2013 March 30 Saturday
Wasted Scientific Brains, Low Salaries

Occasionally I'm asked for career advice. I ask some questions. Some details are provided. I'm staggered by the poor quality of decision-making and the lack of information that went into choice of undergrad degree and naive expectations of success on the chosen path (not that I was any better). One such recent episode, and my attempts to provide advice, got me digging for info about why to not get a science Ph.D. These charts show why grad school for science is a really bad idea. The final chart shows that the problem goes way back to the 1970s when the odds of getting an assistant professorship plummeted. "Mike the Mad Biologist" has some posts on the size of the PhD glut problem if you need more convincing. Physics prof Jonathan Katz shows by anecdote just how pathetic the lot is for PhD physicists in their 30s.

As examples, consider two of the leading candidates for a recent Assistant Professorship in my department. One was 37, ten years out of graduate school (he didn't get the job). The leading candidate, whom everyone thinks is brilliant, was 35, seven years out of graduate school. Only then was he offered his first permanent job (that's not tenure, just the possibility of it six years later, and a step off the treadmill of looking for a new job every two years). The latest example is a 39 year old candidate for another Assistant Professorship; he has published 35 papers. In contrast, a doctor typically enters private practice at 29, a lawyer at 25 and makes partner at 31, and a computer scientist with a Ph.D. has a very good job at 27 (computer science and engineering are the few fields in which industrial demand makes it sensible to get a Ph.D.). Anyone with the intelligence, ambition and willingness to work hard to succeed in science can also succeed in any of these other professions.

How can so many smart people be such foolish gluttons for labor market punishment? The university departments of course want the cheap labor of grad schools and postdocs. Otherwise they ought to Ph.D. candidates only from the ranks of those who really want to take an oath of poverty. It is the height of folly to get a bio Ph.D. Physics isn't much better.

Typical postdoctoral salaries begin at $27,000 annually in the biological sciences and about $35,000 in the physical sciences (graduate student stipends are less than half these figures). Can you support a family on that income? It suffices for a young couple in a small apartment, though I know of one physicist whose wife left him because she was tired of repeatedly moving with little prospect of settling down. When you are in your thirties you will need more: a house in a good school district and all the other necessities of ordinary middle class life. Science is a profession, not a religious vocation, and does not justify an oath of poverty or celibacy.

Our future is made worse when scientists are unable to reproduce. They've got genes that make them smarter. So they'd have much smarter kids on average if they could only afford to reproduce. If they'd majored in engineering instead they would have started at the highest paying jobs out of college (or see this list and another list that puts petroleum engineering at the top of the pile for big bucks).

It is a huge waste of brain power to have so many people working in science for really low salaries. If the costs of scientist labor were higher then the work of scientists would be more automated and scientists would be more productive. Postdocs at $27k per year aren't going to be well capitalized (and government science grant budget cuts are making this worse). Their time is cheap. Wasting their time does not cost much. That's a problem. We'd probably get a faster rate of progress in science in the long run if the time of scientists was more highly valued.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 30 10:19 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(18)
Thinking About Crime And Murder

A long time ago I read James Q. Wilson's book Thinking About Crime and later Wilson and Herrnstein's Crime & Human Nature. These books spurred me take a more rational approach to patterns in crime statistics and about other patterns in human behavior. Therefore Steve's link to a ridiculous WaPo op-ed, "White Men With Guns", stood out most notably as lacking in statistics. Of course, this is the sort of mainstream media brain dead op-ed we get when we can't have an honest conversation. But let me inject some (easily dug up) statistics: in particular some murder statistics from US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics.

WASHINGTON – The nation’s homicide rate fell to 4.8 homicides per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2010, its lowest level in four decades, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. Much of the decline was in the nation’s largest cities, those with a population of one million or more, where the homicide rate dropped dramatically from 35.5 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1991 to a low of 11.9 per 100,000 in 2008.

The sharp increase in homicides from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, and much of the subsequent decline, is attributable to gun violence by teens (age 14 to 17) and young adults (age 18 to 24). Despite the recent decline, the number of gun homicides committed by teens and young adults in 2008 remained similar to the counts of the mid-1980s.

Note the 6x versus 7x for victims versus perps in the next paragraph. If you subtract 7 minus 6 you get 1. What does that 1 tell you, comparatively speaking, versus white-on-white murder (to a rough approximation)? Tell me in the comments.

