2012 December 31 Monday
Nail Houses In China

Nail houses are houses whose owners would not sell out to developers in China. You've got to see the pictures to appreciate this phenomenon. What surprises me: the legal system at least some parts of China is strong enough to prevent developers from forcing out the property owners. I wonder what percentage of nail house attempts succeed.

How often do developers use bribes on courts and police to allow them to force out land owners? Also, since some of the nail houses are in the middle of highways I'm surprised that China doesn't have eminent domain laws to allow governments to seize the land and force a sale. That happens in the United States very often. In fact, in the United States local governments use eminent domain to allow the governments to buy up and turn it over to favored developers. So do Chinese or American land owners have better legal protections of their land ownership?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 31 04:35 PM 
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2012 December 30 Sunday
Kansas Goes After Topeka Sperm Donor For Child Support

The state of Kansas is going after a car mechanic who gave sperm to a lesbian couple for free. Note: at least in some states you are at greater legal risk from sperm donation if your sperm doesn't go thru a medical doctor for delivery.

Topekan William Marotta sought only to become a sperm donor — but now the state of Kansas is trying to have him declared a father.

Marotta donated sperm to a lesbian couple. One member of that couple, Jennifer Schreiner, had the kid. She and the other member, Angela Bauer spit up 12 months after Jennifer's artificial insemination. So did they decide to embark on a pregnancy within a stable relationship? Nope.

Bauer then developed what is described as a serious illness. No longer a breadwinner. Schreiner then filed for support from the welfare state.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families became aware of the situation because Schreiner had to file for Medicaid to secure health insurance for the girl.

Modest proposal: Amend sperm donation law to provide a way for donors to optionally require recipients to put money in an account that can be used for medical insurance and medical bills of any progeny. Ditto an account for baby food. The welfare state could be held off from going after the sperm donor for as long as the baby expenses account wasn't fully drained. Think of the great precedent it would set: people would have to financially prepare themselves to raise children, at least if they wanted to use a sperm donor. Incentives for responsible reproductive behavior are needed.

Pre-conception Health Savings Accounts would provide an incentive for prospective parents to save for babies. Though they'll likely appeal far more to those who are already responsible. What to do about the innately irresponsible?

What's insane: This lesbian couple first adopted 8 children before having one by artificial insemination. People of modest means should not adopt 8 children.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 30 09:18 PM 
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The Fiscal Cliff: American Public Not Blaming Themselves

Missing from most Fiscal Cliff commentary: The American people want low taxes, high social services, high defense spending, and other stuff all at the same time. This isn't possible. Look at who they blame: No ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal? 44% Blame GOP, 36% Obama. I'm going to guess the other 20% don't blame themselves either.

The American people ought to radically lower their expectations. They are getting way more from their governments than they are paying for.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 30 07:51 PM 
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The Human Rights Moral Bubble And Prison IVF

We hear a lot about financial bubbles in stocks, real estate, and heavy metals. But moral belief bubbles are most in need of attention. The biggest moral bubble of all started in the Enlightenment and since then the human rights moral bubble has extended to a dangerous and destructive extent. Example: Courtesy of the European Court of Human Rights criminals serving life sentences will get in vitro fertilization treatments from behind bars so they can have kids.

London - Four murderers and a drug dealer are in line for taxpayer-funded fertility treatment so that they can father a child from behind bars.

These guys carry genes that should not get replicated. We should not let women attracted to killers to make babies with them. We can not count on these women to act in the interest of the rest of the human race. As Heartiste likes to point out, some chicks dig serial killers. You can go on a murderous rampage and, as a result, get love letters in jail. A warden's wife even helped a murderer escape and then lived with him. The sickest one so far: One Argentinian woman is in love with the guy who killed her twin sister. We can not take civilization for granted. Many humans have instincts which lead them to act in ways destructive to the continuation of civilization. A pure rights-based system leads to policy madness.

As far as the Enlightenment's political project is concerned you can consider me post-Enlightenment. We should test proposed rights against consequences rather than treat all imaginable rights as moral absolutes.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 30 07:12 PM 
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Turkey Top Of The Pops On Jailing Journalists

The democratically elected government of Turkey has imprisoned more reporters than any other country in the world. This is the face of moderate Islam. Click thru and appreciate the tragic details.

In its 2012 report, the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, which is based in France, confirms what press freedom activists and international observers have been shouting from the rooftops for years now. The secular, constitutional, democratic, Republic of Turkey, a candidate for EU membership and the only Muslim member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been waging a campaign of terror against freedom of the press, jailing more journalists for their professional activities than any other country in the world.

With 72 journalists currently in prison pending trial, at least 46 of which RSF has determined are being incarcerated for their journalistic work, Turkey has more than twice as many reporters in prison as China (30), followed by Eritrea (28), Iran (26) and Syria (21).

The Turkish military used to restrain the repressive tendencies of Islam by blocking the full flowering of democracy in Turkey. Naturally the US State Department opposes military interventions in democracy as, well, anti-democratic. The liberal elite conventional wisdom is that liberal democracy is synonymous with democracy, copious evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. US foreign policy is morally justified as speeding the realization of Global Liberal Manifest Destiny. When a Middle Eastern Muslim population with (relatively speaking) moderate views on Islam elects a government that locks up lots of people (not just journalists) to silence opposition my reaction is that there's no such thing as moderate Islam.

Click thru and read how Erdogan is imprisoning university rectors, members of parliament, and others who dare oppose Erdogan.

According to the Journalists Union of Turkey, ninety-four reporters are currently imprisoned for doing their jobs. More than half are members of the Kurdish minority, which has been seeking greater freedoms since the Turkish republic was founded, in 1923. Many counts of arrested journalists go higher; the Friends of Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, a group of reporters named for two imprisoned colleagues, has compiled a detailed list of a hundred and four journalists currently in prison there.

The arrests have created an extraordinary climate of fear among journalists in Turkey, or, for that matter, for anyone contemplating criticizing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. During my recent visit there, many Turkish reporters told me that their editors have told them not to criticize Erdogan.

Turkey's population is moderate on Islam in government as compared to Egypt's, where 84% favor the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. So it is not surprising that democracy in Egypt means a very Islamic government with repression of Christians, women, and secularists.

Exercise for the reader: Implications for immigration policy in Western nations?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 30 12:49 PM 
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2012 December 29 Saturday
Correlation Between Fertility, IQ, Conservative Disposition?

