The Agonist Journal

As a matter of logic, human rights are universal. As a matter of fact, they are not. That conclusion is not drawn from the interminable recurrence of human rights violations. One might accept, for example, that a right to liberty is universal without disputing that many people the world over are afforded little to no freedom. That simply would entail that many people are being denied what rightfully is theirs. But in the realm of human rights, it is not clear that people have a legitimate right to what they are frequently denied. What is no less dubious is that there is anything universal about many of the claims that are appended to the ever-expanding list of human rights.

"Without its deep-rooted openness, the development of the West, and human rights with it, is simply unimaginable."

A right can be said to be universal in that it inheres in the human condition or belongs to man qua man. The aforementioned right to liberty qualifies on the understanding that, to quote Rousseau, “man is born free.”1 Notwithstanding his unequivocal opposition to Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau accepted the starting point of his British antecedents, namely the pre-societal state of nature. And notwithstanding how radically different Rousseau’s state of nature is from theirs, man, whichever state he finds himself in, finds himself free. That is, man’s freedom is natural. It is a constituent element of his nature or of his natural condition. He enjoyed it prior to the establishment of government, for freedom is no grant or gift of the state (though he likely will find it better protected living under a state, at least one that is well constituted).

One need not accept any of this. A classical thinker would reject this line of reasoning because by nature, man is a political animal, not an apolitical one. Man in the absence of society is an abstraction, which is to say he is no man at all. As Aristotle noted, beasts and gods can get on without society, but humans cannot.2 Even Rousseau was critical of man’s natural freedom and subordinated it to a higher, unnatural one: “for to be driven by appetite alone is slavery, and obedience to the law one has prescribed for oneself is liberty.”3 But quibbles aside, one at least has here the grounds for a natural, universal right to freedom.

When one adds to this mix a right to health care, to social security, to periodic holidays with pay, it ceases to be clear on what basis such rights are enjoyed. Surely there is no natural right to these goods; after all, there is nothing natural about them. Goods of this sort presuppose society; they do not precede it. Any claim to universality is no less difficult to sustain. Even the most ardent advocate for the welfare state would not reconstrue Rousseau’s dictum to read, “man is born with social security.” Such goods are relatively recent developments, and a right to them much more recent still.

That does not mean that such rights could not be made universal. The right to trial by jury is not a natural right, but it is, with regard to the people of America, a universal one. In theory, there is nothing preventing the extension of that right to the people the world over, so that it effectively becomes a human right. But that right, like the others enshrined in America’s Bill of Rights, reflect the values and customs of a particular people. The Second Amendment’s enshrinement of a right to keep and bear arms is distinctly—which is not to say uniquely—American. There is nothing universal about that right, nor is there any plausible justification for universalizing it.

Since humanity is multicultural rather than unicultural, and since man is not born with social security, health care, and paid holidays, are many of the rights that are purported to be human and hence universal really the endowments of a specific culture? That is the sort of query which supporters of human rights are eager to dispel, as an affirmative answer to it would greatly undermine the substance and universality of those rights. If human rights are not rooted in the nature of man, but rather stem from a discrete cultural heritage, then the propagation of those rights inclines toward imperialism, particularly in those instances when putatively universal values cannot be reconciled with distinct cultural norms. To contend that the propagation of human rights is justified on the grounds that those rights affirm and protect the value of each individual irrespective of culture is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that that sort of beneficent high-mindedness frequently was used to justify imperialist escapades which preceded the human rights era. That mindset was framed well by J. A. Hobson:

We cannot, it is held, leave these lands barren; it is our duty to see that they are developed for the good of the world. White men cannot "'colonise" these lands and, thus settling, develop the natural resources by the labour of their own hands; they can only organise and superintend the labour of the natives. By doing this they can educate the natives in the arts of industry and stimulate in them a desire for material and moral progress, implanting new "wants" which form in every society the roots of civilisation.4.

Civilize the uncivilized! There is a rallying cry for the self-anointed benefactors of humanity, be they nineteenth-century imperialists or twenty-first-century proponents of human rights.

