Reasons Why Nations Prosper or Fail

December, 2015 Monthly Get Together Lecture/Presentation by Dr. Shoeb Amin

Reasons Why Nations Prosper or Fail

The above was the topic of my talk at the Thinkers’ Forum meeting of 12/2015.

It is hard to incorporate everything said in a 30-40 minute talk but I’ll try.


I started out by taking the example of a city called Nogales which straddles the US/Mexico border. The northern half, in the state of Arizona has 3 times the household income, higher life expectancy, low crime, most teenagers in school and most adults are H. S. graduates; people have reliable public services, have programs like Medicare, WIC, social security and finally decent law and order. And even though the govt. is inefficient and somewhat corrupt, the political institutions are more robust, and people have it in their hands to change govt.


Just cross the fence into the southern half, in the state of Sonora, Mexico and the household income is 1/3 that of the northern neighbor, most teens are not in school, most adults are not H. S. graduates, life expectancy shorter, higher crime, poor public services, no Medicare and weak political institutions, much higher corruption. And Nogales, Mexico is more prosperous than the rest of Mexico, because of its proximity to Nogales, USA, because a lot of its income is derived from residents of the northern half

(Overall the per capita GDP of the US is 10 times more than that of Mexico) Which begs the question: Why are places so similar and in proximity to each other so different in their level of prosperity? The following are some of the reasons; you may attribute different levels of importance to each but they are all factors that contribute to the differences.


1) Geography: Jared Diamond in his book “Guns, Germs and Steel” and his other writings thinks your location on the globe – the latitude – is the most important factor. People in tropical climates will be poorer than those in temperate climates. The reasons, in brief, are:

  1. a) Hot temps make people lazy,
  2. b) There are more infections like malaria in tropics and most people are not at 100% efficiency because of frequent illnesses and
  3. c) The tropical soil is not as productive. All true reasons but some countries have overcome latitude; Singapore, one of the most prosperous countries in the world is in the tropics, so is Botswana and many ancient cultures like the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Angkor thrived in tropical climates.


2) Geology: By which I mean natural resources like oil, gold, and diamonds. Qatar has the highest per capita GDP in the world from oil revenues. Some at the meeting thought geology and geography are the same thing (yes and no).


3) Cultural: Some have claimed that the Protestant work ethic and the values that go with it have made Europe so prosperous. May be, but there are not many Protestants in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong  and more recently China.


4) Ignorance: That the leaders of some countries do not know how to make their countries prosperous. This is not a very valid reason in our times when knowledge from a distant country can be acquired very easily.


5) Political & Economic Systems:  In their book “Why Nations Fail”  Acemoglu and Robinson argue these to be THE most important factors. They define two basic economic systems: “extractive” and “inclusive” economic systems. In the former, as in an old fashioned monarchy or in communism, the fruits of people’s labor goes to the king/queen or the state, the workers have no incentive to work harder. In the “inclusive” systems, as in a capitalist democracy, people do have an incentive to work harder because they are the main beneficiaries of that hard work. There are many examples of these two systems creating different levels of prosperity; the best is that of South and North Korea. The same geography but very different economic and political models and thus prosperity levels.


6) National IQ: This refers an estimated average IQ of all the inhabitants of a country. This theory is postulated by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in their two book: a) IQ and wealth of nations (2002) and IQ and global wealth. These books are hard to get because they deal with a very sensitive topic but I have the link to the abstract.

In these books they argue that prosperity and many other desirable indicators of quality of life correlate directly with the AVERAGE IQ of the nation. There has been criticism of their work, in their methods and tests used to determine IQ’s and the number of persons used to arrive at the average IQ and they have improved their methodology in response to that criticism in their second book. I am including a link of a list of national IQ levels along with a list of per capita GDP (compiled by the World Bank). I’ll leave it to the reader to decide what role a national IQ may play in a country’s prosperity. My personal opinion is, in spite of the objections raised that IQ tests are a Western creation that intelligence is not just a number etc. IQ’s role is not an insignificant one.

Also included is a comparison of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, both part of the same island yet so different. Just look at the demographics.

39 thoughts on “Reasons Why Nations Prosper or Fail

  1. With so clear division between the “Haves and the Have Nots” the study of the reasons for this division is very interesting. Jared Diamond actually covers all major reasons in the title of his book “Guns, Germs and Steel”. His emphasis on geography was because of environmental edge “in the beginning”, that gave head start to some areas like the fertile crescent where crops and domesticated animals played major part. Innovations and technology (Guns and steel) followed in the same geographical latitudes of Eurasia’s East-West direction. During the discussion after the lecture, case of Singapore (located far below the Jared Diamond’s latitudes 20~40 north of equator), nearly at the equator and England far above 40 degrees, came up as being contrary to Jared Diamonds hypothesis and yet prosperous countries. As promised, after given time to think, I have come up with how geographical location could have played a part there too; England is surrounded by sea all around and crops/domesticated animals that had spread across the English channel on mainland Europe, made strong navy, a necessity to gain access to the riches close by. The rise of British Empire was due to its strong navy, they conquered India which was right in the Jarred Diamond’s latitudes and was rich due to farming. What they lacked from their own land they more than covered from conquests of fertile land and industrial revolution. Singapore is also located where all the ships coming from west had to converge and refuel and replenish their provisions (as a sailor, my first port of call in 1978 was Singapore too after leaving Karachi). Narrow shipping lane for heavy maritime traffic boosted Singapore’s economy. This geographical connection is certainly not in the spirit that Jared Diamond stated (he meant the root of head start of some nations) but again we should note that initially these countries were not among “Haves” but later when they prospered, the geography played important part. Geography is presenting Pakistan the opportunity for CPEC. The land that had buried oil gave the Middle East edge.