Several months ago JayMan made a number of interesting points in a post about liberalism, conservatism, HBD, intelligence and fertility. His most interesting observation: the negative correlation between intelligence and fertility that most realists assume hold for all groups does not seem to hold for extreme conservatives. Not only do conservatives have more kids than liberals (as most of my regular readers surely already know) but also, conservatives at the 7-8 range on the WORDSUM score actually have higher than replacement fertility. Wow.

So among conservatives is the correlation between intelligence and fertility positive or negative? Surely among liberals fertility's correlation with intelligence appears to be negative. Liberal Vermont is not exactly a baby factory.

Another point: It might be a very good thing for the Right that liberals dominate higher education:

As we see here, for the liberals who are reproducing, it is the dumbest ones who are breeding most. The opposite is true for conservatives. Not only will conservatives come to numerically dominate liberals in the future, conservatives will soon intellectually dominate liberals as well.

To the extent that intelligent conservatives are repelled by liberal academia this drives them into the workforce sooner and therefore conservative alienation from the academy raises conservative fertility. Wow, hadn't considered that before.

This reminds me of my latest thought on the problem of dumber people having more kids than smarter people: We do not need dumber women to have fewer kids as much as we need dumber couples to have fewer children. If we could get women from the lower half of the bell curve to hook up with smart men then this would tend cause a rise in IQs. If serial monogamy was heavily weighted toward smart men hooking up with the full range of women this would be enough to prevent the great dumbing down.

I'm not saying I see a way to change social policies, laws, and popular culture to make this happen. But if it did happen it would select for higher intelligence levels in future generations.

Actually, a few countries might accidentally be carrying out this policy: the countries where there's selective female abortion. What's the result? More guys competing for fewer girls. The girls all get taken. I'm guessing the dumber guys tend to lose out to more affluent smarties in the sexual market. Though that's speculation on my part.

What I wonder about China specifically: Are lower, middle, or upper class couples most likely to do selective abortion of female fetuses? Which answer would have dysgenic or eugenic effects? Also, what's the marriage rate for men in China as a function of educational level? Do smarter guys get more interest from Chinese women? The Chinese women might actually be much more sensible (i.e. favoring smart guys) than American women in this regard.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 29 03:29 PM 
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Marilyn Monroe: Cold War Warrior

During the 1950s the FBI monitored Marilyn Monroe to find out if Arthur Miller had turned her into a communist tool.

What really happened: Marilyn married Miller in order to infiltrate the communist party. No doubt she then seduced communists with capitalist fantasies. She divorced Miller in order to emotionally shatter him and leave him too listless to want to be a communist agent. Plus, she was in a hurry to move on to her thorough investigation the Kennedy family. She went thru Jack and Bobby looking for signs of communist sympathies. Eventually the communists, realizing what a threat she was, had her killed and made it look like suicide.

You read it here first: Mae West was her handler who secretly directed Marilyn's anti-communist activities.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 29 10:05 AM 
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2012 December 23 Sunday
NYU Medical School Offering 3 Year Path To Degree

America's elite institutions are slowly but surely coming around to my way of thinking about education. NYU and a few other medical schools are going to start offering faster paths to an MD.

But now one of the nation’s premier medical schools, New York University, and a few others around the United States are challenging that equation by offering a small percentage of students the chance to finish early, in three years instead of the traditional four.

How to build on this: Put all the courses and their tests online. Let undergrads study medical classes in their spare time. So when they go to apply to med school they can even get tested to see how much they already know. An ambitious undergrad could easily learn first and second year med school material before getting a bachelors. Then that summer learn more and get thru the rest of the material in another year. A 23 year old could graduate from medical school.

Throw in the ability of teen kids to take college courses at the age of 16 and it is not unreasonable to expect 21 year olds to graduate from medical school. Big money savings, less debt going into adult life, longer working life with more services provided to patients, taxes paid to government, earlier entry into family formation.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 23 07:51 PM 
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North Korea Counterfeiting 100 Dollar Bills: How To Stop?

David Wolman, a Wired editor who has written a book on counterfeiting, says the US could put economic pressure on North Korea by stopping the use of the $100 bill. I occasionally find the $100 bill useful. e.g. what happens if a power outage makes credit cards and ATM cards useless? Cash still works. So I'm opposed to this idea.

An alternative proposal: Make counterfeits easier to detect by putting a really large number on every $100 bill and make it so the number can only be verified as legitimate by a US Treasury computer server. Then banks and merchants could scan and automatically detect bad notes.

The idea here is the number of good numbers would be a very very small fraction of all the numbers in the legal range. Could a note have its numbers printed on it small enough for this to work? Maybe put them all on it 2 or 3 times to deal with smudges?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 23 06:49 PM 
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Afghan Government Corruption

If you pay taxes to the US government you are helping to fund a corrupt government where the relatives of top officials are getting hundreds of millions of dollars fleecing a bank.

What Kroll’s audit found is that on Aug. 31, 2010, the day the Bank of Afghanistan seized Kabul Bank, more than 92 percent of the lender’s loan portfolio — $861 million, or roughly 5 percent of Afghanistan’s annual economic output at the time — had gone to 19 related people and companies, according to the audit.

Is it any wonder the Taliban enjoys considerable support even as US soldiers get killed and injured so these guys can stay in power?

In a society with high rates of consanguineous marriage of course the relatives make out like bandits.

Among the largest beneficiaries were a brother of Mr. Karzai and a brother of First Vice President Muhammad Qasim Fahim who each owned stakes in the bank that had been bought with loans from the bank, according to the audit and regulatory officials.

But Hamid Karzai was such an exotic dresser years ago right after he got into power and came to visit Congress. Sure fooled shallow folks.

Meanwhile, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is negotiating to set up a Taliban diplomatic office in Turkey.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 23 06:10 PM 
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France: The Moderate Basket Case

With a top tax rate of 75% France is going to lose its highest earners. Multinationals will find reasons to station higher paid people in other European countries. The most ambitious young will move to London or Belgium. The French debt level is high enough to be an additional drag on economic growth on top of the tax drag and aging population drag and failed immigrants drag.

Meanwhile, France’s accounts make grim reading. Public debt stands at more than 90 percent of GDP and public spending at 57 percent, a eurozone peak; unemployment is above 10 percent (over 3 million), rising to 25 percent among the young and to much higher levels in some deprived suburbs; and successive downgrades of its vaunted triple-A credit rating have struck a blow at France’s financial standing.

