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August 17, 2007

Comments

Delara Bastani

The article is very enlightening and highlights key characteristics of successful businesses and nations. I agree with Diamond’s view that intermediate fragmentation and communication with others significantly enhance technological innovation and spawn conquest. I would like to add that the profound cultural developments in Western nations, which stem from this fragmentation and competition, also seem to dominate world-wide. On a recent trip to India, I discovered Western clothing stores, such as Lacoste and Reebok where there were none during my last visit 10 years ago. American pop, rock, and jazz albums line the shelves of record stores, and European automobiles are prevalent throughout the country. India has a very rich cultural history, but its growing middle class seems to be embracing Western goods and culture. Thus, Western nations are not waging war over the rest of the world, but they are still in the process of conquest. The goods and entertainment produced in Western nations are byproducts of the intermediate fragmentation and communication that continue to sustain their domination of the world.

Brad DeLong

That is one of the main themes of Diamond--that trade and contact are good because they bring you ideas, which you can adopt or not depending on whether they are good or ill. Is India today adopting largely good ideas from the North Atlantic? How could we find out?

Christina Chen

I think a good way to track information flow from the North Atlantic to India is to make a cross-comparison of the amount of trade between specific countries and the similarities in the cross-cultural business infrastructures over time. In general, I found this article interesting because it sets the stage for an answer to his previous novel and almost acts as a direct response to his readers. I think the article’s use of Microsoft as a platform to launch into the discussion of human history helps the reader understand how the formation of human societies underscores the success of business organizations. In addition, I completely agree with Diamond’s idea that Japan’s loss of gun technology was due to its isolation; it’s a compelling and provocative explanation that examines how countries can technologically retrograde themselves.

Tushar Kumar

His mention of the existence of fads in an economy is also quite interesting. One particularly strong point of his is that "competition between human societies that are in contact with each other is what drives the invention of new technology and the continued availability of technology." This constant need for an upper hand by various businesses is changing our world as we know it and often times results in 'fads'. These are generally ephemeral products that either a) spark idea or interest for a better product or b) fail as a revolutionary product in its field. We're seeing this play out in not only our American economy but also out global economy through products like the Razor, iPhone, and BlackBerry.

Dragana Ognenovska

I definitely agree with Diamond that, "You want your human society or business to be broken up into a number of groups which compete with each other..." Recently I was contemplating over the fact that Macedonia, known as a third world country, has the highest mobile phone rates that I have seen thus far. I not only visited Macedonia this summer, but Cyprus, Greece, Serbia and England and nowhere where the rates as high to use prepaid mobile numbers than in Macedonia. Since, there are two mobile phone providers in the country being regulated by the government at times, there is "excess unity," which halts technological expansions/innovations in the mobile industry, which in the long run will leave Macedonian mobile phone providers behind others.

Job Gregory

Mr. Diamond's argument that competition fuels innovation and contrastly that isolation hinders innovation is sound. I am not sure I agree with his argument that Europe was less fragmented than India and therefore had just the right amount of fragmentation to advance more than India technologically. Zero and the base ten numeric system are Indian innovations. His argument for smaller, somewhat autonomous cells that compete against each other is probably the most balanced way to organize people. If there is too much control at the highest level, an organization would become topheavy and vulnerable to having a bad leader blow it for everyone.

Lauren Frasch

I appreciated Diamond's suggestion that an intermediate level of fragmentation is ideal for the success of a nation and/or business. I found it interesting that Diamond promulgates that fragmantation- a decentralized organization- is a type of insurance against overthrows, tyrrany and stupidity. In addition to insurance, fragmentation is a better way to foster innovation- the adage "two heads are better than one" comes to mind. An overly unified society will inevitably perish. However, he goes on to say that an overly fragmented society will suffer a similar fate- a disjointed leadership system cannot succeed. The need to have constant checks and balances within an organization is necessary to insure that the "fragments" are able to interact, compete and communicate, while leaders do not abuse power.

Casey Lilenfeld

I think Diamond's point about how geography plays a key role in determining an area's degree of fragmentation is really important when discussing why Europe has remained fragmented for so many centuries. The mountain ranges and rivers of Europe create natural boundaries to conquest from leaders of countries in Europe. The strength of England and Ireland as large island countries is a particularly notable block to unity -- Aside from the recent emergence of Taiwan (as Diamond states), China is one large mass of land that does not have bodies of water or mountains to isolate groups. This characteristic of Europe made it so that bad ideas (no electric lighting, for example) were contained and good ideas were spread.

