2015 February 25 Wednesday
1 Kazakh, 2 Uzbeks Arrested In US While Headed To ISIS, Syria

You might ask by 1 Islamic radical from Kazakhstan and 2 from Uzbekistan would be living in Brooklyn. At least you would if you were old school. Nowadays this sort of question won't get asked in the liberal media. These guys were just arrested while planning to go to Syria to fight for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Islamic Caliphate. The Kazakh, Saidakhmetov, was arrested in JFK International.

Sure, Saidakhmetov talked about killing Americans if he didn't manage to join the caliphate. But is that any reason to stop him? Or is it instead a reason to make sure he gets to Syria? Another one of them, Juraboev, did not intend to come back. Well that's good. Free flight out for anyone who wants to leave and does not intend to come back. Work for you?

I am being serious. Shouldn't we let help all the West's jihadists go to Syria? Granted, that's bad news for Syria's Christians. But we could help the Syrian Christians who are arming themselves to fight the Jihadists. We could give the Christians (and Alawites and Druze and Shiites while we are at it) really cool weapons (tanks, mortars, anti-tank weapons, 50 caliber machine guns) and close air support. How about carving out a Christian state somewhere in the Middle East for all the refugees from Iraq and even Egypt? Put them together in one place, heavily armed.

The interpretation of Islam embraced by the Islamic Caliphate is pretty 7th century. The Islamic State fighters created a place to attract the extremists and pull them out of the West. Lucky us. We should be grateful and make use of their efforts.

Globally, there is a migration of people toward more affluent societies (at least those societies which will let them in). There is also a migration of people to live among people of like mind. I think we should have less of the former and more of the latter. Let people get away from those of opposing views who would impose their views on those with dissenting views. Let extremists congregate together away from everyone else.

Globalization is creating absurdities in America. Why should we import Muslim religious extremists and then arrest them when they try to leave to go fight Jihad? They shouldn't have been here in the first place. What I'm wondering: How much more absurd will America become as the 21st century plays out? I see conditions developing that should create much greater absurdity in the future.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 25 08:37 PM 
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2015 February 21 Saturday
Wal-Mart Needs Higher Quality Workers To Compete

Megan McArdle argues Wal-Mart is raising its wages above minimum wage because it needs higher quality workers in order to compete in a changing competitive retail market.

So here’s a third possibility: Unlike many of the people who write about Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart understands how efficiency wages work. It is treating its workers better because this will enable the company to get better workers.

Alas, I think she's right. Why "alas"? Because it signals a further shift of demand away from the least skilled and least able workers. Already there is a 30% labor force employed participation rate gap between high school drop-outs and college graduates. Most high school drop-outs are not employed. If they aren't good enough for Wal-Mart then where does that leave them?

Online ordering is reducing the demand for retail workers. Automated delivery systems will eventually reduce it much further. I'm at a loss to see where the new big sources of demand for the left hand side of the IQ Bell Curve could come from. In 20 years time our homes will be more robotic, retail purchasing and delivery will be much more automated, and long haul trucking won't be done by humans. Fast food joints will use few human workers.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 21 06:55 PM 
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Future For Lower Class: Microapartments

In New York City these will still be a couple thousand dollars a month. But imagine areas where land is cheaper. Millions of our growing lower classes could live in microapartments.

Some of you might be opposed to having growing lower classes. But the billionaires are not interested in what you think. Big money wants the Republican leaders to ignore their base and cave on Obama's immigration amnesty.

If GOP leaders launch an emotional public PR campaign against the Democrats’ amnesty, for example, by arguing that it is unfair to Americans, they’ll get a lot of closed-door pushback from critical donors.

This pretty much leads us to the necessity of microapartments. Tyler Cowen expects declining wages for the poor.

"It will bring more wealthy people than ever before, but also more poor people, including people who do not always have access to basic public services. Rather than balancing our budget with higher taxes or lower benefits, we will allow the real wages of many workers to fall and thus we will allow the creation of a new underclass."