France has a way to decline to catch up with the BBB levels of the worst Euro nations. But the Socialists seem like they are unlikely to change France's course enough to prevent further decline. I am struck by how vulnerable the world has become to another financial crisis. So much debt was run up in the aftermath of the last one that the next one will cause many defaults.

Check out this handy table of how a long list of sovereign national debt is rated by Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poors. S&P has the lowest ratings overall. Though they all agree on total basket case Greece and are close on serious basket cases like Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Portugal looks like the next Euro default. Triple A ratings have become the exception.

Moody's has France on a negative outlook. So Moody's expects further deterioration.

Frankfurt am Main, November 19, 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded France's government bond rating by one notch to Aa1 from Aaa. The outlook remains negative. Today's rating action follows Moody's decision on 23 July 2012 to change to negative the outlooks on the Aaa ratings of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. At the time, Moody's also announced that it would assess France's Aaa sovereign rating and its outlook, which had been changed to negative on 13 February 2012, to determine the impact of the elevated risk of a Greek exit from the euro area, the growing likelihood of collective support for other euro area sovereigns and stalled economic growth. Today's rating action concludes this assessment.

Moody's does not think France is going to grow out of its problems. Plus, France is on the hook for debt in even sicker southern European countries. Plus, the French people aren't wiling to accept cutbacks in the size of the welfare state and in labor market rigidities.

A big shock, say a big oil price spike, would start a lot of dominoes falling. We've eaten thru our safety buffers. High oil prices and other factors prevent fast economic growth. Helicopter Ben Bernanke is already doing $85 billion per month of quantitative expansion to the dollar money supply. We don't have a lot more tools left in the toolbox to try to make economic conditions better. Most of those tools (e.g. stop low skilled immigration, cut incentives for not working) can't be used anyway because powerful political constituencies would block their use.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 23 09:55 AM 
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2012 December 22 Saturday
Democracy Reduces Human Rights In Egypt

The US State Department supports the spread of democracy in the Middle East. Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss. Why? The majority are not keen in freedom.

"Things are definitely worse than under the old regime," said Gamal Eid, of the Arabic Human Rights Initiative. "It is because of the Islamists having power – their sense that they have won."

The Islamist constitution just got approved by a wide margin in a popular vote. As you might expect, the constitution elevates Islam and heightens the intimidation of Coptic Christians. Christians were disenfranchised.

ASSIUT, Egypt -- A campaign of intimidation by Islamists left most Christians in this southern Egyptian province too afraid to participate in last week's referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution they deeply oppose, residents say.

The overwhelming majority of Egyptian muslims favor death for anyone who would leave Islam (apostasy). Democracy does not produce a Western society when the society's values are incompatible with Western values.

The Islamists probably put Christians and general secularists as their top priorities to suppress. Go for the bigger targets first. But artists expect they'll be targeted once the Islamists get to them.

"I think we are at a brink point. The Muslim majority [in Egypt] could just react and suppress artistic expression even more than Hosni Mubarak," Barakat said. The Egyptian playwright Ahmed el-Attar said: "I'm afraid the country is sliding towards fascism. So far culture has been kept on the side. The Muslim Brotherhood don't yet have a cultural agenda. They're talking about focusing on historical Islamic figures. I'm not sure that applies to the Salafis, who question the notion of art itself."

Egypt is an illiberal society. So it will have an illiberal democracy.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 22 10:02 PM 
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A Patient Starved To Death In British Hospital

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll of Americans found that 40% Favor Single-Payer Health Care System, 44% Oppose. Meanwhile the British single payer NHS Alexandra Hospital in Redditch provides occasion for this headline: "An NHS hospital has apologised to 38 families after a patient starved to death and it left other dying people screaming in pain." An elderly woman went unwashed for 11 weeks. If you aren't in Britain read it to see what you are missing.

Price incentives have their flaws. But a single payer system would slow the rate of (very needed) automation of health care. Our path forward should be to accelerate the rate of biotech advance (e.g. by lowering regulatory barriers change) and to make government intervention be more in the direction of incentivizing automation. More robots, microfluidic devices, and machine learning systems.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 22 09:50 PM 
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Funding Single Moms: Cuckolding By Tax Law

Heartiste gets to the hear to the matter.

Any policy which forces men to help defray the costs of single moms, or even married moms, to have kids and a career via mandated maternity leave and daycare and the like is a doomed policy, and an immoral one. It is immoral because it is a cash grab from beta males to women to help them raise unrelated spawnage. It is doomed because it fails to take into consideration the absolute loathing men have for footing the bill for women they aren't fucking to help them raise the kids of other men. It severs the natural quid pro quo between the sexes -- namely, she gives her sex and paternity guarantee for his resources and protection. Mandated "women can have it all" feminist-inspired policies are essentially "she steals his resources and protection for no sex in return." This is what is known in industry parlance as a raw deal.

My reaction to Uncle Sam agent to serve as father provider for single moms: I'm getting cuckolded by millions of women with a gun held to my head by tax laws. I am opposed, very strongly opposed.

What's even worse than being cuckolded by tax collection is the resulting spawn: children raised by single mothers do worse in life. More criminal, less accomplished in their careers. We are funding social pathology.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 22 08:19 PM 
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Anyone Upset If US Tortured Terrorists To Find Bin Laden?

Does this movie harm US standing abroad? I'm flashing on Roman Legions who could intimidate enemies into surrender out of fear of otherwise getting totally wiped out. Fear has utility. The willingness to use any means to get someone who killed many thousands of Americans really has some utility on the world stage.

Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin wrote a scathing letter to Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton on Tuesday, condemning "Zero Dark Thirty" for its suggestion that the use of torture played a part in locating terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

What is wrong with torturing Muslim terrorists in order to find Osama Bin Laden? Isn't this a rather extreme case?

Are McCain, Feinstein, and Levin trying to make the world believe the US government does not use torture? I mean, seriously? What's their motive for the letter? Do they think it improves their reelection prospects? If so, with who exactly?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 22 07:30 PM 
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Fitch Threatens US Credit Downgrade On Fiscal Cliff

No more triple A. Will Fitch go thru with it? That would be cool.

Here's how you have to look at folly: Can you make money off it? It isn't possible to prevent most folly. America's political class has been making big bad decisions (immigration, deficit spending, ridiculous military adventures, rewarding the irresponsible, political correctness) for decades. These decisions are having cumulative damaging effects. Even if they stopped making major bad decisions tomorrow (a fantasy) the effects of past decisions will cost us for decades to come.

