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20170429 – Disinformation

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The main idea of this book is to use Author’s deep knowledge and decades of experience as chief of Romanian Intelligence to explain meaning and methods of highly successful ideological and psychological operations conducted by Soviet block to undermine democratic polities in Europe and USA. The key method used in this operations author defines as Disinformation – careful selection of combination of real fact, semi-truths, and outright lies to implant into minds of people ideas and attitudes instrumental in achieving whatever objectives elite of Soviet block was considered beneficial for them. Author also stresses that methods and tools of disinformation are not just a subject of history, but rather living and very active part of leftist movement that not only survived the fall of the Soviet block, but is currently thriving, making great strides in their attempts to destroy free democratic system and establish once again totalitarian system in which “socialist” elite would control all areas of human live.



Prelude: 1 Drafted into the Securitate; 2 The True Meaning of Glasnost

  1. Defecting to America; 4. The Black Art of Disinformation; 5 The “Beauty” of Disinformation; 6 Kremlin Framings; 7 Stalin’s Encounter with Catholicism
  2. The Kremlin’s New Enemy.

The first part is pretty much author’s history before and after joining Securitate. Obviously he tries to separate himself, as individual, from evils of the organization that he’d been working for, but it does not sound realistic. Somewhat more realistic is his foray into Glasnost and attempt to present it as intentionally designed ideological weapon created in Andropov’s KGB and tested using “independence” of Ceausescu regime in order to obtain economic and technological help from the West in exchange for nothing but rhetoric. He uses it as an important example of disinformation. This part also includes more or less detailed description of technics for framing.


  1. The Failed Birth of “Hitler’s Pope”; 10 Cardinal Stepinac; 11 Cardinal Mindszenty; 12 More Framings; 13 Global War on Religion; 14 The Vatican’s New Crusade; 15 Liberation Theology; 16 Khrushchev’s War on the Vatican; 17 Preparations for Framing Pius XII; 18 The Deputy; 19 The Play; 20 Disinformation under Every Rock; 21 KGB Fingerprints; 22 The Deputy’s Anti-Semitism; 23 The Deputy’s Ideological Roots; 24 Rolf Hochhuth; 25 A New Look at The Deputy; 26 Khrushchev’s Political Necrophagy; 27 Hitler’s Pope, The Book; 28 Andropov’s Cocaine.

This part is the detailed description of history of one of the biggest and quite important campaigns of framing and disinformation – Soviet ideological war against Catholicism. It included several objectives more or less successfully achieved during period after WW II: physical elimination of clergy in Easter part of Europe after Soviet occupation, discrediting of Pope and Catholic Church as supporters or at least neutral observers of Nazi activities by creating corresponding narrative supported by art from books to plays and movies, utilization of European intellectuals to penetrate educational institutions and instill these ideas into the young generation. Author stresses Andropov’s ideas of slow promotion of anti-western ideology in carefully designed small phases similar to getting person hook on cocaine by slowly increasing doses of drug. This operation also included creation of substitute of traditional Catholicism with Liberation theology that practically is socialist ideology with religious cover up. This was very successful in Latin America. Author looks in some details at individuals used in this operation.


29 The End of America’s Innocence; 30 Khrushchev: A Monument to Disinformation; 31 Operation ‘Dragon’ 32 New Hard Proof of the KGB’s Hand

This part is about another extremely successful ideological operations: framing of American government as enemy of American people or at least as bunch of intellectually challenged dupes. The obvious success led to American defeat in Vietnam, “anti-war” movement, and general expansion of leftist influence around the world. Author also discusses Kennedy assassination that was, as he believes based on his knowledge of internal working of Soviet block intelligence, a KGB operation.


33 From Disinformation to Terrorism; 34 Putin Time; 35 From “Hitler’s Pope” to September 11, 2001; 36 The Kremlin’s Nuclear Terrorism; 37 A KGB Empire; 38 Keeping the Lie-Machine Going; 39. The Antiwar Movement; 40 Marx’s Ghost Lives On; 41 Disinformation in Today’s America; 42 From Disinformation to Assassination; 43 Marxist Personality Cults and Heavy; Water 45 How I Became a “Filthy Jew Traitor”.

