2012 September 30 Sunday
Student Loan Debt: The New Serfdom

Americans can't escape student loan debt thru bankruptcy. A rapidly rising percentage of households carry the burden of student loan debt.

About one out of five (19%) of the nation’s households owed student debt in 2010, more than double the share two decades earlier1 and a significant rise from the 15% that owed such debt in 2007, just prior to the onset of the Great Recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data.

The Pew Research analysis also finds that a record 40% of all households headed by someone younger than age 35 owe such debt, by far the highest share among any age group.

The burden of student debt has increased even more because incomes declined during and after the Great Recession. The burden will only grow heavier in the next recession. The Republican Party is missing out on a great campaign issue where they could promote far cheaper ways to get an education and valuable training.

The poor can't afford debt payments of course. They've got too little money for basics, let alone for debt. This educational system that lures people into education that will not boost their earning potential is cruel.

It also finds that, whether computed as a share of household income or assets, the relative burden of student loan debt is greatest for households in the bottom fifth of the income spectrum, even though members of such households are less likely than those in other groups to attend college in the first place.2

Since 2007 the incidence of student debt has increased in nearly every demographic and economic category, as has the size of that debt.

"The Undiscovered Jew", In the comments of a post by Half Sigma, has recently made the point that Republicans could achieve multiple goals by promoting alternatives to the current expensive liberal higher education system.

Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who is the most effective conservative in America because he's the only conservative making aggressive moves to cripple the liberal bureaucracy rather than simply knocking out Democrat polls, has a good idea.

His education reform plan would let anyone test out of classes in any subject to earn their degree faster. On the surface, this only appears to be an attempt to save undergraduates tuition debt by letting them skip classes they have already mastered.

However, his plan is actually a stealth attack on the liberal arts because liberal arts classes are the easiest classes to test out of because there's no math or science involved in the tests. However, because Walker doesn't overtly say he wants to defund the humanities, Walker is able to gain public support for his plan because ordinary voters like the fact Walker's flexible degree program will cut tuition costs.

This is the way to defund the liberal arts - by getting fewer students to take lib arts classes. This will defund the liberal arts because department funding is to a large extent based on how many students are taking x amount of credit hours in the department. The fewer students taking lib arts credit hours, the more starved of funding the liberal arts becomes.

While TUJ emphasizes the partisan advantage of basically defunding left-leaning propagandists I think efforts to cut higher education costs are essential in an environment of declining living standards and higher education costs that rise faster than inflation. People can't afford higher ed. Technology enables cheaper forms of lecture delivery. Online lectures and online books can slash costs. Online tests for practice drilling can help speed learning. Education delivered online is also hugely more convenient. Watch lectures or take tests any time and anywhere you have power and a broadband connection. If you can trouble yourself to download in advance then your only need will be power.

I want to weld Walker's flexible degree program with giving undergrads the option of skipping their gened requirements completely to focus only on their major, as is done in Britain and Australia.

I've made this point repeatedly in the past. The current status quo is unsustainable. Higher education costs too much. We need online lectures for most topics (and YouTube has them for a large assortment of topics). We need online tests that let you check your knowledge and to drill to enhancement your memory recall and mental skills. Then we need proctored tests where you can pay to just take tests.

Tim Worstall sees the current structure of universities as medieval.

I first saw this point over at Brad Delong’s. That the whole teaching structure of a university is based upon the medieval expense of books. No individual student could possibly hope to afford even one book directly, let alone the small library required to read all around a subject. Thus the form of tuition of the lecture, where the Master reads to the assembled from the text.

Higher education is next in line for massive restructuring. After that comes medicine. Everything that costs a lot and has soaring costs is in line to get restructured. When world oil production starts coming down off its current bumpy plateau the downward pressure on living standards will assure that both higher education and medicine lose their privileged status.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 30 08:39 AM  Education Costs
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2012 September 27 Thursday
More Money And Higher Rank Mean Less Stress On Job

Those who make more are less stressed on the job.

