2016 June 29 Wednesday
Can Britain Manage To Do Brexit?

The European Union does not want other countries to follow in the UK's wake, Therefore the EU will seek ways to maximize Great Britain's pain from EU withdrawal while minimizing the EU's pain from the same. Ideally the EU would like to see Britain give up the attempt.

I think the EU has some advantages and tactics it can use to make the cost of Brexit fall much more heavily on Britain:

  • If Britain's withdrawal causes a drop in trade between Britain and the EU the drop will be larger per British citizen than per EU citizen because the British are fewer in number.
  • The EU can select industries to be hit by higher tariffs based on the ease with which the production in Britain can be shifted to the continent. Britain loses economy of scale on any product that gets blocked from trade between Britain and EU by EU-imposed tariffs.
  • Britain has a much larger diplomatic job to do to work out the withdrawal. The EU already has trade agreements with various nations around the world. Britain lost its own such agreements when it joined the EU. Now Britain has to negotiate lots of agreements.
  • Britain's own elites (notably including diplomats who will have to do the negotiating) aren't going to be eager to work hard to negotiate new terms for Britain with the EU and with other nations around the world.
  • The elites in Britain's traditional ally the United States would like to see Britain fail in its attempt at EU exit. So the government of the USA will probably drag its feet at negotiating new trade deals with Britain.

What Britain needs is some leaders who can rally around them civil servants and business leaders who are eager to negotiate new terms for Britain in the world economy and who are also eager to capitalize on various forms of flexibility that Britain gains from Brexit. What I think British leaders could do to nullify the EU's attempts to punish it:

  • Rapidly negotiate trade deals with other major countries (Brazil, India, Canada, Australia, Japan, China if possible, USA if possible, maybe even Russia) that take automatically effect upon Brexit. The more deals it makes the stronger its negotiating hand will grow with Brussels. I would even go so far as to argue that it should negotiate those deals and only then invoke EU article 50.
  • Develop alternative financial regulations that will attract financial firms to Britain (and think about Bitcoin/Blockchain and other alternative payment mechanisms in this context).
  • Identify the most innovation-hostile EU regulations and craft replacement regulations to go in effect upon Brexit.
  • Identify industries in continental Europe that could be enticed to relocate to a more friendly regulatory and tax regime in Britain.
  • Change immigration policy to brain drain the world. Do not allow in lower skilled workers but make it very easy for the very brightest and highest skilled workers to be brought it. Make Britain a desirable place for companies to set up research and product development facilities.
  • Grant stronger privacy rights for corporate data in corporate data centers. Make Britain a desirable place to build very large data centers.

If Britain very rapidly codifies all the changes that take place upon Brexit well in advance it will actually create a large business constituency for Brexit. Businesses that discover they will stand to gain from Brexit will then become boosters for Brexit.

To make this work the British government should ask British companies to each draft proposals for changes they would like that would become possible once Brussels no longer calls the shots. For example, lots of product standardization regulations could be repealed that the EU passed to make many products all the same across countries. Allow more diversity and ease of exploration of alternative solutions to problems.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 29 08:46 PM 
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2016 June 26 Sunday
Leaders In China Reject Progressive Future

Xi is purging.

In the last eighteen months, Chinese schools have been instructed to shun Western values. This has involved directives from the education ministry, censorship of books, and shaking down academics. Xi believes that Chinese thought should be rooted in the classic tradition of China. These acts are reported in the Western press without any self-awareness. Western universities select for progressive orthodoxy, purge non-believers and wrong thinkers and tightly control what is published, promoted, and taught. China is giving the same direction, but in opposition to progressivism; it’s just a bit more overt, as far as the eyes of Western media are concerned.

Wonder when the progressives will get upset about this. Maybe never.

This does not just apply to the academic realm.

Chinese authorities have “banned all depictions of gay people on television, as part of a cultural crackdown on “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content.“” This is not simply about homosexuals, but since the West adores homosexuals for now, this is the worst element of the ban. Extramarital affairs, underage relationships, homosexuality, and perversions are now banned, as well.