The last part is more about contemporary world as it developed after author defected from Socialist Paradise. It starts with chapter on Soviet and overall leftists support for terrorism that is now well documented for 1970-80s. However he extrapolates it to our time noting that establishment of KGB, that become a core of regime in Russia with Putin at the top, moved not only to typical Soviet rejection of democracy and consolidation of power, but also revival of old subversive foreign activities against the West this time in cooperation with Iranian regime. Probably the most important point here is about seamless continuation of these activities that resulted in such amazing achievements as election of deeply leftist and anti-western administration of Obama in USA and establishment of virtual control by leftists over educational system in Western countries. The final chapter is kind of funny because author found that being anti-communist and anti-leftist nearly automatically turned him into “Filthy Jew Traitor” in Romania. The reason it is funny because historically any totalitarian movement, even as saturated with Jewish by birth intellectuals as leftist movement in the West, is inevitably becomes anti-Semitic. This interesting phenomenon is going back to Karl Marx who was nearly perfect example of Jewish leftist intellectual of deeply anti-Semitic persuasion.


There is not much new for me in this book, but it is interesting to look at all this from point of view of very senior Intelligence and Security official in one of Soviet satellite States. In addition to historical value this book provides a very good insight into the nature of current leftists in Academia, government, and elsewhere. The mindset they possess, tools that they use, and general modus operandi is the same as it was used by totalitarian elite of old Soviet block. It is not surprising, taking into account that often these are the same people, only a bit older. After failing in Cold War that was relatively peaceful competition of two competing ideologies and economic systems, they did not disappear and did not change their views, but rather moved inside of Western societies successfully waging new ideological and economic war from inside of these societies that I would call Cold Civil War. As usual people in Democracies when attacked either from outside or from inside take long time to comprehend that they are attacked, reasons for this attack, and objectives of attackers. History demonstrates, however, that when this comprehension finally achieved nothing could save attackers from defeat and this is what we seems to observe now with massive anti-elite movements, which are clearly directed against leftists in government, academia, and all other areas of live. I expect really enjoy watching the complete defeat of these totalitarians over the next 10 – 15 years.


20170422 – Toward Democracy

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The main idea here is to provide historical support to the notion that democracy was developed as a method of collective decision making while minimizing violence. The narrative includes a bit of ancient history, but mainly concentrates on development over the last few centuries of democracy in the Western world, its ideological support by two distinct types of Enlightenment French and English/Scottish. It stops at the brink of American Civil War when idea of democracy was practically pushed far back and was seemingly highly dependent on this war’s outcome.


Introduction: The Paradoxes of Democracy

Democracy became a leading ideal form of society, but it is often misunderstood. Author claims that it “arose from violence and has never strayed far away from it”. The focus of this book is democratic thought in America and changing meaning of democracy over time. Most of all it is about the implementation of ideas and gaps between ideals of democracy and its practice, which makes democracy somewhat unsatisfying, leading to it’s multiple paradoxes.

Part I Roots and Branches

Chapter 1 Born in Bloodshed: The Origins of Democracy

It starts with the story of mayor of Bordeaux Montaigne in 1585 that survived on several occasions using ethics of reciprocity, which he promoted in his later essays. From here comes author’s point that democracy is born by violence as a tool to avoid or at least diminish violence via conversation and search for accommodation. This follows by the discussion of ancient Greek democracy of Athens with its initial notion of individual rights, however limited by popular will. After that author briefly reviews various philosophical approaches and implementations of this system in Rome and medieval Europe with somewhat special attention to religious thought: first Hebrew and then Christian with consequences of reformation and religious wars. The common outcome of both was general revulsion to rule of demos as meaninglessly violent that had to be contained by organized leaders of society: kings and aristocracy.

Chapter 2 Voices in the Wilderness: Democracies in North America

This chapter looks at initial European settlement in North America, which was to significant extent done by the people who did not accept conclusion of evils of democracy, but rather saw it as the better solution for society organization in which every member was equal in their relation to god and to others. Author looks in details at New England puritans as founders of specifically American approach to the ruling society, but also and somewhat unusually, author also looks at diversity of American colonial societies many of which quite vigorously supported ideas of divine sovereignty and king’s power. Practically however regardless of ideology all settlements had to develop various forms of self rule for simple reason of distance, difficulty of communications, and just plain lack of interest on the part of British kings and authorities. These forms necessarily included elections of rules and laws makers and enforcers who would act on more or less consensus basis because nobody really had enough power to impose their will without majority consent.