So here's how I see the fiscal cliff: If we fall off into a recession then great news! Markets always overreact to good and bad news. A recession is just what we need in order to lower the prices of stocks to get good deals for our retirement portfolios. We need cheap stocks for our retirements because most of us won't get defined benefits pensions and the governments will need to cut back old age entitlements.

Of course you might lose your job in the next recession. Hey, as I keep telling my regular readers: You need to raise your game and make yourself more productive and employable.

A tip on how to become more productive: read books on willpower and try out their techniques. Find out ways to manage yourself more effectively. Roy Baumeister and John Tierney's Willpower book is a good place to start. Charles Duhigg's Power Of Habit is another good one. Learn how to manage yourself better.

You and I can't fix the macro level. But most of us can compensate for the macro problems by making changes in how we conduct our personal lives. Recognize the need to change. Get thru the 5 stages of grief and adapt to what the world is becoming.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 22 09:53 AM 
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2012 December 21 Friday
Intense Competition For Chinese Civil Service Jobs

The Chinese imperial civil service exam system for selecting mandarins to work in the Chinese government still lives. Less than 1 in 50 score high enough to win a place in the Chinese government.

On November 23 and 24, over 1.12 million Chinese across the country flooded to universities and schools to take the annual national civil service exam and jostle with one another for 20,839 positions. This amounts to a chance in every 54 people. But for some plum jobs, such as those at the customs and the taxation bureaus, the competition is extremely fierce – acceptance rates can be as low as one in 8,000.

Plum jobs: the jobs which enable the most income from bribery?

The key question: Is the Chinese government becoming more or less corrupt?

If you could set policy in China how would you recruit people to the government who were less prone to corruption? One can test for smarts. How to test for virtue?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 21 10:48 PM 
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2012 December 20 Thursday
The Devaluation Of The American Labor Pool

A friend recently referred to "the devaluation of American labor pool" as an explanation for what is happening in the American economy. I'm struck by the succinctness of the explanation. Yes, that explains a great deal of what is going on. Obviously, it does not apply to the entire labor pool. But it applies to well more than half of it.

I recommend you think about this at both a personal and societal policy level. We should get personal first. First get your emotional reaction right. My advice is to skip rapidly thru Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Get to acceptance as fast as you can. Accept that the American labor market of the 20th century is roadkill from globalization, automation, and rising natural resource costs.

Once you've reached acceptance you need to think about your career. Hey, don't want to think about your career? The acceptance stage involves a willingness to accept that your career is threatened. Take a long hard look at what you do for a living and ask how long your job is going to last. When does it get automated out of existence? Or hen does your skill set start becoming obsolete if you don't moderately or drastically update it?

Even if your job isn't going to disappear due to automation try to guess whether your pay will keep up with inflation. If it looks like demand for your labor is going to fall then you need to start looking for ways to learn new skills and pursue a strategy that'll insulate you from declining living standards. Accept the need for change. Accept the nee for you to change.

What should be done at a policy level? First off, keep in mind that even if you have great answers to that question (or even mildly good answers) the odds of your answers getting implemented are tso low you should not make national policy your main focus. So don't approach the advocacy of smart national policies as the pursuit of some attainable holy grail. Advocacy ends up being status posing and lame attempts at self psychotherapy. Avoid this. At the same time, it can be satisfying to understand what national policies really ought to be. Making sense of the world can be intellectually satisfying and even useful. But don't let national policy debates distract you from being responsible about your own career and skills development.

At the policy level here are some items the US government ought to do:

  • End the immigration of all but highly skilled labor. The demand for low skilled labor is going to collapse and has already sharply declined.
  • Push money and rules changes at automating education, especially higher education. Services are too expensive. Education is one of the biggest service expenses. It has to become more efficient.
  • Automate medicine as well and for the same reason. Medicine is a large (over 17%) and rising fraction of total GDP. It is harder to automate than education. But it is also a bigger target.
  • Reform patent law. Software patents are a barrier to innovation. Fix this. Stop the parasitism from ridiculous patents on obvious innovations. Alex Tabarrok has written a book outlining, among other things, what to do with software patents.
  • Cut regulations in the labor market, especially around the whole bogus victim scam. No, you are not a victim just because your racial or ethnic group on average makes less than whites.
  • Provide incentives for low IQ teens to stay unpregnant. Dollars for Norplant.
  • Speed up the educations of the smartest so they'll get out of college sooner and be able to reach a state of being able to have kids before becoming infertile.

Any major items I've missed?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 20 10:18 PM 
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2012 December 19 Wednesday
The Rise Of Homeless Young Adults

Susan Saulny, who covers youth for the New York Times, has an interesting piece on young adults who can't make enough money to pay the rent. Click thru and see the video of her interviewing mostly guys who are living on the streets or in shelters in Seattle.

SEATTLE — Duane Taylor was studying the humanities in community college and living in his own place when he lost his job in a round of layoffs. Then he found, and lost, a second job. And a third.

What would be a useful task for some psychometricians and other social scientists: Measure the IQs, do blood tests for drugs and nutrients, and otherwise assess these youthful homeless to figure out quantitatively what is going on. Are these kids at 90 IQ? Or bizarrely at 110? Does depression and resulting lethargy make them have too low productivity in jobs? Or is the labor market really that bad?

Now, with what he calls “lowered standards” and a tenuous new position at a Jack in the Box restaurant, Mr. Taylor, 24, does not make enough to rent an apartment or share one. He sleeps on a mat in a homeless shelter, except when his sister lets him crash on her couch.

Duane do not study humanities. If you had gone for accounting you wouldn't need to work at Jack In The Box. Accounting. That's the ticket. Or computer administration. Or anything else that companies actually want to pay you to do. Hey, if you are smart enough then learn some math. Learn software development. Learn anything that puts your hourly rate at least twice the minimum wage. And then work long hours and save. Avoid living on the streets.

Hey readers: What should a teenager of average or below average intelligence learn to avoid living on the streets? Got some good ideas? How can America's youth respond to the outsourcing, automation, and high natural resource costs that are ripping up demand for low skilled workers? This is the sort of question educational debates should be centered around. How to make kids useful enough that they can avoid homelessness?

The economic interests of colleges and college professors stand in the way of cutting youthful homelessness. Most colleges want to teach lots of economically useless courses and charge high prices. Never mind the growing competition from China, India, and assorted other developing countries. Never mind the massive decline in manufacturing employment. They offer no solution except the mythology that since more educated people make more money that any major works to boost your future. The colleges ignore a big underlying cause for higher performance of the more highly educated: higher intelligence.