Presumably because they are not as stressed about pay, the highest concentration of workers who said that nothing stressed them out on the job, 37%, were those making $100,000 or more.

Higher level leaders are less stressed.

A group of researchers from Stanford University and Harvard University found that higher-level leaders had less stress than non-leaders or lower-level leaders, upending a common perception that decision-makers experience more anxiety.

This all reminds me of my previous post: Why People Deny The Advantages Of More Money.

Other research I've read found that people who have more control of their work environment and responsibilities are less stressed. I've said before rise up, excel, advance. Really, being a lower level peon is no good. Become a highly ranked manager or a highly ranked technical professional. Heck, just be the top guy on an oil derrick. Or at least work in something where you can't get interrupted by emergency problems and sudden customer demands. Hard work properly pursued is the path to a lower stress and higher income life.

Your choices are up or down. You aren't going to stay still.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 27 10:12 PM  Human Nature Status
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2012 September 23 Sunday
Declining Restaurant Labor Costs And Living Standards

Upscale restaurant sales are up while the middle class is treading water. Take this as a warning. Try harder.

At Darden’s premium brand, the steakhouse chain Capital Grille (where the average per-person check is between $70 and $72), same-restaurant sales rose 4 percent. At the firm’s restaurants aimed at the middle class, same-restaurant sales were more mixed: up 0.3 percent at Olive Garden and down 2.6 percent at Red Lobster.

You've got a choice: Try to go up or let economic forces pull you down. High unemployment rates translate into lower wages and declining labor costs.

In the 2010 fiscal year, labor costs represented 33.1 percent of sales; labor costs fell to 31.3 percent in the 2012 fiscal year and down to 30.4 percent in the first quarter of the 2013 fiscal year.

Restaurants are an industry ripe for automation. Imagine being able to order your food before you get there and robots that set out your food before you arrive. Pizza chains such as Dominoes, Papa Johns, and Pizza Hut already accept online orders. I've ordered and paid online. I see from a quick Google search that some online ordering companies offer online ordering services to any restaurant. Information flow is especially easy to automate. You shouldn't have to wait for the check. A touch panel on the wall should give you your costs and let you slide a card thru a card reader to pay your bill.

The physical work of a restaurant is harder to automate. But robots in the kitchen will eventually take over most food preparation work. The future employment prospects for lower skilled workers look grim.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 23 10:04 PM  Economics Living Standards
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2012 September 22 Saturday
Why People Deny The Advantages Of More Money

In the comments section of the Half Sigma post about Marc Andreesen (Netscape founder) about the vanishing middle class which I previously linked The Legendary Linda makes a pretty accurate claim about why people deny wanting money.

To not want money is irrational because virtually everything a human could want (status, luxury, sex, food, beauty, health, love, knowledge, power, intellectual stimulation, children, convenience, happiness, time) is for sale if you have enough money and you know where to shop. To not want money implies either that one don't want anything or that one is not intelligent enough to figure out how money would get them what they want.

Most likely people say they don't want money because they don't have any, and so to admit that they want something they were unable to get makes them look like a loser. People would rather create entire subcultures eschewing material success than admit they are losers (as predicted by Half Sigma's Loser theory)

It makes sense to try to dampen one's desire for the unattainable. On the other hand, the dampening down can go way too far. You can fail to get up one or two attainable ladder steps because you know you can't make it up 10 ladder steps. The benefits of moderately higher status and money are foregone because one has too great a need to deny the advantages of more money.

My own take on the utility of money: The cost of not having lots of money is going to rise as early stage rejuvenation therapies first hit the market. You'll likely have to travel to get them because the US Food and Drug Administration has created such high barriers for the introduction of stem cell therapies.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 22 08:01 PM  Human Nature Status
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2012 September 19 Wednesday
Aim Higher Since The Middle Is Shrinking

Netscape co-founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen says your only choice is between the upper and lower layers. The middle is not holding. Half Sigma agrees and so do I.

