Aug 25, 2007

wealth and poverty of a nation (part 4)

As we move forward in time another big reason for Muslims in particular was there inability to realize the importance of strong institutions and professional bodies to promote or protect various aspect of life other then religion, Muslim scholars made huge inroads in science and philosophy, but there knowledge did not help form think tanks that would influence the people long after they were gone, there books were more regarded as badge of honors among the Muslim society rather then a source of useful knowledge, Europeans on the other hand took those books and since they had no reason to associate any reverence or pride to the text , just utilized them objectively taking what was useful (and perhaps proved in an experimental lab) and leaving what they didn’t find of any particular application, there intent to benefit from the real world prizes with in that text was an early sign of entrepreneurial ship.

Another reason for Europe’s emergence was that unlike the constant turmoil faced in the Muslim empires around the world, they were relatively shielded from out side attacks, when they become too rowdy the church was smart enough to raise the banner of crusades to get all trouble makers out of the city and send them away to far off lands to fight and die, I guess the combine effect of 1- yearning for maximum profit, 2- lack of man power (a-due to plague, b-due to crusades, c- due to generally low birth rates) 3-less regulation; was what lead to the industrial revolution, and then nations that jumped on that bandwagon early on had an enviable lead over the nations that didn’t.

In England, even before the start of the industrial revolution it was common to have two levels of workers in and around the city, when the work for the city workers was too much to handle they use to 'outsource’ it to the workers in the suburb, and so there were certain rules of the game being followed way before it became a global phenomenon.

Industrial revolution was the final leap that set Europe way ahead of any thing that any other civilization had ever achieved, this revolution was only a natural extension of all the activities that were already going on in that region, once trade started flourishing demand rose, it rose to such extents that there was no other way but to look for automation, and hence countries who had already hoarded wealth and know-how were able to invest in bigger and better means ( say machines) of production to handle that demand.

As the size of a factory started growing it became almost impossible for the cottage industry to compete with the factory and so the entry requirement in the industrial segment become so high that countries who had earlier missed the boat were left out for good, only now in the 21st century when the demand has again risen so much that the work needs to be outsourced further out is when we see the poor nations getting in to the industrial revolution (and that too mostly thanks to investment from the West).

Unlike the Europeans who had the Greek school of rational thought to fall on, Muslims had no such school, people like Ibn Rushd who tried to bring the Greek philosophy in the Islamic fold was not successful in the long term, due to lack of institutions.

On the political front the big win for the western civilizations was the French revolution where they proved that there was no need for religion to play any kind of a role in governance hence one more layer of regulation removed.

Other then the Muslim Spain, amongst most Muslim countries innovation and research was driven not by reason but by faith, which is to say that if any scholar came to a conclusion which even hint at a difference from what is in the holy book would be put down, and so only that research was sanctioned that yielded results that were in tune with what the theocracy of the time believed was in the book.

As mentioned earlier west was infatuated with mechanical toys and gadgets, reasons for the gadget and machine to flourish was the low birth rate and the plague (which at that time was seen in the Muslim circle as a curse on the infidels) which further exacerbated the labor conditions, This adoption of machines did not happen over night, west was eager to find new avenues for finding cheap (read slave) labor and once production was high there started a search for open markets, the British made it in to a science, for example they took over the Indian Sub-Continent, used the readily available cheap labor to grow tea, made that very nation addicted to the product, and made a fortune doing that, repeated the same formula all over the World (this is where the present day corporations learn there lessons for developing a market for a product) and hence the vicious circle of capitalism saw its roots first in mercantilism/imperialism.

It wasn’t until the 19th century when the sub continent first started using the printing press (I guess this reflects on another aspect of our nature, for any meaningful change we have always looked outward, it was the Mughals who introduced a love of finer things in life to the region and then it was the British who introduced us to the industrial revolution.