2013 October 30 Wednesday
Americans Influenced By International League Tables?

A New York Times article claims Americans are more willing to look abroad for examples of how to live because the US has fallen in so many international comparison tables.

These days, there are international league tables ranking the United States against dozens of countries, in hundreds of categories. These findings — along with the war in Iraq and the financial crisis — have chipped away at some ideas we’ve long had about ourselves. For instance, new studies of social mobility show that people in Canada and much of Western Europe now have an easier time than we do of realizing the “American dream” of becoming richer than their parents.

I certainly think that American exceptionalism is increasingly viewable only in the rear view mirror. But the value of these international ranking tables is largely lost due to widespread ignorance of human nature. The ideological gatekeepers in academia and mass media feed the masses a steady stream of mythology about the human race that prevents people from gleaning the many valuable insights that can be gotten from international comparisons.

When it comes to human nature we live in an era of ignorance that is analogous to how the Catholic Church tried to prevent anyone from coming to believe that the world is not flat. In our flat world Finland's school system is assumed to be the reason for very high Finnish student performance even though both Finland and South Korea do great on international comparisons in spite of having very opposite approaches to teaching and treatment of students. Since innate ability and innate personality traits are off the table we are left in the position of astronomers in the Middle Ages trying to build elaborate models to account for it all - but with less demand for the rigor that any explanatory model be capable of predicting future events.

If you do not believe mainstream doctrine the world makes so much more sense. What to make of a chart which shows countries which are falling behind or closing the gap with the United States on productivity. It all depends on your priors. Given priors that include reading psychometric research the chart just reports what you expect. Given priors based on the tabula rasa faith the chart could seem inexplicable or require assembly of a large assortment of patchwork arguments based on politically correct intellectual fads.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 30 08:38 PM 
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2013 October 27 Sunday
China To Become Dominant Power?

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer takes a look at the rise of China:

YALTA – Given its rapid and successful development, there can be no doubt that the People’s Republic of China will become one of the dominant global powers of the twenty-first century. Indeed, despite the massive problems that the country is confronting, it could even emerge as the global power.

Well, America certainly can't continue to be dominant. Partly that's because some (though by no means all) other countries are going through rapid development. Also, partly that's because lots of things are going wrong inside America that will not get fixed.

Fischer's best point is that China's government has enough on its hands just to manage its own very large population. Certainly the Chinese leaders have to tread carefully to maintain

The permanent danger of overstretching the country’s internal political structures is unlikely to permit any imperial foreign-policy role. Insofar as this is true, the United States won’t be replaced as the dominant power unless and until it abdicates that role. This may sound simple, but it will have far-reaching consequences for the coming century’s international order.

But I disagree with Fischer's assertion that this means the United States will therefore remain as the dominant power. The US work force is declining in quality at a time when the importance of brain power is rising. US tax revenue is getting shifted from external (defense, foreign aid) to internal purposes (medical care and other services for the poor lower classes).

My sense of it is that the world is going to be less managed by one or two or three powers. The European Union is caught up in the problems of its nation-states, aging population, and its own low quality immigration problem. China's aging population will start slowing its growth as well. I also expect natural resource costs to slow growth.

Another important development which I expect will weaken large nation-states: capital will break its connection to large populations as robots eliminate the need for manual laborers and computers end the need for lower skilled brain workers. Capital will flee from nation-states with large welfare states and dependent populations. Capital will move to small countries with lots of robots. Capital will pay smart people to move to these countries.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 27 11:28 AM 
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2013 October 26 Saturday
What Arab Spring Mutated Into: Sectarian Violence, Extremism

A piece in the Gray Lady (a.k.a. the New York Times) shows the newspaper of record wants to record the obvious: Arab Spring did not lead to a flowering of liberal democracy, tolerance, and freedom.

Not only does the new approach have little in common with the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush, but it is also a scaling back of the more expansive American role that Mr. Obama himself articulated two years ago, before the Arab Spring mutated into sectarian violence, extremism and brutal repression.

The Gray Lady still comes up short by leaving out the tribalism that makes the Libyan central government powerless while the tribes drive each other out of whole cities set up fiefdoms.

Like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi understood what he was holding together and what would come afterward.

Gaddafi himself, as he watched his regime crumble, had predicted that his ousting would precipitate a disintegration of the state which he had held together by force, into warring factions, separated by tribal loyalties; and even if one were to argue that the dictator was simply making a case for his own odious regime, it transpires, it appears, that his prediction about what was likely to follow his downfall was right.

