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2012 November 07 Wednesday
Heather Mac Donald: Romney Avoided Entitlements Problem

The election was not usefully educational for the ignorant and short-sighted masses. Before the recent US election Heather Mac Donald offered a pre-mortem on the Republican failure to address the biggest problems facing the nation. She left out a few. Our drags on the economy are many and growing.

This should have been a campaign fanatically focused on the unsustainable growth in entitlement obligations, government spending, and debt, all of which are drags on the economy, and yet, astoundingly, even after the promising selection of one of the most eloquent analysts of the federal budget as VP nominee, the Romney campaign avoided any serious discussion of entitlement reform. Perhaps it is naÔve to expect otherwise in a democracy, but I think that there is real value in an electoral mandate. If Romney didnít have the guts to speak forcefully and honestly about the hard budget choices that will need to be made, and assuming that that reluctance stemmed from his pollsters accurately reading the national will, weíre in big trouble.

I wish we could have a parallel universe where Romney would have been totally blunt and honest to see how the American electorate would have responded. My guess is he would have gotten fewer votes but enabled a more honest discussion of our financial problems in future years.

My take on fights over current era elections: The larger battle has already been lost on numerous fronts. Now we are arguing about policies that will impact the rate of decline. No way are we going to do such a radical shift in policies to reverse the decline. We are living in too big of an overshoot with too deluded a populace for radical changes to be possible. We are in financial overshoot with unpayable entitlements and unsustainable debt build-up. Many demographic changes ensure that overshoot will continue. For example, with the rise in illegitimate births and the delay in marriage many more women will vote for government as substitute husband and provider. Hard headed reason has gone out the window.

We are also in environmental overshoot and natural resources overshoot. Back in the 1970s the debates over population growth, resource usage, and related topics were the right debates to have. But the realists lost and America and the rest of the world continued on their unsustainable paths. To even have a debate about population growth is no longer acceptable in the mainstream. The folly of the marginalization of the realists is going to become painfully apparent in the coming decades.

Economic growth has become harder to do. It will become harder still. The big decline in median household income is a sign of worse times to come. We can not afford our current living standards.

Headed into this new era we can expect the US government to become more harmful to the economy. Labor laws will become bigger drags on the ability of US companies to compete. A US Supreme Court dominated by the Left is now inevitable as Republicans start losing most Presidential elections. Racial preferences won't die out. They'll grow. More highly productive people will be better off in smaller companies than would otherwise be the case because the large companies will have stronger legal mandates to discriminate against the most productive.

I keep hoping for a refuge to emerge. The larger companies might therefore try to set up brain center operations in small countries set up to pull in brains from around the world. I'm looking for signs that some countries will take on that specialization. Singapore seems a likely candidate. But to scale to the level big corps need a country with good weather in the 10-20 million population range would need to shift toward allowing very high IQ immigrants and only very high IQ immigrants. I do not see an obvious candidate.

America's decline could be slowed by a change in the voting franchise to restrict it to smarter people. But such a change has little chance of happening. Therefore we should look elsewhere for signs that some nations will adopt more realistic policies about what matters in the 21st century: brains and natural resources. The American myth of exceptionalism is going to have to die and the geneticists are going to have to present us with a much more detailed understanding of brain genetics before we will have any chance of turning our demographics from our current destructive path. The odds of turning toward a physically more sustainable path seems even less likely. The competition for remaining depleting resources will intensify.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 November 07 08:18 PM 

George said at November 7, 2012 10:12 PM:

"The folly of the marginalization of the realists is going to become painfully apparent in the coming decades."

No it won't. The people will just double down and go further into the fantasy world.

chris said at November 8, 2012 2:10 AM:

White's in America should aliya/repatriate back to Europe and take back/reconquer their homelands. Leave America and its progressive liberal/cultural marxist experiment to rot.

The only reason America is powerful is because of right wing white men. Without them it will weaken incredibly from which generations later, a renewed and powerful Europe will re-take it.