Chapter 3 Democracy Deferred: The English Civil War

This chapter goes back to Europe to discuss English Civil war of XVII century and how it led to Glorious revolution and ideological struggle that developed at the same time:

  • King’s attempt to move to pure absolutism
  • Parliament’s attempt to retain Magna Carta and power of gentry
  • Ideas of mixed government with divided power based on natural jurisprudence and natural laws when powers balance each other
  • Levelers ideas that legitimacy of government could be obtained only from consent of governed.

At the end of this chapter author discusses Milton’s poetic work as representation of ideology and general attitudes of this period when monarchy was destroyed, then restored, then restricted and made compatible with increasing democracy.

Chapter 4 Coup d-Etat: 1688 in England and America

The final chapter of this part is about Glorious revolution and its impact not only on English settlement, but also on American development. It also looks at writings and story of Algernon Sydney and John Lock who developed ideas that went into foundation of American revolutionary thought. However it was not only thought, but also growing American reaction to king’s attempt after restoration to bring American colonies under more direct supervision. This reaction obviously was quite negative because of incompatibility between de facto self-rule of colonies and hierarchical monarchical rule of England.

Part II Trial and Error

Chapter 5 Sympathy, Will, and Democracy in the Enlightenments of Europe

This is about French Enlightenment: Voltaire, Montesquieu, d’Alembert, Diderot, and Rousseau. The key difference here is much more value assigned to emotions and equality of results. It also reviews polemics between Rousseau and Hume who represented Scottish enlightenment, which was based on common sense rather than emotions. The views of Adam Smith and Hutcheson also reviewed here.

Chapter 6 Faith, Enlightenment, and Resistance in America

Here author moves to American Enlightenment, which had much more practical character because its people were involved in practical politics of the Democracy. It starts with Ben Franklin, and then goes to other founders. It also structured about main intellectual events of this time including Great Awakening and revolutionary developments.

Chapter 7 Democracy and American Independence

This is continuation of review of American development, especially on how movement for independency becomes intertwined with ideas of democracy.

Chapter 8 Constituting American Democracy

This is about post revolutionary period when initial regime established by Articles of Confederation becomes insufficient in the eyes of many to support efficient political system in the new country. It reviews people, ideas, and debates that led to creation of American Constitution.

Chapter 9 Ratification and Reciprocity

This is a very nice description of events and debates during ratification. The obvious fact about American constitution is its attempt to balance self-interest and general good and this chapter goes into details of founders’ understanding of local self-interest and general good.

Part III Failure in Success

Chapter 10 Delusions of Unity and Collisions with Tradition in the French Revolution

This is look at European type of Democratic revolution, which is decidedly different from American Revolution – French Revolution. The reason was huge difference in structure and attitudes of these two societies. Americans generally were much more similar to each other generally separated from existing English hierarchies of the society with their own society had its emerging hierarchies in flux, while French had well established layers of society with different world views, ideas, and approaches including religious vs. non-religious worldviews resulting in violent clash of huge proportions.

Chapter 11 Virtue and Violence in the French Revolution

This is about ideological war between supporters and opponents of French approach with Paine and Burke being good representatives of these fighting ideological camps. It also describes sequence of events in France and even somehow manages to go into ideas of feminist writers.

Chapter 12 Democracy in the Wake of Terror

This is detailed description of period of terror and, more importantly different reaction to it and its relation to Democracy in America and Europe.

Chapter 13 Diagnosing Democratic Cultures in America and Europe

The main difference is American understanding stressed reciprocity between individuals and society in democracy as key element of making it work. European approach was based on finding individuals best in expressing general will and then violently force all other individuals to comply with their directions. Net result of this was general rejection of this form of democracy and its practical elimination in Europe after defeat of Napoleon. In this chapter author look in details at parallel development of America, Britain, and France to analyze how exactly it happened.

Chapter 14 The Tragic Irony of Democracy

This covers developments in America leading to Civil War and its challenges to democracy. It also looks at other side of Atlantic where British moved on with reform movement, while Germany and France experience failure of revolution of 1848 and Napoleon III rule correspondingly. No surprise that at this point Lincoln was probably right that American Civil war was decisive for Democracy and that Union victory was necessary for it to survive. It did survive, but the following developments leading to gilded age brought mass corruption taking it far away from theoretical ideals. Author ends with a remark that Democracy proved to be malleable and its success depends on ability of individuals to internalize limits on freedom that democracy given them.