One way to obviate this uncomfortable denouement is to maintain that rather than being the offshoot of a given culture, human rights are the efflorescence of a protracted historical process. On this understanding—one which betrays a faith in progress that, on the heels of the twentieth century’s horrors, seems naive if not delusional—the spread of learning and material wealth that attend advances in industry, technology, and science conspire to establish certain values that, like scientific facts themselves, are universally valid. As Jack Donnelly informs his readers, “what we think of today as Western culture is largely a result, not a cause, of human rights ideas and practices.”5 It is not the West that shaped modernity, but modernity that shaped the West and thereby the rest. For the transformation that took place in the West not only is capable of taking place elsewhere, but, in Donnelly’s view, must.

This sort of outlook is indicative of thinkers who belong to the age of democracy, a feature of it that Tocqueville, with customary perspicuity, drew attention to.6 When he surveyed the moral and political universe, Tocqueville found that its arc bent towards democracy (his ambivalence about democracy would not permit him to equate it with justice). But in contradistinction to the mentality that Donnelly’s outlook typifies, Tocqueville held that history’s democratic bent was determined in no small part by the West, not accidentally or incidentally, but owing to the distinct cultural values that inhered in it. That is an anathema position to espouse in the age of democracy. In such times, historians are inclined to attribute transformative changes to impersonal general causes of which each person is but a plaything. That perspective is agreeable to those who have an instinctive distaste for hierarchy and who recoil at the mere suggestion of exceptionalism, be they individual or cultural. The idea that human rights are the product of broad historical processes rather than distinct cultural ones, disposes of a number of problematic and unpalatable implications that would be difficult to dismiss were the latter the case, the imperialistic hue and limited applicability of those rights not least among them. But a conjecture is not rendered true on account of its agreeableness.

One very large and intractable problem with this approach is China. China’s human rights record need not be documented here; suffice it to note, it ain’t good. Yet China is a country that history has elevated to staggering heights with astonishing speed. In David Goldman’s words,

China is a phenomenon unlike anything in economic history. The average Chinese consumes 17 times more today than in 1987. This is like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle or between indoor plumbing and an outhouse. In an incredibly short period of time, this formerly backward country has lifted itself into the very first rank of world economies. Over the same period, China has moved approximately 600 million people from the countryside to the cities—the equivalent of moving the entire population of Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. To accommodate those people, it built the equivalent of a new London, plus a new Berlin, Rome, Glasgow, Helsinki, Naples, and Lyons. And of course, moving people whose ancestors spent millennia in the monotony of traditional village life and bringing them into the industrial world led to an explosion of productivity.7

Here one finds the very ingredients that are said to conduce to—nay necessitate—the spread of human rights: industrialization, urbanization, technological advances, increased prosperity, increased education…. And yet, in spite of all this, China’s track record on human rights not only has failed to improve during this period; it has gotten much worse.

Perhaps all that is needed to square this circle is time. To the new world order the West wafted across centuries, impelled by historical currents beyond its control. The sailing may be relatively smooth today, but one ought not to forget the fateful tempests that beset it along the way. The pace of China’s modernization, in contrast, has been dizzying. While the modernization of the West took place over the course of hundreds of years, China, in effect, was modernized overnight. Give it time, and it too will be compelled to yield before the historical imperative; to mend and mollify its ways; and, like all good members of modernity, to recognize the dignity that inheres in each and every person. Perhaps. But it is hard to view this as anything more than wishful thinking, the very sort that spurred so many bright minds to welcome China into the World Trade Organization and thereby the broader community of nations. However sound that logic may have seemed at the dawn of the twenty-first century, it appears dreadfully Panglossian today.

To be sure, the case of China does not refute the claim that history flows in the direction of human rights; that there is a movement to history that no single culture can be credited with commencing and is capable of arresting. History may yet instantiate the universality of human rights. But at some level, the historical argument is irrefutable or, to speak like a Popperian, unfalsifiable. Every delay, every setback, every unforeseen retrogression does not give reason to doubt and despair, but rather calls for patience and perseverance. “Stay the course. Over that hill, around that bend, beyond that horizon lies the promised land.” It is a familiar refrain, one that was essential to the enduringness of the last great secular universal ideal: Marxism. Marx’s prophecies turned out to be fallacies time and time again. And time and time again, Marxists maintained their faith, not in reason, but in spite of it. Those whose prognostications rest on grand theories of historical progress will always have time on their side. As Ernest Gellner memorably quipped: “Some of Marx’s predictions are so far-sighted they haven’t happened—even yet!”8

The historical argument is suspect because ultimately it invites more questions than it resolves. If impersonal historical forces promote the establishment and spread of human rights, why did those forces favor or single out the West? Why, as defenders of the historical argument readily acknowledge, is the West at the vanguard of human rights? To assert that human rights result from historical processes such as industrialization, and the Industrial Revolution—though it has left no corner of the globe untouched—began squarely in the West is to evade the question rather than resolve it. Again, why the West? To be sure, it is a very broad question which permits no definitive answer, but that is no reason to leave it unaddressed.