Most murders were intraracial. From 1980 through 2008, 84 percent of white homicide victims were murdered by whites and 93 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks. During this same period, blacks were disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders. Blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.

A point about rising gang violence: does a severe deficiency in status make it attractive to form gangs in order to give their members hierarchies they actually have a chance of climbing? Does inter-gang violence come about at least in part due to the desire to have competitions that one has a much higher chance of winning? One person dies but the other emerges as victorious on the field of status battle.

The number of homicides known to involve adult or juvenile gang violence has quadrupled since 1980, increasing from about 220 homicides in 1980 to 960 homicides in 2008. From 1980 to 2008, gang violence increased from one percent to six percent of all homicides. During this same period, gun involvement in gang-related homicides increased from 73 percent to 92 percent.

A graph of murder rates by race and gender yields another interesting contrast that surprised me.

This USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics PDF has lots of interesting graphs. Ignore the small graphs at the top and page down to the bigger ones. One notable pattern: The murder rate spike was only in lower age brackets.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 30 07:58 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(3)
2013 March 28 Thursday
Walmart: Fewer Employees Per Store

Don't count on being able to get a job at WalMart when money runs low in your old age. A Businessweek article reports WalMart per-store employees have dropped by about 14% from 2008 to 2013. The claims about the consequences: Lower customer service satisfaction and too much inventory not getting moved out to store shelves from warehouse space.

WalMart could reduce the need for store employees to answer questions by using touch screen computers that people could interact with to get answers on where to find products. WalMart could use voice recognition technology to allow customers to ask questions and get answers to common questions without any employee involvement. They could also develop restocking robots. They already have self-serve check-out lanes. They could also use robotic floor cleaning robots. Another obvious step: use packaging and shelf designs that make shelf restocking easier.

What can lower IQ people do when the labor buyers no longer need them?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 28 10:33 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(6)
Vigilantes In Mexico Take Over Tierra Colorado

They've had it with narco gangs and corrupt police. Bully for them I say.

I'm curious to hear what my Mexican readers think of this. Do you want to kill the drug gangs and put your corrupt police in jail?

What I'm wondering: How much border security would the US need to put into place to make a major dent in the rate of drug smuggling from Mexico to the United States? Cutting the financial returns on drug smuggling would cut the money available to the big narco organizations in Mexico and make the country less corrupt.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 28 09:31 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(10)
2013 March 25 Monday
Cyprus Headed For Economic Depression

The creation of the European Union enabled much larger financial train wrecks than would otherwise have been possible. The banking sector in Cyprus will shrivel. Societe General economist Michala Marcussen expects the Cyprus economy to shrink another 20%. One article quotes a source that says banking makes up 45% of the Cyprus economy. So a 20% shrinkage seems too little. The surviving banks will lend much less and people will continue to find ways to get their money out of Cyprus. For example, exporters will negotiate to get paid abroad. They'll hide the size and value of their exports. Tourists will continue to be afraid to visit. So another leg of the Cyprus economy will go down.

How far down can Cyprus go? The economy of Greece has shrunk 20% since 2008 and went down 5.7% just in 4Q 2012. Another 4.5% contraction is projected for 2013. Cyprus will go thru a bigger depression than Greece because Cyprus' economy was far more distorted by large foreign deposits in its banking sector.

Cypriots need to focus on making real things that they can sell abroad.

What does this portend for Italy and Spain? Silent bank runs? Prudent people should get their money out of southern European banks.

Update: Jacques Mistral says it was actually the Cypriot president who wanted all the depositors to take a haircut. The northern Europeans who went along with this have substantially upped the risks of bank runs. What were they thinking?

First, the idea to tax every bank account whatever its amount was not a product of “German stupidity” but reflects a demand from the Cypriot president, who was willing to preserve the image of the island as a financial center; as if the confidence of dirty money could be a sustainable comparative advantage for Cyprus! The stupefying thing is that the other euro governments accepted this clause even though it was financially dangerous and certain to be rejected by the populace and its representatives.

The northern Europeans even enthused about the haircut approach and therefore made future bank runs even more likely.

In following the relief produced by the substance of the new agreement, the Dutch finance minister and chairman of the Eurogroup announced that the Cypriot treatment was great news because it showed that bank depositors may be expected to contribute to future bailout packages.