It is an interesting approach to defining reasons for and meaning of democracy. I basically accept the idea that democracy is nothing more than a tool to minimize violence, but I deeply resent the idea that it is perfect and universal tool. Actually I as many others, think that it is pretty crude and ineffective instrument that is acceptable only because there are no other instrument better than that. The history of democracy provided here has two interesting points: one is that democracy in America developed in kind of natural way, not possible in other places, and another one that two enlightenment movements French and English/Scottish/American, while being quite close ideologically, nevertheless brought dramatically different results when implemented in two different cultures. Finally it is interesting how far from inevitable progressive development believed by determinists Marxian and others the real history actually was removed and how close to the rejection of very idea of democracy humanity came in the middle of XIX century. With my one and only life I feel really lucky that such rejection did not happen.

20170415 – Against Empathy

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The main idea of this book is that too much empathy clogs vision and thinking preventing people from making good decisions and act reasonably. Empathy here means attempt to feel what others are feeling and act to alleviate their pain, which actually not a good way to achieve this objective. In short this is book in support of deliberate non-emotional decision-making and actions.



Here author presents reasons for his antipathy for empathy and why he decided to write a book about this. It also includes a brief review of the plan of the book and discussion of extremely critical reaction to its ideas when they were presented earlier in some articles published by author.

CHAPTER 1: Other People’s Shoes

This is a general attack on empathy in broad strokes: just establish author’s position on it. It starts with discussion on meaning of empathy and wide use of this notion in literature and everyday live. It follows by the reasoning that contrary to typical equivalency of use between two, morality and empathy are not really close notions. The morality is much wider notion than empathy and these two could easily go contrary to each other. The balance of chapter is about empathy not necessarily making world a better place and about providing responses to various types of rejection of author’s thesis of rejecting empathy.

CHAPTER 2: The Anatomy of Empathy

This and the next chapter are designed as zoom in on the psychology and neuroscience of empathy, exploring features that make it inadequate as a moral guide. This is also kind of review of mechanics: mirror neurons, their supporters and rejectionists, Adam Smith’s use of sympathy as analog to empathy, and even Baron-Cohen’s research on autism. The conclusion from all this is basically that empathy not really related to good behavior.

CHAPTER 3: Doing Good

This is kind of approach from other side of equation: why actually people do good, charitable things? The general conclusion is because it is in their perceived interest, which is well could be non-material. Author discusses empathy as process of trying to raise other people to own level in person consciousness that practically not possible to do. As alternative he suggests diminishing own need and wishes to the level of “other”.

INTERLUDE: The Politics of Empathy

This is about relationship between empathy and politics where author looks at approach to this by contemporary liberals (high level of empathy) and conservatives (low level). Technically this is not correct. It is rather two sides have intensive empathy, but to different people and issues so author’s point is that clear-minded non-empathic analysis and decision-making would do much better than passionate and empathic support of one side.

CHAPTER 4: Intimacy

This is about impact of empathy on intimacy. The search for most important feature for success in intimate live brought up not empathy, but kindness. He also looks at attempts to establish scale of empathy and corresponding bell curve. At the end author provides a funny formula that everybody could use to find out how much attention and effort one is inclined to invest in self and others: Self + Close People + Strangers = 100%.

INTERLUDE: Empathy as the Foundation of Morality

The foundation of morality obviously comes from the childhood so here author looks at the moral lives of babies and children. Author looks a bit at evolutionary benefits and costs of empathy and his preferred compassion when people help others without feeling their pain, but rather for their own psychological comfort. He provides a number of examples of such behavior in children, but stops short of claiming it has enough explanatory power.

CHAPTER 5: Violence and Cruelty

This chapter is about evil and idea that lack of empathy makes people worse. Author pretty much rejects this idea as way out of reality because it is not possible to have such level of empathy to other as on one has of self and/or “one of us”. Actually in this case empathy could lead to aggression against those who caused damage to “us”. The second part of chapter is about individual characteristic of psychopaths, basically rejecting explanatory value of lack of empathy for such cases. He provides a nice table to support this:

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CHAPTER 6: Age of Reason

The final chapter is an attempt to convince people that reason is a much better tool to achieve positive results than blind empathy and actions driven by emotions generated from empathy.