I wish Samuel Huntington was still alive to opine on what this portends for the future. Will the various non-Western civilizations develop even greater immune responses to Western ideas? Picture a future where Chinese biomedical advances make offspring far less likely to do things the leaders find morally objectionable. Political differences will be amplified by offspring genetic engineering.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 07:44 PM 
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Join The Progressive Side For Greater Freedom Of Speech

Scott Adams thinks he has more freedom of speech now that he's endorsed Hillary Clinton for president of the USA.

Many of you can’t talk about this topic without being accused of sexism, losing your jobs, and being cast out of your social groups. But I can talk about it because I endorse Hillary Clinton for president. I did that for my personal safety, because I live in California, but still, I’m on the progressive side now. That gives me some extra freedom of speech.

Originally Adams endorsed Hillary because he figures he's less likely to be assassinated that way.

So I’ve decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, for my personal safety. Trump supporters don’t have any bad feelings about patriotic Americans such as myself, so I’ll be safe from that crowd. But Clinton supporters have convinced me – and here I am being 100% serious – that my safety is at risk if I am seen as supportive of Trump. So I’m taking the safe way out and endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Adams thinks Clinton has a new adviser who is teaching Hillary to use the same persuasion techniques as Trump uses. He thinks Clinton now even has a chance of winning. Though Clinton's rhetoric is more likely to get Trump supporters beat up.. If you go to a Trump rally go with a gang for mutual protection.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 07:17 PM 
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Brexit, Transnationalists, Nationalists

Great Britain is going to exit the European Union. Good for them. Britain is lucky it still has its own currency. Otherwise Brexit would be very difficult. Megan McArdle argues that the transnationalists need to make peace with their nationalist neighbors who have their own interests and preferences. But I do not see that happening.

Even simple self-interest suggests that it may be time for the elites in Britain and beyond to sue for peace, rather than letting their newborn transnational identity drive them into a war they can’t win -- as happened with so many new states in the 19th and 20th centuries. Try to reforge common identities with the neighbors they have to live with, and look for treaty rules that will let them live in peace. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that transnationalism is any more capable of tempering its own excesses than the nationalism that preceded it.

I do not think the global elites are capable of tempering their excesses. I've made a related argument in here. The elites want what they want and aren't going to give up wanting it and trying to get it.

What's needed: a reshuffling of a slice of the world's population so that many transnationalists can all live in the same city-states without nationalists (think of several Singapores). These places would be Transnationalistan or perhaps Global Land. Global Land can be a set of cities with little countryside around them. A sort of Hanseatic League perhaps. The people living in them could be lawyers, bankers, marketing executives, and other symbol manipulators. People from New York City, London, Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt could move to them or their existing cities could be carved out into separate countries.

I expect the reshuffling to happen eventually. It won't happen yet because it requires a much higher level of automation to allow knowledge workers to break their commercial bonds with everyone else. Once the globalist symbol manipulators have very little need for service from human manual laborers the globalists aren't going to need to live near a servant class. Many of them won't want to support the lower classes with taxes on their higher class incomes.

The highly robotic and automated future isn't necessarily going to bring all the symbol manipulators together in a few city states. Rather, knowledge workers with different kinds of moral, social, and esthetic preferences could cluster in different city states. We could witness the emergence of rival city states that compete to most efficiently create congenial living and working environments for the knowledge workers with low taxes.

Another factor needed to make the city states viable: even greater mutual revulsion between the nationalists and transnationalists. I think the transnationalists aren't going to trim their sails. So rising revulsion seems at least plausible. Consider Streetwise Professor's views:

This is a global phenomenon: the Trump insurgency in the US is another example. What is most disturbing–and most revealing–about the reaction of the elites to these outbursts of popular opposition to their direction and instruction is their lack of self-examination and humility, and their immediate resort to scorn and insult directed at those who had the temerity to defy them. Immediately after the results were clear, those voting leave were tarred as old/white/stupid/poor/uneducated/racist.