Paul Krugman thinks Cyprus should exit the Euro and do it quickly. Doing this would shorten the length of their economic depression. It is amazing how the southern Europeans are going thru economic depressions rather than exit the Euro. Will they maintain their support for the Euro as their economic downturns deepen? More economic contraction in store for Spain and Cyprus in 2013. Krugman points out that the Cyprus bailout is going to increase Cyprus sovereign debt to a level that makes default hard to avoid. So Cyprus has a sovereign debt crisis in its future as tax revenues plunge with the contracting economy.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 25 11:28 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(4)
52% Think United States Should Have Stayed Out Of Iraq

Slow learners.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% of Likely U.S. Voters think, looking back, that the United States should have gotten involved with Iraq. Fifty-two percent (52%) disagree and oppose that involvement. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

I can understand the 17% who just do not want to learn much or think much. But what about the 31%? Got too much invested in their original support for the decision? Reflexively oppose anti-war types?

What amazes me about American foreign policy is the extent to which some competing countries (e.g. China) oppose our folly when, really, they benefit when we waste so much blood, money, and popularity by doing incredibly stupid things. It is not like we get some sort of big national ROI from the vast majority of our foreign interventions.

Update: I see Mangan's post Are we really that stupid? explores a similar theme. Our enemies think we have some grand plot to dominate the world. Some of our leaders think they are executing some clever plot to change the world in ways they desire. Instead we are putting governments opposed to us in power (e.g. the Shias in Iraq who are now quite close to the Iranians). I've hit similar notes in my recent posts John Kerry Mad At Iraq For Supporting Bashar al-Assad and Chinese President Xi Jinping: West Stop Foreign Interference. The costs of the Iraq war (in the trillions when you cost debt costs and hundreds of thousands of brain damaged veterans from IED blasts) are huge. The ROI is negative.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 25 08:18 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(6)
2013 March 24 Sunday
John Kerry Mad At Iraq For Supporting Bashar al-Assad

Um, why is it bad for the Iraqis to aid the non-Sunnis in Syria?

BAGHDAD — Iraq is helping to shore up the besieged regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by allowing Iranian arms and fighters to cross into Syria from Iraq, Secretary of State John F. Kerry charged Sunday.

Charged? As in an accusation that the Iraqis are engaged in bad behavior? Iraq is ruled by an elected democracy. Doesn't that make it good according to America's secular religion? (he says, sarcastically)

Another report from the Washington Post is entitled Islamic law comes to rebel-held Syria. Why have the Bush and Obama administrations take such strong stances in favor of Islamic fundamentalists? Why does the US favor an opposition that is increasingly dominated by the al-Nusra Front, which is labeled by the Washington DC government as a terrorist group due to its ties to al-Qaeda?

Maybe Obama sees Bush's Iraq war as a mistake because the US invasion of Iraq has brought to power a Shiite-Islamist government which is allied with Iran. Now the US wants to come down on the side of the Sunnis since there are more Sunnis, or some such muddled thinking.

But Iraq is on the other side of the equation. After the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, a Shiite-Islamist government came to power in the country, with better current relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran than with the US. With Iran backing Mr. Assad, and the likelihood of Sunni Islamists coming to power if Assad falls, Iraq's interests and America's are sharply divergent.

If a democratically elected Sunni fundamentalist government comes to power in Syria the Shiites, Alawites, Christians, and Druze are screwed.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 24 07:16 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(4)
2013 March 23 Saturday
Spanish Government Forced To Not Bail Out Bank Bond Holders

Read this Wall Street Journal article on government restructuring of Spanish banks: Spain Brings the Pain to Bank Investors. Forcing big losses on stockholders and bond holders was a politically costly step? I mean, really?

Forcing shareholders and bondholders to share the cost of restructuring the country's five nationalized banks was a politically costly step for the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, but one that was required under the terms of a European Union bailout of Spain's ailing lenders.

When did bond holders really become masters of the universe? The article says the EU in Brussels forced the Spanish government to make investors take a bath. The Spanish government wanted to protect investors in bankrupt banks why?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 23 08:43 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(2)
Cyprus Capital Controls To Cause Euro Currency Fork?

Mish points to the significance of capital controls as part of the latest plan to prevent financial collapse in Cyprus. He points to a Jeremy Warner piece about how capital controls effectively cause a split in the Euro.

Yet the point is that if capital controls are introduced, it basically makes Cypriot euros into a national currency, rather than part of wider monetary union. The capital controls will severely limit your ability to get your euros out of Cyprus, rending them essentially worthless in the wider eurozone. It would be a bit like telling Scots they can't spend their UK pounds in England.