A huge gap in employment rates by educational level has already opened up. It will grow. Obama's amnesty will make it grow faster and the resulting diversity will simultaneously reduce civic involvement and social capital. Below some minimum threshold of social capital a future like Brazil beckons.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 21 09:42 AM 
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2015 February 18 Wednesday
Barack Spins On Our Battle With Islamic Fundamentalists

He doesn't come out and say they are perverts. I think America's secular religion has become a perversion.

US President Barack Obama says the US is "not at war with Islam - we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam".

The "not real Islam" trope is false and tiring.

In fact, the Caliphate folks are taking Islam back to its (brutal, oppressive) roots in the 7th and 8th centuries. They are taking the Koran seriously and literally. Now, that's a problem for us, especially since we have a government that thinks immigration from all over the world is just peachy.

I do not want to deal with people who are still thinking like they are in the 7th century. But our elites think they know better than me and think we should learn to love diversity because diversity is always great.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 18 09:52 PM 
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2015 February 16 Monday
Islamic State Returns Islam To Its Early Years

Graeme Wood has done an excellent job researching what the IS leaders really believe about Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

This is very worth reading in full. Our own elites have painted IS with pretty foolish stereotypes and tried to claim that IS, like terrorists, does not represent real Islam. This has blinded our elites to the nature of the problem we face with Jihadists, terrorists, and IS in particular.

As the recent beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya demonstrates, the influence of IS extends beyond its battlegrounds in Iraq and Syria. Not all Jihadists aligned with it are choosing to go to Syria to go to battle. Some decide to attack in Paris or Copenhagen. Others in other Arab countries.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 16 09:32 PM 
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2015 February 14 Saturday
On The Rising Chorus To Imprison Fewer Criminals

In the never ending battle to stop oppression the next group up for consideration? Criminals. If you want to argue against this (probably unstoppable) movement it will probably not help any to have facts on your side. But you still might want the facts anyway. So here are some for your consideration: Recidivism Of Prisoners Released In 30 States In 2005: Patterns From 2005 To 2010

Highlights:

Among state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005— 

  • About two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. 
  • Within 5 years of release, 82.1% of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 76.9% of drug offenders, 73.6% of public order offenders, and 71.3% of violent offenders.
  • More than a third (36.8%) of all prisoners who were arrested within 5 years of release were arrested within the first 6 months after release, with more than half (56.7%) arrested by the end of the first year.
  • Two in five (42.3%) released prisoners were either not arrested or arrested once in the 5 years after their release.
  • A sixth (16.1%) of released prisoners were responsible for almost half (48.4%) of the nearly 1.2 million arrests that occurred in the 5-year follow-up period.
  • An estimated 10.9% of released prisoners were arrested in a state other than the one that released them during the 5-year follow-up period
  • Within 5 years of release, 84.1% of inmates who were age 24 or younger at release were arrested, compared to 78.6% of inmates ages 25 to 39 and 69.2% of those age 40 or older.

Prisons are horrible places. Prison rape makes the horrible worse. Some people in prison are innocent. Others are in for minor crimes and aren't dangerous to us. But when you ponder the figures above consider that lots of people getting rearrested aren't getting arrested for the first crime that they committed once they got out. How many victims are there for each burglar, car robber, rapist, violent gangs, and arsonist before those criminals get arrested again? How many get out on bail and commit more crimes while waiting for trial?

My guess: the optimal solution for public safety is to let some inmates out of prison so the most dangerous can be held for even longer. Does the current state of research into criminology allow improved predictions on who is most likely to commit more crimes? Probably yes. See Adrian Raine's The Anatomy Of Violence for a survey of what is known about biological contributors to risk of violence and criminality. But we need a lot more research so we can more accurately identify the unredeemable.

Update: To get a sense of just how badly criminal gangs terrorize some portions of American society read this. How to get these people locked up?

By Randall Parker 2015 February 14 07:57 PM 
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2015 February 12 Thursday
Liberal Humanism And Christian Morality

We have imported a number of competing moral beliefs. How is this going to turn out? The future is going to be an adventure.

