2016 July 24 Sunday
Scott Adams On Irrational Voters Processing Images

Scott Adams on the Republican National Convention

A week ago you compared ugly Donald Trump with ugly Hillary Clinton and declared them a visual tie. That matters because our visual “brain” generally wins against whatever part of the brain is pretending to be logical that day. But once we got a look at the entire Trump family, acting as a group, our visual brains started seeing them as a package deal. And when you compare the entire Trump family’s visual appeal to the entire Clinton family’s visual imagery it’s a massacre.

Would you prefer seeing Bill and Hillary Clinton decompose in front of your eyes for eight years, or watch the Trump family develop their dynasty? Entertainment-wise, that’s no contest. And people usually vote for entertainment over policy. They just don’t realize it. That’s the biggest news from the convention, and you won’t see it in any headline.

People are way less rational in their political thinking than they'll admit to. They are also way way less rational than open borders supporters assume. The wheels would definitely fall off given circumstances that our elites and libertarians would like to create.

The American Left has painted itself into a difficult position. It has spent decades looking down at lower class whites. Those who were condescended to certainly noticed - for decades. The American Right has done the same. It took those lower class whites for granted while it globalized the economy (with plenty of bipartisan help from Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama). The Republican calculation was that those lower classes were so demonized by the Democrats where else did they have to go for a political party? But now someone comes along and expresses real affection for them and this guy happens to be a master persuader. Oops.

It occasionally happens that the personalities and skills of individual political actors matter a lot. I think that happens less often than political junkies imagine. For example, Reagan's deregulation really got started under Carter with deregulation of aircraft, trains, and trucks. A Republican or Democrat in the White House was going to sign world trade deals in the 1990s. The Presidents aren't as different as they are made out to be. But Trump is a wild card. He's really moved the Overton Window on a few big issues, especially if he gets elected.

Adams thinks Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine reeks of beta boy husband who gets verbal tongue-lashings from his wife. So Kaine will make it even harder for Hillary to get men to vote for her.

But the persuasion filter says the real reason men don’t like Clinton is that they can’t stand listening to her. Her speaking style reminds men of every bad relationship they have ever had with a woman. We’re all irrational sexists on some level, and Clinton sounds to many male ears like a disgruntled ex-wife, or perhaps your mom who had a really bad day. That’s a problem if you need the male vote. Now add Tim Kaine to the mix. In our irrational minds – where we compare everything to our personal experience – Kaine will play the part of the beta male husband whose wife can’t stop complaining about her terrible co-worker, Donald Trump. No guy wants to hear eight years of that. They get enough of it at home.

Suppose Hillary chose a hot woman as her running mate. Probably would have hurt her with older women. But would have helped her with men. Problem is that the hot political chick with right background for Hillary to choose her and old enough for the VP slot probably doesn't exist. The Democrats don't seem to have an ideologically acceptable alpha male for the VP slot either.

I think Trump has gotten what he needs from the "bull in a china shop" phase. He is going to play a much calmer game until election day. But if he's elected then I think he may find the need to do more Overton Window shifting and massive persuasion just to prevent the MSM from reestablishing control of the narrative. So I think we'll see him do more rampaging thru china shops if he makes it into the Oval Office.

Read Scott Adams.

By Randall Parker 2016 July 24 06:35 PM 
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2016 July 17 Sunday
Turkey: Incompetent Coup Speeds Erdogan's Power Concentration

Edward Luttwak, who literally wrote the book on Coup d’États. points out the incompetence of Turkey's coup leaders: Why Turkey’s Coup d’État Failed And why Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s craven excesses made it so inevitable.

But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.

The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbul’s airport.

Idiots. Read Luttwak's full take on Erdogan. It is devastating.

Erdogan's Turkey is already headed in a bad direction. Turkey is in 9th place for ratio of jailed journalists to total population. All those journalists sitting in jail have got to be thinking they've missed out on a great reporting opportunity. But perhaps they'll get to interview some coup leaders in jail.

Andrew Finkel argues Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup – by Erdoğan, not the army. This is true. Erdogan is now speeding up this process, imprisoning thousands of judges, prosecutors, and others who are opposed to his rule.

The Gulenists are going down. Not sure if they are better or worse than Erdogan. My guess is they are better because they were holding power more diffusely. Now it is getting concentrated. Turkey is becoming more Islamic both because Erdogan is concentrating power and because the Muslims are making more babies than the secularists. The secularists are clearly big losers. The Kurds too and other non-Turkish minorities.

Will recent events cause Angela Merkel to think twice about letting Turkey into the EU? She seems immune from learning she's made mistakes and so I do not expect she'll alter course.

Turkey should serve as a reminder that liberal universalism is a delusional fantasy. Some countries and some parts of other countries are an unavoidable tragedy.

By Randall Parker 2016 July 17 12:41 PM 
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2016 July 09 Saturday
Can The Center Hold? Can The Falcon Hear The Falconer?

Ross Douthat wants to know Are We Unraveling? He slices and dices the question. But before I get to that I'd like to discuss my reading style. I cycle around between a few hundred ebooks and read them in parallel. I highly recommend trying this. Causes all sorts of connections. It expands my awareness about a wide range of topics. Though some of these books will only get finished if I live a long time. One of the many partially read books in my tablets describes a previous period that seemed like it might lead to an unraveling.

