2016 March 27 Sunday
What Communism Has Done To Cuba Is Gruesome

A woman from Cuba describes what it is really like and argues you shouldn't say you want to see Cuba before it is ruined. I agree. I think you should see Cuba as an education into what communism does to an economy and a people.

The old cars are not kitschy; they are not a choice. It’s all they have. The old buildings are not preserved; their balconies are falling and killing people all the time. The very, very young girls prostituting themselves are not doing it because they can’t get enough of old Canadian men, but because it pays more than being a doctor does. Hospitals for regular Cuban citizens are not what Michael Moore showed you in Sicko. (That was a Communist hospital for members of the Party and for tourists, and I, for one, think Moore fell for their North Korea–like propaganda show pretty hard.) There are no janitors in the hospitals because it pays more money to steal janitorial supplies and sell them on the street than it does to actually have a job there. Therefore, the halls and rooms are covered in blood, urine, and feces, and you need to bring your own sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and mattresses when you are admitted.

Communism makes it happen. Michael Moore doesn't want to believe it.

Check out these photos from Cuba. A shabby place with people waiting for better times.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 27 08:53 PM 
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2016 March 26 Saturday
Belgium: The World's Wealthiest Failed State Due To Immigration

"The country of just 11.2 million people faces widening derision as being the world’s wealthiest failed state"

The cultural code of silence in the heavily immigrant district, as well as widespread distrust of already weak government authorities, has provided what amounts to a fifth column or forward base for the Islamic State.

Donald Trump is derided in the mainstream media for saying he'd put an end to Muslim immigration. But look at what the conventional wisdom of our sanctimonious rulers has given us. Belgium has a fifth column (even the New York Times admits it) of ISIS/Daesh supporters living safely and plotting with the help of a surrounding community that keeps its secrets. We should want these sorts of people living in our midst?

Our elites and the elites in Europe are grossly irresponsible, incredibly foolish, and deluded. These people rule us.

The human race did not evolve to handle the complexities that result from the jet airplane, mass media, and the internet. Wishful thinking, status signaling, and an averse to truths that cause discomfort give us increasingly dysfunctional government.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 26 10:18 AM 
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2016 March 25 Friday
Federal Debt On Rising Long Term Trajectory

A subject which is not going to get attention in this election season:

A decade ago, the federal debt was just 35% of GDP. It is now more than double that and projected to reach 86% in 2026. But that’s just the beginning. The annual budget deficit projected for 2026 is 5% of GDP. If it stays at that level, the debt ratio would eventually rise to 125%.

The electorate is heavily divided by race, ethnicity, gender, class. Lee Kuan Yew understood and would not be surprised by the result. the finer points of fiscal prudence is no longer in the cards. Entitlements will grow, not shrink. Democracy is failing.

We are going where Lee Kuan Yew expected:

Mr. Lee: Why should I be against democracy? The British came here, never gave me democracy, except when they were about to leave. But I cannot run my system based on their rules. I have to amend it to fit my people's position. In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I'd run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved because the Chinese majority would always overrule them. So I found a formula that changes that...

People aren't voting for the good of the commonwealth. The donor class chooses most of the candidates. We have deep racial splits where most issues (e.g. the federal debt) is not even a consideration. Identity is a much bigger consideration. I am way past thinking the dysfunction can be turned around.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 25 10:10 PM 
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Weak American Support For Free Trade

An article how whether Donald Trump can win the election has an interesting section about American views of free trade. The support is not so strong.

Trump's attacks on trade have the potential to win over voters. According to the Bloomberg Politics poll, 65 percent of Americans prefer more restrictions on imported goods to protect U.S. jobs, while 22 percent favor fewer restrictions. Forty-four percent said NAFTA, which took effect while Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, was in office, has been bad for the economy.

Trade and immigration are both subjects where the elites and masses differ in their views. The elites want more. The masses want less.

I do not think that Trump can win the election on immigration alone. He has to appeal to the lower classes more on trade. If he manages to win election will he put up trade barriers. My sense of it is that the President has very limited room for raising trade barriers. Legislation and treaties would hem him in pretty well. I suspect he would have more power to cut immigration than to raise tariffs.

Trump would have a lot more leeway in non-trade foreign policy. Primarily he'd be free to not do all the stupid sorts of things the last 3 Presidents have done abroad. So he'd make fewer mistakes by doing fewer foolish things abroad.