True story: A few years back, I sat across the table in a north Dallas steakhouse from a local Muslim CAIR leader who objected by my having called the teachings of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, “violent.” I responded that Qaradawi taught that it was permissible for Muslim men to beat their wives, and that homosexuals should be stoned to death. “That’s violence,” I said.

He denied it. “You call it violence,” he shot back. “We call it protecting our families.”

This comes up in an essay by Rod Dreher about how Barack Obama either assumes or at least wants us to believe that the moral beliefs of liberal humanitarianism are the same as the moral beliefs of Christianity. Rod, a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian, disagrees.

The point is that in his speech, the president seems to believe that liberal humanitarianism is the same thing as normative Christianity, and indeed normative religion. By his reckoning, a religion that “justifies the taking of innocent lives” and “oppresses” the weak and the few, and whose god “condones terror,” or justifies “oppression, violence, or hatred” cannot be true religion.

There is certainly a strong element in secular liberal thought that holds that secular liberalism is just as good and moral as religion (and by religion they mean upper class New England Protestant Christian sects). They claim to hold dear all the key moral beliefs that a Christian must embrace and therefore see themselves as superior to Christians: moral goodness without false beliefs about the supernatural.

Faced with any other religion secular upper class Western thinkers assume those other religions have to have the same moral beliefs. So when anyone from those other religions does not hold the same beliefs as upper class New England secularists are just bad followers of those other religions and not sufficiently educated.

Liberal secularists who think this way sound very foolish when faced with, say, the latest Islamic terrorist attack ("not true Islam", "hijacking of Islam by extremists", and other errant nonsense). But I think there is a strategy at work: they want to define what is legitimate and to a great deal, at least in some Western countries, they succeed by domination of the press, academia, and judicial benches. However, the West's influence on the rest of the world is in decline. So their moral assertions are losing power.

Also see Dreher's Rawlsian Opposition to Gay Marriage. My reaction to that piece is that even if the writer Dreher quotes is correct about how John Rawls reasoned it does not matter. Rawlsian thought will be revised to meet the preferences of those who defend and promote left-liberal moral thinking in the West.

Liberals will face a profound challenge to their assumptions in the coming decades. But they are still ruling the West today and their position hasn't started to weaken yet. The weakening will come from both demographic changes in Europe and from research into human nature. A further undermining of their position might come from offspring genetic engineering if a substantial fraction of parents opt for human 2.0 choices that result in unliberal dispositions.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 12 05:31 PM 
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Fifty Shades of Grey: The Triumph Of Instinct

With 100 million copies sold to thrilled women the question arises: how can a book so counter to feminist ideology do so well among women raised in a culture that attempts to suppress gender differences?

One answer is that there’s a hunger that’s not being satisfied: Namely, for men who are unabashedly masculine, who aren’t afraid to take control, and to lead. That is, there’s a longing (even a lusting) for men who aren’t afraid of what’s classically been called “headship.” To this end, while Fifty Shades subverts Christian sexual morality, it subverts the modern crusade for “genderlessness” all the more.

Fifty Shades is about a meek young female hungering for a dominant, high status, handsome alpha male who turns out to be into bondage and total domination of his woman. This of course thrills her. This so strikes a cord with women around the world that its author has made a fortune from her books.

Fifty Shades demonstrates how strong are our instincts. The tabula rasa ideology is nonsense. Propaganda has failed to defeat instincts because instincts come from a deeper place in the mind, below the conscious level. The conscious mind may think it is in control. But it is being led around to pursue goals coming up out of parts of the mind it can't control.

Once offspring genetic engineering becomes possible there is a real possibility that women will choose to make male babies that will grow up to be very dominant men. Betas could become an endangered species.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 12 11:13 AM 
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2015 February 01 Sunday
Can Communist Party Reform In China And Remain In Power?