I agree with Andreessen’s statement that “There's no such thing as median income; there's a curve, and it really matters what side of the curve you're on. There's no such thing as the middle class. It's absolutely vanishing.” Settling for just being middle class is not an option today the way it was fifty years ago. You must shoot for the top or likely wind up at the bottom.

Some are moving up and others are moving down. Median incomes have declined back to 1995 levels. My expectation is that the number who can move up will shrink and the downward path will become more heavily traveled. Look at manufacturing for what will happen to services next. Manufacturing companies are only increasing their employment of people with advanced degrees. Easier jobs will get done by machines and computers.

Go for STEM degrees in college. Avoid large college debts. Be ready to move away from wherever you grew up because the higher paying jobs are going to become even more concentrated in places like Silicon Valley.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 19 10:43 PM  Economics Living Standards
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Women With Pre-Marital Doubts: Do Not Marry One

Find a way to find out whether she has doubts.

"People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don't have to worry about them," said Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study. "We found they are common but not benign. Newlywed wives who had doubts about getting married before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce four years later than wives without these doubts. Among couples still married after four years, husbands and wives with doubts were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those without doubts.

"You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does; if you're feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that," he added. "It's worth exploring what you're nervous about."

One way to drive that risk to zero: stay single.

Female doubt is much more predictive than male doubt.

Among women, 19 percent of those who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 8 percent of those who did not report having doubts. For husbands, 14 percent who reported premarital doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9 percent who did not report having doubts.

Doubt proved to be a decisive factor, regardless of how satisfied the spouses were with their relationships when interviewed, whether their parents were divorced, whether the couple lived together before the wedding and how difficult their engagement was.

In 36 percent of couples, the husband and wife had no doubts about getting married. Of those couples, 6 percent got divorced within four years. When only the husband had doubts, 10 percent of the couples got divorced. When only the wife had doubts, 18 percent of couples got divorced. When both partners had doubts, 20 percent of the couples got divorced.

That's only after 4 years. Imagine what happens by 20 years.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 19 09:55 PM  Cultural Wars Marriage
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But Was Romney's 47 Percent Comment Wrong?

Consider all the people who do not work and who collect a government check. People who are old or on disability or welfare or criminals who sit in prisons and really mentally ill people who sit in care facilities or who collect unemployment. They might not add up to 47 percent. But still others get stuff from the government even as they work some. How far off is Romney with the 47% number?

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

There's a negative income tax for low earners. So a lot of people get money from the government, a substantial portion of the population.

What I'd like to see quantified: what percentage of the population are net taxpayers? In other words, what percentage of the population pay more in taxes than they get in subsidized housing, foodstamps, medical care, unemployment, old age benefits, and other stuff paid for by the government? Is it even half the population?

Whether Romney's 47% number is accurate he's closer to the truth than Obama's liberal supporters in the media want to admit.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 19 08:58 PM  Politics Redistribution
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2012 September 15 Saturday
Median Household Income In USA Still In Decline

Median household income has declined in 9 out of the last 12 years. Are you old enough to remember when living standards went up every year for the vast majority of Americans? Not any more. Median income in America peaked in 1998 and now we are partying like its 1995.

Median annual household income—the figure at which half are above and half below—now stands 8.9% below its all-time peak of $54,932 in 1999, at the end of the 1990s economic expansion.

Yes friends, no progress in 17 years. Even the 90th and 95th percentiles are below peak. A little poorer than last year.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2011, median household income declined, the poverty rate was not statistically different from the previous year and the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Real median household income in the United States in 2011 was $50,054, a 1.5 percent decline from the 2010 median and the second consecutive annual drop.

The nation's official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.0 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. After three consecutive years of increases, neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates.

I've made this point before, but it bears repeating: try harder. If you want to avoid the decline you've got to move up. I am currently working harder than I ever have. So I'm following my own advice on this.