Generally empathy, as any other non-critical emotional response to reality, probably causes more harm than good. It prevents people from analyzing causes of distress and leads to actions that have deleterious effect on chances to achieve positive results. So I basically agree that the empathy is not only overrated, but also rather incorrectly rated as a positive feature, when it is at best is neutral and at worst is a negative feature causing unreasonable actions. I think that author provides a good example when discussing distress of Palestinian children vs. Israeli children when empathy of outsider bound to go much more to Palestinians who get killed rather than to Israelis who just have inconvenience of going to shelter when Palestinians start shooting their low quality low precision missiles. I think it is a great example of how empathy works and why it is useless as tool for improving world if we look at this situation a bit wider: The empathetic outsider in this case would insist on providing help to Palestinians, maybe even assuring that it was purely humanitarian help so outsider’s self-appreciation, conveniently forgetting that resources are fungible. However the realities of live when Palestinians’ objective is conquest and annihilation of Jewish population, while Israelis’ objective is just self-defense limited by humanitarian considerations for Palestinian lives and fear to become politically and economically isolated. The result is the continuing war without end hurting people on both sides. If one would remove empathetic outsider, the war would end long time ago. In this case, because Israel is militarily more powerful, it would most probably end in prosperous demilitarized Palestinian state alongside with Israel with Jews and Palestinians living in both states, maybe in different proportions. In another similar case a while ago, when Jews were powerless, it ended in Holocaust, but it ended nevertheless, even if empathic feelings of German soldiers to their victims were instrumental in costly change from cheap, if somewhat demoralizing, mass killing on the spot to industrialized processing with gas chambers and extensive transportation of victims to killing factories in order to minimize negative psychological impact on Germans.

20170408 Common Sense Nation

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The main idea of this book is to review intellectual underpinnings of American culture that logically led to revolution and consequent formation of completely new and unusual country based on constitution and common sense. This common sense came not from the magic, but from the Scottish Enlightenment, which is quite different than the French Enlightenment. This difference eventually led to quite different types of states that developed from two revolutions of 1776 and 1789: one being an American type state with constitution and democracy used as methods to find some generally accepted compromise between multitude of individual wills and another one of a French type with society driven by “general will” identified at best by democratic elections, but more often by will of elite or even individual in power with multitude of individual wills of regular people either subordinate or actively suppressed.



This is a discussion of American Enlightenment as product of British or more precisely Scottish Enlightenment, which has its own very distinct features quite different from usual understanding of Enlightenment based on its French patterns.

OVERTURE Locke’s Revolution

This about Locke, his treatises on government and, most important, his core idea that “The supreme power in every commonwealth (is) but the joint power of every member of society”

ONE: The Founders

This obviously is about formation of American founders as individuals with ideology that occurred under influence of Scottish immigrants who were their tutors. It is reviewed in some details based on example of Benjamin Rush. It also provides somewhat unusual look at constitutional convention as the drama founding and as the unique case of deliberative establishment of the state.

TWO: The American Enlightenment

This is a look at specifics of American Enlightenment and discussion of similarities and differences between it, French Enlightenment, and huge differences in societies that American and French revolutions produced.

THREE: The Declaration of Independence

This is a very interesting discussion on declaration of independence and ideological root of its key notion that by now became quite obscure and misunderstood such as “…Self-Evident”, “…Unalienable rights”, “… Pursuit of Happiness”, and “… All men created Equal”. This chapter also contains brief, but very important piece on the American idea of Property Rights.

FOUR: The Constitution

This is about constitution as an attempt to create such framework of the state that would take into account immutable characteristics of human nature, rather than try to change human nature to fit into framework of ideal state. Author uses juxtaposition between Madison and King George both treated as legitimate thinkers about nature of the state, but with critically different approach with Madison seeking establish new framework of society, while King George trying to protect god ordained order from “Presbyterian rebellion”.

FIVE: The Federalist Papers

This starts with Adam Smith’s “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” that author seems to consider to be underappreciated founding document of America and then goes to Madison’s argumentation in Federalist Papers on the Extended Republic, Representation, and legal framework of the society.

SIX: Religion and the American Enlightenment

This is about a religion being a necessary component of American creation that sprung from the very special creed of Christianity: not dogmatic, but tolerant, which paradoxically made America much more religious country than any other in developed Western world.

SEVEN: Turning Away from the Founders

This chapter moves us close to the contemporary world, retelling history of mainly successful so far attempt to destroy America conducted from within its society by supporters of French enlightenment of the big government and suppression of individual. The ranks of these supporters run from Woodrow Wilson to contemporary post-modern “Progressives” .