    I have yet to research on the IQ argument presented and my gut feeling is that its not correct.


    • When I read Guns, Germs and Steel a few years ago I also was swayed by the Diamond’s theory of geography being the only or a major factor in determining prosperity.Even today I believe geography played a major role in changing us from hunter-gatherer nomads to a settled agricultural civilization. There were just more animals and grains that could be domesticated in that 20-40 latitude. And even today geography does play a role. But even Diamond in later articles has agreed that political and economic institutions are also equally important.

      If Singapore is prosperous for just the reasons stated by Babar S. why didn’t Indonesia prosper equally or in Western Hemisphere why didn’t Haiti? And going the opposite direction from the tropics, why did the Scandinavian countries, whose geographic location and thus its climate would dishearten most people become some of the most prosperous? Finland has no oil or diamonds either. And why did Israel, which is surrounded by hostile nations and in the same geographic location as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, prosper more? And if your answer to the last question is because it gets money from the U.S., so does Egypt and Pakistan. What have they done with the money? And I’ll save some other examples in case I have to respond to a later comment by someone else.

      So again, geography may be important but actually it is the smarts that you use to take advantage of that geography (as in Singapore) but more so how you overcome your geographic obstacles(the Scandinavian countries).

      • Comment on Dr. Shoeb Amin’s comment by Syed Imtiaz Bokhari:

        Here is my response why Scandinavian countries are so advanced compared to other countries you mentioned in your comments:

        1. Institutions: have a strong democratic institution and promote economic growth with stable and secure structures as compared to other countries.
        2. Trust its people and provide security to every citizen through functioning institutions.
        These institutions include:
        The rule of Law, low corruption and protected property rights.
        3. Regulatory environment one of the world most efficient.
        4. Open Markets, low tariff rates, few barriers to trade.
        5. Natural Resources Oil, Gas, good climate for agricultural, minerals.
        6. Human Capital well-educated and healthy population. Education available to all social classes without limitations.
        7. Lack of Religious imperative and dogmas, secularism no religious impositions.
        8. High trust in employees and government.

        If we implement these variables we can easily improve any country economically, politically and socially. This is where IQ variable is functioning. We need will power, ethos and culture to avail these opportunities. Muslim countries dilemma is religion deeply embedded in their culture everything flow from religion, which is main source of their regression.


        • I agree with Mr. Bokhari about all the 8 points he has mentioned that make the Scandinavian countries happy, peaceful and prosperous. What I would ask though is how and why were they able to establish those institutions and how did they achieve a healthy population, and law and order ? Not by just wishing for them. I would say almost all Indians,Pakistanis,Nigerians and Haitians also would wish for peace, happiness and prosperity but just wishing for them has not taken them to their goal. So it begs the question, why not?

          Like I said during my talk the relationship between national IQ and prosperity is basically a “chicken or egg came first” question. Some may argue higher IQ led to the higher prosperity but a majority seems to think prosperity came first and led to higher IQ (due to better nutrition and better education).

        • Bokhari sahib provides a concise description of the needed mechanisms for a functional state.
          The Scandinavian countries are small homogeneous states

  2. When we were talking about Singapore and England we disregarded that Jared Diamond was talking about the beginning of civilizations and not 13,000 years fast forward. I don’t deny that “smarts” matter, but as Diamond explained people only got to thinking cleverly once they were able to survive and sit back and think, when they had means to rely on.
    As the time progressed the innovations became a factor. Germs, considered not smart played a huge role like geography – small pox immunization, due to living with the domesticated animals that spread that disease, became a decisive edge in South America when 95% of the locals perished when they came in contact with Spanish Conquistadors.
    In central Africa tables were turned against Europeans, locals had become immunized to yellow fever and invading Europeans died. With time, many more factors continued to be added to the supremacy ….and it all started from the land that could grow better and more nutritious crops.
    On Singapore; the reason why Indonesia couldn’t compete is obvious if you look at the map – Indonesia is only en route for the ships coming from south, that is Australia and New Zealand going north to Japan, China, Russia but all ships coming from Europe, Africa and Middle East had to pass through the Strait of Malacca. Singapore played smart too by being the free port and due to same geographical advantage Kula Lumpur (Malaysia) is also a thriving metropolitan close by now.


    • Some may argue that 13000 years ago, besides the geography it was smarts that helped people in the northern latitudes. change from hunter gatherers to farming. It must have needed smarts to figure out how to convert wild grains into the rice & wheat we eat today and smarts to domesticate animals to pull their plows and carry their burdens.