Obama's new foreign policy for the Middle East does not matter. The US role in the region has not been constructive. The US will not negotiate a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The US is probably more likely to make the outcome in Syria worse than better for the US, for Syrian minorities, or for Israel for that matter.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 26 09:39 PM 
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Arrant Nonsense Philanthropy From Buffett Son

Warren Buffett has given his son a few billion dollars to try to save the poorest parts of the world. The headline from Christian Science Monitor: Howard Buffett seeks lasting solutions to the world's food and water crises.

Lasting solutions? His water pumps and other similar purchases aren't addressing root causes. Africa's population will quadruple in the 21st century to 4.2 billion in 2100. Nigerian women average 6 babies each. In some African countries fertility has stopped dropping and is 5.2 babies per woman overall. The Buffett's do not have a plan to cause African fertility to drop to replacement levels. Therefore Buffett philanthropy activity will be stampeded over rising numbers of successive generations of very poor people.

Africa is stuck in a Malthusian Trap. Any philanthropy not aimed precisely at ending that trap will just enable a population expansion into an even bigger Malthusian Trap.

Is it too much to expect the richest and most powerful people in the world to think rationally and aim at root causes when they intervene? Yes, that is too much to expect. Humans think and try much harder to get money and power than they think and try on what to do with it once they get it.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 26 09:02 PM 
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Why Was Angela Merkel's Phone Insecure?

That the US National Security Agency would want to tap the phone of the German chancellor (or any head of state) is not surprising. What is surprising: Why wasn't the German intelligence agency unable to provide Merkel with a secure phone?

That the NSA could even consider tapping into – “tasking,” in the community’s jargon – Merkel’s cell phone reflects the reality both of how relatively easy it has become to do that, and of how information-gathering and information-storing capabilities have exploded over the past decade.

Is it possible to tap Barack Obama's phone? I bet it is extremely difficult.

What I also wonder: How incompetent is the NSA at creating silos for their internal secrets if a contract computer administration could find out so much information on so many NSA programs?

By Randall Parker 2013 October 26 04:06 PM 
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Few Believe Immigration Deal Will Seal Border

The public know elected officials are lying: 5% Think Feds Very Likely to Seal Border if New Immigration Law Passes.

Most states have seen a drop in median incomes in the last 12 years. I expect this trend to continue. Automation basically reduces the demand of the top stratas of society for the lower stratas. If you do not bring to the table the ability to be highly productive the upper classes will opt for machines and foreign labor instead of your labor. You've got to sell your labor for less.

Plus, immigration has brought a large surge in the populations at lower skill levels, a surge that looks set to continue just due to babies already born and growing up. If you are competing with them for jobs as truck drivers, janitors, fast food restaurant worker, roofer, and the like then expect to get paid less as the ranks of your competitors grow as a fraction of the total society.

On the bright side: If you've been skating thru life performing below your cognitive ability then you've got the potential to learn better skills and move up-market. The sooner you do it the easier it will be. Don't wait till you get laid off from some job in an industry where demand for your labor is collapsing. You will suddenly find yourself unemployed for a long time or working for a much lower salary. Once you've taken that hit to your earnings you'll have less money and time to use to spend on retraining.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 26 11:34 AM 
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2013 October 24 Thursday
Feminism Making Women Unhappy

Gavin McInnes on feminism's negative impact on the happiness of women.

“We’ve trivialized childbirth and being domestic so much that women are forced to pretend to be men. They’re feigning this toughness. They’re miserable,” McInnes said in part during a contentious and expletive-laced exchange on a HuffPost Live panel on Monday.

Not sure whether McInnes has the cause exactly right but the happiness of women has been on the decline from a much higher level in the 1950s and women are now less happy than men.

The problem as I see it: the short term incentives pull in directions that lead away from long term happiness. So I do not expect some great dawning realization to pull women back toward life trajectories that make them more happy in the long run. The hypergamous instinct will cause women in their 20s to delay commitment, marriage, and children as they turn away from settling. The drive for a career will do the same and will leave many women unsatisfied. I do not see a solution.

We are not in the environments we evolved in. If we are happy it is to a great extent by luck.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 24 10:32 PM 
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Media Schizo About Genetic Impacts On Brain

A genetic take on politics (with real evidence!) on a site that usually features articles based on the Blank Slate view of human nature.