I think Trump still faces an uphill fight to win the Presidency because Hillary has striong support from the press, academia, billionaires, blacks, and Hispanics. Can the master persuader make inroads among women? Among the lower classes? It remains to be seen.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 25 09:49 PM 
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Thousands Fought In Bronze Age Battle In Germany

A bigger battle than had previously been thought possible in 1250 BC northern Europe.

About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. The confrontation can’t be found in any history books—the written word didn’t become common in these parts for another 2000 years—but this was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology.

How did people from over a wide area (southern and northern Europe, areas east and west) know to come together and fight in one spot on a single day? Were polities organized over a wider area then than we have suspected? What were they fighting over? What were the two sides? Will we ever know?

What's interesting: DNA analyzes are being done on some of the remains. But the bones are intermingled from lots of dead people. It isn't clear that any of the DNA will be able to be assigned to rival groups.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 25 09:33 PM 
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Conservative Purges, Conservative Publications

Read Paul E. Gottfried's The Logic Of Conservative Purges. It is about the series of writers who, over decades, were purged from mainstream conservatism, especially from writing in The National Review.

What I especially object to: litmus tests for conformity. Even if I perfectly agreed with the purgers on a long list of specific issues I'd still object to stifling diversity of opinions. Uniformity leads to uniformity of mistakes and intolerance of opposing views.

Whenever (not often) I go to The National Review web site I'm struck by a much more crusading feel than going to, by contrast, The American Conservative. Have a look at both. The former seems more bent on promoting an agenda and the latter seems more like people kicking around a lot of ideas about difficult problems with no easy solutions. The latter comes across more as people earnestly thinking out loud with less worry about ideological conformity. You can also find purged National Review writers at Taki's Magazine. Neither of them are likely to run an attack on the white lower class who aren't able to compete in the globalized economy.

If you want to read a site with both liberal and conservative writers grappling with the problems of Western societies without political correctness or ideological crusading check out Quillette. It has a more data-driven bent. Another alternative opinion site: Unz.com. It also has purged conservatives but also writers who were never part of the mainstream commentariat.

Am I leaving out some sites I ought to mention? Post links in the comments and I'll have a look.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 25 08:44 PM 
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$15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Likely For New York State

The politics in New York look favorable for a $15 per hour minimum wage.

The top 5 US states in population are California (39 million), Texas (27 million), Florida (20 million), New York (20 million), Illinois (13 million). Well, California has a $15 per hour min wage voter proposition for 2016. In the New Jersey (population 9 million) state legislature a $15 min wage bill is drawing attention.

We could find a fifth or even a quarter of the American population living under $15 minimum wage laws by 2025 if not sooner.

Of course regular readers know my takes of the effects of $15 per hour min wage:

  • Great news for robot makers
  • Will cut illegal immigration by reducing supply of low skilled jobs.
  • Will make more high school kids idle. If you are bright then Code Academy beckons.
  • Hastens the day when low IQ people become unemployable (already a reality for some of them).
  • Will greatly boost quality of restaurant food and many basic services as they become automated.

I look forward to automated cooking robots that can whip up recipes downloaded from internet recipe sites. The quality of fast food will soar.

Update: California politicians have just reached a deal for $15 min wage by 2022. Venture capitalists take note. Restaurant automation opportunities await the right start-up.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 25 02:32 PM 
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2016 March 20 Sunday
Mutually Incompatible Desires Of The Donor Class

Reihan Salam says To save itself, the Republican Party must finally put the working class ahead of the donor class. I assert that the Republican Party is incapable of doing that. James Pethokoukis says Paul Ryan just revealed that the GOP has learned nothing from its Trump debacle. Yes, and it is rallying around the viewpoint that it has to defeat Trump so that it does not have to learn anything. Ross Douthat presents Profiles In Paralysis on how Paul Ryan won't give an inch in the face of rebellion of the Republican base. Ryan's faith is strong.

What do most of the rich want?

  • Low taxes, at least for those who get most of their income from capital gains or dividends. Also. the corps want to continue to use arrangements such as the double Irish with Dutch Sandwich tax avoidance scheme.
  • Low regulations (unless the regs entrench a profitable monopoly).
  • Low trade barriers.
  • Open borders for migrants for cheap labor.
  • Perpetual war in the Middle East.