      I shouldn’t argue with someone who has actually sailed through Singapore but just out of curiosity I looked at a map of S.E. Asia today and to my untrained eyes it seems ships traveling from the Americas westward would find it easier to use the Philippines( I think Magellan landed there trying to circle the earth) to go to China if the Philippines had developed such a port, while ships from Africa and Middle East should find it easier to pass between Java and Sumatra on their way to China if Indonesia had developed such a port. Actually the British, under whose control Singapore was at the time, made Singapore a port of such importance. .

      • Shoeb Sahib, its getting more interesting with a map in front of us. You are one hundred percent correct that ships heading from America towards China/Japan would sail across Pacific and if you scroll up and check I never mentioned American ships – only Europe. Africa and Middle Eastern and of course sub continent is understood. In fact Europeans used to sail around Cape of Good Hope and through Java perhaps but Suez Canal changed all that and right from Norwegian Sea to South China sea all traffic passed through Strait of Malacca, any captain charting a voyage through Java would have been sacked. If you look, all countries above equator would go towards South China sea through Strait of Malacca. I certainly have travelled to America from Japan through Pacific a few times (and avoided getting my head shaved at the crossing of Date Line as per tradition for first timers) by lying that I already have crossed once.
        If I brought in Vikings as the reason for Scandinavia’s progress we will be back debating the role of barbarians, so I’ll hold that thought.
        No one can deny the ingenuity of people playing a part, in fact we owe a great deal to the stone tool making survivors for being smart, even hunters had to be very very smart … but smartness can not grow wheat if the soil, the good earth, wouldn’t sprout it.
        No smart Arabs could be bossing intelligent people from poor countries if the buried oil in the desert wasn’t there. Smartness can channel the flowing rivers but can’t build mountains from where the rivers originate.


        • You are right Babar S., you never mentioned the Americas. But the point I was making that in both the eastward or westward directions, after long sails through vast distances, if you were looking for a “rest area” your first opportunity would be Indonesia or the Philippines respectively if either one of them were able to keep their waters pirate free(I think that’s what you are referring to when you say “getting sacked”). Singapore flourished because the waters around it were and are safer,

          I think the two of us are going tangential to the main topic You can have the last word on this specific discussion.

          • Shoeb Sahib, we aren’t drifted too far from the reasons that gave edge to some nations and Geography is one of the top reasons. We only got into a little too much detail of Singapore’s location (location, location, location); What I meant by captain getting sacked was purely on financial loss to the company for steaming approximately one extra week – yes, one extra week as the distance from Java to Singapore is over a thousand miles which would take average ship more than two and a half days to cover and since ships coming through Suez canal, Red sea, Gulf of Aden will set their course to swing by Sri Lanka and straight in horizontal direction eastwards to the entrance of Strait of Malacca, going through Java will take them much below (southwards) adding a lot of unnecessary distance to only go north again. Operating ships is very costly, cost of fuel, provisions, wages, running hours of machinery and as it is always reminded that time is money, all adds up – even one day’s extra burden will get the captain fired. Captains can take some liberty only to dodge hurricanes, or pirates, otherwise ship’s position is being monitored all the time. Fuel consumed, distance travelled and position is reported every noon to the head office.

            Bukhari Sahib and Nasik Sahib have covered economic factors and historical baggage well. On following Nasik Sahib’s lead of renewed/revived ethics of immigrants in America and Chinese post revolution, I am wondering about Japanese and how after WWII and atomic bombs that nation recovered and became an economical giant with no natural resources. I disagreed with Farooqi Sahib at the meeting also and still am convinced that they are no lethargic nation – they have no option of failure, they would rather commit hara-kiri (suicide) than fail. I have seen them work hard personally just like in the movie “Gung Ho”. Work ethics, and why they are so drastically different from nation to nation will be interesting to study as that is another factor as Nasik Sahib has brought up in the progress of nations.

    • Comments
      Babar Sahib, you did an excellent job in analyzing Dr. Sahib’s article, in the beginning I thought the very topic under discussion “Why Nations Prosper or Fail”, has an economic dimension and we will discuss in that field, it suggests political-social and economic considerations based on statistical and empirical data to compare between rich and poor nations. That is why in the beginning I mentioned Geography and Environment as determining factors in improving the lot of a nation. But IQ in productive and non-productive nations plays a very minor role. Unless or until socio-economic and political institutions are not established and secular education and analytical instruments not used for learning, there never will be an increase in IQ of a nation. .
      Compare the Middle East countries situation they are surrounded and embedded in religious dogmas and archaic culture. Moderation in terms of Western intellectual and analytic education is almost zero. They have so much petro money that the change IQ of most inhabitants overnight, but they can’t because they are afraid of losing the status quo and jeopardizing their political power. They easily transform their countries with petro- dollars into modern country (especially Saudi)
      I agree with you about British, Singapore and Karachi examples; especially British because of their Navy power they conquered half the world. Churchill, used to say “sun never sets on British empire” that was true.
      J. Mackinder, a British geographer in early 1920 emphasized the role of geography in determining the fate of nations. Look at the European and North American nations; they prosper because of location and favorable environments and stable institutions. The settlers came to this country with rudimentary tools from European countries in 1700, the Framers crafted the constitution in 1787, was an agrarian society with only 13 colonies and how after 200 years US dominate the entire world.
      Conditions for Improvement:
      1 Desire to change or zest for improvement
      2 Sound economic and political institutions.
      3 No political corruption
      4 Structured education institutions where education systems incorporate Western thoughts and technology
      5 Less interference of Religion in Secular affairs
      6 Proper uses of Natural resources
      I think I took too much liberty in analyzing this article Dr. Sahib did a marvelous job in introducing a new topic that I can’t conceptualize. In my humble opinion if this article is buttressed as I mentioned in discussion with socio-economic variables would be an excellent piece.