Bryan Burroughs, in his Days Of Rage describes how back in the 1970s lots of groups were trying to spur a revolution while starting in the 1960s crime started surging. America was quite crazy in the 1970s in ways that younger generations seem oblivious to. From Burroughs:

Between 1964 and 1969, assaults on Los Angeles patrolmen quintupled. Between 1967 and 1969, attacks on officers in New Jersey leaped by 41 percent. In Detroit they rose 70 percent in 1969 alone. In congressional testimony and press interviews, police officials in cities across the country blamed the rise in violence squarely on the Panthers and their ultraviolent rhetoric.

So I think we've seen worse than what we are seeing lately. Granted, 5 police officeres were just gunned down by a black sniper in Dallasi (and the press helped create the environment that'll cause the easily excitable to do this sort of thing). But I bet being a police officer today is much safer than being one in 1969. One of the reasons for this: The population is much older today. The young men with surging testosterone are a lot fewer in number. Plus, we lock up a much larger fraction of the violent population (though the Left is trying to reverse this). What's different today is that not only the revolutionaries but also even the press see the general public as less morally legitimate.

Back in the 1970s our angry people thought they could bring the masses over to their point of view. We had lots of political bombings but few deaths. Unlike today, the revolutionaries identified with the American population and the revolutionaries were trying to inspire the masses to rise up (really). What they did was amazingly crazy:

The underground bombings of the 1970s were far more widespread and and far less lethal. During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day. Yet less than 1 percent of the 1970s-era bombings led to a fatality; the single deadliest radical-underground attack of the decade killed four people. Most bombings were followed by communiques denouncing some aspect of the American condition; bombs basically functioned as exploding press releases.

What has changed since the 1970s? Many things. An aging of the population makes revolution less likely. Old people are more set in their ways. Plus, they are heavily dependent on entitlements programs. But there been (and continues to be) a long term decline in trust in institutions. A widening gap of interests between the transnational elite and the people who live in particular places (accompanied by a great deal of elite condescension and moral delegitimizing of their opponents). Conflicts of values between different civilizations, in particular between Islam and everyone else, as Samuel Huntington expected. A rise in identity politics. The Big Sort (see Bill Bishop's book by that title) where the Republicans and Democrats moved to separate neighborhoods, cities, states, regions and have less experience with each other and more distrust and dislike of each other. We also have a nation where the Democrats are trying to win a permanent electoral majority through immigration. Looks like they'll succeed too. What the Dems do with that majority will make the other side even more bitter even as the Dems applaud resentments and Dems in the academy teach the politics of grievance in their own coalition.

So what happens next? What's noteworthy is that many of our trends that are creating the fracturing haven't run their full course yet. Universities are still moving left. Identity politics of many types (and a feeling of grievance of many of those types) is celebrated by our Left. We are way past the age of the world working class. Now its people of color as victims. Feminism as demonization of men. Trust is still declining.The population is still aging. The nationalist-transnationalist fight is escalating with the reaction taking such forms as Brexit and Trump.

The elites can't buy off unhappy factions because they've tied up so much spending in entitlements that all other forms of spending are shrinking.

Seemingly as an aside the elites have decided to push some people out of urban areas so others can move in. This is driven by the preferences of upper class liberals who are playing their part in the Big Sort.

At some point the reactions to these battles have got to start taking new forms. Other trends will kick in. I'm not sure which ones they'll be but I think communications tech and smart machines will play big roles. I see a few possibilities. One is the use of information technology to opt out and make private cultures and private trading networks. Bitcoin might allow traders to escape dependence on government currencies. Some of the transnational workers might cluster outside of the big powers and create clusterings of different kinds of like minds (e.g. libertarians or conservatives or transhumanists). Robots might so break the connection between capital and large working classes that the capitalists will abandon the very Western nations they now seek to control. The lower classes left behind could be quite enraged as they take control of hollow husks of former greatness.

Update: I think the current form of national/transnational split such as the London-vs-England split over Brexit is a more dilute form of some of the splits to expect in the future. Technological advances will change the nature of the divisions by reducing lower classes in the knowledge worker cities. Back in the 1940s and 1950s the engineers and factory workers lived in proximity by necessity. The engineers and managers needed large staffs of workers to build what they designed. But the factory workers are gradually getting replaced by robots.

Blue collar workers still repair cars, stock grocery store shelves, collect the trash, and provide other services to knowledge workers. But the blue collar service workforce is going to get automated out of most of their jobs just as the blue collar factory workforce has been. The dependence of office knowledge workers on blue collar workers will therefore plummet and their need for geographic proximity will plummet as well.

It seems to me the knowledge workers could become a lot more mobile, fleeing the blue collar workers to go live in places the blue collar workers can't go. The nature of that flight will depend on whether existing political entities can secede from their nation states (e.g. independent London) or whether an industry could take over a small country and help its lower classes to move somewhere else. Panama? French Guyana? Or settle for Iceland with a native population that isn't poor and has very low crime? High housing prices are another way to separate groups. It falls short of political secession and short of a formal border but very definitely separates out people. San Francisco is very popular for this purpose and the liberal upper classes love it. But it comes with very high taxes.

