nhaliday + critique   512

The Architect as Totalitarian: Le Corbusier’s baleful influence | City Journal
Le Corbusier was to architecture what Pol Pot was to social reform. In one sense, he had less excuse for his activities than Pol Pot: for unlike the Cambodian, he possessed great talent, even genius. Unfortunately, he turned his gifts to destructive ends, and it is no coincidence that he willingly served both Stalin and Vichy.
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4 days ago by nhaliday
Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Jordan Peterson is Wrong About the Case for the Left
I suggest that the tension of which he speaks is fully formed and self-contained completely within conservatism. Balancing those two forces is, in fact, what conservatism is all about. Thomas Sowell, in A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles describes the conservative outlook as (paraphrasing): “There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.”

The real tension is between balance on the right and imbalance on the left.

In Towards a Cognitive Theory of Polics in the online magazine Quillette I make the case that left and right are best understood as psychological profiles consisting of 1) cognitive style, and 2) moral matrix.

There are two predominant cognitive styles and two predominant moral matrices.

The two cognitive styles are described by Arthur Herman in his book The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, in which Plato and Aristotle serve as metaphors for them. These two quotes from the book summarize the two styles:

Despite their differences, Plato and Aristotle agreed on many things. They both stressed the importance of reason as our guide for understanding and shaping the world. Both believed that our physical world is shaped by certain eternal forms that are more real than matter. The difference was that Plato’s forms existed outside matter, whereas Aristotle’s forms were unrealizable without it. (p. 61)

The twentieth century’s greatest ideological conflicts do mark the violent unfolding of a Platonist versus Aristotelian view of what it means to be free and how reason and knowledge ultimately fit into our lives (p.539-540)

The Platonic cognitive style amounts to pure abstract reason, “unconstrained” by reality. It has no limiting principle. It is imbalanced. Aristotelian thinking also relies on reason, but it is “constrained” by empirical reality. It has a limiting principle. It is balanced.

The two moral matrices are described by Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Moral matrices are collections of moral foundations, which are psychological adaptations of social cognition created in us by hundreds of millions of years of natural selection as we evolved into the social animal. There are six moral foundations. They are:

Care/Harm
Fairness/Cheating
Liberty/Oppression
Loyalty/Betrayal
Authority/Subversion
Sanctity/Degradation
The first three moral foundations are called the “individualizing” foundations because they’re focused on the autonomy and well being of the individual person. The second three foundations are called the “binding” foundations because they’re focused on helping individuals form into cooperative groups.

One of the two predominant moral matrices relies almost entirely on the individualizing foundations, and of those mostly just care. It is all individualizing all the time. No balance. The other moral matrix relies on all of the moral foundations relatively equally; individualizing and binding in tension. Balanced.

The leftist psychological profile is made from the imbalanced Platonic cognitive style in combination with the first, imbalanced, moral matrix.

The conservative psychological profile is made from the balanced Aristotelian cognitive style in combination with the balanced moral matrix.

It is not true that the tension between left and right is a balance between the defense of the dispossessed and the defense of hierarchies.

It is true that the tension between left and right is between an imbalanced worldview unconstrained by empirical reality and a balanced worldview constrained by it.

A Venn Diagram of the two psychological profiles looks like this:
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Who We Are | West Hunter
I’m going to review David Reich’s new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here. Extensively: in a sense I’ve already been doing this for a long time. Probably there will be a podcast. The GoFundMe link is here. You can also send money via Paypal (Use the donate button), or bitcoins to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5. In-kind donations, such as orichalcum or mithril, are always appreciated.

This is the book about the application of ancient DNA to prehistory and history.

height difference between northern and southern europeans: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-1/
mixing, genocide of males, etc.: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-2-purity-of-essence/
rapid change in polygenic traits (appearance by Kevin Mitchell and funny jab at Brad Delong ("regmonkey")): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/
schiz, bipolar, and IQ: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/#comment-105605
Dan Graur being dumb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/the-usual-suspects/
prediction of neanderthal mixture and why: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/who-we-are-3-neanderthals/
New Guineans tried to use Denisovan admixture to avoid UN sanctions (by "not being human"): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/who-we-are-4-denisovans/
also some commentary on decline of Out-of-Africa, including:
"Homo Naledi, a small-brained homonin identified from recently discovered fossils in South Africa, appears to have hung around way later that you’d expect (up to 200,000 years ago, maybe later) than would be the case if modern humans had occupied that area back then. To be blunt, we would have eaten them."