Providential interventions aside, it is difficult to account for the rise of the West in the absence of its particular cultural values. Not the least vital of those values is the spirit of inquiry, which was born in ancient Greece, lost to the West after the collapse of Rome, and rediscovered during the Renaissance, a (re)discovery that coincided—not coincidentally—with the dawn of modernity. That spirit, with its genesis, sedulous cultivation, and sustained exaltation, is not a universal phenomenon, but a culturally specific one. Humans can survive well enough without that spirit; it is what they did for most of their history and continue to do in many parts of the world today, a reality that makes the concerted effort to withhold the distinct cultural factor from the human rights equation much less tenable.

A millennium ago, Europe was a backwater. Its largest cities, outside of the Muslim controlled Iberian Peninsula, were found on the Italian Peninsula. Amalfi and Genoa each boasted 80,000 inhabitants; Venice, 60,000. Paris and London had 20,000 apiece. Berlin had none. (Or to put it more accurately, there was no Berlin.) By way of contrast, Cordova and Constantinople had approximately 500,000 people—each. And the populations of those cities were eclipsed by those of Baghdad and Kaifeng (China), which each had close to 1,000,000. Comparatively, Rome, which once “comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind,”9 was a veritable village. The passing of a thousand years had reduced its population from upwards of a million in the time of Augustus to 30,000 in 1000AD.

The barbarians who invaded Rome and went on to dominate Western Europe were ill-suited to sustain the glories of the civilization they felled. The result was an astonishing retrogression with respect to standards of living and learning. Said William Robertson,

In less than a century after the barbarous nations settled in their new conquests, almost all the effects of the knowledge and civility, which the Romans had spread through Europe, disappeared. Not only the arts of elegance, which minister to luxury, and are supported by it, but many of the useful arts, without which life can scarcely be considered as comfortable, were neglected or lost. Literature, science, taste, were words little in use during the[se] ages.10

Evidence of that decline was recorded by Al-Masudi, a tenth-century Arab geographer from Baghdad, who described Europeans in these words: “their bodies are large, their natures gross, their manners harsh, their understanding dull and their tongues heavy…. Those who are furthest to the north are the most subject to stupidity, grossness, and brutishness.” That characterization was echoed during the following century by Said al-Andalusi, a Muslim judge from Toledo, who also should be scrubbed from history for his cultural insensitivity: “The other peoples of this group [Northern Europeans] who have not cultivated the sciences are more like beasts than like men…. They lack keenness of understanding and clarity of intelligence and are overcome by ignorance and apathy, lack of discernment and stupidity.”11 As Alfred North Whitehead wrote with slightly more tact, “In the year 1500 Europe knew less than Archimedes who died in the year 212 BC.”12

And yet it was here of all places that the Scientific Revolution, along with a number of other revolutions that paved the way for modernity, originated. So as to obviate the elevation of one culture above another, these upheavals, so prodigious in scope that they upheaved not only the West but the world over, are said to have occurred in the natural course of things. Again, as Donnelly and others would have it, modernity spawned the West; not the West, modernity. All credit is due to the movement of history and none to its movers!

But this sort of explanation, on par with saying antiquity birthed the Hellenes, is, or ought to be, deeply unsatisfying. Why did this part of the world, sparsely populated and comparatively undeveloped, inhabited by people of gross natures and dull intellects, lead the march into modernity, and oblige all others to follow in its path? As an answer to this question, modernity is akin to Moliere’s virtus dormitiva. In The Imaginary Invalid, a medical student attributes opium’s ability to induce sleep to opium’s soporific power. But even if that explanation is tautological and “carries vagueness to its last extreme,”13 it is, in some sense, true. The same could not be said of the claim that the West became modern because modernity made it so.

