European Diary

Unquantifiable Differences

The biggest mystery and conundrum of our time is not whether Stalin died a natural death, or why the CIA had Kennedy killed, but the difference between the types of individual that rise socially in the West and, respectively, in Russia or China.  In the 1980’s my father wrote extensively of the problem of the distribution of intellectual resources, comparing Western patterns with those of the Soviet model, and I in turn took up the subject in the 1990’s.  To my mind, it remains the great unquantifiable of the century.

Who works for lucre, and who for glory?  Who, in a given culture, bakes cinnamon rolls, and who eats them?  What sort of person sells door to door, and what sort designs intercontinental ballistic missiles?  Why do babblers or fools rise to the top under one system when they are sent to log wood north of Turukhansk under another?  We are somewhere between sociology and common sense here, between history book and personal experience, between business management and luck of the draw, yet it is no exaggeration that our civilization’s survival as the freest of political organisms existing in the world today depends on the accuracy and depth of the answers.

Broadly put, the West is a civilization, from the Latin word meaning city.  Its global competitor, for most of the 20th century and just as starkly now in the 21st, is a militarization, from the Latin word...

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