The cash economy in Cyprus will grow in size. Plus, exporters will start accepting their payments in banks outside of Cyprus. Want to buy Cypriot olive oil? Pay in London or the Cayman Islands. Discount for paying for your hotel room in advance at an online site that processes the credit card transaction somewhere else.

Cyprus businesses should start reconfiguring to do more of their transactions abroad. Also, businesses in Italy, Spain, and Greece should start doing the same, albeit at a more leisurely rate.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 23 08:35 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(0)
Chinese President Xi Jinping: West Stop Foreign Interference

If only we would follow his advice.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against foreign interference in the affairs of other nations during a speech in Moscow on Saturday

I think Xi Jinping is making a mistake. If he wants to weaken the United States vis a vis China then he should encourage the US to engage in foreign wars with huge negative returns on investment. The Iraq war was a huge win for China because it cost the United States trillions of dollars. The negative ROI wars that characterize US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War lower US living standards and saddle America with lots of long term debt. The Chinese should be trying to trick the US into believing assorted countries have awesome WMD development programs to lure the US into more follies.

Similarly, the US people would only be so lucky if the Chinese managed to block the United States from more military adventures. We'd save trillions of dollars we could spend on efforts that would return long term benefits like border security to keep out low skilled workers, vehicle battery research, energy efficiency, and programs to stop soil erosion.

Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan is fairly attractive woman and his daughter, until recently a Harvard student, looks quite attractive. The curious thing about the part about no longer being a Harvard student: the elite have pulled their kids home to demonstrate their loyalty to China. A permanent shift?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 23 03:49 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(1)
Economic Diversity Comes To The Suburbs

Diversity is strength (or so the liberal faithful tell us). Suburbs are developing a more diverse assortment of income levels. No longer are suburbs full of just the middle class. Down with homogeneity. Up with poverty. The poor enrich our lives by showing us alternative lifestyles.

The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. That's more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.

The poor are growing in number. Suburbs are losing their status as shelters from social and economic pathology. We know (because are told by our masters) that diversity is good. So then are the diverse forms of poverty enriching the lives of suburbanites? If you don't have to go to a city to see poverty does this make you a better person? I hope so because America is certainly becoming an economically more diverse place.

Single parenthood is one cause of greater economic diversity. Single moms can't make even half as much money as a married couple and they carry extra burdens. Therefore policies and social norms should strongly discourage making babies outside of marriage and should strongly discourage divorce. But single moms create even bigger problems in the next generation: boys raised by single moms do much worse in the labor market.

Only 63 percent of children lived in a household with two parents in 2010, down from 82 percent in 1970. The single parents raising the rest of those children are predominantly female. And there is growing evidence that sons raised by single mothers “appear to fare particularly poorly,” Professor Autor wrote in an analysis for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.

But read to the end of that article for what Christopher Jencks says about the absent fathers. The single moms are coming from parts of society where men are pretty dysfunctional. Of course, liberal academics and reporters use assorted euphemisms rather than much more helpful blunt statements. But you can guess at some of the details.

What practical measures would most help improve the outcomes for boys born to single women? I can think of a few:

  • Give boys educations that appeal to the interests of boys. More male teachers. Novels with male themes (e.g. war and coming of age ordeals). Histories centered around competitions and wars. Wilderness survival. Physics and things.
  • Encourage single women who want to get knocked up to get knocked up by higher status males (who will have genes for higher IQ, greater ambition and greater health).
  • Stop letting in low-skilled immigrants who compete with the poorly educated lower classes. Our lower classes are too poor already. Stop piling on them with more imported cheap labor competition.
By Randall Parker 2013 March 23 01:01 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(7)
2013 March 19 Tuesday
Cyprus Parliament Rejects Depositor Haircut

The bankrupt Cyprus banks are headed for a crash. While the "bank holiday" has been extended to March 26 that's just a speculative number. The banks are bankrupt. If they reopen without a bailout a bank rush will drain them.

On the bright side: the bank stockholders and bond holders will lose some or all their money. My guess is the depositors will end up losing some as well. The banks do not have the money to pay them all their deposits back.

The continued bank holiday will cause the Cyprus economy to nose dive. What will local businesses do to keep buying and selling to each other? Some can switch to foreign bank accounts. Some can switch to trade of goods and services. But that's far less efficient. Probably a cheap time to vacation in Cyprus. My guess is the tourist industry is hurting. Certainly the shop, restaurant, and local hotel owners will welcome payments in cash, probably for discount. You might even be able to get cheaper bulk Cyprus olive oil by depositing into a foreign bank account.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 19 09:02 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(11)
Obama Wants House Repubs Out Of His Way In 2015, 2016

The 2014 election is key.