For a different approach to this quandary, one that hopefully will yield firmer ground to survey the past and previse the future, it might be helpful to return to China, this time during its pre-modern periods. One of the material developments that was pivotal to the concomitant advance and leveling of the West was the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention launched what might be reckoned modernity’s foundational revolution, without which all those subsequent modern revolutions (Scientific, Industrial, French, Digital, etc.) would scarcely have been conceivable.

Printing, strictly speaking, was not a Western invention. The Chinese had been engaged with block printing for more than a millennium before Gutenberg devised the printing press, and had discovered a movable type press several centuries prior to Gutenberg’s earth-shattering invention. But no similar shattering occurred in the East. Indeed, movable type did not become a fixed feature in China until the method first discovered by the Chinese was imported into China in the 19th century. Why? There is a material explanation. The complexity of written Chinese, for example, which is logographic and consists of thousands of characters rather than a 26-letter alphabet, made printing impractical. But a material problem of this sort can be overcome and, in time, it was. As to why it was not overcome sooner, one must take into account immaterial factors.

The animating impulse behind printing in China was not so much the diffusion of knowledge, as it was the replication of official texts with unfailing accuracy.14 For this reason alone, there was no impetus to promote the widespread circulation of written works. It was enough for the state and for religious temples to secure the limited manuscripts they needed. What is more, traditional Chinese culture was inveterately conservative and averse to innovation, on account of its Confucian foundations. That spirit, so hostile to change and so at odds with the underlying spirit of the West, can be gleaned from the examinations that those who aspired to join the imperial bureaucracy were required to take. As Wen-yuan Qian wrote,

Every year, in the long history of China, no matter which dynasty and which emperor ruled in the national capital, thousands of male candidates, young or no longer young, the great majority coming from families of landed gentry, worked hard in a narrow range of classical works, committed huge amounts of material to rote memory, struggled to master a cumbersome system of writing, engaged in fierce competition among their peers, all in order to obtain offices, whose credo was nothing but absolute loyalty to the imperial family.15

The impulses to probe and explore that sparked the spirit of inquiry and the dissemination of the learning which that spirit engenders, were as central to the West as they were absent in the East. This difference helps explain why the printing press in Europe was put to immediate and prolific use, as the case of Martin Luther demonstrates. Luther, whose hour upon the stage transpired soon after Gutenberg’s expired, understood well the potential of the printing press, which would prove instrumental to the revolution he effected. The success of Luther’s appeal to the people above the heads of the Church elders was in large part made possible by his ability to disseminate his teachings to a wider readership. To put it plainly: no printing press, no Reformation. In Bill Janus’ words,

In 1450, it took two months to copy a book by hand. Gutenberg's discovery allowed for 500 copies to be produced in a week…. Between 1518 and 1525 Luther fought a propaganda war against the Church, and printing presses published approximately 2,100,000 copies of his sermons and tracts, effectively making permanent a schism in Western Christianity.16

The rest, as they say, is early modern history.

The spirit of inquiry has yielded prodigious wonders. And there is ample reason to celebrate those wonders and nurture the spirit that yielded them. But it is not clear that this spirit and the values that attend it are universal, nor that they should be universalized. One consequence of that spirit is the prioritization of the individual, which can be traced back to Socrates. It was the Athenian gadfly who “first brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil.”17 Truth is not established by some religious or political or societal authority, but is ascertained through dialogic investigations that in principle exclude no one. That this dialectical approach to knowledge was established in an aristocratic age by a man who was no member of the elite only serves to underscore the democratic and individualistic nature of that approach. But that spirit of inquiry is corrosive to many of the values that other cultures esteem and to insist that that spirit should be universalized at the expense of those values is impudent and imperious.

That judgment is substantiated by the fact that the very civilization which has generated so many wonders, altered the course of history, and transformed the face of the earth, is bedeviled by a number of pathologies: a breakdown of the family, a surge in depression, and a loneliness epidemic, to name but a few. Perhaps these are aberrations and not the logical outgrowths of the critical and individualistic spirit that undergirds Western Civilization; nevertheless, they are serious and extensive enough to give pause to those on the outside looking in and to justify their hesitancy to hop aboard “the systematic world-historical railroad”18 that speeds towards a terminus no one can espy.