The third cluster shows the amazing finding of Bouchard’s survey: Identical twins reared apart had a strong correlation between their political orientations; but the scores of fraternal twins raised separately didn’t correlate significantly. These results suggest that genetics plays a decisive role in determining political attitudes. In other words, identical twins are more likely than fraternal twins to agree on divisive issues, precisely because they’re more closely related to one another.

By contrast, on the same site Jordan Weissman specializes in tabula rasa journalism with pieces like Study: Almost Half of Public School Students Are Now Low-Income: A new study reminds us that poverty is the giant backpack dragging down American students and How Poverty Sinks Our Schools (in 2 Graphs). He presents data that makes for grim reading. But he doesn't acknowledge the most powerful factor causing differences in how people perform in life: genes.

I am very curious to see when the findings of twins studies on our understanding of the mind (big role of genetic differences in intellectual ability, drive, conscientiousness, resilience, other mental attributes) get traced to specific genetic variants how the liberal intellectuals deal with it. Will they stop writing pieces about how poverty is a big cause of differences in scholastic performance? Will they start worrying about who makes babies and who doesn't? Will evidence impact their political positions in salutary ways? Will we be able to have realistic discussions of what is going wrong?

By Randall Parker 2013 October 24 09:37 PM 
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2013 October 23 Wednesday
As America Declines In Importance So Do Its Intellectuals

America's intellectuals will make less impact on the rest of the world as American per capita income declines in world rankings and the total GDP of the US continues its decline as a percentage of world GDP.

Domestically American intellectuals will become less powerful as well. The conservative intellectuals won't be able to influence many conservative elected officials because the big demographic shift due to immigration is making the Republican party into political road kill. Can a conservative think tank exercise much influence in California state politics. Nope. The same will happen with Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and other states.

Liberal intellectuals will become less powerful as well. The US government will be too cash strapped to execute on new liberal spending initiatives. The size of designated victim classes will grow too large for any of them to get really big slices of the tax pie. I expect big acts of symbolic policy initiatives as an attempt to compensate for inability to do big substantive things.

America's foreign policy intellectuals will become less important as well when the US starts pulling back from foreign bases and cuts foreign aide budgets that the US government uses to buy influence.

I expect some American intellectuals to try to become global intellectuals. But trying to influence the people of many countries in order to change policies in many less powerful countries is much harder and offers far less probability of success. It made sense for British and European intellectuals to move to America and try to make a mark. There is not an obvious next destination for American intellectuals.

Look at China. China is on the way up. But it is not an open market for ideas from American and other Western intellectuals. Its government does not want a lot of deep probing and debate about the nature of society and its government is quite willing to suppress foreign ideas. Plus, the language, character set, and culture are additional obstacles.

The return on investment from being an American intellectual is already stunted by political correctness. It is not like American intellectuals can drill down on all problems to get to root causes. So American intellectuals are already seriously hobbled in their attempts to sell ideas and make a big impact. They are running out of ideas worth selling and increasingly face both domestic and international markets hostile to what they are selling.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 23 09:12 PM 
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2013 October 20 Sunday
GED Exams Going To Get Harder

A New York Times has an article about making the general educational development (GED) . Of course the very first sentence leads with concerns over the negative impacts of these state-level policy changes on the down trodden. Any future Turing Machine designed to generate articles for the New York Times will need to be programmed to heavily accentuate worries about impacts on designated victim classes in most paragraphs. The trick is mix in some facts so the reader feels informed, but not so many that the most salient truth is obvious. Interleave the facts with the politically correct schadenfreude and you've got yourself a New York Times article.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The high school equivalency exams taken by people who dropped out of school and immigrants seeking a foothold in the American education system are about to get harder and potentially more expensive, causing concern that fewer will take and pass the exams.

Click thru and read the whole article. What's missing from this predictably doctrinally liberal New York Times take on GED certificates and the job market? A discussion of controlling for intelligence when comparing GED holders, high school grads, and college grads. Controlling for intelligence would throw a very different (and useful!) light on the value of a GED. But we live in a society where the elephant in the room is steadfastly ignored by the absurd mainstream media.

GED holders make less money than high school grads. Suppose this result was controlled for IQ test results. I bet the gap would shrink. But GED holders have lower conscientiousness. So they would likely do worse even with the same average IQ.

A five-year study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that a 20-percent income gap may exist between a recipient of a General Education Development credential and a high school diploma.

Of course. The same qualities that make one less likely to graduate high school also make one less effective in the work force.

