After going to Israel and emphasizing the "offensive" in charm offensive by suggesting that the culture of Palestinians living in the occupied territory was responsible for their economic weakness, Romney went on to dismiss the notion that he ever discussed Palestinian culture, before writing an op-ed titled "Culture Does Matter" in National Review Online.
It was a flippy-floppy dance worthy of Rafalca, but what caught the attention of some was Romney's dismissive summary of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, which Romney described as saying "basically… 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."
Unfortunately for Romney, Diamond decided to stage a Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall moment in the New York Times today, informing Romney that he knows nothing of his work…
"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.')
"That's not the worst part. Even scholars who emphasize social rather than geographic explanations — like the Harvard economist David S. Landes, whose book 'The Wealth and Poverty of Nations' was mentioned favorably by Mr. Romney — would find Mr. Romney’s statement that 'culture makes all the difference' dangerously out of date."
This is the problem with outsourcing, too. It's one thing to have kitschy Olympic pins made in China, it's quite another to outsource the reading of books to crappy Amazon.com reviews…
"Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history."
I think this means Diamond agrees with Romney that culture is an important component of economic prosperity! He just thinks the Romneys of the world are debasing that culture. Considering the other lukewarm statements of support Romney has received, that's practically an endorsement.
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Tags: Economy, Mitt Romney, New York Times, Science & Technology