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Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite
- Huntington, 2004


The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability--within acceptable conditions for evolution--of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism.


Estimated to number about 20 million in 2000, of whom 40 percent were American, this elite is expected to double in size by 2010. Comprising fewer than 4 percent of the American people, these transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations. In the coming years, one corporation executive confidently predicted, "the only people who will care about national boundaries are politicians."


In August 1804, Walter Scott finished writing The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Therein, he
asked whether

"Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said:
'This is my own, my native Land?'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned
As home his footsteps he hath turned, . . .
From wandering on a foreign strand?"

A contemporary answer to Scott's question is: Yes, the number of dead souls is small
but growing among America's business, professional, intellectual and academic elites.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Inherited Trust and Growth - American Economic Association
This paper develops a new method to uncover the causal effect of trust on economic growth by focusing on the inherited component of trust and its time variation. We show that inherited trust of descendants of US immigrants is significantly influenced by the country of origin and the timing of arrival of their forebears. We thus use the inherited trust of descendants of US immigrants as a time-varying measure of inherited trust in their country of origin. This strategy allows to identify the sizeable causal impact of inherited trust on worldwide growth during the twentieth century by controlling for country fixed effects. (JEL N11, N12, N31, N32, O47, Z13)

key data:
Table 1, Figure 1, Figure 3, Figure 4

Trust Assimilation in the United States, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/05/trust_assimilat.html

How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19855
We find that migrants tend to make social trust assessments that mainly reflect conditions in the country where they now live, but they also reveal a significant influence from their countries of origin. The latter effect is one-third as important as the effect of local conditions. We also find that the altruistic behavior of migrants, as measured by the frequency of their donations in their new countries, is strongly determined by social norms in their new countries, while also retaining some effect of the levels of generosity found in their birth countries. To show that the durability of social norms is not simply due to a failure to recognize new circumstances, we demonstrate that there are no footprint effects for immigrants’ confidence in political institutions. Taken together, these findings support the notion that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, yet are nonetheless subject to adaptation when there are major changes in the surrounding circumstances and environment.

The autocratic roots of social distrust: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147596717300951
This paper identifies a new source of social distrust: an individual’s autocratic
 Individuals whose ancestors migrated from countries with higher autocracy
levels are less likely to trust others and to vote in presidential elections in the
 The impact of autocratic culture on trust lasts for at least three generations
whereas the impact on voting disappears after one generation.
 The results are not driven by selection into migration or other factors such as the
GDP, education, or the strength of family ties in home countries in the U.S.
 Autocratic culture also has similar impacts on trust and voting across Europe.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
On the effects of inequality on economic growth | Nintil
After the discussion above, what should one think about the relationship between inequality and growth?

For starters, that the consensus of the literature points to our lack of knowledge, and the need to be very careful when studying these phenomena. As of today there is no solid consensus on the effects of inequality on growth. Tentatively, on the grounds of Neves et al.’s meta-analysis, we can conclude that the impact of inequality on developed countries is economically insignificant. This means that one can claim that inequality is good, bad, or neutral for growth as long as the effects claimed are small and one talks about developed countries. For developing countries, the relationships are more negative.

I recently finished The Spirit Level, subtitled "Why More Equal Societies Almost Almost Do Better", although "Five Million Different Scatter Plot Graphs Plus Associated Commentary" would also have worked. It was a pretty thorough manifesto for the best kind of leftism: the type that foregoes ideology and a priori arguments in exchange for a truckload of statistics showing that their proposed social remedies really work.

Inequality: some people know what they want to find: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/inequality-some-people-know-what-they-want-to-find

Inequality doesn’t matter: a primer: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/inequality-doesnt-matter-a-primer

Inequality and visibility of wealth in experimental social networks: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392
- Akihiro Nishi, Hirokazu Shirado, David G. Rand & Nicholas A. Christakis

We show that wealth visibility facilitates the downstream consequences of initial inequality—in initially more unequal situations, wealth visibility leads to greater inequality than when wealth is invisible. This result reflects a heterogeneous response to visibility in richer versus poorer subjects. We also find that making wealth visible has adverse welfare consequences, yielding lower levels of overall cooperation, inter-connectedness, and wealth. High initial levels of economic inequality alone, however, have relatively few deleterious welfare effects.