Totally lacking was the question: “If argument and evidence are so clearly on our side, why did we fail so miserably in convincing people of the obvious?” To these self-perceived elites, their superiority is self-evident and any opposition can only be attributed to mental defect or bad faith.

It is natural to not want to be ruled by people who see you as mentally defective. So a break-up of assorted polities makes sense as a way to separate the condescending elites and the proles.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 01:17 PM 
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Ethnicities In San Francisco Schools; Culture Wars

San Francisco leans very heavily toward the Democrats. With that in mind check out the racial distribution of children in San Francisco schools and be sure to compare the school names to the racial distribution in each school. I'd like to know the direction of cause and effect between school names and racial distributions. Note what these (overwhelmingly Democrat) parents and voters say about their attitudes toward the schools. It is all pretty funny to me.

SF and NYC demonstrate what happens with the highest concentrations of American liberal upper class. The behavior of that upper class is instructive. There is a really big gap between the rules they want to enforce on the rest of us and what they do for themselves. That is also demonstrated by police behavior in NYC. They want safe streets even though that means police behavior that they'd rule totally beyond the pale if it happened in flyover country. Their hypocrisy is cheeky.

Funny behaviors of elites remind me of the recent (and still on-going) battle over Britain's membership in the European Union. Recently the non-elite parts of the population of England voted to have Britain (really just England since Scotland will secede) leave the European Union. This has elicited a lot of revealing responses from media and intellectual elites. Take this one from Foreign Policy: Brinsanity: The British people have spoken … and lost a lot of credibility. Really Englishmen, you've disappointed a Foreign Policy writer. Whatever were you thinking? Streetwise Professor does a great job of looking at the condescension of our elites. My take: they want what they want no matter how foolish that is.

When I was a kid we played army and shot at each other a lot. Now a kid who ate his pop-tart into the shape of a pistol and used it to shoot at other kids had his suspension upheld by a judge. This (and many other things) reminds me of how I recently came across Nassim Nicholas Taleb using this acronym: IYIs (Intellectuals-Yet-Idiots). We have a lot of IYI people writing in the press.

While the elites would deem it morally illegitimate for the proles to want to secede from a polity run by the elites a different standard holds for elite desires.

The elites have decided that prejudice based on political affiliation is good if it is prejudice directed at their opponents. For this and other reasons I really think breaking countries up into subcountries is a good idea. Best not be ruled by people who think you are morally inferior trash.

A Harvard economics prof understands what believers in homo economicus refuse to grasp:

Of course, if you delegitimize any identity that produces political opposition to what you want then it is a lot easier to reject any policies that respect someone's identity.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 26 01:17 PM 
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2016 June 19 Sunday
Hunger Spreading In Venezuela

Check out the latest news from the unfolding tragedy of socialism, stupidity, and democracy which is Venezuela: Venezuela’s Season of Starvation: Amid sky-high inflation, dangerous shortages, and political unrest, Nicolás Maduro’s regime is on the verge of collapse and Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation and Lost generation forming in Venezuela as violence, hunger plague schools.

The stories in those news reports are like others I've posted in the past. But the decline has gone much further. Hunger is spreading. What's amazing is the passivity of the population.

If I was Emperor of the Western Hemisphere I'd have Maduro removed along with all his ministers. Then I'd lift all price controls and return all seized businesses to private hands. I would also lift all currency controls too. Then I'd have Venezuela stop paying debt and use what little revenue it earns from exports to buy food. This is all pretty obvious stuff to do.

Talented people in Venezuela would be best off leaving. Why stay when the majority are capable of electing fools like Chavez and Maduro who are incapable of learning how an economy works?

By Randall Parker 2016 June 19 07:56 PM 
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2016 June 18 Saturday
What To Do About Ideologies?