The colleges have managed to convince gullible voters that the US federal government should loan money to naive youth to spend on overpriced tuition in low value majors. The kids pile on debt and leave school with little in the way of useful skills. Meanwhile, American youth are competing with millions of Chinese youth who are willing to study science, engineering, software development, and math.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 19 09:13 PM 
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2012 December 17 Monday
Mass Murderers: Blame 1960s Deinstitutionalization

While reading a Daniel Greenfield piece on gun control and whether we are individuals capable of making our own decisions I noticed a piece he did about the rise of mentally ill mass murders which, in turn, led to a piece by Clayton Cramer about how the rise of mass murderers is at least partially a result of letting the mentally ill out of mental hospitals.

For those of us who came of age in the 1970s, one of the most shocking aspects of the last three decades was the rise of mass public shootings: people who went into public places and murdered complete strangers. Such crimes had taken place before, such as the Texas Tower murders by Charles Whitman in 1966,1 but their rarity meant that they were shocking. Something changed in the 1980s: these senseless mass murders started to happen with increasing frequency. People were shocked when James Huberty killed twenty-one strangers in a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California in 1984, and Patrick Purdy murdered five children in a Stockton, California schoolyard in 1989. Now, these crimes have become background noise, unless they involve an extraordinarily high body count (such as at Virginia Tech) or a prominent victim (such as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords). Why did these crimes go from extraordinarily rare to commonplace?

Yeah, normal healthy minds aren't as likely to go on killing sprees as deranged people.

At least half of these mass murderers (as well as many other murderers) have histories of mental illness. Many have already come to the attention of the criminal justice or mental health systems before they become headlines. In the early 1980s, there were about two million chronically mentally ill people in the United States, with 93 percent living outside mental hospitals. The largest diagnosis for the chronically mentally ill is schizophrenia, which afflicts about 1 percent of the population, or about 1.5 percent of adult Americans.6 A 1991 estimate was that schizophrenia costs the United States about $65 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.7

The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill (and resulting rise in the incidence of mass murderers) is just another bad idea from the 1960s we are still blessed with today.

In the 1960s, the United States embarked on an innovative approach to caring for its mentally ill: deinstitutionalization. The intentions were quite humane: move patients from long-term commitment in state mental hospitals into community-based mental health treatment. Contrary to popular perception, California Governor Ronald Reagan’s signing of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 196712 was only one small part of a broad-based movement, starting in the late 1950s.13 The Kennedy Administration optimistically described how the days of long-term treatment were now past; newly-developed drugs such as chlorpromazine meant that two-thirds of the mentally ill “could be treated and released within 6 months.”14

Rather than impose gun control on the law abiding and mentally healthy can we undo the damage of yet another bad idea from the 1960s?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 17 11:03 PM 
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Retirement Entitlements Cuts

While I do not spend much time following inside-the-beltway fiscal policy debates every now and then I decide to tune in and see which way the wind is blowing. The fiscal cliff talks provide a good opportunity to see what's politically possible. So what's politically possible as the US budget deficit grows dangerously for another year? Old age entitlements cuts. Not surprising. As old age entitlements become such a large slice of total government spending and US total debt continues to grow toward dangerous levels it only makes sense for old age entitlements to lose their immunity from cuts.

Obama also gave ground on a key Republican demand — applying a less-generous measure of inflation across the federal government. That change would save about $225 billion over the next decade, with more than half the savings coming from smaller cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.

Warning to anyone who expects as good of retirement benefits from their government as their parents or grandparents are getting or have gotten: Nope. Not gonna happen. Obamacare already cut Medicare and shifted money toward the working age (but often not working) poor. Whether or not it happens in this round of budget cutting expect cuts for old age entitlements. Save more for your retirement.

Expect to work longer. Better pace yourself toward that end. Choose a career path will keep you employable in your 60s.

Meanwhile, the possibility remains that the deal could get even more distasteful for Democrats, particularly if Republicans counter Obama’s request for $1.2 trillion in new taxes with a demand for an additional concession on health care, such raising as the eligibility age for Medicare beneficiaries from 65 to 67.

While Obama tentatively agreed to raise the Medicare eligibility age during talks with Boehner in 2011, it has emerged in the current negotiations as a line the White House is unwilling to cross.

Britain's present is America's future.

If President Obama and congressional Republicans fail to reach a deal in the coming weeks, Americans face a fierce wave of tax hikes and spending cuts that could threaten the U.S. economy. Yet Britain has already crashed over its own economic precipice, with the Conservative-led government unleashing a radical experiment in austerity since coming to power in 2010 that has seen public spending corralled and taxes increased on this side of the Atlantic.

Actually, US living standards have been in decline for years and Britain's present is really America's present too. Stagnant living standards cause lower growth in tax revenues and therefore make the overpromised old age entitlements problem even bigger.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 17 09:28 PM 
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2012 December 16 Sunday
Gerard Depardieu Giving Up French Passport In Tax Row

With the top French tax rate going up to 75% Depardieu thinks his lifetime tax payments of 145m euros and movies about France ought to earn him appreciation, not criticism from the French Prime Minister.

French actor Gerard Depardieu says he is handing back his French passport after the prime minister criticised him for moving to Belgium to avoid taxes.

The socialists are going to drive the most talented people out of France and the French economy is going to behave accordingly.

The United States is unusual in that it taxes US citizens who live abroad. A French Parliamentarian wants to force French to give up their citizenship if they want to escape French taxes.

An angry member of parliament has proposed that France adopt a U.S.-inspired law that would force Depardieu or anyone trying to escape full tax dues to forego their nationality.

We need a few tax escape countries with a critical mass of highly talented to generate industries with high demand for skilled labor. Then highly productive people from around the world could flee to them. The very existence of such countries would place constraints on what the taxers can do.

I am reminded of the Roman Empire around 400 AD when it started creating laws that bound peasants to the property of the land owners. This was done to boost tax revenues. Otherwise when taxes got too high the field workers would flee.

Update: Really wealthy people have more choices of where to flee to than do the working upper middle class. Why? The wealthy do not have as great a need to be near others near their rank. Whereas most who work at regular jobs require propinquity, to be in the proximity of those who do complementary work. The United States was able to give rise to Silicon Valley because of a sufficiently large base population with high enough average IQ to generate enough people on the upper end of the IQ bell curve. The supply of talent was enough to sustain Silicon Valley even before companies began to import skilled labor from abroad.