Black Death said at November 8, 2012 8:20 AM:

Totally agree - the US is in terminal decline and won't be coming back. Our best days are behind us. When the crash will arrive and whether it will be with a bang or a whimper is anybody's guess. I'm a Baby Boomer and probably won't be around to see the end, which is just as well. But our children and grandchildren will be living in a much different - and bleaker - world than the one we experienced. My question is this: what's the proper strategy for a young person to pursue? If he or she decides to stay here, what's the best course to provide maximum insulation against the coming darkness? What about emigration? To which countries? I think Europe is probably worse off than we are, plus they have the scary problem of massive Muslim immigration. South America or Africa? Forget it. Asia? Singapore is nice, but it's small, the climate is unpleasant and the government is not really democratic. Australia or New Zealand? I've visited both, and they're very nice, but I just don't know enough about them to decide. Other thoughts?

DoJ said at November 8, 2012 10:23 AM:

@Black Death: You left out the most convenient, and quite possibly best, option. (Assuming the Canadians will let our hypothetical young person in, anyway.)

Mthson said at November 8, 2012 1:19 PM:

@Black Death:

As a young person, I think the US will continue to be fine. Smart people in the US interact exclusively with other smart people, as if the rest of the country doesn't exist. And some states will continue to be low tax.

Smart young people from abroad continue to come here because the US is the best place in the world for ambitious people who want to be at the center of global industry.

IMHO, the decline of the US is probably temporary, only lasting from the 1970s to around the 2050s. Things will start to look pretty good once reprogenetics is beginning to raise the average IQ in 2050 from e.g. 95 toward 110.

It's probably inevitable that Latinos will look like Jessica Alba, and African-Americans will look like Zoe Saldana or Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). It's going to be a different place than it is now.

Justinian said at November 8, 2012 2:33 PM:

On population growth:

By the 70s the population growth problem was already in the process of correcting itself throughout the western world.

The problem going forward (and even back in the 70s) won't be having too many people, but rather the wrong people (low IQ) having the lion's share of the new births.

Randall Parker said at November 8, 2012 7:56 PM:


The US population is still growing too fast.


Sure, you can interact with other smart people while a growing portion of your earnings go to taxes to support dumber people.

As if the rest of the country doesn't exist: Some future Supreme Court rulings will make that harder to do.

Raising IQ: There are several long lag times between the time that we discover the IQ genes till when embryo selection for higher IQ embryos starts to when embryo selection for IQ becomes high enough frequency to shift average baby IQ above the previous generation to when enough smarter people get far enough into adulthood to make a big financial and political impact.

Meanwhile, you are going to spend more of your life in the intervening decades.

AA said at November 8, 2012 8:12 PM:

"As a young person, I think the US will continue to be fine.--

You're going to get fucked. Hard.

Lono said at November 9, 2012 11:40 AM:


Totally agree with you. I am presently organizing and screening fellow Mensans in an effort to prepare a core group that will be both financially and psychologically ready to take advantage - and become early adopters - of the coming intelligence explosion.

I believe certain groups like Humanity+, SIAI, CFAR, and the Singularity University will also continue to help form progressive alliances that will greatly and positively influence societies progress towards the coming singularity. While a post singularity world is somewhat unpredictable - I believe positioning several key players now can help prevent unnecessary disruption to the further uplifting of our species.

Mirco Romanato said at November 10, 2012 12:24 PM:


In Italy there are many tax brackets and the top earning people contribute a lot less to the tax revenues than the people int he lower brackets (compared to the US).
At the end of the day, the top earners are the most able to avoid the taxes, they simple go under the radar, emigrate to another country with less government or make the government write some loophole for them.
In Italy many small enterprises moved to east Europe for taking advantage of the low cost work force (usually Romania), then with the time, they are moving all the production there and closing shop here.
And Italy is not a small potato, it is second only to Germany as a manufacturer in Europe, France is third.

I think you will see many industries move to other countries / states with saner laws and tax burdens.
And you will see some reversal in policies like oil extractions and likes. When the government is starving for money they will be willing to do anything to obtain it.
The problem is there will be a lot less people willing to give money to the government because there will be a lot less trust in it.

When the economic tempest will arrive in its full force (we have see nothing yet, just foreplay and appetizers) the people less prepared and without skills will be the most hard hit. The problems will be for the people psychologically unable to cope without the government helping them and giving handout to them. Like when the slaves were freed and many of them ended dying and starving because they had no skill to cope with the new freedom. Even the USSR appeared eternal when I was young. Then it collapsed is a blink of an eye.