EIGHT: Common Sense Nation

This is about American Common Sense that still standing, but is severely wounded by 100 years “progressive” challenge. It directs a special attention to the currently victorious progressives in academia.

NINE: A Brief History of “Liberalism”

This is about American Liberalism that came to signify something directly opposite of Liberalism of XIX century. The latter was freedom movement, while the former statist and oppressive movement striving to move control of human lives to the big government bureaucrats. The chapter briefly looks at original progressivism of early XX century, FDR’s big government revolution of 1930s, and countervailing movement of conservatism as it developed by the end of this century.

POSTSCRIPT How to Misunderstand the Founders

This very short chapter stresses the typical mistake that people make trying to explain America by reference to English parliamentary system and the French Enlightenment. It is neither. America is the product of unique American Enlightenment and must be analyzed on its own terms.


I find the idea of America’s roots in Scottish Enlightenment very intriguing. The whole idea of two different approaches to the running of society: one from the top down via Reason of educated elite that is imposed by all means necessary on non-elite members of society and another one from the bottom up via Common Sense of regular members of society pushed up to elite for limited managerial functions, seems to me highly explanatory and consistent with real live experience.

The last couple hundred years after both methods where applied: the Common Sense in America after 1776 and the Reason in France after 1789 history produced some very good examples of implementation results for each approach:

  1. It is hard to imagine more Reason driven ideologies than Communism and National Socialism, both being products of pseudo-scientific reasoning of intellectual elite most often born to middle layers of society and raised to the top via self-education and revolutionary activities similarly to mother of them all elite of the French revolution.
  2. Correspondingly it is hard to imagine more Common sense driven society than early America were whatever Reason of elite dictated was practically impossible to implement due to huge distances, absence of well organized government power structures, and economic independence not only localities, but also individual farmers and mechanics.

It is obvious that with increased maturity of technology and society’s power structures America practically ceased to be the fully Common Sense nation. The dramatic growth of educated elite that has no place in market economy, but strongly demands level of resources provision consistent with their expectations, created strong base for movement to expand top down European Reason model in which such educated elite guarantied high level of resource transfer from actual producers. However the Common Sense part of America did not disappear and still maintains probably slight advantage among American population. All this indicates high probability of clash between these two models of society with one of them definitely ending on the top, taking over American society as the whole.



20170401 – A Culture of Growth

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The main idea is to demonstrate that culture, economic, and technological development of society is deeply intertwined with change in culture (understood as prevailing attitude in human interactions with material world and other humans) and is absolutely necessary prerequisite for such development. Specifically it relates to dramatic changes in economic and technological conditions of Western societies that followed not less dramatic change in ideology of this society brought in by Enlightenment.


Part I: Evolution, Culture, and Economic History

Chapter1: Culture and Economics

The point here is that author believes we know what happened during industrial revolution and such, but do not know how and where exactly it happened so he intends to provide answers. This chapter gives a brief review of different approaches to such explanation related to link between culture and economics.

Chapter 2: Nature and Technology

This is about the culture impact on technology and its development with the main point being that high tech culture generally egalitarian and individualistic because without high value of invention and technological improvement for individuals they would not put a serious effort in innovation. Collectivist society could use existing technology, but it would not invent. Author defines 3 key cultural elements required:

  1. Believe that better technology is virtuous
  2. Believe that progress in increase in wealth is desirable
  3. Believe that practical agenda for progress is required and should be implemented

Chapter 3: Cultural Evolution and Economics

This is discussion of evolutionary approach to development of the Culture based on application of key evolutionary principles: variation, inheritability, and superfecundity.

Chapter 4: Choice-based Cultural Evolution

This is an additional detailed look at choice based evolutionary approach with a nice picture to summarize it:

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One of the most important points here is the dramatic increase in share of non-parental transmission of culture that makes variability much higher in high tech societies.

Chapter 5: Biases in Cultural Evolution

This is about the process of choice in cultural evolution based on biases – identifiable patterns that make people choose from available options. Here is classification of such biases:

  1. Content based bias
  2. Direct Bias (Authority)
  3. Consistency and Confirmation Bias
  4. Model-based Bias
  5. Rhetorical Bias
  6. Frequency Dependency Bias
  7. Rationalization Bias
  8. Coercion Bias
  9. Salient Events Bias

Part II Cultural Entrepreneurs and Economic Change, 1500-1700

Chapter 6: Cultural Entrepreneurs and Choice-based Cultural Evolution

Here author looks at role of individuals who moved Western culture into direction different from other cultures, eventually producing enlightenment and industrial revolution. He cites B. Show Maxim #124: Reasonable man adjusts to the world, the unreasonable adjust world to themselves. This follows by detailed review of 2 examples: Chapter 7: Francis Bacon, Cultural Entrepreneur and Chapter 8: Isaac Newton, Cultural Entrepreneur.