Toni Airaksinenis recovering from a plunge into feminist ideology.

For example, feminist ideology taught me that any opinions that were conservative, or just didn’t align with the party line were violence. It also taught me that the best way to fight opposition is to try to silence it. Don’t like what someone says? Protest them. Shut their event down.

In retrospect, the fact that I openly embraced an ideology that claimed that holding a conservative viewpoint is the same as life-threatening violence, isn’t just absurd, it’s embarrassing. How was I so deluded?

The advent of conservative speakers being de-platformed or harassed by screaming social justice warriors is a logical consequence of an ideology that equates conservative opinions with physical violence.

What's surprising is that she's been able to start pulling herself out of this mindset. What fraction of people who are taught to think like this ever go thru withdrawal?

I pretty much do not want to be around people who've embraced an ideological faith. Probably one should visit with secular believers to keep up with what various secular faiths are up to. But I'd prefer they and I live in different political jurisdictions, preferably all the way up to the national level. Better to live with people who are more practical, rational, and interested in evidence.

What causes ideologies to flourish in the modern era? I think turning away from beliefs in supernatural religions leaves an unfulfilled need in a lot of people for an overarching explanation of how society works, what is the meaning of life, and, especially, who is good and who is evil. Some people have a strong need to point to an out-group against which their in-group is defined. I think it best these in and out groups are defined across national borders.

You might think one could fulfill one's need to understand life by, say, understanding math and science. But its beyond the mental ability of most people to understand even lower division calculus classes, let alone the more complex stuff. People have a hard time grasping evolution because the numbers of involved in making low probability events into high probability events are hard to get one's mind around. Complex systems are hard to model in one's mind.

Really really smart people who embrace crazy ideas like Marxism has other explanations too. For example, the extent to which people are bothered by inequality varies across the political spectrum and is probably inherited. People who are hardwired strongly against hierarchy or strongly against inequality (and these are separate attributes I think) are going to be in rebellion against a market society even if its poor people are way better off than a those in a communist society. They can't help it. Their instincts are just too strongly driving them to be upset.

I suspect brain genetics research is eventually going to lead to the discovery of genetic variants that make even very smart people more prone to embrace assorted forms of secular faith. Then I'd love to see a group surreptitiously get DNA samples from assorted intellectual crazies, test their DNA, and then float the test results on the web in a way that avoids the ability to trace back to who did this.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 18 06:40 PM 
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2016 June 11 Saturday
The Insanity Of Liberal Arts Colleges

This article about Oberlin College gives you a sense of how much humanities have decayed in the United States. The faculty are under attack from their students and neither faculty or students make much sense. The author of the piece takes the students seriously. What the students really need: criticism of their embrace of victimhood and their whining.

Protests continued through the winter. Harvard renamed its “house masters” faculty deans, and changed its law-school seal, which originated as a slaveholder’s coat of arms. Bowdoin students were disciplined for wearing miniature sombreros to a tequila-themed party. The president of Northwestern endorsed “safe spaces,” refuges open only to certain identity groups.

What high school students in America need: information about which colleges are most crazy and which are least crazy. The rational students should cluster in the saner institutions and just avoid the crazies. If those who are obsessed about victimhood, identify politics, and safe spaces go to colleges that only they attend then other students can go to the remaining colleges and get a decent education.

High school students should think seriously about online learning options that are aimed at developing quantitative skills and job skills. If they go for more practical learning they'll also, at the same time, avoid the safe space insanity.

I worry that the cult of victimhood will only grow. People who haven't been wronged will make increasing demands on the rest of us. How to deal with them short of breaking the United States up into a few different countries?

By Randall Parker 2016 June 11 08:31 PM 
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Cosmopolitanism As A New Form Of Tribalism

Ross Douthat has written a pretty good essay on the escalating elite vs masses political conflict: The Myth Of Cosmopolitanism.