Casey Lilenfeld

I think Diamond's point about how geography plays a key role in determining an area's degree of fragmentation is really important when discussing why Europe has remained fragmented for so many centuries. The mountain ranges and rivers of Europe create natural boundaries to conquest from leaders of countries in Europe. The strength of England and Ireland as large island countries is a particularly notable block to unity -- Aside from the recent emergence of Taiwan (as Diamond states), China is one large mass of land that does not have bodies of water or mountains to isolate groups. This characteristic of Europe made it so that bad ideas (no electric lighting, for example) were contained and good ideas were spread.

Andrea Roland

Diamond may have a point about efficency, but when it comes to food or drink perhaps local and fresh is more important than economics. The fact that there is a "national" beer here of Coors, Bud etc is not necessarily something to be proud of - more like the lowest common denominator of taste. It is interesting that the culture of fresh and local (for food in Japan and beer in Germany) is back by government policy. For the efficiency to change, both culture and policy would have to do so. Which one follow? Is this a chicken and egg dilemma?

Alex Zhong

One of the most profound statements that Diamond has made in this article was that competition is the driving force behind technology and innovation. It essentially reiterates one of the most basic things one can learn in economics, which is that competition brings about efficiency. It is interesting to see how the rapid development of communications technology has allowed the world to become so connected and yet still fragmented that innovation and technology is advancing at a rapid pace worldwide, directly reflecting what Diamond is professing. As advances in communication and travel technology continue to shrink the world, it will be interesting to see how the different human societies adapt and take advantage of the increasingly abundant opportunities for innovation and competition.

Lucy McKenzie

Having just been through the very painful process of applying for a US visa in order to study at Berkeley, it occured to me whilst reading Diamond that in a sense we are now, post 9/11, seeing a slight reversal of the free flow of ideas, innovation and training that the author rates as so instrumental to economic growth. For developed countries that offer attractive emmigration destinations to the rest of the world (such as the US, Australia, Canada and Japan), this is very much a voluntary use of barriers, whereby these countries can pick and choose who enters, dependent on their age, qualifications, ability to meet skills shortages, and so on. For example, if you are a tradesman or a nurse coming to Australia you get a big boost on your application points (we are in desperate need of both). Likewise, if you have a Masters degree or 5 years training as an engineer, you are in luck if you want to emmigrate to the States. Such barriers allow developed nations, who often already hold the best hands in the economic deck, to further bolster their strongholds on innovation levels and push their economic growth even further. All this whilst keeping out the unsavoury, uneducated wannabes from the developing world who are less likely to spark brilliant ideas (incedentally, this includes me; with 2 Bachelors degrees I won't qualify for US residency). Thus, in the developed world, there exists a new kind of isolation, though one that differs from Diamond's original. This new isolation, however, benefits the country involved, as it is able to filter the inflow of persons to meet their needs, and then hold on to the benefits such actions bring in order to promote growth.

Joann Chow

Diamond’s argument that fragmentation has helped Europe become a successful nation in terms of technological and scientific inventions is agreeable due to the fact that power was spread among many leaders. In particular, his example of Columbus’ expedition to the New World has proved that one refusal was not enough to stop one from exploring new ideas or places. It is all due to Europe’s fragmented situation that many inventions and discoveries can be made. Countries who are currently not fragmented should consider developing its country into a more fragmented part so it could have a chance to advance and develop into a stronger nation.

Kenneth Salas

In this article, Diamond proves incentives driven by competition have a substantial impact on the economic productivity of distinct human groups. Although he provides a solid point, one should not rule out the advantages from protectionism, isolationism and monopolies. For example, the U.S. prospered the most during its period of isolation and protectionism until the First World War. In conclusion, I do not believe there is a single formula that will lead to economic prosperity and efficiency, but I agree competition has been one of the main drivers in history that has lead technological advancements and innovation.

Chuong Quach

Perhaps the foremost concept Jared Diamond touches is how international interaction encourages ideas and innovation. Prior to 9/11, which resulted in more strict protectionism, globalization in the last century has seen a dramatic change in technological advances throughout the world. However, these technological advances have only benefited developed countries, which have left developing countries in greater inequality and disparity. An interesting question would be "Why is it that there are still many countries, particulary in Sub-Saharan Africa, that have entered the international market, but still have yet to compete globally?"