Will robots make the welfare state sufficiently affordable that the upper classes will remain in the same countries as the lower classes? Or will the upper classes use either secession or immigration to separate themselves into their own states and city-states?

Note: I do not ask any of these questions in order to advocate for a particular future. I am trying to guess how various factions and groups will view their options and interests 10-20-30 years from now. What seem like not legitimate choices today could become very legitimate choices in the future. For example, I see groups that today do not see themselves as candidates for international migrations going thru a big shift in perspective in the future. A lot of alignments and loyalties will be broken and new ones will form. So I'm thinking we could witness the birth of new polities and new and novel alliances. Some of the rare political situations of today (e.g. Singapore) could become a lot more common in the future.

By Randall Parker 2016 July 09 07:04 PM 
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2016 June 29 Wednesday
Can Britain Manage To Do Brexit?

The European Union does not want other countries to follow in the UK's wake, Therefore the EU will seek ways to maximize Great Britain's pain from EU withdrawal while minimizing the EU's pain from the same. Ideally the EU would like to see Britain give up the attempt.

I think the EU has some advantages and tactics it can use to make the cost of Brexit fall much more heavily on Britain:

  • If Britain's withdrawal causes a drop in trade between Britain and the EU the drop will be larger per British citizen than per EU citizen because the British are fewer in number.
  • The EU can select industries to be hit by higher tariffs based on the ease with which the production in Britain can be shifted to the continent. Britain loses economy of scale on any product that gets blocked from trade between Britain and EU by EU-imposed tariffs.
  • Britain has a much larger diplomatic job to do to work out the withdrawal. The EU already has trade agreements with various nations around the world. Britain lost its own such agreements when it joined the EU. Now Britain has to negotiate lots of agreements.
  • Britain's own elites (notably including diplomats who will have to do the negotiating) aren't going to be eager to work hard to negotiate new terms for Britain with the EU and with other nations around the world.
  • The elites in Britain's traditional ally the United States would like to see Britain fail in its attempt at EU exit. So the government of the USA will probably drag its feet at negotiating new trade deals with Britain.

What Britain needs is some leaders who can rally around them civil servants and business leaders who are eager to negotiate new terms for Britain in the world economy and who are also eager to capitalize on various forms of flexibility that Britain gains from Brexit. What I think British leaders could do to nullify the EU's attempts to punish it:

  • Rapidly negotiate trade deals with other major countries (Brazil, India, Canada, Australia, Japan, China if possible, USA if possible, maybe even Russia) that take automatically effect upon Brexit. The more deals it makes the stronger its negotiating hand will grow with Brussels. I would even go so far as to argue that it should negotiate those deals and only then invoke EU article 50.
  • Develop alternative financial regulations that will attract financial firms to Britain (and think about Bitcoin/Blockchain and other alternative payment mechanisms in this context).
  • Identify the most innovation-hostile EU regulations and craft replacement regulations to go in effect upon Brexit.
  • Identify industries in continental Europe that could be enticed to relocate to a more friendly regulatory and tax regime in Britain.
  • Change immigration policy to brain drain the world. Do not allow in lower skilled workers but make it very easy for the very brightest and highest skilled workers to be brought it. Make Britain a desirable place for companies to set up research and product development facilities.
  • Grant stronger privacy rights for corporate data in corporate data centers. Make Britain a desirable place to build very large data centers.

If Britain very rapidly codifies all the changes that take place upon Brexit well in advance it will actually create a large business constituency for Brexit. Businesses that discover they will stand to gain from Brexit will then become boosters for Brexit.

To make this work the British government should ask British companies to each draft proposals for changes they would like that would become possible once Brussels no longer calls the shots. For example, lots of product standardization regulations could be repealed that the EU passed to make many products all the same across countries. Allow more diversity and ease of exploration of alternative solutions to problems.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 29 08:46 PM 
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2016 June 26 Sunday
Leaders In China Reject Progressive Future

Xi is purging.

In the last eighteen months, Chinese schools have been instructed to shun Western values. This has involved directives from the education ministry, censorship of books, and shaking down academics. Xi believes that Chinese thought should be rooted in the classic tradition of China. These acts are reported in the Western press without any self-awareness. Western universities select for progressive orthodoxy, purge non-believers and wrong thinkers and tightly control what is published, promoted, and taught. China is giving the same direction, but in opposition to progressivism; it’s just a bit more overt, as far as the eyes of Western media are concerned.

Wonder when the progressives will get upset about this. Maybe never.

This does not just apply to the academic realm.

Chinese authorities have “banned all depictions of gay people on television, as part of a cultural crackdown on “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content.“” This is not simply about homosexuals, but since the West adores homosexuals for now, this is the worst element of the ban. Extramarital affairs, underage relationships, homosexuality, and perversions are now banned, as well.

I wish Samuel Huntington was still alive to opine on what this portends for the future. Will the various non-Western civilizations develop even greater immune responses to Western ideas? Picture a future where Chinese biomedical advances make offspring far less likely to do things the leaders find morally objectionable. Political differences will be amplified by offspring genetic engineering.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 07:44 PM 
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Join The Progressive Side For Greater Freedom Of Speech

Scott Adams thinks he has more freedom of speech now that he's endorsed Hillary Clinton for president of the USA.