Our own work has shown that the *visibility* of inequality, more then the inequality per se, may be especially corrosive to the social fabric. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392 … I wonder if @WalterScheidel historical data sheds light on this idea? end 5/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The story of modern human origins just got more complicated


The slow death of Out of Africa: http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-slow-death-of-out-of-africa.html
The significance of the discovery of modern humans in Arabia >85kya is that it provides a second spot (other than Israel) were modern humans existed outside Africa long before the alleged 60kya blitz out of the continent. We now have modern humans outside Africa in roughly two locations (Israel and Arabia), and three time slices (~175-85kya) in Misliya, Shkul/Qafzeh, and Al Wusta-1. It is no longer tenable to claim that these modern humans "died out" to make way for the alleged 60kya OoA event.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Data We Have vs. the Data We Need: A Comment on the State of the “Divergence” Debate (Part I) | The NEP-HIS Blog
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
I think it's a bit out of control, the urge to keep bringing the roots of the great divergence earlier and earlier and earlier
@s8mb @antonhowes I am impatient w explanations which do not start w origination/adoption/diffusion technology as proximate cause
@s8mb @antonhowes in respect of which finance, market integration, & formal institutions all dead ends for divergence of West with the Rest
Are you more with Pomeranz that there's not major difference until c. 1750 or 1800, or do you put departure much earlier?
it's now beyond doubt established there was a major diff in living standards, state capacity, market integr+
between the most advanced regions of China and the most advanced regions of Europe, no doubt
@bswud +broadberry estimates evidence groupthink on matter (i.e., everyone wants to locate precursor to IR earlier and earlier) @antonhowes

The Little Divergence: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/the-little-divergence/
The Early Transformation of Britain's Economy: https://growthecon.com/blog/Britain-Shares/
There’s a nice working paper out by Patrick Wallis, Justin Colson, and David Chilosi called “Puncturing the Malthus Delusion: Structural Change in the British Economy before the Industrial Revolution, 1500-1800”. The big project they undertake here is to mine the probate inventories (along with several other sources) from Britain in this period to build up a picture of the rough allocation of workers across sectors. They do a very nice job of walking through their data sources, and the limitations, in the paper, so let me leave those details aside. In short, they use the reported occupations in wills to back out a picture of the sectoral structure, finding it consistent with other sources based on apprentice records, as well as prior estimates from specific years.

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june 2017 by nhaliday
Culture and the Historical Process
This article discusses the importance of accounting for cultural values and beliefs when studying the process of historical economic development. A notion of culture as heuristics or rules-of-thumb that aid in decision making is described. Because cultural traits evolve based upon relative fitness, historical shocks can have persistent impacts if they alter the costs and benefits of different traits. A number of empirical studies confirm that culture is an important mechanism that helps explain why historical shocks can have persistent impacts; these are reviewed here. As an example, I discuss the colonial origins hypothesis (Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, 2001), and show that our understanding of the transplantation of European legal and political institutions during the colonial period remains incomplete unless the values and beliefs brought by European settlers are taken into account. It is these cultural beliefs that formed the foundation of the initial institutions that in turn were key for long-term economic development.