Kevin Nakahara

Diamond's stipulation surely makes sense in my opinion. Fragmentation leads to 2 things which I interpreted to lead towards greater success; smaller, more efficient groupings of people and competition. Competition forces firms in the market to resists complacency in order to keep at par with or surpass its competitors. For example, private enterprises have generally surpassed the efficiency of state sponsored industries in socialist nations. Socialized industries, in conjunction with large national populations to serve, in the case of China, led to services that lagged far behind those in the industrialized world.

Niki Chen

This article was very interesting because it focused upon natural experiments and examining the organization of human societies throughout history and within business organizations to understand what makes societies or organizations the most productive. I have heard before that competition is what drives innovation but I did not realize that societies could actually lose technology by being extremely isolated or being unable to reintroduce inventions from outside. I thought Diamond's examples of Tasmania, Flinders island, and Japan's loss of guns were particularly compelling because it captured by mind like a simple illustrative story.
When reading about fragmentation and unification, the one question that I pondered was what marvelous invention could have been invented and then been forever suppressed and extinguished by a too unified state. It seems a shame to me that China’s tradition of ocean-going fleets were dismantled all because of one emperor. I think the most interesting thing is for me to wonder what would have happened if these changes had not occurred. But then I suppose we wouldn’t have these historical natural experiments to examine.

Tiffany Tam

Diamond's view about what it takes to be a successful country can be seen through globalization and how countries have progressed because of it. Diamond mentions isolation being a key problem in countries such as Japan and China, and this is because of past regulations such as ISI (Import substitution industrialization). ISI regulations closed off exports and imports because countries felt that they don't need to rely on other countries for goods. After this proved to be a disaster, countries once again opened up ports and as time passed globalization came into the picture. As for the fragmentation aspect, countries that are unified are definitely coming up in rankings. Countries such as Japan has grown tremendously because of the unity amongst citizens and the idea of family. Diamond has definitely made some key points that are exemplified in up and rising countries today.

Jessica Li

In this article, Diamond points to the significance and importance of foreign competition, for it fosters innovation and productivity. For instance, Diamond gives the Germany beer industry and Japan's food-producing industry as examples of how insulation from competition can result in production inefficiencies and high prices. In the current global economy, interaction among nations is a crucial key to improvement and development. Nevertheless, globalization can be a complex issue, where the interests of both local markets and consumers must be carefully considered. Therefore, optimal amount of international collaboration can serve to shield local producers from foreign firms as well as protect consumers from monopolistic practices.

Peter Li

I don't really agree with Diamond's assertion that businesses should exchange ideas to improve prosperity. I think the success of the Silicon Valley over Route 128 can be attributed more to better and bigger companies (HP, Intel, Cisco), that produce more in-demand products that its counterparts on Route 128 (BEA Systems, Raytheon), rather than Silicon Valley corporations being more inclined with sharing ideas than Route 128 firms. Additionally, there is much tougher competition in the Silicon Valley due to a higher number of firms, which improves productivity and drives out unprofitable or inefficient firms. In almost every circumstance, no businesses with a truly good idea would ever share it with the other corporations in its community. Corporations compete with one another to stay in business, and sharing ideas with competitors hurts your own business.

Sheena Mathew

I actually agree with Diamond’s assertion that sharing ideas amongst businesses leads to greater productivity and prosperity. Although I do understand why businesses with a profitable idea wouldn’t want to share their information, I think it is actually more productive to share this information because it fosters greater competition between firms. With free flowing ideas, every company improves, and thus to get ahead companies must continually search for better ways of improving the product. This increased competition ultimately leads to better products for consumers in a faster time frame. Being secretive only slows the process of creating better goods.

Andrew Grosshans

Ironically, while arguing that competition contributes to greater productivity and invention, Diamond favorably describes the corporate culture of Microsoft, a firm whose success is in large part due to its monopoly in the operating systems industry. Certainly, as Diamond details, monopolistic practices in the German beer industry and the Japanese food processing industries have adversely affected productivity whereas free competition has ensured much more efficiently operated beer and food processing industries in America. However, in certain circumstances, monopolistic practices may arise “naturally” and actually present the most efficient form of organization such as in the utility industries. Additionally, in certain industries like the software industry where much of the cost of a particular product is incurred in the research and development rather than the actual production of the product, the development of monopolies may also arise naturally. What might Diamond say about competition within such industries?

