2007 December 31 Monday
International Opinion Sees US As Declining Power
My quibble with world opinion is that in reality Russia is going to decline as soon as their oil production declines.
The USA is losing its image as a superpower. By 2020 China will almost have caught up with the USA in the eyes of the international public. In the meantime, according to international perception, Russia too will be seen increasingly as an international power. At the same time, awareness of the threats facing the environment has grown enormously in the past years. By 2020 the destruction of the environment and climate change will be considered internationally as the biggest threat to mankind. These are the findings of a current international opinion poll carried out by the German foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, about the role and the challenges facing world powers.
When asked which countries are regarded as world powers today, 81% name the USA and only 50% China. Thereafter follow Russia with 39%, Japan with 35% and the EU equal with The United Kingdom, on 34%. In comparison with a corresponding survey two years ago, China has experienced an increase of 5%. The largest leap recorded is however for Russia, which was named as a world power by 12% more people than in 2005.
The United States has very unfavorable demographic trends. In a nutshell, the workforce is dumbing down. Whites are a declining fraction of the population and the big rising groups do poorly in school and at work, earning much less. But Russia has even bigger problems. It has a smaller and much more rapidly shrinking population. When Russian oil production starts declining (and this point might be very close) that combined with the population decline will make Russia into a basket case.
I don't know about 20 years from now, but give it 50 years and we will definitely be a 2nd rate power. The best we can hope for is a "soft landing," with us resembling Brazil (a modern, technologically advanced nation in some, but not most regards). Most likely scenario: we become Mexico with nukes. In other words, armed to the teeth, but we don't scare anyone because a bunch of nannies, gardeners, and dishwashers wouldn't know the first thing about how to fire the damn things.
Russia may be running out of oil, but they still have plenty of natural gas (don't they the world's largest gas reserves?) and with countries like the UK being so slack about building new nuclear reactors, there's going to be plenty of demand for Russian gas.
Furthermore, the greater challenge involved in getting gas to international markets may well have a positive effect on Russia's ineficient economic practices and neglected transport infrastructure.
Population decline is a bigger concern - how long can the Russian's keep the Chinese out of Siberia and Central Asia?
As Steve Sailer points out, most empires fall because of invasion.
"I don't know about 20 years from now, but give it 50 years and we will definitely be a 2nd rate power. The best we can hope for is a "soft landing," with us resembling Brazil (a modern, technologically advanced nation in some, but not most regards). Most likely scenario: we become Mexico with nukes. In other words, armed to the teeth, but we don't scare anyone because a bunch of nannies, gardeners, and dishwashers wouldn't know the first thing about how to fire the damn things."
Eugenics will reverse this hopefully. I bet Randall will concur. Also instead of spending money on education, it would be better spent on promoting eugenics.
The problem with eugenics, is that once word spreads that a certain country is promoting eugenics as a national policy, the other nations will also become paranoid and then there will be a competition for eugenics, similar to the cold war arms race, except that the effects will be irreversible. I am sure we will also create a lot of monsters in the process.
Eventually eugenics will turn around the decline in IQ. But when?
To put it another way: How bad will things get before things start getting better?
I ask that question about a lot of things. The future is a race between positive and negative trends. Sometimes the negative stuff develops more rapidly. Sometimes the positive stuff develops more rapidly. Look at grain prices, oil prices, and other commodities. The negatives are outpacing the positives. Look at habitat destruction. The negatives are outpacing the positives.
We need cheap enough DNA sequencing to discover all the alleles for IQ. Then we need cheap enough DNA testing for embryo selection. Then only those who can afford IVF with lots of eggs (and who are willing to do this too) will do selecting for embryos. How much of that selection will be based on IQ?
We need to get a substantial percentage of pregnancies started from selecting among 1 or 2 dozen embryos to outpace the dysgenic effects of breeding practices and immigration. Will that eugenic effect become big enough in the US by, say, 2015? If so we have to wait a couple more decades for that to influence labor markets. So we are looking at 30 years before things start getting better where it matters.
Of course in Africa and other really poor places the eugenics will come much later starting from a much lower base.
I keep reminding myself that the government will pay for such a program... however. I do think it is necessary because it will prevent further class envy and promote social cohesion within a nation.