Nor is it just other cultures to which pause should be given. The pathologies which afflict the West are indicative of a culture that has lost its way, that finds itself deprived of a sense of meaning and purpose. As Toynbee observed, it is suicide, not murder, that undoes civilizations—a verity the West appears hell-bent on validating. What is the value of Western Civilization? There is a question that merits pondering. It is a question that likely will leave far too many denizens of that civilization nonplussed. Worse still are the hordes within the gates whose hackles will be raised by the suggestion that a civilization that has wronged and oppressed so many might have any value. A civilization that is unaware of its value decays. A civilization that devalues itself deliberately decays impatiently.

Two issues prominent in the public arena announce the West’s internal devaluation: slavery and free speech. For students today in America, slavery is as American as baseball and reality TV. But insofar as (modern) baseball and reality TV originate in America, this could not be further from the truth. Contrary to fashionable and misguided narratives, slavery did not begin in 1619. For much of history—not American history, but history simply—freedom was the peculiar institution.19 Indeed, slavery was fixed so firmly in the order of things that there was nothing peculiar about it. In 1772, Arthur Young, the English author, traveler, and statistician, estimated that of the 775 million who peopled the earth, 33 million were free.20 Even if Young underestimated the number of free persons, the reality was that had you inhabited that world, the odds that you would have found yourself enslaved were high, overwhelmingly so.

Now that is a reality which neither America in particular nor the West in general established. Indeed, slavery acquired its peculiarity only in the American context not because the institution itself was peculiar, but because it was so at odds with America’s founding principles.21 From a historical perspective, what is peculiar about America in particular and the West in general is not that their peoples perpetuated and profited from slavery, but that they and they alone—and here the British deserve credit for leading the effort—abolished that institution, an institution so entrenched and widespread that prior to the abolitionist movement, exceedingly few ever questioned its legitimacy, let alone dreamt of its abolition.

Why did the West, and the West alone, conspire to rid the world of slavery? Those who adhere to the position that history shapes people and not people history are inclined to credit material forces. On this view, the coinciding of the Industrial Revolution and the movement to abolish slavery was not some cosmic fortuity. Industry’s rise ensured slavery’s demise. The abolition of slavery was an economic imperative, not a moral one. But to that account the truth is antithetical. The British movement to abolish the slave trade occurred at a time when that trade was enormously profitable—arguably more profitable than it ever had been. From an economic perspective, the abolition of slavery was an exercise in madness. The British sacrificed tremendous resources in spite of their material interests. The movement to abolish slavery was at bottom moral and religious, born from values that clearly were not embraced universally. That is a history which ought to be more widely known and celebrated.

The tendency to discount, or worse yet, to distort that history is symptomatic of a culture which is unable to see its own worth, a blindness reflected in a hostility toward free speech which percolates through the academy and other Western institutions. That such hostility presents itself in the guise of tolerance should not mitigate the danger it poses, nor excuse the myopia it embraces. Those who clamor for restricting speech that is offensive and hurtful betray an obtuseness about the value of free speech and the nature of truth. Progress—moral, political, scientific—presupposes freedom of thought and expression, and the discoveries of which progress consists inevitably tend to hurt and offend. How profoundly offensive and upsetting the insights of Copernicus and Darwin must have been to those whose worldviews were shattered by them.

Freedom of thought is a constitutive element of Western Civilization. It can be traced back to the Greeks and is emblematized in the figure of Socrates, who devoted his life to challenging the convictions of his contemporaries by discoursing rationally with them. So many of his contemporaries, like so many of our own, presumed to have the answers to those elemental questions of human life regarding the nature of friendship, piety, justice, and the like. But their assertions withered before rational scrutiny; what they presumed to know, Socrates showed they merely opined. Absolute knowledge may be beyond the reach of finite and fallible beings such as ourselves, but people can become wiser. For that maturation to occur, an exposure to different and competing viewpoints is required, precisely because of the finitude and fallibility that inheres in each and every one of us. By means of that exposure, minds become more capacious, horizons more expansive, and societies more receptive to new peoples and ideas. Without its deep-rooted openness, the development of the West, and human rights with it, is simply unimaginable.