Note that the peak in 1999 was higher than the peak in 2007.

  • Median family household income declined by 1.7 percent in real terms between 2010 and 2011 to $62,273. The change in the median income of nonfamily households was not statistically significant.
  • In 2011, real median household income was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, and was 8.9 percent lower than the median household income peak that occurred in 1999. The two percentages are not statistically different from one another.

You might wonder why. Obvious causes: 1) Outsourcing. Billionaires don't need your labor when they can buy cheaper labor elsewhere; 2) Immigration. More labor. Plus, the labor is lower skilled and therefore earns less; 3) Oil field depletion and other natural resource depletions; 4) Rising Asian demand for the remaining depleting resources.

What's amazing to me: these causes of stagnant living standards have swamped 17 years of technological progress. What's scary to me: These causes will get worse in their effects and yet these problems are not part of the mainstream political debate. Plus, we aren't getting as many fundamental discoveries that enable new industries as we used to. Name a discovery as economically enabling as the laser or the semiconductor that came after 1960. I can not think of one. We seem to be on a course of declining economic growth rate.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 15 08:17 AM  Economics Living Standards
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2012 September 09 Sunday
Job Growth Out Of Recession Concentrated At Bottom

What declining living standards look like:

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

I've seen this report spun against the theory of the rise of the Zero Marginal Product (ZMP) Worker (workers too useless to be worth employing) I think this pattern is consistent with the ZMP problem. I can see two explanations why: First, it makes more sense for employers to automate the higher paying jobs first if the cost per hour saved is similar. Automate the $20 per hour manual labor job and leave the $9 per hour manual labor job for when the cost of automation drops even further. Second, some of the higher paying jobs became lower paying when demand for them dropped.

Over the last 40 years more people moved up than down as the middle class hollowed out. But the more recent pattern (see above) has been for a growth in jobs at the bottom. I see this as a last step until (increasingly nimble) robots get so cheap that robots become cheaper than minimum wage fast food kitchen workers. Human laborers at McDonald's will become even more sparse than as human laborers at gasoline stations. You'll key in your order, slide a card, and in a few minutes food will slide down out of an opening.

I think manufacturing provides a picture of what the future will be like. In manufacturing only employment for advanced degrees increased and employment for those with bachelors degrees went down by a fairly small amount. Below the bachelors degree level employment plummeted and continues a sharp descent.

Update: Here's another curious fact about the US economy: most of the employment growth is for older workers. That paints a bleak picture for younger workers.

Since January 2010, job seekers age 55 and up have accounted for 70 percent of all employment gains in the US. Viewed over the past decade, the pattern is even more stark. That older group has added some 10 million employees to its ranks, even as employment among other age groups has actually declined by more than 4 million.

What I'd like to know: Are skilled older workers winning over less skilled younger workers? Why the disproportionate job growth for the older? Desperation due to lack of money to retire on? Or something else?

The growth in jobs only at the bottom translates into lower household incomes as compared to the top of the last business cycle.

The decline looks even worse when comparing today’s incomes to those when the recession began in December 2007. Then, the median household income was $54,916, meaning that incomes have fallen 7.2 percent since the economy last peaked.

Welcome to the era of declining living standards. The decline has many causes. It will not be fixed by either political party's proposed policy changes. We are now living in the longest period of lowered incomes since the Great Depression. When world oil production starts going down the decline will get much worse.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 09 03:22 PM  Economics Labor
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How To Compensate For Dunning Kruger Effect In Democracy?

The biggest problem with democracy is the Dunning Kruger Effect: Incompetent people aren't smart enough to recognize their own incompetence The problem of incompetence is a growing concern of mine as I expect American society's competence to decline. This thought keeps bringing me back to the Dunning Kruger Effect: the incompetent aren't competent enough to recognize their own incompetence. When such a large fraction of the population can vote and become government employees how to at least partially mitigate the effects of all these incompetents making bad decisions?

DAVID DUNNING: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.