Some of these desires, translated into policy, set in motion changes to society that make other of these desires increasingly less attainable.

Imagine yourself a donor class billionaire. You going to meet many people who disagree with you? You'll have lackey employees, think tanks begging to take your money to prove you are right, peers who agree, quotes from famous libertarians to tell you that you are right and as smart about your wants as you are about how to accumulate lots of money. Not conducive to second guessing your judgments.

But these desires are not mutually compatible. First off, open borders undermines electoral support for their other wants. Open borders brings in a much more left-leaning population that remains that way for many generations, perhaps centuries. Most of that population is lower earning for many generations and is therefore eligible for and wants more welfare payments for themselves. That puts them in conflict with older natives who want promised old age retirement benefits.

Also, open borders cuts wages for the lower income levels in the Republican base. Similarly, lower trade barriers has sped offshoring of jobs and makes a lot of those who have suffered job losses and status and income losses a lot more willing to vote for someone who says he wants to make America great again.

If the donor class manages to get its way in this electoral cycle it is setting itself up for a much bigger loss in the future. The country will go Left (see youth for Bernie Sanders) and turn against lower taxes and lower regulations. It might well go protectionist as well.

But here's the thing about the donor class: they want it all and they are not willing to accept trade-offs. They want to believe they can convince any future American population of their shopping list of wants. They can't even convince a majority of Republican primary voters today, let alone Democrats. This ought to set off alarm bells in their heads. But they'd rather see the problem as due to a skilled demagogue rather than to them having mutually incompatible desires rather than face that they can't have it all.

The middle and lower classes are going to get even more restive in the future as more kinds of jobs get automated, outsourced, or staffed by imported labor. Even an end to lower skilled immigration (say anyone with less than an engineering degree) isn't going to stop automation and outsourcing. A long list of once reliable jobs for the working class are going away in 10-20 years (e.g. taxi driver, truck driver, and even sooner, fast food cashier).

Perpetual war in the Middle East is also going to get harder to do. The new Americans do not feel special affinity to Israel that evangelical white Christians feel. Also, the old American ethnic groups don't want to see their kids coming back with brain damage from improvised explosive devices. The government can not afford it and also afford the growing welfare state that is driven by both an aging population and less skilled immigrants.

I'd rather that the donor class hit its limits sooner, before more damage gets done to the commonwealth. But they might find a way to put down the political rebellion against them. They have a lot of resources (think private investigators, friendly prosecutors and IRS agents). They might find a way to keep getting what they want come 2017. But they face an increasingly uphill battle as demographic changes that they caused undermine their ability to get what they want.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 20 04:06 PM 
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2016 March 19 Saturday
Pieces Of Our Presidential Electoral Conflict

Donald Trump's skills at persuasion and attention-getting have shifted America's political debate outside the confines of where they'd prefer to keep the Overton Window. It has also highlighted the extent to which a very large part of the Republican Party's base feels abandoned and betrayed by its leaders and funders.

Trump's chances of getting enough votes to win the Republican nomination have risen so high that our elites are in a panic. We are being treated to a great deal of commentary from the mainstream media and Republican leaders and pundits on how a Trump presidency would be a disaster. Lets think about that.

What strikes me most: there are types of potential or actual policy disasters that will not get the media elite and donors worked up. For example, the long US military presence in Iraq was very expensive in money (trillions of dollars) and harm to US troops. It did not make the United States more secure. It could be argued the opposite happened since it made possible the rise of ISIS. This did not lead to Republicans saying we have to purge the party of neoconservatives or George W. Bush. Aside from the supposedly reckless Trump the rest of the field defended the war (except Rand Paul who faded very early).

Similarly, Hillary Clinton was for overthrowing Qaddafi in Libya. Obama was more reluctant than her but lacked the will to stop her. How'd that work out? ISIS controls about 150 miles of Libyan coastline around Sirte and the country has been in civil war for about 5 years. Its a disaster. Note what Philip H. Gordon says at that page. Probably no way we could have done Libya right. Yet Hillary's supporters point to her foreign policy experience as weighing in her favor. Look, we had the Afghanistan and Iraq nation building debacles already (and quite a few others in US foreign policy history). Anyone actually willing to learn did not need to learn the lesson again in Libya.

As I see it the Democratic and Republican Party foreign policy circles are dominated by irresponsible lunatics. How is Trump worse than them? Not seeing it. He seems way better on the Middle East.