  3. One of the less recognized factors is the weight of history and how it shapes
    national attitudes. Mexico and other Latin countries are suffused with their
    histories going back to the Incas. Their northern cousins may pay lip service to
    the old ways but their attitudes and ethics are shaped by US.
    The US is a prime example of less historical drag. The immigrants coming to
    the new world untethered from old histories were able to establish a unique
    society to win over almost a continent and maintain a constant march towards
    China is another example. The revolution by Mao obliterated the old ways and
    the old vested interests. Once Deng Shao Ping decided to modernize there
    were fewer impediments towards spectacular growth.
    The two very divergent cultures, US and China, have developed a similar can-do
    attitude because there was little history to hold them back.
    Smaller nation-states like Singapore and Scandinavia have developed unique
    models of social development that can inform the rest of the world but not serve
    as the role models.
    Muslim countries have been in a state of slumber for three centuries. Their
    state models were developed by their imperialist overlords. Once the countries
    were liberated they have tried to meld the imperialist forms with Islamic
    norms. The results in virtually all cases has produced stagnation that is
    being filled by extremism and forlorn attempts to revive the old Islam and its
    glory days. The struggle is proving violent of the same level that wracked
    Europe over two world wars. The devastation being visited on Islamic countries
    is going to further exacerbate the struggle over a generation or more.
    Nasik Elahi

    • In my talk I did go over how South America and North America(minus Mexico) evolved into different political and economic institutions based on historical precedents. One may find the interesting explanation in the book “why Nations Fail”, which is on my reading list that I handed out.

      In your previous comments you mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were what they are because they are small and “homogenous”. But Haiti,Jamaica,Trinidad-Tobago, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Benin, Sri Lanka(the list can go on) are all small and more or less homogenous. Why are these countries not at that level?

    • I have to confess I had not even thought of the cumulative effect of historical events and experiences of a region on its macro psyche.

      Kudos to Dr. Nasik for highlighting the significant factor in the dynamics of development or lack thereof.

      The following comment by Dr. Nasik Elahi needs elaboration for my understanding.

      “Smaller nation-states like Singapore and Scandinavia have developed
      Unique models of social development that can inform the rest of the world but not serve as the role models.”
      Why not?


      • I am not sure if Nasik is travelling now, but I will take the liberty and try to answer the ” Why not ?” by Wequar Sahib.

        Singapore and other smaller countries are like an experiment on smaller scale which does not include all the variables involved on larger scale experiment.
        it is like a drug experiment when done on smaller scale it may not show all the variables and side effects as compared to done on a large scale study on on thousands of patients. what worked in Singapore, may not be practical or work in large countries.

        • I accept Dr Fayyaz’s argument why the example of Singapore is too narrow in spectrum to be effective on broader scale.

  4. REASON WHY NATIONS PROSPER OR FAIL, has nothing to do with geography, geology, environments or IQ levels. A short note about human beings’ evolution as a social being–let us refer to a quote from Darwin’s The Descent of Man, ” As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.” Basically here Darwin tells us that morality is universal. Humans are born with a moral sense, with moral emotions that guide us in our interactions with other people, and that are influenced by local culture, customs, and upbringing. Civilizations, societies, and nations rise from moral education, moral accountability, moral justice, rule of law, and equality; nations fall when its political system fails to follow the ethical and moral principles mentioned here. Let us take a simple example of the Dark Ages of Europe, a period of more than five centuries. It was same geography, same geology, same people having a common religion and ideology, but they were in Dark Ages, while after the European Renaissance same peoples of the land of Dark Ages, changed prospered astonishingly. During the period of Europe’s Dark Age, the illiterate Arabs from the desert had established an empire–for some of us on the basis of sword, but that is not true. A region can be conquered by sword, but can only be governed with rule of law based on moral and social justice. Once a ruler or a group of rulers, become corrupt, moral values are ignored and whole nation collapses. In history, every nation, right from the beginning to present time has stood and stands today on the basis of a political system which consists of a strong state, a rule of law, accountability, and justice for all. History reveals that a nation that is successful at one historical moment has not necessarily always remained successful, even though it was same region, same geography, same people, same geology and same natural environments. While, today, liberal democracy may be regarded as the most legitimate form of government and its existence is viewed as a guarantee of success of a nation, but its legitimacy is conditioned on its performance. A nation caught in dysfunctional political equilibrium falls. Today, we give examples of Singapore and Sweden/Norway, tomorrow these states may fall, if their political system is also caught in a dysfunctional political equilibrium. Their geography or their level of IQ will not save them from collapse.