To understand reality requires a pretty high IQ. But the vast majority of people lack IQs high enough to make sense of the world. They are able to live and function in industrialized societies because a fairly small fraction of the population can create and maintain the complexity that everyone else benefits from. Yet less competent ones end up with power and they make bad decisions with the support of even less competent masses. What to do?

Since cluelessness is a bigger problem than self-deception and self-deception is a bigger problem than denial the idea that we can reason with nutcases on the Right or the Left is just not realistic. The rhetoric spewed by members of both parties during every election (like now) serves as a reminder of just how clueless people are. I'm not just talking about the masses. I'm also talking about major popular politicians, pundits, and reporters. Even academics in less rigorous and demanding fields are too innumerate and flawed in their methods of reasoning.

The Alt Right needs to come up with policy ideas aimed at reducing the damage that comes from pervasive incompetence. Got any ideas?

By Randall Parker 2012 September 09 02:42 PM  Human Nature Political Failure
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Razib Khan On Italy's Large Differences In Regional Prosperity

Razib Khan has a noteworthy post up about the huge gap in economic prosperity in Italy between the prosperous north and the much less prosperous south. That might be new news for some of you. But after hearing some Northern Italians complain about the south some years back I took an interest in the Northern League's resentment of the parasitic south and these results fit with the stereotypes heard from northern Italians. Yes, stereotypes are often accurate.

What I find most surprising: northern Italy, western Austria, and southern Germany are a cluster of wealth. That cluster is wealthier than eastern Austria (which contains Vienna) and and is even more prosperous than even the western part of northern Germany. I did not expect that.

See this Google map of Europe Switch between that map and Razib's first map to see how the prosperity aligns with regions of countries.

What causes these differences? Genetics? Social capital? Propinquity? The prosperity zone cuts across national boundaries and language zones.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 09 02:00 PM  Culture Compared
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2012 September 05 Wednesday
Elections As A Distraction And Sanctification Of Ideas

Thinking about the constrained range in which issues get debated during US elections. My thoughts on this: Nothing can get on the election agenda that is not already part of the mainstream discussion. Elections are between competing sets of ideas. The realistic ideas are not allowed into the discussion. So realistic and useful ideas about fundamental problems do not compete and do not become part of the election agenda.

Elections are for sanctifying already competitive ideas. Elections are a distraction from the earlier stages of policy and idea development in the public sphere. Our problems lie at much earlier stages.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 05 08:07 PM  Democracy Failure
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After Egyptian Dictatorship Comes Epidemic Harassment Of Women

Democracy's healing virtues are greatly exaggerated.

Campaigners in Egypt say the problem of sexual harassment is reaching epidemic proportions, with a rise in such incidents over the past three months. For many Egyptian women, sexual harassment - which sometimes turns into violent mob-style attacks - is a daily fact of life, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell in Cairo.

Last winter, an Egyptian woman was assaulted by a crowd of men in the city of Alexandria.

In video footage of the incident, posted on the internet, she is hauled over men's shoulders and dragged along the ground, her screams barely audible over the shouts of the mob.

Not civilized.

Muslims do not embrace the separation of religion from government.

In the West, separation of church and state is generally enshrined in constitutions and assumed in society. But these Islamist parties are operating in societies that are comfortable with religion informing politics, and even expect it. Most politicians across the Arab world support a degree of Islam in lawmaking, and even those who don't, avoid the secularist label, which smacks of godlessness in this region. In Egypt and Libya, even non-Islamist parties have agreed that sharia should be a basis of lawmaking. But Islamists take things a step further: They want religion to play a larger role in society – and there is broad public support for that in some places.

Progress is not inevitable, certainly not in the Middle East. Egypt's reversal can be seen in a series of pictures of women at Cairo University in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004 (same pictures here). Tragic illustration of the non-inevitability of progress. For another example, see pictures of Karachi's past. I look around the world and see vanquished civilizations without a war to defeat them.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 05 08:05 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2012 September 02 Sunday
Hate Crimes Charges Pursued Against Amish Splinter Sect

The Amish guys from a splinter sect who were forcibly cutting the beards of more mainstream Amish are on trial for assorted crimes involving assault and also hate crimes. The attackers are being prosecuted for hate crimes.