Many of you can’t talk about this topic without being accused of sexism, losing your jobs, and being cast out of your social groups. But I can talk about it because I endorse Hillary Clinton for president. I did that for my personal safety, because I live in California, but still, I’m on the progressive side now. That gives me some extra freedom of speech.

Originally Adams endorsed Hillary because he figures he's less likely to be assassinated that way.

So I’ve decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, for my personal safety. Trump supporters don’t have any bad feelings about patriotic Americans such as myself, so I’ll be safe from that crowd. But Clinton supporters have convinced me – and here I am being 100% serious – that my safety is at risk if I am seen as supportive of Trump. So I’m taking the safe way out and endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Adams thinks Clinton has a new adviser who is teaching Hillary to use the same persuasion techniques as Trump uses. He thinks Clinton now even has a chance of winning. Though Clinton's rhetoric is more likely to get Trump supporters beat up.. If you go to a Trump rally go with a gang for mutual protection.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 07:17 PM 
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Brexit, Transnationalists, Nationalists

Great Britain is going to exit the European Union. Good for them. Britain is lucky it still has its own currency. Otherwise Brexit would be very difficult. Megan McArdle argues that the transnationalists need to make peace with their nationalist neighbors who have their own interests and preferences. But I do not see that happening.

Even simple self-interest suggests that it may be time for the elites in Britain and beyond to sue for peace, rather than letting their newborn transnational identity drive them into a war they can’t win -- as happened with so many new states in the 19th and 20th centuries. Try to reforge common identities with the neighbors they have to live with, and look for treaty rules that will let them live in peace. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that transnationalism is any more capable of tempering its own excesses than the nationalism that preceded it.

I do not think the global elites are capable of tempering their excesses. I've made a related argument in here. The elites want what they want and aren't going to give up wanting it and trying to get it.

What's needed: a reshuffling of a slice of the world's population so that many transnationalists can all live in the same city-states without nationalists (think of several Singapores). These places would be Transnationalistan or perhaps Global Land. Global Land can be a set of cities with little countryside around them. A sort of Hanseatic League perhaps. The people living in them could be lawyers, bankers, marketing executives, and other symbol manipulators. People from New York City, London, Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt could move to them or their existing cities could be carved out into separate countries.

I expect the reshuffling to happen eventually. It won't happen yet because it requires a much higher level of automation to allow knowledge workers to break their commercial bonds with everyone else. Once the globalist symbol manipulators have very little need for service from human manual laborers the globalists aren't going to need to live near a servant class. Many of them won't want to support the lower classes with taxes on their higher class incomes.

The highly robotic and automated future isn't necessarily going to bring all the symbol manipulators together in a few city states. Rather, knowledge workers with different kinds of moral, social, and esthetic preferences could cluster in different city states. We could witness the emergence of rival city states that compete to most efficiently create congenial living and working environments for the knowledge workers with low taxes.

Another factor needed to make the city states viable: even greater mutual revulsion between the nationalists and transnationalists. I think the transnationalists aren't going to trim their sails. So rising revulsion seems at least plausible. Consider Streetwise Professor's views:

This is a global phenomenon: the Trump insurgency in the US is another example. What is most disturbing–and most revealing–about the reaction of the elites to these outbursts of popular opposition to their direction and instruction is their lack of self-examination and humility, and their immediate resort to scorn and insult directed at those who had the temerity to defy them. Immediately after the results were clear, those voting leave were tarred as old/white/stupid/poor/uneducated/racist.

Totally lacking was the question: “If argument and evidence are so clearly on our side, why did we fail so miserably in convincing people of the obvious?” To these self-perceived elites, their superiority is self-evident and any opposition can only be attributed to mental defect or bad faith.

It is natural to not want to be ruled by people who see you as mentally defective. So a break-up of assorted polities makes sense as a way to separate the condescending elites and the proles.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 01:17 PM 
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Ethnicities In San Francisco Schools; Culture Wars

San Francisco leans very heavily toward the Democrats. With that in mind check out the racial distribution of children in San Francisco schools and be sure to compare the school names to the racial distribution in each school. I'd like to know the direction of cause and effect between school names and racial distributions. Note what these (overwhelmingly Democrat) parents and voters say about their attitudes toward the schools. It is all pretty funny to me.

SF and NYC demonstrate what happens with the highest concentrations of American liberal upper class. The behavior of that upper class is instructive. There is a really big gap between the rules they want to enforce on the rest of us and what they do for themselves. That is also demonstrated by police behavior in NYC. They want safe streets even though that means police behavior that they'd rule totally beyond the pale if it happened in flyover country. Their hypocrisy is cheeky.

Funny behaviors of elites remind me of the recent (and still on-going) battle over Britain's membership in the European Union. Recently the non-elite parts of the population of England voted to have Britain (really just England since Scotland will secede) leave the European Union. This has elicited a lot of revealing responses from media and intellectual elites. Take this one from Foreign Policy: Brinsanity: The British people have spoken … and lost a lot of credibility. Really Englishmen, you've disappointed a Foreign Policy writer. Whatever were you thinking? Streetwise Professor does a great job of looking at the condescension of our elites. My take: they want what they want no matter how foolish that is.