By the way, Europe have not a real Muslim problem. The real problem is governments committed to insane policies or unable to take hard choices (because of the backlash from the EU and other political bodies). Just wait when they lose their power, when the money they print is valueless and they are unable to pay for the police and the armed forces; then you have Greece, where the police is overwhelmingly pro Golden Dawn and they look the other side when GD attack immigrants (mainly Middle Orientals and Africans). When the push come to shove, the police will align with their people and with who is able to pay their wages. Immigrants (mainly Muslims and Africans) are tolerated because they are protected by the governments and useful to them. But they are becoming every day less valuable and useful to protect and a liability.

In Muslims start to make real noises the backlash will be very harsh. Economic crisis will polarize people (like in Greece) and will force people to take sides. Few will take the side of Muslims.

asdf said at November 10, 2012 7:38 PM:

Smart people tend to be more liberal and more interventionists. They have massive ego and arrogance problems. And in case you hadn't noticed they already basically run the country (they make all the key decisions, man all the key posts). Smart people are a much greater problem then dumb people. Dumb people don't have the same drive to "fix" society.

Randall Parker said at November 11, 2012 10:45 AM:


If an Italian works abroad does the Italian government tax their income? Or is the US unique in doing this?

Italy as a manufacturing company: It is amazing how productive northern Italy is. What's the trend in northern versus southern Italy? Which is growing faster? Is the wealth gap between the regions staying the same?

Loss of trust and the full force of the economic tempest: Yes, I see this coming too. There's a real risk that Peak Oil, rising costs for other forms of resource extraction, and aging workforces will act synergistically to make a huge financial panic. The net response to the crisis could become very maladaptive, making the decline faster than it needs to be.

Greece, Italy, and immigrants: With unemployment over 25% in Greece has this caused a large exodus of immigrants? By choice of the immigrants or by government? Do you see still a net influx of immigrants into Italy? Or has the tide turned due to the financial crisis?


I think smart liberals gravitate to government, journalism, and academia and push interventions. I think the smart people in other occupations are not so interventionist. We need an elite that has a more realistic view of human nature. We need to fix our elite. I do not know how to do that.

R. Ellenstein said at November 11, 2012 2:00 PM:

"The US population is still growing too fast."

R. Ellenstein said at November 11, 2012 2:19 PM:

"As a young person, I think the US will continue to be fine."

You mean to say that you believe the U.S. is fine NOW? AA told you that You're gonna get fucked hard. I believe you're already gettig it, you've just gotten used to it, I think.

R. said at November 11, 2012 11:49 PM:

America's decline could be slowed by a change in the voting franchise to restrict it to smarter people.

Somebody said that if the vote had been restricted to PhDs after WW 2 the result would quickly have been a system of Stalinist gulags. Smart Jews and Asians fanatically vote for the dismemberment of our nation and civilization. It ain't a matter of brain power, it's largely a matter of race war that one side simply refuses to acknowledge. Guess which side has a ticket to the gas chambers.

asdf said at November 12, 2012 7:35 AM:


Most people in tech are liberals. Most people in FIRE are liberals. Yes, people in these industries will be against regulation that hurts them and for regulation that helps them. And investment bankers might quote some Ayn Rand at you if they are tired of listening to 1% memes (even though they deserve it). However, these people are all by and large liberals. The data shows it and my personal experience with these people back it up.

Randall Parker said at November 12, 2012 10:09 PM:


Where I work people only very rarely discuss politics. So I have a hard time figuring out their political leanings. In defense contractors I came across very rightward-leaning engineers. Though these were almost all white guys.

asdf said at November 13, 2012 4:33 AM:

Engineers, especially those outside Silicon Valley or even the coasts in general are very conservative. Include white and the fact that they would work on building weapons and I'd be very very surprised if they were liberal.

Still, if you pressed them I wonder how many would be libertarian types rather then conservatives. That's basically just liberal light. Once you accept the basic liberal assumptions such as, "the purpose of life is individual self actualization," then the rest becomes a rather boring debate about whether the market, government, or some other institution best accomplishes this. That's a debate liberalism inevitably wins for various reasons. However, I'm getting rather sidetracked now.

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