I became a fan of Jared Diamond after having read his book “Guns, Germs and Steel” that nicely explain why Europeans came to America and history did not evolve the other way around. His second book, “Collapse”, which explains how attitude to environmental factors affect the survival success of societies only strengthened the bond between us. So when I saw that he has a third book, “Natural Experiments of History”, I immediately ordered it from Amazon.com.
First thing I noticed when I got the book was that Diamond is one of the editors of this book, which collects eight essays written by different authors (one essay was written by Diamond). This fact did not discourage me and I remained hopeful.
As my readers know, I do not believe in lab experiments of human behavior. The essays in this book study natural experiments – they analyze real data and try to see how one factor affects other factors. Here the data do not lie, and the only question is whether you believe that no factors were forgotten in the analysis (and whether the analysis was properly executed).
One chapter that was especially interesting contrasts the number of slaves taken from the various regions of Africa during the slave trade, to the level of economic development of that region today. The negative relation, which may be expected, is nicely exhibited.
Another interesting chapter contrasts the taxation method that the British imposed on various regions in India (landlord method, in which local landlords were responsible for collecting taxes from the locals, and paying taxes to the government, pocketing the difference; village method, in which each village was responsible for collecting taxes from its inhabitants; and personal method), and the development level of the region today, in terms of investment in education, hospitals etc.
The book was certainly not a waste of money; I heartily recommend all my readers to read “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse”!