When I was a kid we played army and shot at each other a lot. Now a kid who ate his pop-tart into the shape of a pistol and used it to shoot at other kids had his suspension upheld by a judge. This (and many other things) reminds me of how I recently came across Nassim Nicholas Taleb using this acronym: IYIs (Intellectuals-Yet-Idiots). We have a lot of IYI people writing in the press.

While the elites would deem it morally illegitimate for the proles to want to secede from a polity run by the elites a different standard holds for elite desires.

The elites have decided that prejudice based on political affiliation is good if it is prejudice directed at their opponents. For this and other reasons I really think breaking countries up into subcountries is a good idea. Best not be ruled by people who think you are morally inferior trash.

A Harvard economics prof understands what believers in homo economicus refuse to grasp:

Of course, if you delegitimize any identity that produces political opposition to what you want then it is a lot easier to reject any policies that respect someone's identity.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 01:17 PM 
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2016 June 19 Sunday
Hunger Spreading In Venezuela

Check out the latest news from the unfolding tragedy of socialism, stupidity, and democracy which is Venezuela: Venezuela’s Season of Starvation: Amid sky-high inflation, dangerous shortages, and political unrest, Nicolás Maduro’s regime is on the verge of collapse and Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation and Lost generation forming in Venezuela as violence, hunger plague schools.

The stories in those news reports are like others I've posted in the past. But the decline has gone much further. Hunger is spreading. What's amazing is the passivity of the population.

If I was Emperor of the Western Hemisphere I'd have Maduro removed along with all his ministers. Then I'd lift all price controls and return all seized businesses to private hands. I would also lift all currency controls too. Then I'd have Venezuela stop paying debt and use what little revenue it earns from exports to buy food. This is all pretty obvious stuff to do.

Talented people in Venezuela would be best off leaving. Why stay when the majority are capable of electing fools like Chavez and Maduro who are incapable of learning how an economy works?

By Randall Parker 2016 June 19 07:56 PM 
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2016 June 18 Saturday
What To Do About Ideologies?

Toni Airaksinenis recovering from a plunge into feminist ideology.

For example, feminist ideology taught me that any opinions that were conservative, or just didn’t align with the party line were violence. It also taught me that the best way to fight opposition is to try to silence it. Don’t like what someone says? Protest them. Shut their event down.

In retrospect, the fact that I openly embraced an ideology that claimed that holding a conservative viewpoint is the same as life-threatening violence, isn’t just absurd, it’s embarrassing. How was I so deluded?

The advent of conservative speakers being de-platformed or harassed by screaming social justice warriors is a logical consequence of an ideology that equates conservative opinions with physical violence.

What's surprising is that she's been able to start pulling herself out of this mindset. What fraction of people who are taught to think like this ever go thru withdrawal?

I pretty much do not want to be around people who've embraced an ideological faith. Probably one should visit with secular believers to keep up with what various secular faiths are up to. But I'd prefer they and I live in different political jurisdictions, preferably all the way up to the national level. Better to live with people who are more practical, rational, and interested in evidence.

What causes ideologies to flourish in the modern era? I think turning away from beliefs in supernatural religions leaves an unfulfilled need in a lot of people for an overarching explanation of how society works, what is the meaning of life, and, especially, who is good and who is evil. Some people have a strong need to point to an out-group against which their in-group is defined. I think it best these in and out groups are defined across national borders.

You might think one could fulfill one's need to understand life by, say, understanding math and science. But its beyond the mental ability of most people to understand even lower division calculus classes, let alone the more complex stuff. People have a hard time grasping evolution because the numbers of involved in making low probability events into high probability events are hard to get one's mind around. Complex systems are hard to model in one's mind.

Really really smart people who embrace crazy ideas like Marxism has other explanations too. For example, the extent to which people are bothered by inequality varies across the political spectrum and is probably inherited. People who are hardwired strongly against hierarchy or strongly against inequality (and these are separate attributes I think) are going to be in rebellion against a market society even if its poor people are way better off than a those in a communist society. They can't help it. Their instincts are just too strongly driving them to be upset.

I suspect brain genetics research is eventually going to lead to the discovery of genetic variants that make even very smart people more prone to embrace assorted forms of secular faith. Then I'd love to see a group surreptitiously get DNA samples from assorted intellectual crazies, test their DNA, and then float the test results on the web in a way that avoids the ability to trace back to who did this.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 18 06:40 PM 
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2016 June 11 Saturday
The Insanity Of Liberal Arts Colleges

This article about Oberlin College gives you a sense of how much humanities have decayed in the United States. The faculty are under attack from their students and neither faculty or students make much sense. The author of the piece takes the students seriously. What the students really need: criticism of their embrace of victimhood and their whining.

Protests continued through the winter. Harvard renamed its “house masters” faculty deans, and changed its law-school seal, which originated as a slaveholder’s coat of arms. Bowdoin students were disciplined for wearing miniature sombreros to a tequila-themed party. The president of Northwestern endorsed “safe spaces,” refuges open only to certain identity groups.

