In making his recent controversial comments about Israel's cultural superiority, Mitt Romney cited Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which he said argued that "physical characteristics of the land" like iron ore deposits determined nations' economic success. "That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it," writes Diamond in today's New York Times. The book focuses mostly on biological features, touching a bit on geography—iron ore is certainly never mentioned.
"That's not the worst part," Diamond goes on. "Even scholars who emphasize social rather than geographic explanations," like David Landes, whose work Romney praised, "would find Romney's statement that 'culture makes all the difference' dangerously out of date." In truth, both social and environmental factors play profound roles. The US, for instance, is blessed by excellent geography, with a favorable climate and access to waterways. But "we Americans fail to provide superior education and economic incentives to much of our population." Read his full column here.