Will Xi Jinping's campaign against corruption in China go so far that it will remove the financial incentive to be a communist party member, to protect the communist party from attempts to replace it? Corruption reduces (how much?) China growth potential. But is corruption necessary for the survival of the government? An interview of Harvard history prof Roderick MacFarquhar makes for interesting reading: Q. and A.: Roderick MacFarquhar on Xi Jinping’s High-Risk Campaign to Save the Communist Party

You say a successful campaign against corruption. But the point about a successful campaign against corruption is that it’s all very well to get a few tigers, have cheers from the multitude because you’ve brought these people down. But it’s the fleas who are the real danger. The peasants and the workers are afflicted by local cadres. Petty corruption. Some of which results in ecological damage to the neighborhood and therefore health problems for themselves and their kids. Those are the people that are really the threat to the population at large, and if he goes after them, who’s going to work for the party? Who’s going to be the new cadres?

MacFarquhar makes a number of astute observations. For example, nationalism whipped up against foreigners can lead to expectations that, if not met, will anger the people who were made to feel emotionally worked up. They can then turn against the government. So nationalism is a risky tool to use, especially for a government that has legitimacy problems. On the other hand, since the communist party isn't very communist it is lacking in an ideology to give it legitimacy and to inspire loyalty. How to keep party members and the populace supporting the party?

How can a place as big as China change from the current party to a democracy without chaos and violence in the transition? China doesn't have local or regional democracy to serve as a training ground for leaders to gain skills and demonstrate abilities. How could leaders be chosen for national office in the first national elections? What pool of political personalities could run aside from existing high level party members?

I do not understand China well enough to have any guess about how it will be governed 10 or 20 years hence. Can the communist party survive for decades to come? Will it allow some limited form of democracy? Can it do that without losing control?

China now has the largest economy in the world. Its stability matters more every passing year. Imagine what would happen to the world economy of revolutionary upset in China disrupted factory work and trade. The whole world could fall into recession or worse.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 01 09:47 PM 
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Gregory Clark On Our Status Genotype

Gregory Clark, outlining arguments from his book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World), says there is "a general social competence of families and that that competence really changes slowly across generations".

Clark's findings make decades of inequality studies by economists look silly. Their confirmation bias blinded them and they wasted a lot of time and pushed a lot of bad policies as a result.

When we know all the genetic variations that contribute to social competence and economic success it should be possible to do a much better job measuring the efficacy of societal institutions (schools, regulatory policies, courts, markets) in enabling people to achieve their genetic potential. Quite a few policies are based on very wrong (tabula rasa) assumptions about human potential. We could have less stupid policies we stopped pretending outcomes are purely based on social environment.

In the West the resistance to a realistic view of humanity will last for many years beyond the point where advances in genetics and neurobiology disprove most tenets of secular faiths. But I expect many East Asian governments will rather eagerly apply actionable results from sciences of human nature and their societies will reap big benefits as a result. Rulers in Singapore, Taipei, Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul in particular will make more realistic policies based on science.

Out of the East Asian governments I expect Singapore is the one that will benefit the most. Singapore already has an immigration policy aimed at attracting professionals and a government willing to do more realistic social engineering (as compared to Marxist social engineering). Imagine what Singapore might do with genetic tests on prospective immigrants: only let in those whose genetic profiles for social behaviors and intellect will create an extremely prosperous society.

Singapore might end up serving as a model for some other small sovereign jurisdictions. Any small government willing to set up laws to let in only those with the most social competence and creative potential could create conditions for a far more successful than any currently existing. Such a transformation is easier to do to a smaller society because it is easier to find enough high functioning people to create a new majority for a smaller society than for a larger one. A society with too many bad starting conditions (a large existing population, bad location, harsh weather, high crime, etc) will not be able to do this transformation. I think we will witness a global sort where the most talented and able people concentrate in some smaller countries with highly selective immigration laws.

Also see Gregory Clark's previous book, A Farewell To Alms, which outlines the selective pressures for both genotypes and norms and beliefs that cause higher economic success.

By Randall Parker 2015 February 01 09:23 AM 
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