But Randall, I certainly admire your commentary because you lack certain personal aspects I have. For example, you do not seem to be motivated by an particular agenda. You are one of the few conservatives that I admire because we seem to divorce your commentary for any bias. Unlike my liberal brethren, you have a limpid understanding of human nature.
Now to segue to the actual topic instead of a hagiography. We both believe that eugenics can be desirable unlike most liberals and conservatives. You indeed raise some valuable questions and provoke some thoughts. For example, would the people allow for the government to fund such eugenic programs especially when the United States (I do not know about other European countries) is dominated by an Evangelical Christian and Catholic demographic. Personally, I find it rather lachrymose that teaching creationism is a serious debate topic in the United States. Some might oppose the means of embryo selection because of some belief in the "sanctity of life." (There is a reason why I picked this alias, and this name represents my contempt for such beliefs although in a bizarre way). It doesn't seem that promoting such an agenda will get far in the current political landscape.
However, I always remind myself that we are all eugenicists. Would Catholics and similar groups embrace eugenics as this will be a dereliction of the contemporary doctrine of "Mother Church?" It is possible because Catholics are humans; they have the instinct to provide their children with a competitive advantage and they will likely embrace any eugenic technology provided that they have access to it. I do not think any Church dogma will surmount that immanent urge that evolved in the African savannah.
You are indeed correct when you note that first generation eugenics will not bring an egalitarian world because different groups have a different mean intelligence. I do imagine a future UN though promoting eugenics in the undeveloped regions of the world. It will require propaganda in order not to do this coercively.
Next, I think you have noted in other entries that those who value intelligence are those who are already intelligent. Sadly, those progeny who would need such enhancements the most are from parents who do not place a high value on intelligence. If we state the eugenic enhancement of progeny is a positive right, how do we encourage people to exercise it without coercion? This places a dubious value on expanded access of such programs to the less fortunate. I do not think the costs for such a programs will be an issue (at least for screening) as we only need to screen a small portion of the embryo's genome for intelligence (the "g" factor, I do not think selecting for specific aptitudes would be cost effective for government programs) and health defects.
Thanks for your response.
I think the average person is a lot more practical and undogmatic than the average talking head. If we had more democracy via referenda rather than by electing representatives we'd get more policies aimed at practical benefits.
For example, I bet the average person would vote to impose an IQ minimum for the right to reproduce. Also, and surely, the average person would vote for a government program that paid drug addicts and alcoholics to get Norplant or sterilization.
Heck, if you put it to a vote that convicted pedophiles should be placed on an Aleutian island the measure would get a huge majority. But you won't see this taken up by a legislature.
We are all eugenicists: Of course. Look at people choosing mates. They are doing eugenics.
Once scientists discover a large assortment of genetic alleles contribute to IQ and that these alleles are unevenly distributed the intellectual terrain of America (and European countries too) will get reshaped. People who are in the closet about their beliefs about human nature are going to become a lot more willing to voice those beliefs. Then the subject of eugenics will reenter mainstream debate.
Coercion: Remember there are always carrots as well as sticks. Offer dummies subsidies if they don't reproduce and many will sign up to live off the welfare state after getting tubes tied or a vasectomy. We just have to make the payments attractive enough.
I honestly believe one can construct a welfare environment that prevents poor people from reproducing without sterilization. For example, Japan has a plethora of "parasite singles" (look it up on wikipedia) that live with their parents and do not have children. I do not know how such an environment will be constructed in the United States.
I do not advocate extreme eugenic measures; I hope the next generation of eugenics would be an affirmation of positive liberty (the liberty that every parent has the right to have a child that isn't only a product of stochastic mechanisms) rather than an infringement of negative liberty such as sterilization. The new eugenics will be extremely precise and will not demand the poor to stop having children, only to start having better children. We can confidently abandon the crude methods of the old eugenics and engage in the precise discrimination of the progeny based on the difference in the sequences of nitrogenous aromatic molecules in a particular polymer.
I do not know about your comment on human nature though. I wonder what will happen if various group memberships (for example being Catholic or liberal) are not taken into account. Again, some Catholics do get abortions when they get pregnant even if the previously engaged in a vociferous repudiation of abortion. I do imagine the religious constraints will not be enough to suppress the new eugenics.
I maybe be irrational sometimes (unlike yourself) because I believe in utopian ideologies with extreme fervor like a technological singularity and transhumanism while this does not corrupt your views.