Obama has committed to raising money for fellow Democrats, agreed to help recruit viable candidates, and launched a political nonprofit group dedicated to furthering his agenda and that of his congressional allies. The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office, according to congressional Democrats, strategists and others familiar with Obama’s thinking.

Parenthetically: I think we are better off with divided government regardless of who controls the White House. An unrestrained political party is a bad thing.

Okay, what to do about this at a personal level: Get your guns and ammo in 2014. My hope is that gun and ammo production will soar enough in 2013 that prices will come down by 2014. So then 2014 could be the buying season before a Democratic Congress makes self defense much more difficult.

Hopefully the Democrats won't gain power in the House so that we still have some checks and balances. Toward that end: If you live in a swing district in 2014 then go out and vote.

Immigration: our elites are for it regardless of who comes in. This is dumb. We should be very selective and just skim off the cream. Why are our elites so destructive?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 19 07:31 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(4)
Jeong Ethnic Kinship Strong In South Korea

Robert Koehler, a resident of South Korea who is married to a South Korean woman, muses on the intensity of feelings of loyalty between Koreans.

What I'd like to know: what's the genetic distance between the average pair of South Koreans and how does that compare to, say, the genetic distance between the average pair of Finns or Swedes or Irish or Tunisians (picking smaller nation nationalities off the top of my head)? Do countries which are genetically closely related which do not have a high rate of cousin marriage share some attributes that distinguish them? Are these attributes mostly absent from countries with cousin marriage due to even shorter genetic distances within the extended family of brothers, sisters, and cousins?

What I'm thinking is the gradient of genetic distances between family and nation matter as much as genetic distances within families and within nations in determining the political character of a country.

What I'm wondering: Do some populations practice outbreeding (not marrying cousins) and yet have they managed to be sufficiently isolated that they have long runs of homozygosity (link to hbd chick and also see Dienekes on the same subject) in a larger scale population? So high ethnic solidarity without the downside of excessive loyalty to family at the expense of loyalty to the nation? To put it another way: genetic load be like? I'm thinking South Korea. Maybe Finland too.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 19 07:27 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(0)
2013 March 18 Monday
Elite Colleges Failing When Talented Poor Do Not Apply?

A David Leonhardt article in the New York Times carries this curious title: Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor. The supposed evidence of failure:

Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges

How is that failure? Sounds like success to me. The elite colleges want to recruit people who are most likely to become members of the elite in their professional and entrepreneurial pursuits. Are smart poor kids or or smart upper middle class kids more likely to become very wealthy? I'm pretty sure its the latter. So how is this outcome a failure for Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, or Stanford? Sounds like a big success.

The elite colleges could expand their class sizes in order to make more room for bright kids from the lower classes. But the elite schools keep their class sizes the same even as population grows and far more foreign applicants apply.

Harvard leads the pack with ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI). Other top schools include UPenn, Columbia, and Yale. The Ivies are all about the upper classes. They are biased against Asians, most whites, and a few other categories my readers are likely to be members of. Accept that they have huge incentives to be this way and that they are not going to change in the foreseeable future.

It is time for the vast majority of the population to look away from elite schools and ask what is the best strategy for bright kids who don't want to rack up $200k of debt to get a college degree. I say early college education is the first thing to pursue. Start trying to take online courses in early teen years and even summer college courses while in early high school if you can afford it. Go for the skills with the most market value (e.g. petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, computer science, business finance classes). Get degrees sooner and at lower cost. Move to where the money is.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 18 09:00 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(7)
Bond Holders Protected In Cyprus

In Europe the first €100,000 of bank deposits are, in theory, covered by depositer insurance. This is like FDIC insurance for deposits in America. But the EU found a loophole: they are intervening before the banks fail. So they say the deposit insurance provision doesn't kick in. No bank failure? Then no deposit insurance payout. Instead they fleece depositors and reward bond holders. The bond holders and stock holders of the banks ought to lose their investments. But that's not what's happening.

What's more, there is something morally offensive about a plan that makes ordinary Cypriots lose a chunk of what will in many cases be meagre savings while bond holders get away unscathed. As Marc Ostwald of Monument Securities noted, the deal "highlights how post 2007 efforts to resuscitate and rescue western economies have continued to favour the vested interests of the financial sector, while treating the "population at large" with disdain and contempt – this sort of attitude is still a seedbed for social revolution, as has been witnessed above all in the Arab Spring."

