Reading the Fine Print

Posted: August 2, 2012 in 2012 Elections, Books, Mitt Romney
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mitt Romney, speaking in Jerusalem:

I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries — was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries. I read a number of books on the topic. One that is widely acclaimed is by someone named Jared Diamond called “Guns, Germs and Steel,” which basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth. And you look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here. And likewise other nations that are next door to each other . very similar, in some cases, geographic outlets.

Jared Diamond’s rebuttal in today’s New York Times:

MITT ROMNEY’S latest controversial remark, about the role of culture in explaining why some countries are rich and powerful while others are poor and weak, has attracted much comment. I was especially interested in his remark because he misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar’s arguments, oversimplified the issue.

It is not true that my book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, “basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.”

That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it. My focus was mostly on biological features, like plant and animal species, and among physical characteristics, the ones I mentioned were continents’ sizes and shapes and relative isolation. I said nothing about iron ore, which is so widespread that its distribution has had little effect on the different successes of different peoples. (As I learned this week, Mr. Romney also mischaracterized my book in his memoir, “No Apology: Believe in America.”)

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