The 16 defendants could be tried for simple assault without going into the fine points of what those on both sides call the Amish way. But to prove the far more serious hate-crime charges brought here by the United States attorney, Steven M. Dettelbach, prosecutors must show that religious differences drove the attacks. Groups from Mr. Mullet’s 18-family settlement near Bergholz, Ohio, are accused of forcibly shearing the beards and hair of perceived enemies.

The Amish Amish population doubling rate is 14 years. They demonstrate a problem with the rosy scenarios about human population growth will eventually stop and reverse. No, we can't count on fertility to continue to drop. Any group that resists modern culture and maintains a high fertility rate will eventually swamp the secularists who delay reproduction and have few kids.

If splinter groups like Mr. Mullet's start popping out kids at a faster rate than the Amish as a whole then we could find ourselves faced with a quite hostile and intolerant Amish sect.

So prosecutors have stressed the religious aspects of Mr. Mullet’s bitter feuds with critics and those who dared flee his settlement, and whom he accused of doing the Devil’s work. They have heard Amish describe how profoundly their self-worth is tied to their uncut beards — Mr. Mullet’s is a foot long — and hair. One of the forcibly shorn men, his wife said, sat through dinners holding his napkin over his chin.

To counter the hate-crime charges, defense lawyers have tried to focus instead on the personal grudges and family disputes that affected the choice of victims.

I am bothered by the idea that a criminal who hates their victim is worse than a criminal who does not hate their victim. What if the criminal is entirely indifferent to their victim and just enjoys watching people suffer? Might not be any hate involved. Or suppose a group of criminals wants to scare people out of pursuing some behavior due to a deep and strong belief the behavior is wrong. So the criminals terrorizes anyone who engages in the behavior. The terrorizing criminals need not feel any hatred toward their victims.

The mania to feverishly prosecute hate crimes seems like another madness of the Left. Hate crime prosecutions end up being more heavily weighted against out-of-favor groups while supposedly oppressed groups get off lightly. Hate crime prosecutions can turn too easily into tools to enforce an orthodoxy of beliefs and values. I'd prefer we come up with a different framework for talking about group crimes and organized terrorizing crimes that distinguishes between different kinds of threats in ways that do not run the risk of oppressing dissent or prosecuting some kids who don't have deep and abiding hatred but who expressed some epithets in a fight.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 02 03:40 PM  Cultural Wars Values
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Conservatives Have Lost The Culture War

In a review of Dinesh D'Souza's documentary film about Barack Obama (which I'd never heard about before - I avoid personality politics due to lack of time) Steve Sailer praises the aesthetics of the movie and comments Republicans need to produce films with high aesthetic value. This makes sense.

Aesthetics are crucial to Republicans, since, let’s face it, most partisan politics are status games, and looks are the prime status marker. The GOP has started nominating good-looking candidates. Now they need more good-looking films like this one.

Partisan political rhetoric involves large quantities of rhetorical ploys such as definitional retreat, loaded language, poisoning the well, pregnant negative, and the classic red herring. This is all very effective because most people aren't competent enough to recognize how they are being deceived. Plus, they are too dumb to realize they are too dumb to recognize they are being fed a steady diet of deceptive rhetoric. Who is winning this rhetorical war of irrational arguments? On most fronts the Left wins and the anti-scientific sentiments of the Left have grown much larger as they face no faction powerful enough to call them on their nonsense. The Left packages their own propaganda in much more pleasing cultural products and in much larger quantities. The Left controls so much media that their rhetorical nonsense just plain drowns out right-wing rhetorical nonsense. At the same time the Left's rhetorical onslaught of irrationality drowns truths spoken by the heterodox minority of rational and empirical thinkers on the Right. Even reasonable liberal scientists can't be heard on human and most are cowed by the propagandists from expressing their views.