To be clear: People who actually save money are being punished for their prudence. But Euro banks and investment funds that bought bonds of dodgy Cyprus banks are being rescued. The irresponsible are protected. The responsible are fleeced. This is the story of the modern Leviathan.

With the huge surge in living standards of the last couple hundred years we have lost the selective pressures that the Malthusian Trap used to exercise to improve the gene pool. Governments captured by a combination of the irresponsible poor and the irresponsible rich subsidize even more irresponsibility.

The Cyprus parliament might not pass the tax on deposits. Will a failure of the banks then lead to a better resolution of the crisis? The European financial crisis and southern European economic depression goes on. Is an economic depression in America's future too?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 18 08:32 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(6)
2013 March 17 Sunday
Will Cyprus Bank Deposit Haircut Cause Bank Runs?

Cyprus' two biggest banks were on the verge of failing. So Cyprus made a deal with the EU for a bank bailout in exchange for a 6.75% to 9.9% tax (or partial government seizure) on bank deposits. Bailing out the Cypriots was going to cost too many billions of Euros. So Berlin insisted on the haircut. That is understandable. Why should the Germans bail out Cyprus?

The problem: This tax/haircut increases the risks that Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese citizens will decide it makes sense to move their money elsewhere. I would love to see what happens to deposits in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal in the coming weeks and months. If I lived in one of those countries I'd get most of my money into northern European and American banks.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 17 11:15 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(1)
2013 March 10 Sunday
Pope Francis, The Poor, And Progress (or lack thereof)

As you might have heard, the new Pope from Argentina wants the Catholic Church to be all about the poor. The pope also warns against "demonic worldliness". I would like to take issue with this framing of the world.

UC Davis economic historian Gregory Clark, in his book A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, laid out a mechanism by which natural selection worked to create a more productive and prudent middle class in England. It was because that middle class worked very hard in this world to achieve goals in this world (produce more and better stuff and make more money) that the genes and behavioral traits for middle class prosperity was selected for. If, say, the most skilled English people were held in thrall of the idea that poverty was some sort of positive good this selective pressure would have either been slowed or prevented. The escape from the poverty and suffering of the Malthusian trap would not have been possible if Pope Francis' world view had held sway in England.

This is brutal and harsh to say (at least to some liberal ears), but back in the Malthusian Trap era more alms to the poor would have caused the poor to make more babies and for the middle class to make fewer babies. The Malthusian Trap period of suffering would have lasted much longer.

Ron Unz has recently applied Clark's analysis to China in his essay How Social Darwinism Made Modern China: A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom (and see Peter Frost on same). The same thing played out in China. Centuries of hard times for the lower classes have been necessary for the lifting of most of the human race up into the industrial era.

The great tragedy of our current era is that this selective pressure has been lifted. criminals are having more kids than non-criminals. Dummies are having more kids than smarties. The "poor" is really a euphemism for the dumb, those with high impulsiveness and low discount rates, the mentally ill, and the criminal elements of society.

If we had a rational mainstream political debate one of the big questions would be how to reduce suffering among the "poor" while also reducing their rate of having kids who are doomed to be poor (and I can think of ways to do that without necessarily reducing their fertility btw). That's not a discussion Pope Francis or the vast majority of secular liberals are willing to entertain. But unless we accept how we came to be capable of creating an industrialized civilization and why we are at risk of losing that capability our civilization will decline.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 10 07:24 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(9)
2013 March 09 Saturday
Women Miss Their Locked-Up Criminal Men

While a sociology professor at Yale is surprised by how much wives and girlfriends of incarcerated thugs get bummed out by the separation from their thug men the results are consistent with a realistic view of humanl nature.

“When we think about the men who spend time behind bars, a whole host of images spring to mind, few of which are positive, and almost none of which involve their families,” notes Wildeman. “And when their families do come to mind, moreover, the images are almost uniformly negative: a mother disappointed in her wayward son; a lover relieved to be rid a partner who has long struggled with addiction and been prone to violence; a daughter who learned of her father’s incarceration weeks after the fact because the ties between them have grown weak as his broken promises mount.”

While these images may ring true to many, says Wildeman, they are — at least for the most part — inaccurate.

Liberal academics lack basic intuitive understanding of the left half of the bell curve, whether the x axis is measuring IQ, crime, or other ways in which people are dysfunctional or parasitic. Their results should not be a surprise.

