If you believe famed British historian Niall Ferguson, author of “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” six things led to the dominance of western civilization over the last half century:

– Competition
– Science
– Modern medicine
– Democracy
– Consumerism
– Strong work ethic

Competition: Drive leads to innovation, exploration, and change. Monolithic states with no rivals tend to be ruled by a complacent elite deeply vested in maintaining the status quo.

Science: Reverence for the scientific method and the willingness to allow unfettered inquiry even when they challenged the beliefs of the dominant religion.

Property rights and the dependable and equitable rule of law: When everyday people can expect the same degree of legal protection as the high born and when their property is safe, people work harder and save more, thus both capital and labor is invested efficiently.

Medicine: Redundant to a certain extent since medicine is a subset of science but reducing disease, healing injuries, and generally extending life spans clearly increase productivity and quality of life.

Consumerism: Wanting more creates the impetus to produce more and varied goods more efficiently.
Work ethic/education: Benefits to productivity and economic strength, which equates in time of need to military might, are obvious.

According to Ferguson, the biggest threat to the West is that we have lost faith in these tenets.