Live Not By Lies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/live-not-by-lies/
Next he slams people that suspect that upcoming genetic genetic analysis will, in most cases, confirm traditional stereotypes about race – the way the world actually looks.

The people Reich dumps on are saying perfectly reasonable things. He criticizes Henry Harpending for saying that he’d never seen an African with a hobby. Of course, Henry had actually spent time in Africa, and that’s what he’d seen. The implication is that people in Malthusian farming societies – which Africa was not – were selected to want to work, even where there was no immediate necessity to do so. Thus hobbies, something like a gerbil running in an exercise wheel.

He criticized Nicholas Wade, for saying that different races have different dispositions. Wade’s book wasn’t very good, but of course personality varies by race: Darwin certainly thought so. You can see differences at birth. Cover a baby’s nose with a cloth: Chinese and Navajo babies quietly breathe through their mouth, European and African babies fuss and fight.

Then he attacks Watson, for asking when Reich was going to look at Jewish genetics – the kind that has led to greater-than-average intelligence. Watson was undoubtedly trying to get a rise out of Reich, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than the average bear and everybody knows it. Selection is the only possible explanation, and the conditions in the Middle ages – white-collar job specialization and a high degree of endogamy, were just what the doctor ordered.

Watson’s a prick, but he’s a great prick, and what he said was correct. Henry was a prince among men, and Nick Wade is a decent guy as well. Reich is totally out of line here: he’s being a dick.

Now Reich may be trying to burnish his anti-racist credentials, which surely need some renewal after having pointing out that race as colloquially used is pretty reasonable, there’s no reason pops can’t be different, people that said otherwise ( like Lewontin, Gould, Montagu, etc. ) were lying, Aryans conquered Europe and India, while we’re tied to the train tracks with scary genetic results coming straight at us. I don’t care: he’s being a weasel, slandering the dead and abusing the obnoxious old genius who laid the foundations of his field. Reich will also get old someday: perhaps he too will someday lose track of all the nonsense he’s supposed to say, or just stop caring. Maybe he already has… I’m pretty sure that Reich does not like lying – which is why he wrote this section of the book (not at all logically necessary for his exposition of the ancient DNA work) but the required complex juggling of lies and truth required to get past the demented gatekeepers of our society may not be his forte. It has been said that if it was discovered that someone in the business was secretly an android, David Reich would be the prime suspect. No Talleyrand he.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/who-we-are-6-the-americas/
The population that accounts for the vast majority of Native American ancestry, which we will call Amerinds, came into existence somewhere in northern Asia. It was formed from a mix of Ancient North Eurasians and a population related to the Han Chinese – about 40% ANE and 60% proto-Chinese. Is looks as if most of the paternal ancestry was from the ANE, while almost all of the maternal ancestry was from the proto-Han. [Aryan-Transpacific ?!?] This formation story – ANE boys, East-end girls – is similar to the formation story for the Indo-Europeans.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/who-we-are-7-africa/
In some ways, on some questions, learning more from genetics has left us less certain. At this point we really don’t know where anatomically humans originated. Greater genetic variety in sub-Saharan African has been traditionally considered a sign that AMH originated there, but it possible that we originated elsewhere, perhaps in North Africa or the Middle East, and gained extra genetic variation when we moved into sub-Saharan Africa and mixed with various archaic groups that already existed. One consideration is that finding recent archaic admixture in a population may well be a sign that modern humans didn’t arise in that region ( like language substrates) – which makes South Africa and West Africa look less likely. The long-continued existence of homo naledi in South Africa suggests that modern humans may not have been there for all that long – if we had co-existed with homo naledi, they probably wouldn’t lasted long. The oldest known skull that is (probably) AMh was recently found in Morocco, while modern humans remains, already known from about 100,000 years ago in Israel, have recently been found in northern Saudi Arabia.

While work by Nick Patterson suggests that modern humans were formed by a fusion between two long-isolated populations, a bit less than half a million years ago.