    We are living in an “age of science” and today, mankind is need of “moral science” as modern science has changed the way we perceive morality. Though we know science cannot tell us what is morally right and what is wrong, to me it seems that we have no choice to save not just nations rather whole mankind from collapsing unless moral philosophy is inspired by science. — Mirza Ashraf

    • I will reply only to the first line of Mirza S.’s response. Responding to all the points he brings up may take a 10-page response which would then lead to a dozen different tangential discussions, which I don’t want to get into now.
      Saying that geology has nothing to do with prosperity is obviously wrong. Qatar, with one of the highest GDP per capita of $97000+, became prosperous because of oil(geology). Where was it before oil was discovered and where would it be when the oil runs out and they do not diversify into other sources of income? As a matter of fact one of the only two places where the national IQ idea does not work is all those oil rich countries; they are much more prosperous(at least in terms of GDP per capita) than their national IQ would predict. The other group is communist countries where the per capita GDP is lower than their national IQ would predict.

      That just goes to show that all those factor like geology, political system, geography and national IQ and some other factors have a role. You can only disagree as to what percentage role each factor plays but you cannot dismiss them as factors.

      • Replying to the point raised by Dr. Shoeb Sahib, all I can say that the Gulf states according to the philosophy of political science not Nation States. These are “Jageers” or areas as personal property of the Arab Sheikhs and Tribes. They are the owners of Oil Fields and the people living there are either their employees from other regions or they are their subjects–no right of free citizenship, free speech etc. These states have been included in the UNO for the benefits of Western Powers. Even Saudi Arabia is a kind of satellite state of USA–a fact no more hidden from any one now. At an interesting forum of World Affairs Council, three professors spoke on Arab Spring and no one touched Saudi Arabia, or any of the Gulf States, as if these were not states and did not need even a breeze from Arab Spring not to speak of democracies.

        • Mirza S., by making the arguments to disprove my point, you are actually proving my point. Those countries that you mention – whether they are stooges of the West or not, and whether they were mentioned at the World Affairs Council or not – are prosperous ONLY because of their geology. Not because of any other reasons I have mentioned. If there was no oil they would be “jageers” of a lot of sand.

          • And not only that these oil rich states are spreading a particularly virulent form
            of Salafism across the world with petro wealth.
            Nasik Elahi

          • Thanks Dr. Nasik Sahib for adding a very useful comment to my remarks. As far as Dr. Shoeb Sahib’s comment is concerned, I still disagree with him that geological resources are the source of progress of a nation. In the past it was taken as natural resources–a comprehensive word for agrarian as well as geological resources. All these resources are a blessing as well as a curse. Agrarian societies were attacked and destroyed by the have-nots and man learnt the art of war. These resources are a blessing only when these are used for the moral and intellectual uplift of the societies. These Arab states are using their royalties for erecting huge buildings, feeding their people and providing them all the comforts of life–they are providing enough food for the body and no food for the thought. Their wealth is neither adding any knowledge nor any system that their people can live and survive. On the other hand, they are still same as they were before they got oil wealth. They were terrorists who would attack, even Hajj caravans, and have even today engaged themselves in same old ways of fighting and killing, supporting Wahhabi, Salafi, and Jihadi ideologies.

            Reading the first part of my article History of Knowledge Explosion, we get a very clear answer that the Greek thinkers had neither any natural resources nor any wealth, but they created a wealth of scientific and philosophical knowledge that for the past millennium and until today no further study and research is complete without referring to their achievements. Our today’s social, political, philosophical, scientific, and moral systems are founded on the knowledge of the Greeks not on their natural resources. These natural resources are blessing for only those nations who know how to progress in the fields of science and moral philosophies, which we know that countries like Singapore are doing great when they do not have their own natural or geological resources.– MIRZA ASHRAF

  5. The effect of morality on the prosperity of nations is only limited to curb corruption in the management. It is a fact that all wars, including so called religious wars, were fought for resources and are being fought for resources.
    I don’t want to get bogged down in a debate on religion or morality but just to make my point as a rebuttal to Mirza Sahib’s example of Arabs prospering after the advent of Islam; When Prophet Mohammad migrated to Medina, the only living the locals were making was from ambushing caravans and even prophet himself had to adopt this profession and lead “Ghazu” – the raid to plunder and loot caravans (Battle of Badar was no moral and holy war). If morality was sufficient to survive then there would not have been any wars that followed to expand control in the region. Wars for oil are example of recent times, wars will be fought for water next. If it was morality the Dalai Lama would be the most powerful man on this planet, not President of America and Tibet the most prosperous country – look where Tibet is now.
    Today, science is providing the edge that natural resources provided for the prosperity of nations.


    • Just the thing I wanted to avoid, another tangential discussion. I am hoping people will only respond to Babar S.”s first two and last two lines.

  6. This is in response to Mirza Sahib’s most recent comment; There was no “reply” option at the end of his comment.
    My only disagreement with Mirza S.”s statement that prosperity of nations ” has NOTHING to do geology………”. And my point was geology DOES have to do with some countries’ prosperity. What those countries do with their prosperity – whether they build huge malls or institutions of higher learning is a different matter.