Then there is Russia. Should we take a hard line against Russia? To hear some Republican Party Presidential candidates talk you'd think so. But how does this help our national security? Under Putin Russia is acting very Russian by taking back Crimea and a very Russian slice of Ukraine. Why should we get worked up about this? Neocons and neoliberals think its terrible. But the borders were an accident of Nikita Krushchev's Premiership and how the USSR broke up. Crimea really is Russian. The Obama State Department overplayed its hand in Ukraine and Russia responded. I can't see how Trump's friendlier attitude toward Putin is going to be bad. Anyone care to explain it? I think the stakes are low for US interests.

Or how about Syria? International pariah ISIS has a large chunk of the country. If Assad's government fell ISIS might expand its territory. The moderate opposition is a badly beaten minority. But there are neocon and neoliberal factions inside and outside the government who would have loved to see the US take out Assad a few years ago. Crazy.

Trump as the disaster on foreign policy? No, we already have bipartisan foreign policy disasters in place. Trump is sane compared to what passes for conventional wisdom on the use of US power abroad.

Next is immigration. That's a bipartisan disaster too. Importing tens of millions of poorly skilled people to drive down the wages of our existing lower classes is just a damaging thing to do to the commonwealth. Reduces incentives to make labor more productive. Increases the number of people who get more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Creates new divisions by race. Actually led to the very rise of Trump that the elites detest.

Here's what I see about the elites: They know what they want and will keep trying to get it. If Trump loses the elites aren't going to say they ought to address the legitimate concerns of his supporters. They'll say those concerns aren't legitimate. They'll revert to norm. They'll ramp up their propaganda and try harder. They'll also continue to use US power abroad in foolish and damaging ways.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 19 09:34 PM 
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Carrier Moving Jobs From Indianapolis To Mexico

One way Trump gets more voters: companies move their jobs abroad. One worker losing their job says about the prospects of finding a similarly paying job:

"I think it will be extremely hard to find a job that pays $22 an hour," Ms Bigbee said. "You have to be really blessed to find a job that pays that kind of money."

So there. Making more than $22 per hour? Then it is very likely you really are blessed, blessed with genetic variants that boost intelligence.

If you've got the genetic variants that boost intelligence but haven't used those smarter neurons to learn skills that shield you from out-sourcing you are making a mistake.

Another way Trump gets more voters: The Democrats let in illegal aliens who are willing to work for less. This make the donor class happy. It also makes happy the Democrats who want more lower class voters to support them.

The 90 IQ people are at a distinct disadvantage in this battle: They aren't smart enough to figure out where their interests lie. So not holding out much hope for their future employment.

Why else those of 90 IQ (and pretty much anyone near average or below average IQ) is screwed: The robots are coming. By 2035 taxi jobs, long haul trucker jobs, local delivery jobs, trash collection truck jobs, and other surface transportation jobs are going to be gone, gone, gone. Janitors? Gone for the most part. Backhoe, bulldozer, farm tractor jobs? In the history books.

Carrier would automate those air conditioning factory sooner if they couldn't get Mexican workers in Mexico to do the work for less than $20 per day. What is surprising to me: why didn't Carrier make the shift sooner? Loyalty to American workers? A drop in other costs in Mexico? What changed? Why now?

By Randall Parker 2016 March 19 05:18 PM 
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2016 March 12 Saturday
Trump Opponents Trapped By Delusions Of Donor Class

Reihan Salam gets this part right.

Having recognized this chasm separating the Republican donor class from the grassroots, Trump has exploited it brilliantly. He has defended entitlement programs, and he has bashed bankers. He has defied the elite consensus on trade and immigration. He is channeling the Republican id, and in doing so he may have already dashed conservative hopes of winning the White House. Why can’t his GOP opponents convince Republican voters that they would do a far better job than Trump of defending middle-class economic interests? The answer is that they are trapped by the delusions of the donor class, and they can’t break free.

In a nation where median household income peaked in the 1990s it is hard to argue that the elite consensus is good for the middle class.

If I was king I would require companies to pay immigrants a minimum of $100k per year. This would eliminate all the low skilled immigrants and those who are net burdens on society. It would greatly raise the skill level of the average immigrant as well. The number of immigrants would fall by at least an order of magnitude.