Kevin Chiu

Recalling Jared Diamond’s example of Japan’s production of beer and milk, it made me think about how effects of the Japanese government (and more generally the government) and effects of isolation are quite similar. When you think about it, the Japanese government “isolated” Japan from the global marketplace in the production of milk and beer in order to protect its own local markets. The result of Japan’s milk and beer market led to inefficiency, which is a result we can see with isolation too.

Ryan Smrekar

Diamond’s approach to using history as a means to learn from past mistakes is hardly new or groundbreaking, but nevertheless always worthy of thought. Looking at the technological changes amongst countries is an accurate gauge as to where they will be in the future, and thus it is important to always keep innovation in mind. That’s why when Diamond argues that companies should share their ideas to promote further innovation, it makes logical sense but who would actually give up that competitive advantage so they can work harder later to improve their existing product? They could possibly be fueling the competition to take over their claim to the business, not something that a CEO would want.

Kellie Fitzgerald

I agree that open competition is a large factor in improving life overall as companies fight to capture customers attention, who in turn are looking to purchase the best product available at the best price. Sharing stories of success and failure are important to the overall improvement of society as other developers will not make the same mistakes and can focus their efforts on expanding on others’ discoveries. When thinking of examples, the advancement of medicine and the development of technology over the years are the first things that come to mind. However, for companies whose mindsets are profit-driven rather than how to benefit the world, it shows just how important it is to have a good government and good leaders to create a system to encourage businesses to spend the money on research, yet eventually force them to give up their rights/patents so that others can make further improvements. On a side note, I found it interesting how Diamond did not discuss much about the variance of resources between regions, whether between the United States and Japan or within a specific region (such as Tasmania and Aboriginal Australia) and the effect that may have had on the success or failure in a specific industry/region

Richard Park

I believe that one’s level of success ultimately deals with how well one can interact and become integrated within a society. I agree with Diamond’s argument that isolation can lead to a loss of valuable technology and innovation. Diamond’s example of the Samurai and guns in Japan clearly indicates that innovation arises from interaction with outside sources, and isolation to the outside world hinders any development that would have occurred otherwise. Native Americans present a similar example of how isolated groups are at a disadvantage. Their lack of technology was a direct result of isolation; therefore the Europeans, with exceedingly advanced weaponry, easily overtook the Native Americans, and found various ways to “Get Rich” in the new world.

Sherry Wu

Diamond's technique of extrapolating on historical facts is really interesting. The way he logically took steps back in time in both his talk on Guns, Germs, and Steel and How To Get Rich are extremely persuasive; however, it also makes me question the validity of his logic, since it is one thing to pinpoint the cause of an event and entirely another to base important trends in human society on single cultural anomalies or specific events that happened so long ago. For example, can the disappearance of guns from Japan be solely attributed to the Samurai class's dislike for its equalizing effect? Why couldn't it also be because Japanese mines ran out of metal, or because not many people could afford them?

Kimberly Wong

Diamond’s article was very insightful in helping one understand the effects of isolations and the level of fragmentation has on the innovative development of a society. To prosper and do well, societies must find the optimal level of fragmentation. If a society were totally unified, like China in the Renaissance era, one small mistake can slow down innovation dramatically. However, if a society was totally fragmented, like India, it would be really tough to exchange ideas. Thus, when the optimal level of fragmentation is accomplished, like Europe that society in the long run would emerge out to be highly innovative and successful. However, Diamond also reminds us that there are other important factors such as geography that plays an important role in whether a society fails or not.

Mike Gilroy

I also found it interesting that Diamond did not consider that advantages of the western world due to it's "geo-biographical" differences. Diamond's arguement in the previous article regarding the development of the world in the past 13,000 years relied solely on the differences of predetermined characteristics. Conversely, the inefficient methods of the Japanese food market and the German beer market are not problems of say, inefficient means of transportation or substandard advertising/promoting. Jared makes great points about the loyal Japanese and German communities, however I think the inefficient monopolistic markets suffer from greater setbacks.

Sumana Maitra

It seems that that Diamond has a liberal bias. He continuously writes about the need for competition in order to drive innovation. Although, I agree that competition is important I feel that the optimal fragmentation principal is vastly different between developed and developing countries. After going to Ghana this summer and living in a village, I think there should be some control on the amount of foreign competition in developing countries because it seems that with an influx of foreign competition, Ghanaian workers start to fall behind in innovation due to a lack of competition.