    What I not did make clear during my presentation is the concept of degree of correlation of each one of the 5-6 factors I listed with national prosperity. Geology has a very low degree of correlation with prosperity. By which I mean if you have a favorable geology (oil, diamonds,gold etc) you MAY be prosperous (some middle east countries) but you MAY NOT be prosperous(Nigeria and Congo); and there are many countries with no favorable geology but are very prosperous. Thus favorable geology does NECESSARILY mean you’ll be prosperous and absence of favorable geology does not ALWAYS mean you’ll be poor. But that geology IS a factor.

    As opposed to that a factor with high correlation is Political & Economic institutions. Thus countries with “inclusive” economies and stable democracies will almost always correlate with prosperity and countries with “extractive” economies with poor political institutions like dictatorships, communism, oligarchy, tribal and feudal systems will almost always be poorer.I hope I made myself clear.

  7. Comment by Wequar Azeem!
    Entered by Editor of the Month:

    The argument, counter argument and just plain rebuttal among Dr Shoeb Amin, Babar Mustafa and Mirza Ashraf Sahiban seriously demands a commonly agreed definition of Progress/Industrial Advancement/ Prosperity/Social freedom and Happiness index, on macro level.
    There are not very many countries blessed with all the components like free Education, Natural Resources under ownership of masses, (as opposed to ownership of individual families), an even playing field guaranteeing equal opportunities for pursuit of happiness, enshrined in their Constitution, a truly free & fair political system for formulating public policies by fairly elected representatives.
    The examples put forward tell us that higher IQ comes from higher education. Prosperity does not come from natural resources alone. It comes from hard work and intelligent planning too. Friendly geography helps, if education and inclusive public policies are in place; not to forget the historical drag pointed out by Dr. Nasik Elahi.
    In short, the Prosperity calculus is complex and multi-factored. Emphasizing on some to the exclusion of other factors is viewing through a broken prism.

    • Simple does it; Prosperity needs not much explaining – to thrive, flourish financially!
      Shoeb Sahib elaborated in detail all the major factors and finally summed it up also nicely.
      On the lighter side, we all came here in USA for the American Dream, for the prosperity and left behind the “land of the Pure”, the ideology, the culture for only one thing i.e prosperity. People always migrate to the well off (financially) countries. We did not care about America’s hegemony, its brutal and heavy handed treatment of third world, its immoral past of slavery (the kick start of prosperity), the lynching …. nothing mattered in our decision making.


    • Very good summation by Wequar Sahib. Prosperity IS multifactorial. And it’s true that financial prosperity – especially that attained by JUST favorable geology – does not necessarily translate into good governance, rule of law, freedom of speech and fair elections. You need to have more of the other factors I have listed to have those other attributes.

  8. Dr. Nasik Sahib thank you, you very well-articulated and expounded upon my thesis and gave new edge to the suffering of especially Middle East countries.
    Coming to Dr. Shoeb’ comments, I am little bit hesitant to rehash my comments again. I still belief that IQ test as most of the psychologists claim has a subjective dimension. It is not a standard tool to measure especially if you are conducting in under-developed countries and then use the same matrix for developed countries. The results will be astonishing due to cultural, social and political consideration. The Western countries have a very advanced level of education based on analytical and scientific instruments in measuring IQ. Take for the examples you gave of Pakistan, Nigerians and Haitians not including Indians they have advanced level of educations. I agree with you wishing is not a rational to improve IQ or prey to increase IQ. It required a strenuous efforts and hard work coupled with thrust to excel which does not exist in those countries because of corrupt leaders and lack of standard education. I agree with you IQ led to higher prosperity only if the environment and natural resources exist and used at optimal level with proper education and favorable environment especially political.
    All these conditions you mentioned in your comments are good attributes for improvements but how nations in the under-devolved countries avail such opportunities. None of these facilities available to an ordinary man, you gave China example it improved their economic conditions at alter of freedom.
    Last Sunday 60 minutes did a story of Apple computer who employs one million Chinese in their factories they work 60 hours a week in a very confined space barely stretch their arms and worked in squalor conditions. They paid enough to live on. Apples stacked 200 billion in China banks, to avoid IRS taxes. Now do you think these Chines have greater IQ, what about prosperity?
    China is not a democratic country it only gave restricted economic freedom to Chinese, communist leadership and party control the entire country and there are restrictions on media.