I see we have a coordination problem holding back the development of high IQ tax havens. The world has plenty of high IQ people. But how to get them to concentrate in and dominate a small country long enough to cause that country's economy to ignite?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 16 08:16 PM 
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M-4 Not A Suitable School Principal Weapon

Naturally we are hearing a chorus of Democrats calling for more gun control in the wake of Adam Lanza's killing spree. yet Congressman Louie Gohmert, (R-TX) wishes Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung had an M-4 rifle in her office to take out Lanza. My reaction: An M-4 seems like far too large a weapon for a school principal to wield effectively. I would think

"I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids"

At close range how about a Beretta compact? Doesn't this seem like just the thing for school principals and teachers? Readers, what do you recommend? Picture some 50 year old woman running a high school. She suddenly finds she has a killer on her hands. How should she stop him?

Gohmert.

What I want to know: Was Adam Lanza a totally misunderstood kid somewhere on the autistic spectrum?

He said Lanza experienced "total withdrawal from whatever he was supposed to be doing, be it a class, be it sitting and reading a book".

He would press himself against a wall or walk in a different direction when others approached and that he never seemed to feel pain, Mr Novia said.

So the kid was not neurotypical. But in what way was he untypical? In a country where celebration of diversity has become very politically correct we do so little to deal with the diversity that matters the most: neurodiversity. What made Adam Lanza tick? He should have been diagnosed years ago.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 16 07:58 PM 
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The Net Effects Of Reality TV Shows?

The Learning Channel has a new reality TV show about a funeral home that turns death into a celebration.

TLC, which brought the world "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Sister Wives," has hit new depths: The new one-hour special "Best Funeral Ever" will follow dead people's journey to the grave.

New depths? This seems in the cultural vein of Irish wakes or New Orleans celebrations of the death of a person. The use of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" for comparison merits examination. America's demographic changes are producing new depths that are out of sight of our cognitive elites. The Learning Channel is just educating people about the lower classes.

Do we need trashy reality TV shows of promiscuous people (Honey's mom has kids by a few different guys to tell us how badly America's lower classes are performing? I think so. Most intelligent people aren't going to read Charles Murray's Coming Apart to find out how things are going wit the lower classes. On the other hand, most people above 120 IQ probably aren't going to watch reality TV shows either.

The Learning Channel is similarly doing a reality show on drunken drivers called D.U.I. I happen to think watching these sorts of shows is a waste of my time because I do not romanticize the masses or human nature and have spent a lot of time ridding myself of delusions. But quite a few people need to have their delusions challenged.

My problem with Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shore is that they do not show the demographic extent of the kinds of people they present. They aren't demographically representative either. For example, anyone come across a Hispanic gang banger reality TV show? Or how about a reality TV show based around the lives of kids who attend a ghetto high school?

What I wonder: Do reality TV shows validate and promote the lifestyles they capture? Or do they show people what not to do with one's life?

We have lots of interesting subcultures waiting for video capture. Discovery is also competing in the trashy reality TV sphere: Amish Mafia. How cool is that?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 16 12:33 PM 
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2012 December 15 Saturday
Sweden: The Liberal Blank Slate Caricature

Christina Hoff Sommers on the Swedish war against boys.

Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys"R"Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its "outdated" advertisements and has pressured it to mend its "narrow-minded" ways. After receiving "training and guidance" from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, "For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust."

Yet even vervet monkey boys and girls prefer different toys.

In 2002, Gerianne M. Alexander of Texas A&M University and Melissa Hines of City University in London stunned the scientific world by showing that vervet monkeys showed the same sex-typical toy preferences as humans.

Never mind the overwhelming evidence for biological causes of innate cognitive differences between the sexes. Boys and girls think differently. Yet in Sweden the tabula rasa mythology still rules and oppresses. So many people on the America Left point to Sweden as the model of how America could be more utopian. Try dystopian.

Think of Sweden from a utilitarian perspective. It serves the same function as North Korea by demonstrating how freer rein of an ideology will play out in purer form. Don't want to live there. But it provides a laboratory which you can peer into.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 15 10:47 AM 
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2012 December 12 Wednesday
Unions Corrupted California Politicians

A long piece on the Bloomberg site looks at how California has led the way yet again, in this case on the capture of state and local governments to serve their employees more than their citizens.

“California spends most of its money on salaries, retirement payments, health care benefits for government workers, and other compensation,” said Schwarzenegger, 65, who replaced Davis as governor. “State revenues are up more than 50 percent over the past 10 years, but still we’ve had to cut spending on services because so much of that revenue increase went to increases in compensation and benefits.”

Brown, who granted state workers collective-bargaining rights during his first tenure as governor more than three decades ago, has reduced pension costs for new employees while leaving most retirement benefits for current workers intact.

Jerry Brown, by granting state employees collective bargaining rights, created the conditions for the disaster a few decades ago. The power of the public sector unions gradually grew and reached a peak of damage during former Governor Gray Davis's term. Those public employee unions spent on elections for former governor Gray Davis and other politicians who, so bribed by union money, granted the pay and pension raises that created the financial disaster.

Unions for public employees exist to collect dues from their members to use to buy politicians. The public employee unions are the enemies of the taxpayers who are paying money for services. Too many politicians are easily corrupted by campaign donations from unions. Too many voters are too ignorant and foolish to recognize when their politicians have been corrupted. We can't afford for unions to be that powerful.

Could state ballot propositions be used to repeal collective bargaining rights for government employees?

By Randall Parker 2012 December 12 08:42 PM 
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2012 December 11 Tuesday
Nicholas Kristof: SSI Benefits Incentive For Illiterate Kids

The modern welfare state in action:

THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

The Malthusian Trap used to select for higher IQ and more prudent approaches to life. Now the welfare state selects for stupidity and ignorance even more than our exit from the Malthusian Trap alone would cause. Our government policies aimed at alleviating suffering are making a bad situation even worse. Short term attempts to alleviate suffering make bigger problems in the long run.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 11 10:44 PM 
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Union Weakening Legislation Passes In Michigan

Union dues won't be mandatory in Michigan any more.

LANSING, Mich. — With Democrats and labor leaders vowing retribution at the ballot box and beyond, the Republican-dominated Michigan Legislature on Tuesday approved sweeping, statewide changes to the way unions will be financed, substantially reducing their power in a state that has long been a symbol of union might and an incubator for the American labor movement.