Jeffrey Baker

After reading Diamond’s remarks about how isolation and thus a lack of competition can hinder a nation’s, businesses, etc. economic and technological growth I began to think about how that has played out in my home town. Initially, my home town was isolated from large scale cities through miles and miles of other small towns and only had small mom and pop stores. However, over the last 15 years the rise of chain stores and restaurants with better economies of scale in nearby areas has led to the death of many of these mom and pop stores whose prices could not compete. My town, in an effort to compete with nearby cities, allowed chain stores to enter the town which has led to an influx of business, increased property value, and the growth of the town’s economy. Due to nearby areas becoming more city oriented my town became less isolated from the advantages of cities, which gave my town the tools needed for growth.

Hoi Kwan

I thought this article was interesting as Diamond brings to mind concept of thinking critically by means of thinking historically. It was intriguing how he managed to dovetail the management of a country to that of a company. He used historical examples of Japan and Tasmania to illustrate the importance of communication and information. These two concepts are, of course, of paramount importance today.

James Kim

I thought that Diamond argued for the importance of competition very effectively with the examples of Tasmania and Japan. Instead of just discussing competition from a theoretical standpoint, he had very concrete examples of why competition creates innovation and implementation of new technologies. I feel that although talking about human behavior as a factor in a nations economy is very difficult, he did a good job in using specific cases to argue his points.

Julia T. Nguyen

I agree with Diamond’s argument that most groups get most of their ideas and innovations from the outside world. For example, in the fashion world, many well known companies come out with the latest fashion and smaller retail stores use those ideas to make imitations that are less expensive. People tend to take what is already available and try to make it better to be able to stay in business. I also agree with his second argument that intermediate fragmentation is the best environment for innovation. Personally, competition within my family has foster my need to succeed. Although we like to compare grades and awards but we also have free communication by helping one another. Diamond’s two principles are a step towards getting rich but there are many other factors that were not mentioned in his article.

Eric Hsiao

I don’t understand how Diamond goes from making the argument that one can ‘acquire technology from nearby neighbors’ to ‘information flows freely among neighboring countries’. These statements are similar, but at the same time very different. Is he insinuating that the information flow among neighbors provides for technological advances among nearby countries? If so, that seems to violate the whole meaning of competition- one would hardly believe that companies/countries/individuals reach the apex and subsequently “help” competitors.

And what was that comment about free information flowing from firm to firm within Silicon Valley? For one, I don’t foresee high growth technology companies divulging code and/or any other information to other start ups. Further, lawsuits are filed on a weekly basis for patent infringement and disclosure of restricted information. It is not uncommon to ask employees to sign confidentiality agreements, especially among technology based companies as seen in Silicon Valley, as a requirement for employment.

Kristina Shen

I found this article to be fairly interesting and easy to understand. I particularly liked how Diamond made comparisons between route 128 and Silicon Valley to connect something I wasn't familiar with to something I was. Also, the part about how isolated populations are less "rich" because they are less innovative was an interesting theory to me. One might consider that the less populated an area, the more the need to be innovative an the easier it is to break from a smaller crowd.

Will Chen

I found Diamond's comparison between the structure of a country to that of a business to be quite interesting. Furthermore, I agree with his suggestion that the ability for information to flow freely leads to innovation. For example, there are a lot of open source development that has led to the creation of online"communities," for instance, wikipedia.

Michael Tom

I really enjoyed reading this article by Jared Diamond. Two key factors affecting a societies development are isolation and fragmentation. An ideal level of fragmentation must be found in order for a society to thrive and be successful. Countries that are less innovative and slow to progress are isolated ones.

Min Park

Diamond's argument of the correlation between group organization, technological advancement, and the success of a country's economy is profoundly interesting. He mentions that groups under isolation typically tended to not only develop new technologies, but eventually lose existing ones as well. I have read Diamond's book, Guns, Germ, and Steel before, but found that his thoughts on the relationship between group organization and the structure of business are more theoretical although thought-provoking. I agree with some of the points that he has made such as isolated countries are more backward and that technology is a major factor in a country's economy. However, I disagree with his argument that the ability for information to flow freely leads to innovation, especially in modern times when information is able to be shared almost equally because of the Internet. With such an easy and accessible medium, why are more innovations not occurring in backward countries currently?