  9. Thanks, Mirza Sahib for your comments on the “Reasons Why Nations Prosper and Fail”
    I think we have spent a lot of time in analyzing and discussing the contours of this topic; still we are polar’ s apart, no consensus developed on this topic rather a simple discussion turned into an intellectual match. It is a purely economic issue and we added extraneous factors which have nothing to do with IQ, productive or non- productive nations. I am surprised that the most important scientific and empirical factors of Geography and Geological resources are minimized. You injected external factors such as morality and ethics which have nothing to do with productive and non-productive factors. It is simply a secular topic and you are propelling in the direction of morality and ethics, alien to this issue.
    All Muslim nations’ especially Middle Eastern countries manifest morality, ethics and theology. They are now living on the fringes of modern and very traditional societies. They are loaded with petro dollars; they can change their nations in no time. But they are lagging behind in all the socio- economic variables used in determining the progress of a nation. They are stagnant, poorly organized; there are no judicial, educational and technological systems to uplift their destiny. They are frozen in time and there is no hope of improvement. They are archaic societies and embedded in theology where barbaric systems and heinous laws are intentionally designed. The pseudo Islamic scholars who pontificate on religious issues are paid for the interest of their kings and work for their wellbeing without any regard for humanity. Self-righteousness has no place in democratic societies.
    The second part of your comments makes some sense. They are feeding their people at a minimum level, but how about opening educational and democratic institution for the benefit of all instead of government handouts. You mentioned History of Knowledge Explosion; it has nothing to do with the Arab countries, and it only works for developed countries where they have established institutions like Pakistan, India and Singapore, where law of the land prevails and laws are used judicially. Still we are facing problems in Pakistan and other countries because of corrupt political systems and inept judiciary, where elections are rigged. In a nutshell I can safely say IQ and productive and non-productive nations are only productive if they have will power such as Western nations. We should learn from them, we are here only because we learned Western ideas, thoughts and scientific knowledge to enrich ourselves both technically and socially. We learned scientific and technical knowledge back home because of the British rule and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s insistence to learn English knowledge and other disciplines that propelled us to compete with the Western nations and all of us are successful because of our Western knowledge not theology.
    Over the past 60 year history of Saudi Arabia, the royal family has ruled without any institutional checks on its authority. Saudis cannot change their government democratically. The king rules with impunity. Freedom of expression is restricted and curtailed. Judiciary is subject to the royal family and its associates. Freedom of religion in Saudis Arabia is nonexistent for those who do not adhere to Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam.
    In conclusion I can safely say that IQ and development will not impact a theocratic state. “Where there is a will there is a way” as the saying goes but not in Middle East countries. There is always a will but they are submerged in theoretic systems, and nobody helps the poor down trodden masses to uplift their social and political rights. The country is suffering from economic malaise; unless they develop a sound socio-political system they are doomed.

    • I thought I was done answering all the questions people had after a month’s silence.

      I would reiterate that what I said at the talk is that national IQ (you can call it smarts if the word IQ bothers you) and political and economic systems correlate most with not only financial prosperity but happiness too. As an analogy I would quote the correlation of heart disease to factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, smoking. Nobody would say that everybody who has one or more of these adverse factors will get heart disease 100% of the time and not everybody who has none of these factors will never develop heart disease. But if each of the factors correlates 50% of the time and if all combined correlate with heart disease 80% of the time, I am sure you’d still consider those factors important.

      In the case of national prosperity national IQ by itself correlates 80% of the times; combined with the right political/economic systems the correlation would be higher. Just put the two lists of national IQ of different countries and the list of those countries’ per capita GDP and look at the correlation for yourself. Again it won’t be a 100% but it will be significant.

      You may argue that IQ test is subjective(the test itself is not) or that it does not apply to Asians,Arabs or Africans but for whatever it is worth those factors are closely associated and that is all I am saying. Ignoring that correlation, for whatever reason, is equal to ignoring factors contributing to heart disease.

  10. Imtiaz Bukhari Sahib, ethics and morality is the fundamental issue. Nations fall when there is no justice, no moral virtue, and no ethical values which helps corruption pervail. Even you have openly explained this in your comment and I quote, “The pseudo Islamic scholars who pontificate on religious issues are paid for the interest of their kings and work for their wellbeing without any regard for humanity. Self-righteousness has no place in democratic societies,” and isn’t all this because of no regard for moral and ethical values. Again you have referred to the same problem of immorality and I quote, “Over the past 60 year history of Saudi Arabia, the royal family has ruled without any institutional checks on its authority. Saudis cannot change their government democratically. The king rules with impunity. Freedom of expression is restricted and curtailed. Judiciary is subject to the royal family and its associates. Freedom of religion in Saudis Arabia is nonexistent for those who do not adhere to Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam.” And about Pakistan you have mentioned and I quote, “Still we are facing problems in Pakistan and other countries because of corrupt political systems and inept judiciary, where elections are rigged.” Bukhari Sahib, all these points clearly tell us that from injustice, religious persecutions, no freedom of expression, and above all corruption, and all the royalty of natural resources as Royal Family’s personal money is the height of corruption and injustice to people–I believe all these are immoral acts. MIRZA ASHRAF

    • While Mirza & Imtiaz Sahibs argue about morality I’ll add one more answer to Imtiaz sahib’s comment about “it being a purely economic issue”, it being national prosperity.
      I actually agree with it to a certain extent but who created that economic system and what gave the people of those countries the tools to create such economic systems? It was certainly not granted to them on a platter. You cannot start a healthy economic system when your national IQ is in the 70’s.

      Now I have a plane to catch.


    Mirza Sahib, thanks for responding to my comments.

    I agree with you “ethics and morality are the fundamental issues”. I am not arguing about morality or ethics in my comments, what I was trying to say is how should we as Muslims rectify this horrendous situation in the Middle East.

