Nothing undercuts the fortunes of nations more than racism. From the Spanish Inquisition, to American slavery and Jim Crow, to Nazi Germany, we witness the self-defeating nature of ethnic purity. From Venice, to Elizabethan England to constitutionalist United States we witness the economic, cultural and social enrichment that comes from policies and attitudes of tolerance and fairness.
The Spanish Inquisition first expelled the Jews, decimating its mercantile class, and then expelled the Muslims, decimating its agricultural sector. Both expulsions destroyed Spain's professional and intellectual classes (being almost completely Muslim and Jewish) and plunged what had been Europe's richest country into poverty and cultural darkness. The Islamic Caliphate, on the other hand, was a cultural entrepôt, taking from the Greeks, Hindus, Chinese, and Persians and for the most part treating its non-Muslim populations in a more forbearing way than Christian Europe. As a consequence it was the most vibrant and prosperous civilization of its day. The fanatic intolerance and xenophobia of the Muslim world today is the main cause of its poverty and backwardness.
Tolerance is one of the inherent characteristics of prosperous and enlightened cultures. Renaissance Venice was threatened with papal Interdict several times for its tolerance of Jews, non-Catholic Christians and immigrants; a combination which helped make it the most powerful economic force in the Mediterranean. During the Counter-Reformation Venice never enforced the death sentence imposed by the Italian Inquisition (the Spanish state, of course, had no such reservations). The Venetians probably thought that killing their Muslim suppliers, Protestant customers, and Jewish intermediaries with the Muslim world might be bad for business. Since they were a major center of publishing Protestant religious tracts and had a monopoly on printing Hebrew religious tomes (such as the first printed Talmud) they were probably right. Venice's motto was "first we are Venetians then we are Christians". In other words, Catholicism is nice as long as it doesn't interfere with business.
The same attitude was embraced by the devotedly Calvinist Dutch business community. The Jews of New Amsterdam were protected from Peter Stuyvesant's anti-Semitism by the Dutch East India Trading Company. The Netherlands had become a haven for Spanish Jews fleeing the Inquisition despite the protestations of the Calvinist Church (which despised the Jews no less than the Catholics). The good Calvinist burghers, however, thought the Jews were good for business and that the Church should mind its own business. By being a refuge for a variety of minorities and intellectual non-conformists (such as Descartes) the Netherlands had become the richest and culturally vibrant country in Europe. Before the rise of English sea power this tiny country's flag ships carried 50% of world trade.
The expulsion of the Protestant Huguenots retarded the economic development of Catholic France and stimulated the economic development of England. Huguenot and Flemish refugees came to England to escape Catholic persecution. They brought little material wealth other than their skills and crafts. Cloth-makers came from Antwerp and Bruges, lace-makers from Cambray, glass-makers from Paris, weavers from Meaux, shipwrights from Dieppe and Havre. Steel-makers from Liege established the manufacture of steel at Newcastle and Sheffield. Potters from Delft established pottery. This openness transformed London into a global economic power; the foundation for its Elizabethan-age cultural and scientific flowering.
William Penn encouraged a wide variety of people he theologically detested to settle in Pennsylvania because he wanted to develop his colony. His pamphlet Truth Exalted: To Princes, Priests, and People (1668) had criticized all religions except Quakers. He called the Catholic Church "The Whore of Babylon", despised the Church of England, and viewed Puritans as 'holier than thou' hypocrites. Yet his economic interests trumped his religious principles. Amish, Mennonites, Calvinist Huguenots, Jews, Lutheran refugees fleeing Catholic provinces of Germany, and Catholic refugees fleeing Lutheran provinces of Germany were all welcome. In New England the Puritans stopped hanging Quakers when trade between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania became an economic mainstay.
The American South is still the poorest region in the USA because of its transgenerational legacy of racism. Its slower economic development in comparison to the North has been attributed to agricultural slave labor inhibiting industrialization and the motivation to improve economic productivity. As a result, few 19th century immigrants settled in the South. This had military as well as economic consequences. According to historian Don Doyle, "One in every four members of the Union armed forces was an immigrant; some 543,000 of the more than 2 million … Another 18% had at least one foreign-born parent… immigrants and the sons of immigrants made up about 43% of the Union armed forces." Some Northern units were completely German speaking. Without immigrants the North would have lost the war and today there would not be a United States of America.
Hitler's racism devastated German civilization. Since WWII what significant scientific or cultural contributions has German civilization made to the human race; has it produced a Beethoven or a Kant or a Kepler or anything even close? Idi Amin's expulsion of Uganda's East Indian merchant minority impoverished Uganda and enriched England. Before Nasser's revolution substantial Jewish, Greek, Italian, Armenian, and Maronite, communities were the most dynamic elements in Egypt's economic and cultural life. His doctrinaire nationalism drove them out, impoverishing Egypt (in 1960 Egypt had a higher per capita income than South Korea). American counties with higher percentages of immigrants or children of immigrants invariably have a higher standard of living and education than those that don't. History teaches us that if you want to be economically and spiritually poor embrace ethnic purity.
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