Indeed elite tribalism is actively encouraged by the technologies of globalization, the ease of travel and communication. Distance and separation force encounter and immersion, which is why the age of empire made cosmopolitans as well as chauvinists — sometimes out of the same people. (There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)

This is a great point. Lawrence of Arabia literally lived with tribesmen and went to war with them against the Turks (and inspired a great movie btw). He immersed into an extremely different culture than that which he was raised in. Richard Francis Burton disguised himself as a Muslim pilgrim and snuck into Mecca in 1853.

Our elites have far less experience with extremely different peoples. They think they've found the ultimate secular religion (Christianity minus Jesus and the supernatural but with John Stuart Mill and fanciful anti-oppression doctrines added). It hasn't yet sunk into their thinking that Global Liberal Manifest Destiny has a big obstacles in China, big obstacles in Islamic countries, and faces a number of problems in other countries outside of the West. Plus, even in the West support for their ideology seems to have peaked even as (or because) they go more extreme with it.

The fact that the globalists create a cultural homogeneity in their institutions is typified in the far left shift in elite New England college faculties. They are not going to encounter people who disagree with them in normal life. That's even true in their international business dealings. They've got like minds to interact with in NYC, London, Paris, and other Western capitals of commerce and government.

The elites need to come to an understanding that they have a big problem and that big problem isn't the rest of us, its them. I think they'll resist this realization pretty strenuously because it really feels good to be a member of an in-group that can look down on the out-group as inferior. Also, it makes coordination easier if they vigorously agree on a long list of issues and treat all events as further proof they, as a class, are right about everything.

I find Peter Turchin's recent essays instructive in this regard. The European Union does not see itself as an empire (empires being part of the vanquished evil past which the morally superior EU elites distinguish themselves from). But the EU empire swallows up territory and expands. In past empires it is important to note that not all territorial expansions required war. In some case dynasties married to unite their territories. Today elites use elite universities, workplaces, governments, media institutions and NGOs to gather together in a transnational professional class. See Turchin's essay Brexit As Creative Destruction on the Carolingian Empire as a forerunner to the EU:

In my cultural evolutionary view, such identities come from very deep history. Often, they are “ghosts” of powerful and prestigious empires that are long gone—“charter polities”, to use a term proposed by the historian Victor Lieberman in Strange Parallels. For the European Union such a charter polity is the Carolingian Empire (eighth and ninth centuries AD).

The EU has overreached. Now it is entered into a disintegrative phase. Empires do this frequently.

There were internal tensions within the precursor of the EU, the European Economic Community, but these problems were resolved in cooperative manner. But then, and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the EU started acting as a typical expansionary empire, gobbling up more and more states. This is a typical imperial disease, known in historical sociology as “imperial overstretch.” The problems mounted, willingness to cooperate waned, and the integrative trend reversed itself. In addition to the spread of neoliberalism, which, as I stated above, is an ideology corrosive of cooperation, different EU members found it difficult to cooperate with each other, because they did not share a well-defined common identity. Additionally, different groups evolve different institutions that promote cooperation. This is why, as the political scientist Robert Putnam found, ethnically diverse groups find it more difficult to cooperate. It’s a coordination problem.

The proponents of expansion do not know when to stop. The heuristics they live by become increasingly dysfunctional when they keep on trying to apply them to more peoples and changing conditions. They think they should just try harder, use more propaganda, and suppress dissent. Their investment in their path keeps rising and this makes them more averse to admitting they are at least partially wrong.

In Turchin's essay Will the European Union Survive its 60th Anniversary? he discusses why he thinks the EU is in its disintegrative phase.

Cliodynamics suggests that the causes of imperial collapse are manifold. In The Deep Historical Roots of the European Crisis I discuss one set of causes: the disappearance of an external threat (represented by the Soviet Union) and imperial overstretch resulting in gobbling up too much territory to the east and south.

But there are also internal causes. The structural-demographic theory points to two fundamental causes of imperial failure: popular immiseration and elite overproduction. I haven’t studied as thoroughly the situation in Germany as in the United States, but it definitely looks like Germany is following the American trajectory, although with a time lag.

