Why the West matters: Free thoughts, people and markets




Imagine if women didn’t have the vote.

Ponder if slavery was still legal.

Take away Western ideas and actions in the last 250 years: That might still be our world today.

Think I exaggerate? Stay with me as I walk through this.  

New Zealand was the first country to grant women the vote, in 1893. Saudi Arabia still refuses women that civil right today.

Vermont abolished slavery in 1777. France outlawed slavery in 1794. Great Britain abolished slavery in its empire in 1833. Mauritania didn’t end slavery until 1981 and it only added criminal penalties in 2007

Why does this matter today?

Because from campuses to columnists, it’s popular to trash-talk Western civilization, its ideas and accomplishments.

Big sky clarity: Great ideas + actions = the Western legacy

That’s a mistake because civil rights for women and an end to slavery were not automatic. They resulted from ideas + choices (actions) that led to reforms.

The fight against slavery started with an idea pushed by abolitionists: Men and women of all skin colours had a God-given right to be free.

Or ponder women’s suffrage: Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was all about ideas, such as: Women deserve an education because women's minds were/are just as good as any man.  

English-speaking countries and European women took such notions, acted on them, and won the right to vote and other civil rights.

Great ideas can be shared by anyone

Great ideas are available to all no matter their origin precisely they have nothing to do with skin colour or gender.

Anyone can propagate helpful ideas: A female capitalist in India, a pro-democracy opposition figure in Russia who just wants to speak the truth out loud, the late Nelson Mandela in pursuit of freedom for all in South Africa.


This keynote's reality check process: History and critical thinking

This talk traces how laudable ideas from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King and beyond helped produce a civilization that moved beyond its own narrow confines. It traces how ideas once seen as exclusively Western spread worldwide and why that's positive.

Examples of beneficial ideas from other cultures are also profiled. For example, the West snagged Arabic numbers and dumped Roman numerals (and a good thing too lest calculus classes be even more difficult). 

That’s ultimately what this talk is about: a celebration of helpful, life-affirming ideas and human flourishing over the centuries in ever-more places.

The benefit? 

It's time to pause and remember how choice, reason, and criticism of the status quo led to the Western tradition of free thoughts, people and markets. It is helpful to recall how we all benefit from that combination and why we should protect and promote it for further human flourishing.