Book Review: The Suicide Of The West, by Richard Koch and Chris Smith

I picked up this challenging little book, Suicide of the West, expecting a well-crafted but familiar volume on the virtues that founded the West, and the clamorous warning that we have abandoned those virtues.

Parthenon

I was both right and wrong.

While the book could be described in the terms I have just laid out, such a description would be unfairly shallow.

Richard Koch is popular with entrepreneurial types mainly because of his books on the “80/20 Principle”, a capitalist application of the ideas Italian mathematician  Vilfredo Pareto. “The 80/20 Principle” is approaching sales of 1,000,000 copies worldwide.

Less well-known is the fact that Koch has penned some 20 books, most of them about subjects other than the “80/20 Principle”. This book, Suicide of the West, which he co-wrote with Chris Smith, is just such a volume. Smith is not merely Chris Smith – he is Lord Smith of Finsbury, a former MP and Secretary of State.

The two propose in their book that as recently as a hundred years ago the West had a clear vision of its own unique civilization, knew what it stood for, and had great confidence in its future. Today, they say, all that has dissipated, leaving the West in a state of uncertainty and confusion over its own identity.

They identify six pillars of Western civilization:

  1. Christianity
  2. Optimism
  3. Science
  4. Economic growth
  5. Liberalism
  6. Individualism

They show how each of these pillars has been eroded in the last century, not by attack from outside forces such as terrorists and rival nations, but rather from within the West itself.

This sustained, internal attack, they propose, seems to be leading the West toward an inevitable collective suicide.

The good news is they didn’t stop there, but proceed to lay out a case for hope. The authors dig deeply into the roots of the six pillars, and conclude that the ideas themselves have great resilience.

The attack on these pillars comes from a very specific group of liberal individualists, who not only “bite the hand that feeds them”, but wish to climb the ladder of success, and once at the top, kick it away from the wall to prevent anyone following.

Koch and Smith make a strong case that this hostility, which masquerades as sophistication, is actually “flaky” and based on bad science. They present their own synthesis of the six pillar concepts that might pave the path to the revival of the West. A way for the West “to recover its nerve and integrity.”

Well-written and tightly-reasoned, this book is sure to stir up some controversy – and deserves a much wider audience than it has received to date.

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