Why focus on Germany? Because in many ways the European Union was a German empire. Or, at the very least, a collaboration between the German economic elites and the French political elites. Now this cooperation is unravelling, and the place to watch is, I think, Germany.

German wealth combined with German acquiescence to French elite political desires were essential in order to form the EU. German taxpayer money has been (and still is) used to bribe smaller EU nations to join the EU. The subsidies flowing from Germany, France, and Britain (for another year) to southern and eastern Europe helped lure those states to join.

If EU membership is such a boon then the subsidies should not be necessary. Just getting inside the single market ought to work wonders for member states. But, to take an extreme example, what's happened to Greece is not a wonder of EU membership. Greece is a tragedy. Another tragedy: the debt run-ups of other EU states that were made possible when the markets decided EU membership made default impossible. EU membership enabled greater levels of folly, bigger bubbles, bigger corrections when bubbles burst.

I also suspect (and would love to see numbers on) that peripheral EU states were brain-drained by Schengen open borders. Puerto Rico is also probably suffering from brain drain. Certainly West Virginia has this problem. But again, I'd like to see numbers on who leaves and who stays.

The EU has become the means for Germany to dictate many policies to the rest of the European Union. We see this in Germany's steering of northern European handling of the debt crisis, dictating terms to the periphery. We also also see it in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's unilateral massive change in EU immigration policy, with attempts to shove her change down the throats of other states. What's crazy about these dictated policies is that many of them do not help German exporters.

Jumping back to Ross Douthat's essay: the EU portion of the global elite have made some bad decisions, damaged their reputations as a result, and generated a growing reaction to their overreaching. But I expect the EU elites to double down on their drive for integration in order to make further defections much harder to carry off. They'll get lots of support from the rest of Western elites because they all see each other as kindred spirits with shared interests.

Faced with a rising backlash against globalization I expect the Western elites as a whole to try out new methods of persuasion and new methods of filtering viewpoints that it does not want to see gain wide currency. Both the old and new media companies will do more filtering of anti-globalist viewpoints. Can they suppress the populist voices? Or will alternative channels of media spring up faster than they filter?

The Western elites face a rising reaction against them. This rising reaction is fed by Islamic terrorism, sovereign debt crises, stagnant wages for Western lower and middle classes, and the elite's own rising rhetoric of condescension and contempt for those who oppose them. I'm not clear on whether the elites can defeat their opponents. Peter Turchin doesn't seem to think so. But the future seems pretty hard to predict.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 11 04:06 PM 
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2016 June 05 Sunday
Scott Adams Fears Hillary Clinton Supporters

Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert comic strips about corporate office workers, has decided that endorsing Hillary Clinton for president is his safest bet because her supporters are more likely to assassinate him for being the opposition than are Trump supporters.

If you seriously think you are at that much risk then the thing to do would be to leave the country. Scott has made a lot of money from Dilbert and other pursuits. He could afford to buy permanent residency somewhere else.

The animosity the Left has for the Right keeps going up. I think the Left is angry that computer technology has enabled people to communicate around the gatekeepers who previously enabled the Left to control the bounds of discussion. The Left is getting more strident and more vehemently declaring their opponents Nazis, haters, racists, oppressors, patriarchical, and the rest of it. I'm wanting a political divorce that puts us and them on opposite sides of a border.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 05 10:39 PM 
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2016 June 04 Saturday
Twitter feed real_peerreview is gone. Replacement Needed

If you've never read @real_peerview then have a look at what you missed.

There is a need for others to take up the task of publishing excerpts of crazy peer reviewed Social Justice Warrior academic publications. The rest of the world needs to see how crazy and hostile they've become. Your enemies run the academy. More departments are falling every year.

Update: A group has heeded the call. See the Twitter stream RealPeerReview.

By Randall Parker 2016 June 04 09:14 AM 
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