When their alpha thug man gets locked up women get depressed. They are deprived of that dominant jerk alpha.

In their study, Wildeman and his collaborators found that mothers of the children of men in prison were most likely to be affected by the fathers’ incarceration. “Although many would assume that relief would be the dominant response to having the fathers of their children — many of whom had turned out to be disappointing partners and fathers — locked up, exactly the opposite is the case,” says Wildeman.

In fact, for most of these women, there is upwards of a 25 percent increase in their risk of being depressed and a comparably substantial decline in their happiness, note the researchers.

Given a proper frame of mind these results become expected. To help you reframe away from the intellectually bankrupt conventional feminist liberal wisdom here are some Heartiste posts on the theme of women digging criminals and other bad boys. A sampler for your consideration: Chicks Dig Jerks: Prison Tryst Edition, Chicks Dig Serial Killers, Chicks Dig Jerks: Norwegian Terrorist Gets Love Letters In Jail, and More Scientific Evidence That Chicks Dig Jerks.

Heartiste on the sad plight of the beta males who actually make society function:

women have to *deny* their sexual essences to choose beta males as romantic partners. I'm sure all those beta males feel lucky to be the logical choice of women, instead of the love choice of women.

The real tragedy here is that criminals have more kids than other men. Criminality is being selected for. The proper response to that is not a sociology study by Ivy League professors about depressed women left behind. We need fewer babies from thugs and their thug-loving women.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 09 09:30 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(33)
A Before And After Meth User Slide Show

See these before and after shots of methamphetamine users and note the small number of years before the devastation of their faces and after the devastation of their faces.

Known meth users should be isolated from society in locations where they can be tested daily for drug use. We need islands where people who can't control their damaging urges get to live. Meth user island. Pedophile island.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 09 09:04 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(4)
Thucydides And America: Foreign Adventures Gotta Go

Roosh finds some good stuff from Thucydides:

Athens’ biggest worry was the sheer recklessness of its own democratic government. A simple majority of the citizenry, urged on and incensed by clever demagogues, might capriciously send out military forces in unnecessary and exhausting adventures.

An alternative approach: separationism. They are there. We are here. They aren't here. We aren't there. Works for me.

Which reminds me of a speech from John Kerry when he became Secretary of State.

The United States risks losing the business and job opportunities of an expanding global economy, as well as the security that flows from promoting American values abroad, if America’s role in the world falls prey to the budget battle now gripping Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday

With about two thirds of US federal spending going to old folks and poor folks we've already shot our fiscal wad before we get to foreign adventures. We really need to cut out the foreign games so that government can provide basic non-welfare services like prisons, crime investigators, roads, bridges, and scientific research.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 09 09:03 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(5)
2013 March 04 Monday
Obama Bluffing On Iran Attack?

Will Obama attack Iran to prevent it from bringing its nuclear weapons development program to fruition?

Barack Obama's threats to use military force to prevent Iran securing a nuclear weapon are more than idle bluffs, vice-president Joe Biden told the biggest pro-Israeli lobbying group Aipac on Monday.

Does Obama mean it? I do not see anything short of a massive air attack from preventing Iran from developing working nukes.

Imagine Obama goes thru with the attack. Will some neocons switch parties? In the longer run as the Republican Party becomes less electable (demography is destiny) it wold make sense for neocons to move to the Donkey column so they can operate within the party that has long term power to try to maintain an aggressive military posture toward Israel's enemies.

In the longer term I wonder whether AIPAC and allies can succeed in maintaining a strong enough US military to project force into the Middle East. Liberals aren't so big on the US military. Liberals want more money to shift toward social programs. The demand for those programs will grow as the lower class continues to grow. Plus, the growing demographic groups have less of the religious beliefs (i.e. less fundamentalist Protestant Christianity of the form that feels special obligations from their interpretation of the Bible to help the Jews) that have allowed the domestic alliance in support of Israel to be so strong.

Will the very demographic trends that are strengthening the Democratic Party undermine US support for Israel? Is a Pyrrhic victory in the offing for some of those who support those demographic changes?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 04 09:21 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(22)
2013 March 03 Sunday
USDA And EU Eggs: Illegal In Each Others' Jurisdictions

Luckily the US government is protecting Americans from dangerous European eggs and the EU governments are protecting Brits and Europeans from dangerous American eggs. Don't you all feel a lot safer?