What high school students in America need: information about which colleges are most crazy and which are least crazy. The rational students should cluster in the saner institutions and just avoid the crazies. If those who are obsessed about victimhood, identify politics, and safe spaces go to colleges that only they attend then other students can go to the remaining colleges and get a decent education.

High school students should think seriously about online learning options that are aimed at developing quantitative skills and job skills. If they go for more practical learning they'll also, at the same time, avoid the safe space insanity.

I worry that the cult of victimhood will only grow. People who haven't been wronged will make increasing demands on the rest of us. How to deal with them short of breaking the United States up into a few different countries?

By Randall Parker 2016 June 11 08:31 PM 
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Cosmopolitanism As A New Form Of Tribalism

Ross Douthat has written a pretty good essay on the escalating elite vs masses political conflict: The Myth Of Cosmopolitanism.

Indeed elite tribalism is actively encouraged by the technologies of globalization, the ease of travel and communication. Distance and separation force encounter and immersion, which is why the age of empire made cosmopolitans as well as chauvinists — sometimes out of the same people. (There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)

This is a great point. Lawrence of Arabia literally lived with tribesmen and went to war with them against the Turks (and inspired a great movie btw). He immersed into an extremely different culture than that which he was raised in. Richard Francis Burton disguised himself as a Muslim pilgrim and snuck into Mecca in 1853.

Our elites have far less experience with extremely different peoples. They think they've found the ultimate secular religion (Christianity minus Jesus and the supernatural but with John Stuart Mill and fanciful anti-oppression doctrines added). It hasn't yet sunk into their thinking that Global Liberal Manifest Destiny has a big obstacles in China, big obstacles in Islamic countries, and faces a number of problems in other countries outside of the West. Plus, even in the West support for their ideology seems to have peaked even as (or because) they go more extreme with it.

The fact that the globalists create a cultural homogeneity in their institutions is typified in the far left shift in elite New England college faculties. They are not going to encounter people who disagree with them in normal life. That's even true in their international business dealings. They've got like minds to interact with in NYC, London, Paris, and other Western capitals of commerce and government.

The elites need to come to an understanding that they have a big problem and that big problem isn't the rest of us, its them. I think they'll resist this realization pretty strenuously because it really feels good to be a member of an in-group that can look down on the out-group as inferior. Also, it makes coordination easier if they vigorously agree on a long list of issues and treat all events as further proof they, as a class, are right about everything.

I find Peter Turchin's recent essays instructive in this regard. The European Union does not see itself as an empire (empires being part of the vanquished evil past which the morally superior EU elites distinguish themselves from). But the EU empire swallows up territory and expands. In past empires it is important to note that not all territorial expansions required war. In some case dynasties married to unite their territories. Today elites use elite universities, workplaces, governments, media institutions and NGOs to gather together in a transnational professional class. See Turchin's essay Brexit As Creative Destruction on the Carolingian Empire as a forerunner to the EU:

In my cultural evolutionary view, such identities come from very deep history. Often, they are “ghosts” of powerful and prestigious empires that are long gone—“charter polities”, to use a term proposed by the historian Victor Lieberman in Strange Parallels. For the European Union such a charter polity is the Carolingian Empire (eighth and ninth centuries AD).

The EU has overreached. Now it is entered into a disintegrative phase. Empires do this frequently.

There were internal tensions within the precursor of the EU, the European Economic Community, but these problems were resolved in cooperative manner. But then, and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the EU started acting as a typical expansionary empire, gobbling up more and more states. This is a typical imperial disease, known in historical sociology as “imperial overstretch.” The problems mounted, willingness to cooperate waned, and the integrative trend reversed itself. In addition to the spread of neoliberalism, which, as I stated above, is an ideology corrosive of cooperation, different EU members found it difficult to cooperate with each other, because they did not share a well-defined common identity. Additionally, different groups evolve different institutions that promote cooperation. This is why, as the political scientist Robert Putnam found, ethnically diverse groups find it more difficult to cooperate. It’s a coordination problem.

The proponents of expansion do not know when to stop. The heuristics they live by become increasingly dysfunctional when they keep on trying to apply them to more peoples and changing conditions. They think they should just try harder, use more propaganda, and suppress dissent. Their investment in their path keeps rising and this makes them more averse to admitting they are at least partially wrong.

In Turchin's essay Will the European Union Survive its 60th Anniversary? he discusses why he thinks the EU is in its disintegrative phase.

Cliodynamics suggests that the causes of imperial collapse are manifold. In The Deep Historical Roots of the European Crisis I discuss one set of causes: the disappearance of an external threat (represented by the Soviet Union) and imperial overstretch resulting in gobbling up too much territory to the east and south.

But there are also internal causes. The structural-demographic theory points to two fundamental causes of imperial failure: popular immiseration and elite overproduction. I haven’t studied as thoroughly the situation in Germany as in the United States, but it definitely looks like Germany is following the American trajectory, although with a time lag.

Why focus on Germany? Because in many ways the European Union was a German empire. Or, at the very least, a collaboration between the German economic elites and the French political elites. Now this cooperation is unravelling, and the place to watch is, I think, Germany.