The UAW is down to a third its peak size for two reasons: more robots and more imports. That cuts the number of UAW member voters and hence UAW voting clout. Ditto for all the other private sector manufacturing unions. Gutted by foreign and robotic competition. Though they made their decline faster than it needed to be.

Did the people of Michigan come to see the UAW as part of the problem? High union salaries mean no union salaries when plants close. Did excesses of a very powerful union turn non-auto workers against unions? I've heard enough stories from engineer friends who worked at car companies and their suppliers to know that the UAW slowed the rate of technological progress and quality improvement in manufacturing plants. The feather-bedding at its peak was ridiculous. A former Ford factory worker told me how he could rush thru his quota of seat covers and leave hours early. An electrical engineer friend working for a company that did only a small part of its business with GM described to me how when GM still had a factory in Van Nuys he had to talk a UAW guy thru a parts change in a factory assembly line station. Something he could have done in a few minutes required 2 UAW guys plus him and much longer to boot. Another guy I used to work with described how he had to drive prototype parts from a lab to a factory to try and back to a lab to adjust due to UAW rules. At the factory of course he had to get a UAW guy to bring in the part and try it. Toyota factory engineers and workers innovated right past that nonsense. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.

At this point I would not recommend anyone with less than a masters in engineering or computer science go into a manufacturing career. All the technically skilled workers who can adjust and configure automated lathes and mills will eventually find themselves totally automated out of jobs. The pay will be low. Factory work isn't going to come back to America for humans to do. We'll only get it back when robots can take over the the work.

What will less intelligent workers do in the future? I'm not seeing a big place for them given technological trends.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 11 09:10 PM 
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2012 December 09 Sunday
Assad Regime End Game: Hole Up In Alawite Mountains?

Check out the Christian Science Monitor's piece on the 3 options for Hafez Assad as the rebels make gains against the Syrian military. Assad is supposedly now a hostage of the Syrian military which is dominated by Alawites who are focused on preventing their own massacre by the eventually victorious Sunnis. Shiites and some other religious minorities have some of the same concerns.

Also working against a more formally established enclave is the fact that not all Alawites support the Assad regime. Some may prefer to cut a deal with the opposition rather than link the fate of the community to that of the Assads. Even Assad’s home town of Qordaha, 15 miles south east of Latakia, has reportedly seen some intra-Alawite unrest between supporters and opponents of the Assad clan.

The article says most Alawites haven't benefited from the regime and the Alawites are poor and live in a mountainous region near the coast. If Assad had built them up and helped them demographically dominate a coastal city (basically by making them affluent enough to buy up a city) he could have redoubt that isn't cut off from the sea. But no.

The Assad family, under Bashar’s 12-year rule, has “all but seceded socially and economically” from its roots and has done “precious little” for the Alawites which remains one of the poorest communities in Syria, says Fred Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and former special adviser for transition in Syria at the State Department.

Once some Sunnis come to power will they create an Islamist constitution and oppress women and non-Sunni sects? Will the Syrian economy be any more efficient with less ownership by leaders? Or will it be even worse in the long run?

Once the Sunnis are victorious the anti-Assad alliances could fall apart.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 09 07:58 PM 
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2012 December 08 Saturday
MTV Buckwild In West Virginia: Decadence In America

What sort of real life character should an MTV producer choose for a reality TV show? A classical stereotype that widely exists in reality.

Shae: Around town, Shae is known as the Southern belle. She’s been chased after by every eligible bachelor in Sissonville but somehow always ends up with the bad boy. Currently a nursing student, this college girl is also a country girl through and through. In fact, her first kiss was on the back of a four-wheeler.

The bad boy preference is so predictable. Really.

Buckwild decadence up in the hollow.

I am reminded of Audacious Epigone's IQ estimates by state where West Virginia scored 94.9. In a nutshell: the smarter whites moved out for generations pursuing better opportunities elsewhere, leaving the dumber ones behind. This made conditions in West Virginia ripe for an MTV TV show.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 08 09:43 PM 
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Better Border Control Has Pushed Smugglers To Sea

Recall one of the arguments of the Open Borders crowd is the supposed impracticality of controlling our borders. Yet the US border with Mexico has become so much better policed and controlled that smugglers have shifted to the sea. SoCal is seeing more smugglers coming into the coast.

“There’s been an uptick in smuggling at sea because we have been successful in making it difficult for smuggling organizations at the land border,” said Claude Arnold, the special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles. “They’re trying everything they can to get their products into the country.”

Drug money is funding most of the smuggling. Human smuggling by sea costs more than by land. So this raises the threshold for illegal aliens and shifts it toward those who have more buying power. In other words, higher quality with more earnings power.

Read to the end and you will see a Coast Guard commander say it is possible to catch them when they land if we tried harder. Law enforcement agencies are using helicopters and airplanes to identify the boats and ships being used. But UAVs would be cheaper with much longer loitering times and no risk to their operators. Throw in some image processing software to spot images of boats against the background and a substantial amount of the scanning could be automated.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 08 07:38 PM 
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Ross Douthat: More Babies To Keep America Top Dog

Elites want a big government to direct. But individuals need a good place to live, a good job, good pay, and a high quality of life for themselves and friends and families. Higher population densities work against all of that. Someone tell Ross Douthat the purpose of a government isn't to make America most powerful.

IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

How about improved quality? We need geniuses and near geniuses to maintain and improve our living standards. Well over half the population do nothing to raise per capita GDP. More babies from the masses aren't going to help. More babies from the smarter people would raise living standards for everyone. The IQ threshold for being a net producer is going to rise as more manual labor jobs get automated out of existence.

Being the most powerful country in the world has substantial downsides: Our power has emboldened our national security elites of both parties to unproductively spend a lot of money (and blood) pushing our weight around. This has been, and continues to be, a detriment to the republic.

Ross wants growing youthful population in order to fund old age retirement benefits. In other words, keep the pyramid scheme going. I think this is short sighted.

. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable.

We need a population that is smart enough to earn high incomes. We need a larger fraction of our population to be net taxpayers who pay more than they take in benefits. We need a population that can invent and discover and manage businesses. But the skill levels of our population are going down.<

Policies that would reverse the current pattern of inverse correlation between educational attainment and fertility would do the most to improve our future prospects for higher living standards and lower social pathology.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 08 07:38 PM 
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2012 December 03 Monday
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Europe Needs Distributed Errors

The uniting of Europe works against what is needed for a stable society. Says Taleb: "The European Union is a horrible, stupid project."