The notion of culture that I employ is that of decision making heuristics or ‘rules-of-thumb that have evolved given our need to make decisions in complex and uncertain environments. Using theoretical models, Boyd and Richerson (1985, 2005) show that if information acquisition is either costly or imperfect, the use of heuristics or rules-of-thumb in decision-making can arise optimally. By relying on general beliefs, values or gut feelings about the “right” thing to do in different situations, individuals may not behave in a manner that is optimal in every instance, but they do save on the costs of obtaining the information necessary to always behave optimally. The benefit of these heuristics is that they are “fast-and-frugal”, a benefit which in many environments outweighs the costs of imprecision (Gigerenzer and Goldstein, 1996). Therefore, culture, as defined in this paper, refers to these decision-making heuristics, which typically manifest themselves as values, beliefs, or social norms.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Logic | West Hunter
All the time I hear some public figure saying that if we ban or allow X, then logically we have to ban or allow Y, even though there are obvious practical reasons for X and obvious practical reasons against Y.

No, we don’t.


compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:190b299cf04a

Small Change Good, Big Change Bad?: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/02/small-change-good-big-change-bad.html
And on reflection it occurs to me that this is actually THE standard debate about change: some see small changes and either like them or aren’t bothered enough to advocate what it would take to reverse them, while others imagine such trends continuing long enough to result in very large and disturbing changes, and then suggest stronger responses.

For example, on increased immigration some point to the many concrete benefits immigrants now provide. Others imagine that large cumulative immigration eventually results in big changes in culture and political equilibria. On fertility, some wonder if civilization can survive in the long run with declining population, while others point out that population should rise for many decades, and few endorse the policies needed to greatly increase fertility. On genetic modification of humans, some ask why not let doctors correct obvious defects, while others imagine parents eventually editing kid genes mainly to max kid career potential. On oil some say that we should start preparing for the fact that we will eventually run out, while others say that we keep finding new reserves to replace the ones we use.


If we consider any parameter, such as typical degree of mind wandering, we are unlikely to see the current value as exactly optimal. So if we give people the benefit of the doubt to make local changes in their interest, we may accept that this may result in a recent net total change we don’t like. We may figure this is the price we pay to get other things we value more, and we we know that it can be very expensive to limit choices severely.

But even though we don’t see the current value as optimal, we also usually see the optimal value as not terribly far from the current value. So if we can imagine current changes as part of a long term trend that eventually produces very large changes, we can become more alarmed and willing to restrict current changes. The key question is: when is that a reasonable response?

First, big concerns about big long term changes only make sense if one actually cares a lot about the long run. Given the usual high rates of return on investment, it is cheap to buy influence on the long term, compared to influence on the short term. Yet few actually devote much of their income to long term investments. This raises doubts about the sincerity of expressed long term concerns.

Second, in our simplest models of the world good local choices also produce good long term choices. So if we presume good local choices, bad long term outcomes require non-simple elements, such as coordination, commitment, or myopia problems. Of course many such problems do exist. Even so, someone who claims to see a long term problem should be expected to identify specifically which such complexities they see at play. It shouldn’t be sufficient to just point to the possibility of such problems.


Fourth, many more processes and factors limit big changes, compared to small changes. For example, in software small changes are often trivial, while larger changes are nearly impossible, at least without starting again from scratch. Similarly, modest changes in mind wandering can be accomplished with minor attitude and habit changes, while extreme changes may require big brain restructuring, which is much harder because brains are complex and opaque. Recent changes in market structure may reduce the number of firms in each industry, but that doesn’t make it remotely plausible that one firm will eventually take over the entire economy. Projections of small changes into large changes need to consider the possibility of many such factors limiting large changes.

Fifth, while it can be reasonably safe to identify short term changes empirically, the longer term a forecast the more one needs to rely on theory, and the more different areas of expertise one must consider when constructing a relevant model of the situation. Beware a mere empirical projection into the long run, or a theory-based projection that relies on theories in only one area.

We should very much be open to the possibility of big bad long term changes, even in areas where we are okay with short term changes, or at least reluctant to sufficiently resist them. But we should also try to hold those who argue for the existence of such problems to relatively high standards. Their analysis should be about future times that we actually care about, and can at least roughly foresee. It should be based on our best theories of relevant subjects, and it should consider the possibility of factors that limit larger changes.