German wealth combined with German acquiescence to French elite political desires were essential in order to form the EU. German taxpayer money has been (and still is) used to bribe smaller EU nations to join the EU. The subsidies flowing from Germany, France, and Britain (for another year) to southern and eastern Europe helped lure those states to join.

If EU membership is such a boon then the subsidies should not be necessary. Just getting inside the single market ought to work wonders for member states. But, to take an extreme example, what's happened to Greece is not a wonder of EU membership. Greece is a tragedy. Another tragedy: the debt run-ups of other EU states that were made possible when the markets decided EU membership made default impossible. EU membership enabled greater levels of folly, bigger bubbles, bigger corrections when bubbles burst.

I also suspect (and would love to see numbers on) that peripheral EU states were brain-drained by Schengen open borders. Puerto Rico is also probably suffering from brain drain. Certainly West Virginia has this problem. But again, I'd like to see numbers on who leaves and who stays.

The EU has become the means for Germany to dictate many policies to the rest of the European Union. We see this in Germany's steering of northern European handling of the debt crisis, dictating terms to the periphery. We also also see it in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's unilateral massive change in EU immigration policy, with attempts to shove her change down the throats of other states. What's crazy about these dictated policies is that many of them do not help German exporters.

Jumping back to Ross Douthat's essay: the EU portion of the global elite have made some bad decisions, damaged their reputations as a result, and generated a growing reaction to their overreaching. But I expect the EU elites to double down on their drive for integration in order to make further defections much harder to carry off. They'll get lots of support from the rest of Western elites because they all see each other as kindred spirits with shared interests.

Faced with a rising backlash against globalization I expect the Western elites as a whole to try out new methods of persuasion and new methods of filtering viewpoints that it does not want to see gain wide currency. Both the old and new media companies will do more filtering of anti-globalist viewpoints. Can they suppress the populist voices? Or will alternative channels of media spring up faster than they filter?

The Western elites face a rising reaction against them. This rising reaction is fed by Islamic terrorism, sovereign debt crises, stagnant wages for Western lower and middle classes, and the elite's own rising rhetoric of condescension and contempt for those who oppose them. I'm not clear on whether the elites can defeat their opponents. Peter Turchin doesn't seem to think so. But the future seems pretty hard to predict.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 11 04:06 PM 
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2016 June 05 Sunday
Scott Adams Fears Hillary Clinton Supporters

Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert comic strips about corporate office workers, has decided that endorsing Hillary Clinton for president is his safest bet because her supporters are more likely to assassinate him for being the opposition than are Trump supporters.

If you seriously think you are at that much risk then the thing to do would be to leave the country. Scott has made a lot of money from Dilbert and other pursuits. He could afford to buy permanent residency somewhere else.

The animosity the Left has for the Right keeps going up. I think the Left is angry that computer technology has enabled people to communicate around the gatekeepers who previously enabled the Left to control the bounds of discussion. The Left is getting more strident and more vehemently declaring their opponents Nazis, haters, racists, oppressors, patriarchical, and the rest of it. I'm wanting a political divorce that puts us and them on opposite sides of a border.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 05 10:39 PM 
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2016 June 04 Saturday
Twitter feed real_peerreview is gone. Replacement Needed

If you've never read @real_peerview then have a look at what you missed.

There is a need for others to take up the task of publishing excerpts of crazy peer reviewed Social Justice Warrior academic publications. The rest of the world needs to see how crazy and hostile they've become. Your enemies run the academy. More departments are falling every year.

Update: A group has heeded the call. See the Twitter stream RealPeerReview.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 04 09:14 AM 
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2016 May 30 Monday
Turkey Fights Internal War With Kurds, Split With US on Syria

Good article in the New York Times: Turkey is fighting a big Kurdish insurgency within Turkey's borders. The Kurds do not want to be ruled by the Turks any more than they want to be ruled by the Arabs or Persians. The Kurds have become more nationalistic and determined to achieve independence.

Turkey is, in theory, America's ally. I say in theory because in practice that's not really true any more. National interests of Turkey and the United States have diverged for a variety of reasons, notably including the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shift of Turkey away from secular nationalism toward Turkish Islamic nationalism. In Syria Turkey prioritizes the overthrow of Assad's government. But the United States sees ISIS/Daesh as the big threat because ISIS has carried out terrorist attacks in Europe. These attacks have been made possible, of course, by lax immigration law enforcement followed by Angela Merkel's insane invitation for masses of Middle Easterners to deluge Europe.

But back to Turkey: the Kurds do not want to be ruled by the Turks. The Turks do not want to give up a piece of their country (or at least the leaders of the Turks feel that way). How is this going to resolve? Are the Turks just going to grind down the Kurds and kill large numbers until they take back control of all Kurdish towns and cities?

Will Kurds flee Turkey for the Kurdish zones of Syria and Iraq? Will that enable the Kurds to capture even more of Syria and Iraq?

It is my impression that Kurds are more fertile than Turks. Will the Kurds eventually (thinking decades) be able to carve off a piece of Turkey to make part of Kurdistan? Also, will Kurdish Iraq remain a separate state from Kurdish Syria? Will the Syrian Kurdistan become more feminist and secular due to PKK influence?

