SUMMER SNIPPETS: ‘Migrations & Cultures,’ by Thomas Sowell
More interesting snippets I highlighted during my summer reading, this time from Thomas Sowell’s Migration & Cultures, part of his Race & Culture trilogy. (Send a copy to Tariana Turia.)
“Cultures are not merely customs which people have a sentimental attachment, or badges of “identity” which permit them to engage in breast-beating. Cultures are particular ways of accomplishing the things that make life possible—the perpetuation of the species, the transmission of knowledge, and the absorption of the shocks of change and death, among other things. Cultures differ in the relative significance they attach to time, noise, safety, cleanliness, violence, thrift, intellect, sex and art. These differences in turn imply differences in social choices, economic efficiency. and political stability. Though cutures transcend race, particular cultures are obviously often associated particular racial or ethnic groups. Australians are Europeans, regardless of what geography may say…”
“There is no reason to doubt that individual mental capacity was as great as ever, or that as many potential geniuses were born during the Dark Ages in Europe as during its eras of the most shining achievements. What was lacking was an ability to “avail themselves of the great bank and capital of nations and ages,” as Burke phrased it in a different context. The institutions of such cultural transmission were simply gone with the collapse of Roman society.”
“It may sound noble to say that cultures are merely different, not better or worse in any way, and that it is all a matter of perceptions and preferences. But this argument contradicts itself by saying that one way of looking at cultural difference is better—the way of cultural relativism preferred by a fringe of of contemporary intellectuals, rather than the way preferred by the vast majority of other human beings around the world and down through the centuries.
“These cultural differences do not matter only if cause and effect do not matter…”