The Census Bureau paints an even bleaker picture of the difference between high school grads and GED holders. Partly that's because a much higher percentage of high school grads go on to college. In other words, high school grads are smarter and more persistent than GED holders.

In 2009, 16.9 million adults earned a GED certificate to satisfy their high school requirements. While 73 percent of those who received a high school diploma went on to complete at least some postsecondary education, less than half (43 percent) of GED certificate recipients did so. Furthermore, only 5 percent earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast, of high school diploma holders, 33 percent earned this level of education.

GED certificate holders had lower earnings than those who earned a regular high school diploma regardless of sex, race and ethnicity or age. Overall, high school diploma holders earned approximately $4,700 in mean monthly earnings compared with GED certificate holders, who earned $3,100.

I am in favor of a proliferation of standardized tests to demonstrate how smart you are and how much you know. Give employers more and stronger signals. Also, give yourself a better measure of how much you've learned so far and what are your weak areas.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 20 10:19 AM 
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2013 October 19 Saturday
Washington DC Economy: No Need For Low Skilled

In a piece about a battle over Wal-Mart wages and minimum wages in Washington DC Megan McArdle opines that the D.C. economy doesn't have much use for those who aren't highly skilled.

The long boom in D.C.’s economy doesn’t have much place for unskilled or semi-skilled workers

Has this insight caused any alteration of her views on immigration? I'd like to hear what Megan thinks of figure 4.2 and what it portends for the future of libertarianism in the United States of America.

A growing fraction of the US population wants more services from government. A growing fraction of the US population is lower skilled. The US economy's demand for low skilled labor is on the decline.

The old white majority has enough (and growing) problems already without the demographic transformation due to immigration. I see the coming death of American exceptionalism.

In the comments Mercer points to an article McArdle wrote a couple of weeks ago that reveals Megan actually believes that cutting low skilled immigration (which is what immigration from poor countries amounts to) won't improve the lot of low skilled workers in America. Yet increasing supply of something lowers its price. Labor is not an exception, especially low skilled labor.

So let me state the central problem facing people who actually want to improve the plight of the average worker, rather than imagine an improvement: The easy solutions -- ending technological progress, shutting down immigration from poor countries, cutting off trade with all but our fellow rich industrialized nations -- would not only be bad for American consumers (most of whom are also workers), but also be terrible for millions upon millions of poor people in other countries.

The more technologically able among us are busy developing computer systems and robots that are cutting the utility of low skilled labor. The least educated are facing declining demand for their labor. In our robotic future this will only continue.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 19 10:26 AM 
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2013 October 17 Thursday
Debased Citizenship And Elites Battling On

US citizens, your citizenship is like a currency being debased. The federal legal system battles the marginalized formerly dominant majority.

PHOENIX — Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof.

George Soros, I like the "of what it calls conservatives" phrasing. People who really are conservatives are morally delegitimized.

The George Soros-funded National Immigration Forum (NIF) is organizing a “fly-in” of what it calls conservatives from across the country aimed at lobbying House Republicans for an amnesty bill.

I expect big money to win in the long term. The empire is striking back within the Republican Party: Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party, BUSINESS GROUPS TO FIGHT CONSERVATIVES OVER IMMIGRATION: 'Hopes of replacing tea-party ... with more business-friendly pragmatists', Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P., Business Republicans are starting to lead a counter-reformation within GOP, GOP grassroots unite to block immigration ‘disaster’.

Will big business retain control of the two big political parties? I think so. The two main forces in American politics will be the wealthy and the welfare state supplicants (see figure 4.2).

By Randall Parker 2013 October 17 09:26 PM 
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Obamacare Medical Exchanges Causing Adverse Selection

Only really sick people will put up with the repeated failures and delays to persevere and get medical insurance. So the medical insurance companies think they are headed for a financial fall.

One key worry is based on the fact that what they’re facing is not a situation where it is impossible to buy coverage but one where it is possible but very difficult to buy coverage. That’s much worse from their point of view, because it means that only highly motivated consumers are getting coverage. People who are highly motivated to get coverage in a community-rated insurance system are very likely to be in bad health. The healthy young man who sees an ad for his state exchange during a baseball game and loads up the site to get coverage—the dream consumer so essential to the design of the exchange system—will not keep trying 25 times over a week if the site is not working. The person with high health costs and no insurance will. The exchange system is designed to enable that sick person to get coverage, of course, but it can only do that if the healthy person does too. The insurers don’t yet have a clear overall sense of the risk profile of the people who are signing up, but the circumstantial evidence they have is very distressing to them. The danger of a rapid adverse selection spiral is much more serious than they believed possible this summer. They would love it if the administration could shut down the exchange system, at least the federal one, until the interface problems can be addressed. But they know this is impossible.