So: genomics had made recent history Africa pretty clear. Bantu agriculuralists expanded and replaced hunter-gatherers, farmers and herders from the Middle East settled North Africa, Egypt and northeaat Africa, while Nilotic herdsmen expanded south from the Sudan. There are traces of earlier patterns and peoples, but today, only traces. As for questions back further in time, such as the origins of modern humans – we thought we knew, and now we know we don’t. But that’s progress.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/reichs-journey/
David Reich’s professional path must have shaped his perspective on the social sciences. Look at the record. He starts his professional career examining the role of genetics in the elevated prostate cancer risk seen in African-American men. Various social-science fruitcakes oppose him even looking at the question of ancestry ( African vs European). But they were wrong: certain African-origin alleles explain the increased risk. Anthropologists (and human geneticists) were sure (based on nothing) that modern humans hadn’t interbred with Neanderthals – but of course that happened. Anthropologists and archaeologists knew that Gustaf Kossina couldn’t have been right when he said that widespread material culture corresponded to widespread ethnic groups, and that migration was the primary explanation for changes in the archaeological record – but he was right. They knew that the Indo-European languages just couldn’t have been imposed by fire and sword – but Reich’s work proved them wrong. Lots of people – the usual suspects plus Hindu nationalists – were sure that the AIT ( Aryan Invasion Theory) was wrong, but it looks pretty good today.

Some sociologists believed that caste in India was somehow imposed or significantly intensified by the British – but it turns out that most jatis have been almost perfectly endogamous for two thousand years or more…

It may be that Reich doesn’t take these guys too seriously anymore. Why should he?

varnas, jatis, aryan invastion theory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/who-we-are-8-india/

europe and EEF+WHG+ANE: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/who-we-are-9-europe/

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/book-review-david-reich-human-genes-reveal-history/
The massive mixture events that occurred in the recent past to give rise to Europeans and South Asians, to name just two groups, were likely “male mediated.” That’s another way of saying that men on the move took local women as brides or concubines. In the New World there are many examples of this, whether it be among African Americans, where most European ancestry seems to come through men, or in Latin America, where conquistadores famously took local women as paramours. Both of these examples are disquieting, and hint at the deep structural roots of patriarchal inequality and social subjugation that form the backdrop for the emergence of many modern peoples.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
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
Shapers
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Why do stars twinkle?
According to many astronomers and educators, twinkle (stellar scintillation) is caused by atmospheric structure that works like ordinary lenses and prisms. Pockets of variable temperature - and hence index of refraction - randomly shift and focus starlight, perceived by eye as changes in brightness. Pockets also disperse colors like prisms, explaining the flashes of color often seen in bright stars. Stars appear to twinkle more than planets because they are points of light, whereas the twinkling points on planetary disks are averaged to a uniform appearance. Below, figure 1 is a simulation in glass of the kind of turbulence structure posited in the lens-and-prism theory of stellar scintillation, shown over the Penrose tile floor to demonstrate the random lensing effects.

However appealing and ubiquitous on the internet, this popular explanation is wrong, and my aim is to debunk the myth. This research is mostly about showing that the lens-and-prism theory just doesn't work, but I also have a stellar list of references that explain the actual cause of scintillation, starting with two classic papers by C.G. Little and S. Chandrasekhar.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Lynn Margulis | West Hunter
Margulis went on to theorize that symbiotic relationships between organisms are the dominant driving force of evolution. There certainly are important examples of this: as far as I know, every complex organism that digests cellulose manages it thru a symbiosis with various prokaryotes. Many organisms with a restricted diet have symbiotic bacteria that provide essential nutrients – aphids, for example. Tall fescue, a popular turf grass on golf courses, carries an endosymbiotic fungus. And so on, and on on.

She went on to oppose neodarwinism, particularly rejecting inter-organismal competition (and population genetics itself). From Wiki: [ She also believed that proponents of the standard theory “wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin – having mistaken him… Neo-Darwinism, which insists on [the slow accrual of mutations by gene-level natural selection], is in a complete funk.”[8] ‘

...

You might think that Lynn Margulis is an example of someone that could think outside the box because she’d never even been able to find it in the first place – but that’s more true of autistic types [like Dirac or Turing], which I doubt she was in any way. I’d say that some traditional prejudices [dislike of capitalism and individual competition], combined with the sort of general looniness that leaves one open to unconventional ideas, drove her in a direction that bore fruit, more or less by coincidence. A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98174
“A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.” Yes – it’s like old bands. As long as they have just one song in heavy rotation on the classic rock stations, they can tour endlessly – it doesn’t matter that they have only one or even no original members performing. A scientific example of this phenomena is Kary Mullins. He’ll always have PCR, even if a glowing raccoon did greet him with the words, “Good evening, Doctor.”

Nobel Savage: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n13/steven-shapin/nobel-savage
Dancing Naked in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

jet fuel can't melt steel beams: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98201
You have to understand a subject extremely well to make arguments why something couldn’t have happened. The easiest cases involve some purported explanation violating a conservation law of physics: that wasn’t the case here.