As king I would also deport all criminal immigrants, legal or illegal. I would also deport all illegal aliens.

I am amazed at the turn of events in this election cycle. The base in the Republican party is in rebellion. The MSM is in full fury trying to delegitimize them and trying not to yield an inch of their narrative. The billionaires don't want to accept that their right to buy the political system should in any way be limited by the views of mere citizens and voters. I am not excited by this yet because I think the establishment could still win and continue on their merry way in full contempt for Americans.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 12 02:41 PM 
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2016 March 06 Sunday
Patterns In Marriage Across Occupations

Play with this cool interactive graphical depiction of relationships between occupations of spouses.

A few observations: First, registered nurses seem to marry across the widest range of social classes. Some marry doctors while others marry truck drivers. But some other medical assistant occupations (e.g. licensed practical nurse, dental hygienist) are much more tilted toward marrying poorly paid guys.

Another observation: grade school and high school teachers marry across a fairly wide range of partner occupations.

Another one: looks like medical doctors today heavily marry each other. That's not true for most occupations.

Another one: cooks and waitresses marry each other. Propinquity has a lot to do with it. I'm guessing restaurants are going to become so automated that they'll lose most of their role for pairing up couples in the work place.

When truck drivers get automated out of a job will they find other jobs to make them acceptable for marriage?

Another point about jobs: jobs growth in the United States is becoming heavily focused on some coastal regions. Someone at an early stage of their career ought to take a long hard look at the graphic at that link and think about where they ought to live. If that is a long term trend then some pretty big regions aren't going to have good job prospects in the future. OTOH, if you can create your own business then the interior will probably remain a very cheap place to live.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 06 10:11 AM 
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NY Times Wants National $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage

Of course their take on it and conventional critics of this policy proposal miss the most interesting consequences.

My three main points about a high minimum wage are still true:

  • It will slash demand for cheap low skilled immigrant labor, legal or illegal (while also slashing demand for our least intellectually and physically able).
  • It will speed up automation in many industries. And I love this because quality of service will soar and eventually costs will be even lower.
  • It will have minimal impact on GDP because the low paid are responsible for so little added value.

$15 minimum wage will compress the time for an economic transformation that is going to happen anyhow. I'd like to see it in some states just for the pedagogical value. But a limited scale roll-out will provide much less incentive for advances in automation to compensate for higher labor costs.

Are you for or against? Why?

By Randall Parker 2016 March 06 09:59 AM 
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2016 March 03 Thursday
Can We Shift From Indefinite Back To Definite Future?

Hearing so much about Donald Trump and "Making America Great Again" brings to mind a book I'm reading: Peter Thiel, in his excellent book Zero To One, divides societies by whether they are optimistic or pessimistic and definite or indefinite. The latter division is between societies who want to achieve specific goals and those that don't. Take the big dams, big bridges, and Apollo program. These are definite society goals. Take the government as one big insurance program (health care, old age, etc). Those are indefinite society goals. Thiel argues America has transitioned from optimistic definite to optimistic indefinite. I suspect the optimistic part of it has substantially weakened as well.

We collectively no longer try to do great things. As the welfare programs have grown the amount of money left over for big achievement goals has dwindled pretty steadily. Everything else has gotten squeezed. We can't do big things any more. Take the Apollo program for example. It was around 1% of GDP for some years. Getting that portion of GDP allocated some some big projects today would be extremely difficult. Old folks and poorer minorities would oppose taking money away from helping them. So I'm skeptical the mood of the country can be turned around via prestige projects. I think demographics weigh against this. Also, future prospects for big national prestige projects look even dimmer as US national government debt continues to grow.

What else weighs against a return to definite optimism: We are pretty far away from the days when incomes rose for all social classes at a pretty steady clip. Granted, a halt and reversal of flow of lower skilled labor into the country (imagine Trump succeeds at this) would help the lower tiers. But technological trends are concentrating most earnings increases into the top 10%. Also, big national construction and technological achievement projects would cost too much given the growing welfare state and .

If Donald Trump gets elected, builds a wall with Mexico, and deports millions of illegal aliens (while still letting in highly skilled workers btw) I certainly think our lower and middle classes will benefit. But I do not think that Trump can implement policies that will cause such big changes as to restore the feeling of definite optimism that once characterized American attitudes.

By Randall Parker 2016 March 03 09:16 PM 
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