The insurance companies should have spent their own money to build the federal web site for the feds so that this problem didn't happen. But they made their deal with the federal devil when they supported the original legislation. So perhaps this is just punishment.

My guess is this system won't get killed. Now that it is enacted it would take a huge public reaction against it to peel it back. So the challenge is to avoid getting your health damaged by getting into a chintzy insurance plan with few choices of doctors. My advice: Keep some money saved that you can use to consult top specialists. If you get seriously ill with a mystery ailment which is hard to diagnose you will need to see the best. Be prepared to pay for it with cash out of pocket.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 17 09:15 PM 
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2013 October 13 Sunday
Captain Phillips: Not The Hero That Tom Hanks Portrays

Considered arrogant by his crew, he refused to take advise to sail further out to sea near Somalia.

Phillips has admitted that, on board, he got seven e-mails about increased piracy off Somalia — each exhorting ships to move farther offshore by at least 600 miles.

The Maersk was 235 miles off the coast, says the crew member, though Phillips has since rounded that number up to 300.

Read the whole article. The movie portrays the crew in a less favorable light (lazy union men). Yet the article portrays them as far more responsible than Phillips. It illustrates why I do not go to see Hollywood movies that are supposed to be based on real events.

People want to think their leaders are responsible and that their leaders have their best interests at heart. Nope.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 13 09:43 AM 
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2013 October 12 Saturday
On America's Poverty Geography

A New York Times map on the poor and medically uninsured shows both expected and unexpected (at least by me) concentrations of poverty. Eastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho as places with big concentrations of the poor? You can see where the southwest and sections of California have gotten deeper poverty due to Mexican immigration. Plus, you can see concentrations of poor blacks in the old South and poor whites in West Virginia.

I expect the concentration of smart people into smaller numbers of areas of the United States to continue. Is that a correct expectation? I can see why smart people could get spread out by their desire to live in mountains or right on coasts. But most will benefit by living in high concentrations of other smart people. Their ability to drive up housing costs should push out lower skilled workers, especially as the brainier companies even further lessen their need for manual laborers and other low skilled workers.

I am wondering where the lower classes will concentrate. Will they go south to escape higher costs of cold weather living? That seems to be a trend.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 12 08:14 PM 
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States Paying Feds To Reopen National Parks

Utah, Arizona, New York, South Dakota, and Colorado are ponying up to pay federal government employee salaries to keep open the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and other big tourist draws.

There's a lesson here: we'd be better off turning many federal parks over to the states that care more about them and which get more local benefits from them. The states see a much more direct connection between money spent and money brought in by tourist dollars.

Some states have upped admissions fees to pay more of park operating costs and New Hampshire state parks are self-sufficient. Federal parks could go much further in this direction. Admissions fees should be raised to pay for the large backlog of roads and facilities maintenance. More restaurants, lodges, and other revenue sources could be opened in the parks.

One thing I've learned recently: some of the national parks are bordered by national forests with really similar terrain. If a national park is closed see if a national forest will give you the hiking trails and scenery that you seek.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 12 07:55 PM 
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US Postal Service Defaults On Retiree Health Care Fund Payment

The US Postal Service lost $16 billion in 2012. It just defaulted on a $5 billion payment to its retiree health care fund. It is basically bankrupt but gets to keep operating because it is a creation of the US government. The USPS symbolizes what is wrong with the USA: a government and a populace who want to live beyond their means. The debts of the USPS keep accumulating.

Without that flexibility to run its own affairs, innovate and raise revenue, Donahoe has said, the agency could require a taxpayer bailout of nearly $50 billion by 2017.

Congress is forcing the USPS to employ too many people. Why? One reason is the Congressional Black Caucus. The USPS is a big employer of blacks and gives them better paying jobs than most can get in the private sector. Another reason: Congressional reps who want to keep rural post offices open in their districts. Another reason: just plain

The continuing revolution in computing and communications technologies is gutting demand for first class mail delivery. I use stamps maybe 4 or 5 times a year. I occasionally go thru my (mostly unopened) mail and identify financial or other institutions to create an online account for just so that I can turn off their monthly and quarterly mailings.

