Why what we call the Third World countries — and, maybe, even Second World countries also — will never reach the standard of living of First World countries until their populations become a small fraction of their present size is due to the fact that they can never build up sufficiently deep centres of scientific research.
Such research is needed in order make discoveries and develop innovations that are sufficiently valuable to cause First World countries to trade their products instead of, as now, largely ignoring them — apart from importing any low value mineral resources that may be required.
But surely, it might be objected, some progressive Third World governments might decide to send some of its brightest children and young people to be educated in First World schools and universities. This is, of course, what at least two Second World countries are doing already in a major way. But what if the most brilliant of scholars these are offered jobs or research grants and decide to stay for the benefit of the host country?
This has been happening for many years in the case of Japanese, Chinese and South Korean students and most of them — called ‘land turtles’ by the Chinese — including some brilliant ones, return home afterwards. But, as also happens, none of these countries, although very good at replicating the research and technologies of First World countries have not yet been able to spark off any uniquely new innovations or develop new technology sectors.
To some extent the lack of creativity in those three Asian countries can be blamed on their particularly austere brand of Confucianism but some further reflection shows that this can’t be totally to blame. What about the relative lack of creativity of many European countries? Northern European countries such as Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Denmark, together with North America — have accounted for almost all the major scientific discoveries and breakthrough ideas in the world in the past century, right up to the present.
Why haven’t the close neighbours of the above — Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland. Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia — not been creative also? They all have first class universities and each will have some world-standard research scientists. What they lack, however, is scientific-cultural depth — as with the Asian trio — compared with the northern rim European countries where the resistance to the Medieval Church first took off, where the Reformation happened and where sufficient numbers of independent minds and scientists could became concentrated from about the 1600s and onwards.
But why can’t First world countries help Second and Third World countries? After all, they make a point of sending aid to them and, indeed, via the IMF, World Bank and other international agencies send them financial aid and technical help of all sorts. Moreover, there’s no secrecy of scientific discoveries in the West. It’s all available in the scientific journals. First World governments wouldn’t be averse to loaning some research scientists for a year or two — if the latter were willing to go.
Even so, as well as a lack of scientific-cultural ‘depth’ in most countries there’s a ‘horizontal’ aspect to be considered these days. A few individuals, however advanced in a particular research area, are usually insufficient. The days of single researchers, or ones and twos, working in garrets, or bedrooms –like Isaac Newton — are long gone. Teams of other specialists — and often sizeable ones — are normally increasingly necessary to control sophisticated aspects of an experiment for the leader.
There’s yet another ‘besides’, too. Every known area of scientific research is well and truly covered by the four or five leading First World countries already. How would a Third World country know what research to back? Also, very often, brand new research possibilities or whole new sectors are by-products of existing scientific projects — and so will be discovered by First World scientists first..
In theory, the First world countries ought to be able to help the Second and Third World countries considerably but they cannot do that whole-heartedly for the same reason is that the elite of the First World countries cannot whole-heartedly help the poor in their own countries. Instinctively we are hierarchical most of the time — taking advantage to a greater or lesser extent of social levels below us — allowing our altruism out on short excursons.
This country’s government is proud that it’s the most generous of all First world governments in giving foreign aid, yet it’s no more than a paltry 0.7% of our GDP ! It can give no more than that or their electorate will kick up. In the same way, the EU, after one bout of generosity to a few thousand genuine Syrian asylum seekers is already cutting it short.
We will have to get used to our genetic propensity to rank ordering and cut our cloth accordingly. Socialism is fine at family level or local community level when you know people well enough to decide whether you can trust them or not — that is, whether you want to be altruistic or not. Otherwise, in any larger organisation there are bound to be free-loaders. They may be few and they may not impose too many financial disbenefits on the community, but emotionally they are demoralising. This is why socialist society never works — trust breaks down.