Do I think you’re a hotshot, deeply knowledgeable about structural engineering, properties of materials, using computer models, etc? A priori, pretty unlikely. What are the odds that you know as much simple mechanics as I do? a priori, still pretty unlikely. Most likely, you’re talking through your hat.

Next, the conspiracy itself is unlikely: quite a few people would be involved – unlikely that none of them would talk. It’s not that easy to find people that would go along with such a thing, believe it or not. The Communists were pretty good at conspiracy, but people defected, people talked: not just Whittaker Chambers, not just Igor Gouzenko.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/928472237052649472
https://archive.is/MPO5Q
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.

...

Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Brush Up Your Aeschylus
For most of its 100-year heyday, Greek tragedy's preference for the stylized, the abstract and the formal over anything we might think of as naturalistic was reflected both in the circumstances of its production (which, with elaborate masks and costumes and rigidly formalized music and dances, seems to have been a cross between Noh and grand opera) and in the dense, allusive, often hieratic formal language that the tragedians employed, one that fully exploited the considerable suppleness of ancient Greek. Needless to say, this language has posed problems for translators, who usually have to choose between conveying the literal meaning of the Greek -- crucial to understanding tragedy's intellectual and moral themes -- and its considerable poetic allure.

David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, the classicist translators who edited the University of Chicago Press series, which for the past two generations has been the standard American translation, generally opted for clarity of sense -- no doubt in reaction to the flowery, high (and highfalutin) diction that notoriously characterized earlier translations, none more so than the widely consulted Loeb Library translations. (''How camest thou to Earth's prophetic navel?'' the Loeb's Medea inquires of someone returning from Delphi.) The Chicago translations, with their crisp, straightforward and dignified English, manage on the whole to convey the meaning, if not always the varied styles, of the originals.

It is primarily in reaction to cautious translations like Chicago's that the University of Pennsylvania Press has begun its own ambitious new project: the reinterpretation of all the extant Greek drama -- both tragedy and comedy -- not by classics scholars but by contemporary poets, many of whom don't know any Greek at all and achieved their translations by consulting earlier English versions. According to the series' co-editor, David R. Slavitt, its aim is to freshen up the plays, providing the general public with translations that are ''performable, faithful to the texture . . . and the moment on stage, rather than the individual sequence of adjectives.'' Yet even if you accept these versions as interpretations rather than straight translations, as Slavitt invites us to do (ignoring the fact that the Penn versions are presented as ''translations'' that are ''loyal to the Greek originals'' and will become ''the standard for decades to come''), this new series is a disappointment thus far. Six of the projected 12 volumes are now available, and they are extremely uneven, providing neither the intellectual satisfactions of the original nor, it must be said, the compensatory pleasures of really distinguished English poetry. Indeed, the strained and unconvincing efforts at novelty that are this series' distinguishing characteristic suggest that the real goal here was, in the words of the press's director, Eric Halpern, ''to create a publishing event.''
news  org:rec  the-classics  literature  art  classic  language  foreign-lang  mediterranean  poetry  review  critique  canon 
october 2017 by nhaliday
[1709.06560] Deep Reinforcement Learning that Matters
https://twitter.com/WAWilsonIV/status/912505885565452288
I’ve been experimenting w/ various kinds of value function approaches to RL lately, and its striking how primitive and bad things seem to be
At first I thought it was just that my code sucks, but then I played with the OpenAI baselines and nope, it’s the children that are wrong.
And now, what comes across my desk but this fantastic paper: (link: https://arxiv.org/abs/1709.06560) arxiv.org/abs/1709.06560 How long until the replication crisis hits AI?

https://twitter.com/WAWilsonIV/status/911318326504153088
Seriously I’m not blown away by the PhDs’ records over the last 30 years. I bet you’d get better payoff funding eccentrics and amateurs.
There are essentially zero fundamentally new ideas in AI, the papers are all grotesquely hyperparameter tuned, nobody knows why it works.

Deep Reinforcement Learning Doesn't Work Yet: https://www.alexirpan.com/2018/02/14/rl-hard.html
Once, on Facebook, I made the following claim.

Whenever someone asks me if reinforcement learning can solve their problem, I tell them it can’t. I think this is right at least 70% of the time.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Complacent Intellectual Class | David V. Johnson
I WOULD LIKE TO COIN A PHRASE, the complacent intellectual class, to describe the overwhelming number of pundits, thought leaders, and policy wonks who accept, welcome, or even enforce slovenly scholarship. These people might, in the abstract, like research that maintains the highest standards, they might even consider themselves academics or bona fide researchers, when in fact they have lost the capacity of maintaining even the most basic standards of rigor.