In the short to medium term the United States has the problem that its interests and Turkey's interests are diverging in Syria. Factions that the United States wants to bomb are factions that Turkey (and even Saudi Arabia) want to support. Can Turkey prop up al Qaeda affiliate al Nusra Front against American or Russian bombing? What about Ahrar ash-Sham? It is supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia while allied with Nusra. Russia bombs it. Is the United States being ambiguous about it because American policy makers want to pretend that Saudi Arabia is our ally?

The only somewhat secular factions in Syria are Assad's government and the Kurds. Salafists dominate the remaining big players. What is the US position toward these Salafists? What do Washington DC players see as a winning scenario for US interests? It is really hard to tell. I wonder if they know themselves. I suspect not.

By Randall Parker 2016 May 30 04:53 PM 
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2016 May 29 Sunday
Bernie Sanders Has Praised Castro, Sandinistas

Hey, its totally unfair to claim that Bernie Sanders only likes Scandinavian socialism. Lets not do that any more. Here's why: When Bernie Sanders Thought Castro and the Sandinistas Could Teach America a Lesson

As mayor of Burlington, Sanders praised the regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba—claiming bread lines were a sign of economic health and press censorship was necessary in wartime.

What about Venezuela? As I see it Venezuela has a big upside: Suppose you want to do intermittent fasting to turn up autophagy (where your body tears down old worn intracellular components) as an anti-aging strategy. Well, you might not have the willpower to pull it off. Plus, you need to be able to concentrate on a full stomach at work. Well, food is hard to get in Venezuela and people are getting lots of extra days off to save electricity. Plus, just sitting in food lines takes many hours. These conditions are highly conducive to intermittent fasting.

What about the voters of Burlington Vermont? What's with them? I think they need to go live in Cuba or, even better, Venezuela for a few months. North Korea would be good too.

By Randall Parker 2016 May 29 10:21 PM 
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Why People Support Trump

A 22 year old Trump supporter living near SF explains to Conor Friedersdorf why he's switched from Libertarian voter to Trump supporter:

For me personally, it's resistance against what San Francisco has been, and what I see the country becoming, in the form of ultra-PC culture. That’s where it's almost impossible to have polite or constructive political discussion. Disagreement gets you labeled fascist, racist, bigoted, etc. It can provoke a reaction so intense that you’re suddenly an unperson to an acquaintance or friend. There is no saying “Hey, I disagree with you,” it's just instant shunning.

This guy makes the point that the election is about whether PC speech control will continue to go up under Hillary or get attacked by a sitting president. I'm much preferring the latter.

In August 2015 Friedersdorf published 30 views of Trump supporters. Lots of different motivations including strong opposition to political correctness. The sense that Trump will fight for his supporters looms large.

“Trump has never lied to me whereas all of the other Republican politicians (like McConnell & Boehner) have. They don’t fight for my side. Nobody fights for my side. Trump fights. Trump wins. I want an Alpha Male who is going to take it to the enemy. I am tired of supporting losers.”

For a long time the Republican base has been tools for the Republican elite. The base (and quite a few independents and Democrats) is sick of that. They want to back a winner who will work for them.

Another recent Friedersdorf piece on Trump is an interview with a gossip columnist who used to deal with Trump extensively back in the 1990s. The interview brings out Trump's extraordinary skill at managing the media and shaping his image. Hillary Clinton and her managers are clearly not in his league.

T.A. Frank has a couple of pieces in Vanity Fair that further explain Trump's appeal: The One Issue That Could Destroy Hillary Clinton (immigration of course) and Why Democrats Are Becoming the Party of the 1 Percent (because the 1% insanely favor open borders).

This has been a fascinating election so far. Populists came along with enough talent to motivate the disgruntled masses. Bernie Sanders has only limited skills at appealing to the dissatisfied. But they are sufficiently dissatisfied that he's made Hillary's job of getting the Democratic nomination much harder (it helps she's got something like negative charisma too). On the Republican side the master persuader is sucking in all the media attention and mobilizing a lot of people who wouldn't even vote normally (given that both parties are against them). So this election has just gone off in directions I did not foresee. Have a look at the links above if you want a better understanding of why this election is so different than normal.

By Randall Parker 2016 May 29 08:33 PM 
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2016 May 28 Saturday
In Venezuela Suburb Brownish Colored Water Comes Once Per Week

Venezuela keeps getting worse. The Venezuelan people should rise up and overthrow the socialists. Venezuela is shutting down. The government stores that sell well below market prices create incentives that make the situation much worse. People are quitting productive jobs to work as black market traders. The government has damaged the economy in numerous ways and is run by paranoid Marxists who think the CIA is to blame, not their own destructive policies.

The opposition won a majority of the national legislature. But the government put people on their supreme court who vote to strike down laws passed by the legislature.

How would you like to live in a country where you get water one day a week? Where the government shuts down 2 days a week to save electricity? Where schools shut down part of the time to save electricity? This is crazy. But the Venezuelan people are still too foolish and have still not risen up to overthrow their government.

Socialism is failing in Venezuela. A socialist, Bernie Sanders, is running for president of the United States.. Bernie Sanders does not want to discuss the failure of socialism in Venezuela.

By Randall Parker 2016 May 28 08:38 AM 
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