Dave Koken

Although I do generally agree with Diamond's argument that the competitive nature of fragmented Europe pushed innovation and contributed to its economic rise, I think it is very important to consider how and why these technologies were actually spread. Often, (from my knowledge of history) the "competitive" nature of Europe was symbolized not by economic exchange, but by war. It was the fear of an invading army with new weapons that fueled much of the innovation and productivity of the European states. So while this may be ideal from a productivity perspective, I think there are serious moral questions that must be asked if this is to be used as a model for modern business interaction. Namely, what kind of sacrifices are we as a society willing to make to ensure optimal efficiency? Are we willing to let growing conglomerates take over small businesses; increasing productivity but sacrificing tradition? Could increasing productivity mean that we have to sacrifice our own values in order to achieve it?

If we are simply considering "how to get rich" then I think Diamond has some good advice. Go to war with your neighbors, exchange information, innovate and you will succeed. But as the examples of Germany and Japan show, sometimes the values of a country or of a people, do not coincide perfectly with an economist's plan for projected growth and maximization of social surplus. As Diamond points out at the very end of this piece, his idea of intermediary fragmentation does not necessarily work for everyone. We just have to figure out when exactly it does make sense, which is by no means a simple decision.

Phat (Richard) Nguyen

I feel this article was fairly interesting and was a worthwhile read. Diamond's main take away was that innovation and technology is key for any country to become rich or wealthy. He basically said that countries who have been isolated from technology are lagging behind other countries who have invested in technology and developed innovative products and processes.

Soo Hyun Kim

I agree with the above poster in that the fear of an invading army with new weapons was one of the major factors fueling the innovation and productivity of the European states. This is exactly the reason why this model can be applied to today's business world. Not only do businesses compete fiercely with each other, but their goal is to eventually dominate their market and increase sales. Much like a war, some firms take over others and become vast in size while some firms exit the market. Businesses may not need to fear for their lives, but they need to at least hold their ground to become a profitable company. Diamond’s arguments of intermediate fragmentation, competition, and relatively free flow of information may be key factors that help a business stay ahead in today’s competitive markets.

Aneesh Kadakia

This article put into perspective the significance of openness and communications capabilities in being able to advance quickly. I guess looking at it between America and Europe/Asia precolonization, the way it is applied today is still relevent. You can compare Silicon Valley, which is always transforming constantly just from all the interaction between people and businesses, to maybe rural Tennessee, which looks about the same as it did ten years ago.

Kyle Jeffery

I find it interesting how geography created the fragmentation of nations and ideas. Today, the geography barrier is obsolete via technology, and yet isolation still exists in Germany and Japan from government-imposed restrictions in reflection of the cultural norms of the respective nations, and in clear defiance of common economic theory. Rather than criticize the inefficiency, I think that some restrictions are essential, as they allow countries to maintain a sense of national identity that would otherwise be lost with globalization.

Yelena Vinarskiy

The notion of intermediate fragmentation as an optimal organization strategy for groups whose primary goal is productivity is applied by Diamond to small societies, businesses, and countries. Using examples like the Japanese loss of gun technology, and local monopolies of beer in Germany, he makes a very provocative argument for the importance of competition in driving technological progress. He shows us that comparative analysis of histories, geographies, and economies can provide insight on the importance of organizational structure to productivity. Although our course is about the broad topic of American Economic History, this article shows us that what we learn from the economic history of this country can actually be applied in our quest to get rich.

Lisa Ott de Bruin

In ‘How to get rich..’ Diamond gives some clear examples on the optimal fragmentation principle. In the case where there are several smaller units, these have the disadvantage of small-scale production, whereas large units result in a lack of competition, which in turn will lead to inefficiency and lower productivity. He is definitely right about that, but the difficult question still remains: what would be the ideal level of competition (and thus of fragmentation)? As the previous posters say as well (and as history has shown), incentives are needed for people and businesses to be productive. I am from The Netherlands, where competition is much less important than here in the U.S. (in The Netherlands people actually protest when universities want to select their students) and I have seen both positive and negative effects. The Dutch government wants all students to be equal and give each of them the possibility to go to university (and all universities are more or less equal). Consequently, due to the lack of competition students do not even study half as hard as American students. A lot of Dutch students take more years for their studies than actually needed, which is obviously a waist of government money. On the other hand, I have met American students that were brilliant and would have made the best doctors, but simply could not afford to go to medical school, which I think is definitely a drawback of the American system. Until now, I think no society has found that ideal form of competition yet, but as Diamond says we should learn from history and hopefully one day we will get there.