Socrates, of course, was executed for challenging the convictions of his peers, but his death does nothing to controvert the contention that freedom of thought lies at the very heart of Western Civilization. For one, Socrates was permitted to “awaken and persuade and reproach”22 the people of Athens for most of what was by the standards of the day a very long life. His death, moreover, did nothing to kill his spirit, that spirit of critical inquiry that was so indispensable to the unfolding of the West. Nietzsche, who scorned Socrates for his ugliness and plebeian stock, still understood him to be ‘‘the one turning point and vortex of so-called world history.”23 To suggest that this distinctly Western value of the freedom of thought, which today may masquerade as a human right, was born from some historical process that spawned other human rights is risible. The forces that typically are credited for engendering human rights—“universal education, industrialization, urbanization, the rise of a middle class, advances in transportation and communications, and the spread of new information technology”24 —were not exactly forces to be reckoned with 2,500 years ago.

What is curious and telling about this freedom in the context of human rights, is that it is one that supporters of human rights tend to be in favor of curtailing. The right to freedom of movement should be expanded to the point of expunging borders; the right to the free development of personality should be unencumbered by the constraints of culture and nature; the right to a decent standard of living demands a reallocation of resources and redistribution of wealth. But freedom of speech should be restricted, lest those who speak freely hurt and offend.

The sacrifice of free speech on the altar of human rights is emblematic of a much larger sacrifice, namely that of the West on the altar of humanity. Ostensibly, both are sacrificed for their tendency to hurt and offend. That is why today’s students clamor for safe spaces and rail against microaggressions, and that is what they take away from the study of the past—a long litany of abuses for which the West is singularly responsible. It is a narrow and tendentious view, one that fails to acknowledge the ubiquity of human depravity. This is not to relativize or trivialize the West’s contributions to “the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime,”25 which should be weighed with the probity and solemnity that justice demands. Ignoring or denying past wrongdoings does not conduce to their overcoming nor to the forestalling of future ones. But neither do ignorance and denial conduce to the preservation and fostering of virtue. A culture that has no sense of its own worth is one that is well suited for the historical dust heap.

Suppose the West hastens toward that end, that its rot is irremediable and its decline irreversible: What would that bode for the future of human rights? Given the civilizational clashes that cloud the age, there is ample reason to doubt that without the West in the vanguard, the banner of human rights—which the West was singularly responsible in raising—will be taken up and carried forward, not even by the so-called march of history.


  1. Jean Jacque Rousseau, On the Social Contract in The Basic Political Writings, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1987), 141.

  2. Aristotle, Politics, 1253a.

  3. Rousseau, On the Social Contract, 151.

  4. J. A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study, (New York: James Pott & Company, 1902), 239-40.

  5. Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Third Edition, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013), 107.

  6. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Volume II, Part One, Chapter 20 “On Some Tendencies Particular to Historians in Democratic Centuries”).

  7. David P. Goldman, “How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China,” Imprimis, Volume 47, Number 3 March 2018 (

  8. Quoted in Kenneth Minogue, “Opiate of the Intellectuals,” Claremont Review of Books, Volume XII, Number 2, Spring 2012 (

  9. Edward Gibbons, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 6 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 3.

  10. William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1887), 11.

  11. Quoted in Bernard Lewis, A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters, and History, (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), 30-1.

  12. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, (New York: The Free Press, 1967), 6.

  13. Charles S. Peirce, Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Writings, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010), 29.

  14. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know his World and Himself, (New York: Random House, 1985), 498.

  15. Wen-yuan Qian, The Great Inertia: Scientific Stagnation in Traditional China, (London: Croom Helm, 1985), 107.

  16. Bill Janus, Review of Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words by John Man, The Montana Professor: A Journal of Education, Politics, and Culture, Volume13, Number 1, Winter 2003 (

  17. Cicero, Cicero's Tusculan Disputations: Also Treatises On the Nature of the Gods, and On the Commonwealth, tr. C. D. Yonge, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1877), p. 166.

  18. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 67.

  19. Seymour Drescher, Capitalism and Antislavery: British Mobilization in Comparative Perspective, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), x.

  20. Arthur Young, Political Essays Concerning the Present State of British Empire, (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1772), 20.

  21. Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, (New York: Encounter Books, 2005), 127.

  22. Plato, Apology, 30e-31a.

  23. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Birth of Tragedy, Section 15.

  24. Thomas M. Franck, “Are Human Rights Universal?” Foreign Affairs, Volume 80, Nomber 1, January/February 2001, 198.

  25. Winston Churchill, “Blood, Toils, Tears, and Sweat” speech delivered to Parliament May 13, 1940.