Believe it or not, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) graded eggs would be illegal if sold the UK, or indeed anywhere in the European Union (EU). It’s all to do with the fact that commercial American eggs are federally required to be washed and sanitized before they reach the consumer. EU egg marketing laws, on the other hand, state that Class A eggs – those found on supermarkets shelves, must not be washed, or cleaned in any way.

You can click through and read the details of the thinking of both regulatory agencies.

When I was a kid I raised chickens and ate their eggs without USDA processing. However did I manage to survive into adulthood?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 03 10:43 AM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(3)
Surge In People Giving Up United States Citizenship

Expats want to escape US taxes on a country they rarely see.

Across the world 1,781 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2011 compared with just 231 in 2008, when US tax laws changed

The US embassy in London has a 3 month long queue of people waiting to get an appointment to renounce their US citizenship.

Many countries (e.g. Britain) do not tax their citizens on money they earn while working abroad. The US does tax us no matter where we are. Given the Leviathan's growing appetite for tax money to feed the welfare state it seems likely the incentives to renounce are going to grow. What we need: a bigger market for citizenships.

The US government really ought to charge foreigners a large amount for citizenship with the ability to apply the charge toward, say, the next 10 year of tax bills. Then the poorly paid won't be able to afford citizenship and the value of new citizens will rise.

The overwhelming opposition to measures to raise the quality of immigrants is such that we'll continue to take in more of those who are less productive and more of the highly productive will leave. I expect some smaller nations will step into the void and specialize in catering to the most talented, productive, and accomplished. Which smaller countries will become the homes of the elites?

By Randall Parker 2013 March 03 10:16 AM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(3)
2013 March 02 Saturday
Rising Discount Rate On US Government Spending

People who have a high discount rate place greater value on money they can spend today for a benefit today than money they can spend tomorrow for a benefit tomorrow. They place greater value on a benefit (or, if you prefer, consumptio) tomorrow than a benefit or consumption next week or next year. This struck me as I read piece in The Economist about how much of total tax revenue goes to fund the welfare state. The welfare state is overwhelmingly concerned with delivering immediate benefits. The welfare state amounts to spending driven by a high discount rate.

In 2012, by my count, about 65% of federal non-interest spending went to health care, income security and pension programmes. The bulk of it, of course, went to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Altogether, in 2012 the federal government spent some $2.3 trillion on what amounts to a gigantic social safety net.

This means the US government is heavily focused on providing for immediate wants and needs. The two thirds of federal spending that goes to health care and welfare payments (and Social Security checks really are welfare payments in a Ponzi scheme) does not get spent for long term benefit. It does not fund medical research or energy research or research into worsening global environmental problems. It does not go go build infrastructure such as highways, bridges, light rail, or better air traffic control systems. It does not go toward an asteroid defense system or try to cut soil erosion or toward border security.

Politically controlled spending is rising. At the same time, the discount rate on politically controlled spending is high and rising. So government efforts aimed at solving long term problems are declining as negative government impacts are rising.

That gigantic amount of money aimed at short term needs and desires is not enough to pay for all currently eligible recipients of federal medical aid. Medicaid and Medicare payouts (and insurance company payouts that are tied to Medicaid and Medicare) have been cut so far that some doctors, especially in rural areas, are going broke.The Medicaid eligible have a much more difficult time finding doctors who will see them. It is easier politically to cut payouts for doctors while at the same time increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid and Medicare.

Higher taxes can not solve the welfare state funding problem because the US government (and a number of European governments as well as the Japanese government) is spending way beyond its tax revenue. Large tax increases would be needed just to balance the budget today. An aging population, a growing lower class, and declining average living standards make economic growth and tax revenue growth an even bleaker prospect.

As regular readers know, I think the US economy's potential growth rate (as well as that of Britain, France, and other Western countries) has shifted down and will likely shift even lower. Therefore current funding levels for Western welfare states can not be sustained. A Washington Post piece looks at how a growing number of economists across the political spectrum are thinking we've lost the ability to sustain the post-World War II economic growth rates.

What if something has changed, thanks to fallout from the recession, or a string of bad policy choices, or both, and growth has shifted into a lower gear? What if this slow and fragile expansion is as good as we’re likely to get for a while?

Since the economy can't grow as much we need to get smarter about government spending and shift more of it toward longer term goals. But the opposite it taking place: the ROI on government spending is dropping.

By Randall Parker 2013 March 02 12:46 PM 
Entry Permalink | Comments(13)
Advertise here. Contact randall dot parker at ymail dot com
 
Web parapundit.com
Site Traffic Info