Jenna Lee

I liked how this article applies different economic theories that I have learned about before to demonstrate his ideas. He talks about not things most people already know but words it so that many other people will be able to understand. For instance, he is basically saying do not limiting innovation and exploration to create more efficiency in producing ideas. This is of course basic, but I like how he was able to portray the idea. As for the Japanese food-processing, he definitely touches on something that is important in efficiency but as he says, the Japanese people like only the freshest of food, seeing as they seem to be paying more for it and so their quality of food is better even though it's "less efficient" which is something I think needs to be taken into account.

Anna Romanowska

It looks like Diamond cares only about the rich getting even richer. He analyzes organization of the societies from the institutional point of view. Governments role should be to protect private proberty rights and open market economies. I agree with his criticism of isolation. Only and open exchange of ideas allows for progress. The intermediate fragmentation rule also applies to some extend. He looks at the economies of scale as the most effciend and profit generating way of production. It is very true on a global level. But the examples of German beer of Japanese food are not really convincing. German beer is able to sustaing its unique quality because it is produced on such a smale scale. Receipes are kept secred within family bussineses and this is what makes the German beer so special and famous. Even Diamond mentioned that beer is what he brings in the suitcase from Germany. Big scale uniformed production may make the brewery owner richer but society as a whole will lose. Same thing with the Japanese food. An average Japanese lives longer than an average American. Many scientists claim that this longer longevity is due to a better diet and healthier food. So the efficiency of food processing has to compete with food quality. I can imagine that many people will choose the later.

Luke Brennan

Overall I did not feel that Diamond's piece was very insightful. Competition forces innovation, autarky is unhealthy... It is perhaps comforting, however, that these same conclusions have been arrived at from a more sociological perspective. I'm not sure what audience this was written for, but I felt it lacked detail. Yes, centralization can be dangerous and inefficient, but he didn't make a serious case against ultra-fragmentation. What was actually different about India and Europe?

I also didn't like his discussion of the inefficiencies of German beer and Japanese food production. It seems that milk that is fresh and milk that is one day old, and milk that is many days old, should all be thought of as close substitutes, but different products. Can consumer preferences really create monopolies? If there are really that many German breweries competing, then the market must be pretty close to competitive. I just feel that he is jumping to conclusions.

I did however find his discussion of geography and it's role on the outcomes of history very insightful.

Nicole Ngai

I found this article fascinating. Communication does play a key role as Diamond illustrates in his article. If ideas were kept isolated from others, societies would not grow and there would be no progress. Businesses are more productive when information is shared. For example, open source software is more successful as ideas are pooled and people work together to fix bugs, a reason why Mozilla's Firefox is more popular then Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Being isolated prohibits progress; it doesn't give a person a reason to change. Diamond's idea of fragmentation is less convincing. I felt Diamond used examples to support his reasoning yet lacked any counter-examples to support his claim. Fragmentation does lead to less productivity but he never mentions how it affects quality and how better quality rather than increase production is sometimes a better solution. Overall, this article was interesting to read but the insight on his way of how to get rich is questionable.

Alex Zaman

In “How to Get Rich,” Jared Diamond lays out a basic, but well-founded framework for why varying levels of organization and geographic placement among regions and businesses can lead to different degrees of innovation and success. The example he gives regarding Microsoft and IBM clearly shows that free communication in spite of fragmentation can yield profitable results. But when comparing the productive capacities of industries between several nations, we see that the determinant of production is as much cultural as it is organizational or geographical. In the German beer-making example, while breweries still seek to be profitable, the country’s consumers value tradition more than the name-brand efficiency that we Americans have come to embrace about our food culture. However, it seems his thoughts are too rooted in human history, and this logic is difficult to apply to modern-day businesses. It will be interesting to see how Diamond’s theories hold up as we continue to progress through the era of technology, particularly since access to information and the ability to conduct business are now the same for nearly all the nations and businesses of the world.

Regina Lin

His theories are valid. History has shown that dictatorship can be dangerous for the fact that one person has the ultimate say and control over a group of people's welfare. A faulty decision can lead to a collective downfall. Fragmentation in many cases are necessary as Diamond proves. Our government system has been fairly successful because of checks and balances. Everyone in the government works together for out people's welfare. Diamond's examples about fragmentation in various countries were interesting to read and did bolster his points.

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Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal

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