by Scott E. Page. Reading for week of November 28, 2006.
Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking Penguin, 2005), tells the dramatic decline of past civilizations—the Easter Islanders, the Anasazi in the Southwestern United States, the Mayans in Central America, the Norse Vinland settlement in Greenland. These civilizations did not slowly fall apart; they suffered drastic reductions in population and productivity. In Diamond's account, their collapses result from mismanaged resources, lost friends, gained enemies, climate changes, and most tellingly, their cultures and beliefs. Diamond provides captivating histories and an engaging explanation of the sciences required to piece those histories together, but his logic and his prescriptions would benefit from greater familiarity with some basic principles of economics and a richer understanding of human nature.
Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2006
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