it.

Whether this is extrinsic, the result of Africa's unfortunate history and tropical location, or intrinsic, an unfortunate genetic reality, the fact is that sub-Saharan Africa is a sad exception at this point in history. Mauritius is an exception, but may be because half its population is from India.

Also clear is that no one wants to stare this African exception in the face.

I can find no universal rule for civilizational success except to treat women better. I can find one universal rule to avoid civilizational collapse: Avoid Islam.

Africa remains beyond explanation.

Mike Konrad is an American who writes on many subjects.