Help cut down the size of the USPS, make the US economy more efficient, and save yourself time and effort. In a couple of previous posts I've collected together ways turn off junk mail solicitations. Go click thru and follow along to various sites and turn off the junk.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 12 05:54 PM 
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2013 October 06 Sunday
Choosing Welfare Benefits Over Marriage

Hanna Rosin takes a look at lower class usage of "fiance" to refer to partners in long-time unmarried relationships.

Lavelle asks Big Toya to marry him, but she turns him down flat, because she doesn’t want to lose “her freedom, her food stamps or her subsidized apartment.” But he persuades her to let him call her his fiancée anyway.

That succinctly sums up the impact of the welfare state on lower class marriages. You might guess by their names that they are black. But marriage rates among lower class whites have plummeted as well.

Rosin found that welfare-over-marriage story in a book by Kathryn Edin: Doing The Best I Can: Fatherhood In The Inner City. Edin has written a related book: Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage.

We have lost the benefits of the selective pressures of the Malthusian Trap. See Gregory Clark's book A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World for a pretty good exposition on how those selective pressured worked to create an intelligent and prudent middle class in England. Now selective pressures are running in the opposite direction. This is the most important long term trend in the United States. Will offspring genetic engineering reverse the trend? Starting when?

By Randall Parker 2013 October 06 12:12 PM 
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Deep Political Polarization In America

A product of immigration.

The bonds that once helped produce political consensus have gradually eroded, replaced by competing camps that live in parallel universes, have sharply divergent world views and express more distrust of opponents than they did decades ago. Many activists describe the stakes in apocalyptic terms.

Pete Wehner, an official in the White House under President George W. Bush, said there is now a huge premium among the most conservative wing of his party to fight for the sake of fighting. “People feel like we’re losing our country,” he said. “That’s not my view, but it is the view of a lot of people, and it moves them to be pugilistic, to be more combative and more confrontational. They believe there’s a huge amount at stake.”

The polarization will continue once the Democrats achieve majority control of the House. But the Republicans won't matter any more. What is going on now with the Republican refusing to compromise is akin to a last ditch stand of losing army. This could go on for some years. But eventually the demographic transformation of America wrought by immigration will leave the majority of whites with little say as the Democrats try to ramp up the welfare state. The Democrats will enjoy a Pyrrhic victory though as a rising fraction of the total population become net dependents on the state, paying little in taxes and getting lots of welfare state benefits.

The conservatives currently are up against an administration that has gone to the most extreme measures to prevent government employees from leaking to the press. It is amazing how strongly Obama opposes letting even a heavily biased liberal press from reporting what his government is doing.

Are we just on a path of decline? Or are we on a road to disunion? I figure the decline can go on for a long time before disunion becomes a possibility.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 06 12:05 PM 
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Yeats: The Worst Are Full Of Passionate Intensity

Every time I hear a bad policy being advocated by someone in denial about human nature I hear lines from William Butler Yeats:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 06 11:30 AM 
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Heartiste On Rationalizations For Stupidity

Heartiste is using rhetoric very similar to my own about how the Democrats are defeating the Republicans with a demographic tactic that will not yield them a real benefit (aside from control over the levers of power): Pyrrhic liberal victories.

Since true equalization is impossible given biological constraints, the stupidity will just ratchet up with each Pyrrhic liberal victory, and the rationalizations for the stupidity will become more labyrinthine, until civilization is paralyzed into inaction, and then eventual implosion and full regression to a pre-stupidity state.

Heartiste is reacting to a Steve Sailer post (and one commenter in particular) about a report complaining about non-white and female numbers among US officers. The US military, an organization that wages highly controlled and intense violence, is being called too male. The female angle is especially interesting because the evidence for innate male-female differences in levels of musculature is pretty widely accepted and it seems obvious that men are a lot more attracted to violence than women are. Yet the mainstream media just avoids mention of assorted elephants in the room.

In a similar vein the The New York Times just published an article entitled Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science? Most smart women prefer medicine (and within it, medical specialties that involve more human contact), veterinary medicine, law, and other fields with a more social and human relations aspect. Over three quarters of new veterinarians are now female. They are acting on their preferences. I see no reason to disrespect these preferences as long as men and women are passing the same tests and other objective evaluations. But these revealed preferences do not matter to those who want the number of women to equal or exceed the number of men in every field.