Why is the level of discourse in American politics so incredibly low after science has advanced so far? My guess at the biggest root cause of why our elites lie so much: near universal voting suffrage. If our elites didn't need to appeal to the left half of the IQ bell curve then their main audience would be much smarter and much more demanding of honesty and rationality. We need intellectual standards for voters. Our voters are too dumb and they are the targets of competing irrational arguments. It could be worse. At least criminals are still excluded - but for how much longer? We need a reversal of the trend toward universal voting suffrage.

I am stimulated to think all of this from reading a Chuck Rudd post on Gucci Little Piggy: The liberal media conditions people in ways that make it hard to have rational debates about important issues.

This is the first and hopefully the last time I link favorably to Jonathan Chait.  But his article at New York magazine is great.  The point, in a nutshell, is that the media is liberally biased (no news there) – conservatives’ worst fears have come true; that media has an impact on culture rather than just being a prism through which prevailing culture is reflected; the medium can be seen as a source of political capital for liberals to refer back to.  It contains memes, tropes, and entrenched arguments which evoke knee-jerk scoffs among liberal ideologues which allow them to bypass the detailed argumentation that is more often required of conservatives. Conservatives have lost the culture war because they have been routed by this medium.

Chait makes, in my mind, a stunning admission at the end of his piece:  “But they [conservatives] do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.”

Can the Right find ways to create media products that do a better job of meeting irrationality for irrationality in a way that partially cancels out the Left's irrational onslaught of conditioning for myths and falsehoods? If it can't then it will keep on losing ground.

Or can the forces of rationality prevail? The science of human nature will advance far enough just in the next 10 years as to disprove in much greater detail assorted myths on the Left (further undermining the Blank Slate and denials of the importance genetic variation frequency distributions on cognitive differences). So can secular liberal propagandists continue to prevail against advances in science? Will members of the secular liberal high church (think Harvard social scientists) more openly rebel against the mythology promoted by liberal propagandists? Will a loss of secular liberal faith undermine the excesses of the Left in America?

By Randall Parker 2012 September 02 08:11 AM  Cultural Wars Western
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2012 September 01 Saturday
Will Israel Attack Iran Nuke Facility?

Due to a lack of ability to strike deep underground the Israeli window of time for attacking Iran's nuclear weapons program is going to close soon. The reason: Iran's nuclear program is moving into a deep underground Iranian facility.

American officials have repeatedly tried to assure the Israelis that they have the country’s back — and to remind them that Israel does not have the ability, by itself, to destroy the facility, built beneath a mountain outside Qum. The United States does have weaponry that it believes can demolish the lab, but in Mr. Obama’s judgment there is still what the White House calls “time and space” for diplomacy, sanctions and sabotage, a combination the Israelis say has been insufficient.

What I do not understand: Why haven't the Israelis developed the means to destroy the Qum Fordow facility?

The United States has the 30,000 lb Massive Ordinance Penetrator bunker buster bomb which cost the US Air Force only $200 million to develop. So why haven't the Israelis developed such a bomb themselves? A few hundred million dollars is well within the range of their weapons budget. Do they lack the base technology from which to construct it?

Do the Israelis lack a means of delivery for such a large weapon? A Boeing 777 Freighter can carry 229,000 pounds of freight. Surely the Israelis could modify one to allow it to drop something out an added rear cargo door. Basically, upgrade it into a military freight aircraft and then use it on a bomb run. They could probably manage to get the aircraft over Iranian airspace by having it pretend to be on a conventional freighter flight.

It would be unwise of the Israelis to trust their security to the United States. The US is a declining power and its demographics are shifting in ways that will reduce US support for Israel in the future. Though I am far less concerned about the impact these changes will have on Israeli security than they'll have on American citizens.

By Randall Parker 2012 September 01 09:41 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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