Part Ill: Innovation, Competition, and Pluralism in Europe, 1500-1700

Chapter 9: Cultural Choice in Action: Human Capital and Religion

This is a dig into personalities and cultural believes of people who followed culture entrepreneurs by internalizing their ideas and applying these ideas through their objectives and activities: businessmen, military leaders, engineers, inventors, and practically all self-directing individuals. These people intensely developed their own human capital and applied it to environment in order to improve lives. Significant part of this was the development of formal education, but it is far from clear that it was a critical component. Rather more important was general ideological attitudes in society, which to significant extent were based on religious believes and author look at this in quite a detail.

Chapter 10: Cultural Change and the Growth of Useful Knowledge, 1500-1700

This is about culture openness to external influence and its influence on knowledge acquisition and economic growth. In this part Western culture was unique in its dogged pursuit of new discoveries and shameless appropriation of everything useful: technologies, all kind of know how, and, very important, intermixture of people via immigration/emigration between countries. From evolutionary point of view all this greatly increased variation.

Chapter 11: Fragmentation, Competition, and Cultural Change

This is about another feature of Western world – its fragmentation into multiple entities constantly competing between themselves, but never annihilating or consuming each other. As result new and useful methodologies and technologies were quickly dispersed preventing everybody from achieving any long-term dominance.

Chapter 12: Competition and the Republic of Letters

This is about another important feature of Western culture that author calls Republic of Letters: Christianity providing common language of European intellectual elite (Latin) consequently supporting their ability to move between entities and communicate via letters on regular basis. Overall it created ideological superstructure common for all countries of Western civilization and situated somewhat above direct control of any particular country.

Part IV: Prelude to the Enlightenment

Chapter 13: Puritanism and British Exceptionalism

Here author looks at religious development in Britain that produced Puritanism with its religious imperative to be productive as the necessary way to achieve bliss. This eventually caused change to useful technological knowledge and necessity to improve productivity and consequently led to somewhat paradoxical development of separation of empirical knowledge into generally independent from religious dogma sphere of intellectual activities – science.

Chapter 14: A Culture of Progress

This is about, what now seems to be inevitable consequences of creation of such empirical area, formation of the Culture of progress when dramatic improvement in technological and economic conditions of society initiated expansion of this way of thinking into ideological sphere first pushing out intellectual reliance on ancient Classics and then building new ideology of knowledge that eventually started pushing out traditional religion.

Chapter 15: The Enlightenment and Economic Change

This is about history of interaction between Enlightenment and Economic change and its history that amply demonstrated its non-linear character.

Part V: Cultural Change in the East and West

Chapter 16: China and Europe

This part is somewhat deviate from narrative about Western world by moving to the huge puzzle of the most developed country of medieval world – China failing to produce industrial revolution. It is mainly comparative review of China versus Europe.

Chapter 17: China and the Enlightenment

This is mostly review of Chinese ideological development and reasons why it did not create its own Enlightenment and why it was immune to European ideas to the point of practically disaster when it led to complete military and technological inferiority.

Epilogue: Useful Knowledge and Economic Growth

Here author briefly summarize his points: collective knowledge about nature and environment expressed in culture defines economic position of society. It is demonstrated in this book by analysis of Enlightenment and its impact on development of Western society that led to dramatic changes in multiple SOPs of various countries of this society.


I really like evolutionary approach to understanding of history overall and explosion of prosperity in Western societies over the last few hundred years. I find the idea of culture as set of biases very interesting and deserving wide application for understanding of history and even contemporary world, especially when it relates of comparative analysis. Very important thing here would be ability to always keep in mind that the only real curriers of culture are individual human beings and, even if culture is huge and could not possibly fit into one human brain, the core biases of every culture are common for any individual who fully belongs to it. Practically in our time of global communication, migration, and interaction it could be critically important to understand such biases, isolate points of incompatibility, and disarm them to avoid conflicts even, if necessary, by cutting off connection. Also beyond the main point of this book, it is an interesting source of information about Enlightenment and its consequences.