    I am not indulging or establishing the contours of Morality or Ethics. I know Morality is manmade and defined by the society we live in, it is subjective. We all believe in Morality and Ethics as developed over the years by Muslim scholars, but again there are difference of opinions. For example, what Saudi Arabia is doing in the name of Islam and how can we address that brutality? Why is this relative morality being used to punish innocent people and deny them education and other intellectual pursuits. That was the crux of my comments, not opening an intellectual dialogue on morality and ethics.

    I think we all are expounding about an ideal state in order to spare peoples’ feelings. True intellectual debate, scientific discovery, societal advancement for all cannot develop when constrained by the edicts of religious dictates or emotional attachments that serve to keep the status quo.

    The Muslim dilemma on the one hand is that we want to partake in Western society and all the material benefits and freedoms we enjoy but on the other hand we severely criticize and pass judgment on Western culture with subjective religiously based “moral”values. We see the West within the prism that we inherited as Muslims and everything that is not consistent with Islamic values we hate. We neither give consideration to the context in which Islamic religious values developed nor attempt to make ancient “values” relevant in the modern world

    One Western principle in particular that is worthy of discussion is the separation of church and state. Western society has effectively removed any religious test that would be a barrier to innovation. Religious values have to be tempered and improvised in order for knowledge and rational thinking to flourish and support progress in society. That freedom is missing in the Middle East and other Islamic societies simply because rulers and religious elites want to keep the status-quo….. to their benefit! Religious rigidity is not a value but a curse. Religious inflexibility hinders intellectual growth and the advancement of the lower classes.

    Coming back to the issue you raised “justice, religious persecution, no freedom of expression and above all corruption……” Being Muslim it is imperative upon us to highlight these issues in the TFUSA.

    My answer to this is that we as thriving Muslims should marshall all our resources both tangible and intangible via all social media and other channels to relentlessly publish the heinous crimes committed against the poor and otherwise innocent masses by so called kings, monarchs, mullahs and military dictators.


    • A comment by Wequar Azeem – posted by Editors

      I feel compelled to congratulate Imtiaz sahib for presenting his observations and analysis so candidly and succinctly.

      Moaz’zin marhaba bar waqt bola

      teri awaaz Makkay aor Madinay

      Mirza Saheb’s assessment that “the root cause of nations to fail is the declining
      moral values comprising of social and economic injustice​ “​ raises the question what causes decline of moral values comprising of social and economic injustice ? We need to make a distinction between cause and effect. The causes put forward by Mirza Saheb are actually the effect of some other ‘engine’.
      ​One major reason put forward by Dr Shoeb Amin for why some nations progress and some not, was the difference in the collective IQ of the nations. It goes without saying that several other causative factors can be identified.​

      ​IMHO the debaters need to be​ careful about is to distinguish between the causes and effects within the premise of this discussion.


    • Imtiaz Sahib has correctly stated that morality and ethics are subjective. The discussion having gone on a tangent couple of times has gone totally 180 degrees around with more than due emphasis on morality and ethics. The example of Saudi Arabia’s prosperity and its dismal morality and ethics says it all; prosperity that they enjoy is purely from the oil resources without any part of morality in being fortunate and how they continue to be prosperous despite their record of horrible human rights and zero generosity displayed towards poor neighbors, and their morality has dipped so low that they are running factories of suicide bombers. Here you can see that even IQ has no part in their fortunes.

      I have tried to apply morality and ethics virtue to the prosperous nations and I fail to see that this might be correct; How did British Empire become prosperous – by applying maritime power and conquering/taking resources that they didn’t have, by force. They used slavery too – where did morality helped them? Romans were highly immoral too, the stories of cruelty, sadism, extravagance, perversity of their emperors are well known. America; if it wasn’t the heavy handed treatment of putting natives in reservations and slave labor edge in production, this nation could not have become this prosperous and couldn’t remain prosperous without her hegemony over South America and Third World. So were Russian Tsars, brutal, selfish and every bad thing one can think of. Suggest any nation and probably I will be able trace its prosperity to its barbarian past.

      Yes, declining ethics have a part in failing a prosperous nation and causing revolutions, which are usually bloody and all the morality and ethics and justice goes down the drain in revolutions too. What makes the prosperous nation enjoy prosperity for long is management and enforcement of laws more than ethics and morality. We don’t pay taxes here because we have suddenly become moral, we do that because IRS will come after us in our grave too.
      Pakistanis are known for being charitable (which I personally think is due to faith in reward by Allah and not because of our ethics and values) and look how prosperous we are. Among Pakistanis only those are prosperous who are highly corrupt and brutal – I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to go on another tangent.

      We have started talking about an idealistic nation, none exist. Emphasis on morality and ethics in this discussion seems to me irrelevant, noble yes, but irrelevant.


      • Thank you Babar Sahib for demolishing the hypothesis of ethics and morality- either the presence or lack of it – playing any part in the prosperity of nations. And thank you for not going on to another tangent.

  12. Imtiaz Sahib you have presented an excellent analysis of the situation. I am going to present a topic “Western Muslims and Impact of Conflicts in Muslim World, Within Geo-Political Spectrum,” on Sunday 31st. I plan to post the whole article on Thursday so that everyone can read it and all of us can utilize the time sitting together in discussing the subject. MIRZA ASHRAF

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