Intellectuals especially want to deny our biological limitations. This denial is irresponsible. A realistic understanding enables realistic policies. By contrast, delusion enables vicious cycles of destructive policies.

The emotional dimension of the denial is especially interesting. There's something fundamentally immature about a refusal to accept our innate abilities and preferences.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 06 10:23 AM 
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2013 October 05 Saturday
Tyler Cowen On Those Seeing Lower Wages

For his new book Average Is Over Tyler Cowen is interviewed by Erik Barker. With more data and more processing power comes more things that can be done with data.

The more information that’s out there, the greater the returns to just being willing to sit down and apply yourself.

I know lots of sharp motivated software developers who fit this description:

isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it. So if you’re an individual, say from China or India, and you’re really smart and motivated, you’re going to do much better in this new world than say 10 or 20 years ago.

It is no longer enough to be born in an industrialized economy to grow up, apply yourself moderately, and get a decent job, career path, and income.

Is Tyler describing you?

But there are a lot of people in the wealthier countries, I wouldn’t describe them as lazy, but they’re not super motivated. They think they can more or less get by. I think in relative terms those people are already starting to see lower wages because they’re just not quite the prize commodities they think they are. They’ll do okay. They’ll be able to get jobs, but they’re not really individuals who are going to see a lot of income growth, and I think this could be a rude awakening to a lot of people.

By the way, most people who work in exempt jobs (not paid by hour) greatly overestimate how many hours they work per week.

I am amazed at the number of people who won't put up the effort to change and develop new skill sets. The longer they wait the harder the change will be. Check out the dropping median incomes in most states in the last 12 years. Michigan is down 19%.

Not everyone is smart enough to adapt to the new world of smart machines. But if you are smart enough and you aren't trying to get better skills you are being irresponsible to yourself. No political party is going to save you. No political movement is going to preserve your market value. If you aren't independently wealthy then your choices are either a safe government job (which does not include all government jobs) or lots of technical skills or awesome management or sales skills or some combination thereof.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 05 06:18 PM 
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US Military Has Over Twice The Trust Of The Presidency

Under what conditions is a military coup possible? How about when people trust the military far more than they trust other major institutions of society?

As of June 2013 the US military rates as engendering a great deal of trust (43%) or quite a lot (33%). By contrast, the presidency scores 19% and 17% for those answers to the same question. Small business (29%, 36%) scores in second place after the military with the police (26%, 31%) in third place. The US Supreme Court is 7th place at 13% and 21%. Perhaps they shouldn't act like legislators so much?

Institutions below the US Supreme Court in trust: Congress (5%, 5%) is at the bottom. Congress is rated even lower than Health Maintenance Organizations (8%, 11%). Banks score higher in trust than newspapers and big business but below public schools..

Why does Congress rate so low? My guess: Congress is where a zero sum game gets played out over money. When Congress gives some group money other groups do not get what they want. In a society where the pie is not expanding less money is available to placate groups. More groups are frustrated about not getting what they want. Old promises can't not even be fulfilled (e.g. because the number of retired is growing and they cost much more to placate). The net taxpayers (those who pay more than they get) know they are paying for all this and getting less in return. So Congress can no longer buy off enough interest groups to keep them happy.

Other articles on the Gallup site fit into a general theme of declining public trust in major societal institutions: Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record and Americans' Confidence in Newspapers Continues to Erode.

The American people still have fairly high trust in their fellow citizens (why?) but the trend is downward: In U.S., Political Trust in "American People" at New Low. America is definitely on the road of declining trust. Immigration is one of the reasons why.

This all brings to mind Dennis Mangan's post Asabiya and America (with Asabiya defined as "social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness and sense of shared purpose, and social cohesion,[1] originally in a context of "tribalism" and "clanism"."). Mangan takes a look at Peter Turchin's War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires. Turchin says higher levels of cooperation happen when an empire are threatened by a common enemy. Then once an empire becomes very powerful conflicts within it grow and these conflicts undermine the empire, leading to collapse.

Americans live in a nation with stagnant or declining incomes (especially Michigan), declining trust, younger generations that are achieving less than older generations. Generation Y Millennials are saddled with debt and more part-time work. Huge debts and no savings. Most have poor career prospects. Are we witnessing the slow death in the belief in American exceptionalism?

My advice: get skills that make you more relevant. Master the hardest topics you can handle. Work your brain harder. Or become a loser.

By Randall Parker 2013 October 05 08:50 AM 
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