The most stable country in the history of mankind, and probably the most boring, by the way, is Switzerland. It's not even a city-state environment; it's a municipal state. Most decisions are made at the local level, which allows for distributed errors that don't adversely affect the wider system. Meanwhile, people want a united Europe, more alignment, and look at the problems. The solution is right in the middle of Europe -- Switzerland. It's not united! It doesn't have a Brussels! It doesn't need one.

The US is headed in the same direction. The people who think they are wisest can't prevent themselves from trying to apply their solutions across the whole of America rather than just in a state or town. We need more heterogeneous decision-making, not a more heterogeneous set of ethnicities. The worshipers of diversity do not understand what forms of diversity are valuable.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 03 10:40 PM 
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2012 December 02 Sunday
How Well Did Chinese Imperial Exam System Work?

How well did China's imperial examination system work at selecting the most talented for the imperial civil service? Mark Elliott, a history prof at Harvard, says the imperial civil service competition was effectively open to less than a tenth of Chinese society.

Over the last 20 years, research has shown that the keju was far from the “ladder of success” it was long widely reputed to be. We know that in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), for instance, merchants’ sons were not allowed to take the examinations at all, and that in the Qing (1644-1911), as Benjamin Elman, a scholar from Princeton University, has decisively shown, “the content of the civil service competition clearly excluded over 90 percent of China’s people from even the first step on the ladder to success.”

In other words, to have any kind of reasonable shot at passing the exams, you needed to come from a family with an established tradition of classical literacy, meaning a family with money to buy books or close connections to another such family. Only 10 percent of the population made that cut.

This system based on testing on a large body of knowledge was a less than ideal test for talent for a few reasons. First, it excluded those too poor to allow their sons many years to study. Second, it was wasteful of the time of all those who studied for years and then failed the exam. Third, since it was heavily weighted toward testing knowledge it was not testing intelligence very well. A test of puzzle-solving skills would have been far more effective, less expensive, and accessible to a much larger proportion of the population.

The restriction to less than tenth of society still left the test serving a huge filtering function for talent. First, the families who could afford to have their sons study were more affluent and therefore probably smarter. Plus, the ratio of those who took the test to those who passed was so high that the test was filtering for higher cognitive ability at least among the sizable number who took the test.

Still, I wonder whether the imperial examination created genetic selective pressures for higher IQ. There was likely at least a moderately strong correlation between test performance and the g factor.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 02 08:47 PM 
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Barefoot Homeless NYC Man Barefoot Again

A rookie cop was photographed buying expensive boots and socks for a homeless guy in NYC. Many people sobbed and said awe and gosh and got chocked up about it and congratulated the cop. Not so fast. Homeless is as homeless does.

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”

Those $120 shoes are too dangerous to be seen in.

He just wants a piece of pie and all he got was world fame.

“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”

A lot of people are helping other people in order in the mistaken delusion that they are doing something more than making themselves feel good and making others admire them.

Reality is so much worse than the fantasies we all inhabit. We evolved by a process of selective death by disease, hunger, and death from human and animal predators. Those who survived long enough to leave children created the new human designs while other less capable designs died sooner. Much pain and suffering were key to how this process worked. This process eventually produced ancestors who were smart enough to make inventions and industry. Now as a result of all those inventions evolutionary pressures have reversed and we are dumbing down. This is happening while we live beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. We need to accept what evolution has done to us and is doing to us if we are to have any chance of steering away from the direction we are currently headed.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 02 07:49 PM 
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2012 December 01 Saturday
Why We Do Not Demand Prediction Accuracy

Lately I've been reading articles and books on why predictions are hard (e.g Dan Gardner's Future Babble), the incredible inaccuracy of the vast bulk of predictions, even and especially by experts, and how people are unaware or disinterested in all this inaccuracy. Just came across a 2011 article by economist Robin Hanson on Cato Unbound where he responds to Dan Gardner and Philip Tetlock about how we can get better expert predictions. Hanson points out all the other things that people want from listening to famous commentators aside from accuracy.

Consider first the many possible functions and roles of media pundits. Media consumers can be educated and entertained by clever, witty, but accessible commentary, and can coordinate to signal that they are smart and well-read by quoting and discussing the words of the same few focal pundits. Also, impressive pundits with prestigious credentials and clear “philosophical” positions can let readers and viewers gain by affiliation with such impressiveness, credentials, and positions. Being easier to understand and classify helps “hedgehogs” to serve many of these functions.

Affiliate yourself with noted academics as a way to do status signaling and demonstrate in-group membership.

Second, consider the many functions and roles of academics. Academics are primarily selected and rewarded for their impressive mastery and application of difficult academic tools and methods. Students, patrons, and media contacts can gain by affiliation with credentialed academic impressiveness. In forecasts, academic are rewarded much more for showing mastery of impressive tools than for accuracy.

Finally, consider next the many functions and roles of managers, both public and private. By being personally impressive, and by being identified with attractive philosophical positions, leaders can inspire people to work for and affiliate with their organizations. Such support can be threatened by clear tracking of leader forecasts, if that questions leader impressiveness.

Measurement of accuracy gets in the way of people getting the benefit they expect from listening to famous opinionators. The truth is just not that popular.

What's the problem with all this: Our need for prediction accuracy is increasing. We have technology, capital, and living standards that enable us to make much larger mistakes than in the past (e.g. factory fishing ships sweeping oceans of fish, massive burning of coal, large scale tropical deforestation, large population increases, nuclear weapons, genetic engineering of organisms). We now make global mistakes rather than just local or national mistakes. The consequences of our mistakes are therefore larger. At the same time, the global scale of the mistakes makes the incentives for continued mistakes driven by a Tragedy of the Commons.

We've also lost a number of benefits we had going for us as parts of the human race began escaping the Malthusian trap as industrialization took off in the 19th century. Notably, we are experiencing a reversal of important benefits that natural selection used to deliver to some segments of the human race. As we rip thru large amounts of natural resources and automate the lower IQ folks out of jobs the competition for remaining natural resources is going to become more fierce. I worry that the future world economy will become dual-tiered. Resource owners may do most of their trading with robot factory owners and the smart people who design new robots and products. Everyone else will be either figuratively or literally on the outside looking in.

By Randall Parker 2012 December 01 11:06 AM 
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