And instead of suggesting big ways to counter short term changes that might lead to long term problems, it is often better to identify markers to warn of larger problems. Then instead of acting in big ways now, we can make sure to track these warning markers, and ready ourselves to act more strongly if they appear.

Growth Is Change. So Is Death.: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html
I see the same pattern when people consider long term futures. People can be quite philosophical about the extinction of humanity, as long as this is due to natural causes. Every species dies; why should humans be different? And few get bothered by humans making modest small-scale short-term modifications to their own lives or environment. We are mostly okay with people using umbrellas when it rains, moving to new towns to take new jobs, etc., digging a flood ditch after our yard floods, and so on. And the net social effect of many small changes is technological progress, economic growth, new fashions, and new social attitudes, all of which we tend to endorse in the short run.

Even regarding big human-caused changes, most don’t worry if changes happen far enough in the future. Few actually care much about the future past the lives of people they’ll meet in their own life. But for changes that happen within someone’s time horizon of caring, the bigger that changes get, and the longer they are expected to last, the more that people worry. And when we get to huge changes, such as taking apart the sun, a population of trillions, lifetimes of millennia, massive genetic modification of humans, robots replacing people, a complete loss of privacy, or revolutions in social attitudes, few are blasé, and most are quite wary.

This differing attitude regarding small local changes versus large global changes makes sense for parameters that tend to revert back to a mean. Extreme values then do justify extra caution, while changes within the usual range don’t merit much notice, and can be safely left to local choice. But many parameters of our world do not mostly revert back to a mean. They drift long distances over long times, in hard to predict ways that can be reasonably modeled as a basic trend plus a random walk.

This different attitude can also make sense for parameters that have two or more very different causes of change, one which creates frequent small changes, and another which creates rare huge changes. (Or perhaps a continuum between such extremes.) If larger sudden changes tend to cause more problems, it can make sense to be more wary of them. However, for most parameters most change results from many small changes, and even then many are quite wary of this accumulating into big change.

For people with a sharp time horizon of caring, they should be more wary of long-drifting parameters the larger the changes that would happen within their horizon time. This perspective predicts that the people who are most wary of big future changes are those with the longest time horizons, and who more expect lumpier change processes. This prediction doesn’t seem to fit well with my experience, however.

Those who most worry about big long term changes usually seem okay with small short term changes. Even when they accept that most change is small and that it accumulates into big change. This seems incoherent to me. It seems like many other near versus far incoherences, like expecting things to be simpler when you are far away from them, and more complex when you are closer. You should either become more wary of short term changes, knowing that this is how big longer term change happens, or you should be more okay with big long term change, seeing that as the legitimate result of the small short term changes you accept.

The point here is the gradual shifts of in-group beliefs are both natural and no big deal. Humans are built to readily do this, and forget they do this. But ultimately it is not a worry or concern.

But radical shifts that are big, whether near or far, portend strife and conflict. Either between groups or within them. If the shift is big enough, our intuition tells us our in-group will be in a fight. Alarms go off.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity | Pseudoerasmus
Good policy or good luck? Country growth performance and temporary shocks*: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/easterly-kremer-pritchett-summers.pdf

Africa is urbanising without globalising: https://capx.co/africa-is-urbanising-without-globalising/
What most African cities get by on is money from natural resources. As the Brookings Institution explains here, African cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth. The elite who capture oil or mining revenues have to live somewhere – and they concentrate their spending in cities. That is why the nightlife and restaurant scene in Kinshasa is so good, even though nothing else works. It’s the main thing the city produces. The poor flock in, hoping to feed on the scraps. Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

Why Africa’s development model puzzles economists: https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21726697-structural-transformation-its-economies-not-following-precedents-why

So many African countries are poor because they lack freedom, property rights, markets, and the rule of law.

People are laughing at this but it's true. Trouble is property rights and rule of law are much easier said than done.

Dentists and Freedom in Ivory Coast: https://www.cato.org/blog/dentists-freedom-ivory-coast
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may 2017 by nhaliday

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