I am motivated to do so after reading Tyler Cowen’s new book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I propose the term with some trepidation. Cowen—a George Mason University economist, libertarian theorist, and “legendary blogger” (to quote the book’s inset)—is often a smart commentator who puts his finger on a lot of interesting social phenomena, introduces novel ideas, and proves worth reading from time to time.

But books are different from blog posts and op-eds. And this book fails so glaringly that it makes me despair for this country’s literary culture and intellectual life in general. So let me use Cowen’s latest venture to illustrate what we should all demand from the work of our intellectual class, lest our nation continue to vegetate in the pretend-thinking of #AspenIdeas pseudo-academia.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
My Retort to the Adam Spliff Institute's Latest Effusion of Drivel - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog
It’s time to rename the ‘Adam Smith Institute’, now captured by drug legalisers. Something tells me the Scotch moralist wouldn’t have thought a stupefied and acquiescent population the best basis for civilisation, wealth or morality.

So I suggest calling this screeching nest of mentally pubescent drug zealots

The Adam Spliff Institute

I am moved to this suggestion by their latest attempt to debate the drug issue. I say ‘attempt’ because they really have very little idea of how to argue.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
It made their brown eyes blue.. | West Hunter
Assuming population continuity, the selective advantage of the alleles they examined must have been very high. In order to see if there had been population continuity, they looked at the mtDNA frequencies of the ancient populations and compared them with mtDNA frequencies of modern populations in the same areas. Since they’re different, but not wildly different, they conclude that there has been population continuity, which was their null assumption.

That null assumption might have been reasonable, if someone had burned every history book ever written, while at the same time suppressing all the ancient DNA evidence.

Since that has not yet happened, I think their assumption is downright embarrassing. People have been moving in and out of this area for all of recorded history (as Razib Khan has also pointed out) : Cimmerians, Scythians, Goths, Khazars, Kievian Rus, the Golden Horde, eventually Russians.

There is no logical reason for geneticists to ignore information outside their field. Ignorance is no excuse. I could say the same for every other discipline. Cross the streams – it would be good.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
How civilizations fall | The New Criterion
On the role of radical feminism in the decline of civilization.

Marx provided the model for all subsequent movements aiming to take power. His “make your own tribe” kit was found useful by nationalists, anarchists, and many brands of socialist. Hitler made the most creative use of it by playing down victimization and representing every Aryan as a superior type of person. It took the world in arms to get rid of him. But before long, revolutionaries discovered that a revolution based on the proletarian tribe only really worked if you were dealing with pretty unsophisticated peoples—preferably non-Europeans who lacked all experience of freedom and genuine political life. In socially mobile European states, the workers mostly found better things to do with their time than waste it on revolutionary committees and the baby talk of political demonstrations. Something new was needed.

It was provided by such socialists as Mussolini and Lenin who adopted the principle of the Praetorian Guard: a tightly knit vanguard party, which could use the masses as ventriloquial dummies and seek power on its own terms. This development was part of _a wider tendency towards the emergence of oligarchies ruling through democratic slogans_.

...

In the course of the 1960s, a new tribe was established that also sought to overthrow the Western citadel from within and had notably greater success. This was Betty Friedan’s radical feminists. It was a tribe constructed out of women who had taken some sort of degree and were living domestic lives. Technology had largely liberated them from the rigors of beating, sweeping, and cleaning, while pharmacology had released them from excessive procreation. In tactical terms, radical feminists made one innovation that has turned out to be crucial to the destiny of the West over the last half century. They suppressed almost completely the idea that their project involved a transfer of power and operated entirely on the moralistic principle that their demands corresponded to justice.

What lay behind this momentous development? It is a complicated question, but I think that Diana Schaub understood the essence of it in her essay “On the Character of Generation X”: 1

[Betty] Friedan was right that the malaise these privileged women were experiencing was a result of “a slow death of the mind and spirit.” _But she was wrong in saying that the problem had no name—its name was boredom._ Feminism was born of boredom, not oppression. And what was the solution to this quandary? Feminists clamored to become wage-slaves; they resolutely fled the challenge of leisure.

...

The most obvious fact about it is one that we can hardly mention, now that the revolution has succeeded, without embarrassment or derision, because it is a fact which powerful contemporary forces make recessive. It is simply that this civilization is, in the crude terms of creative hits, the achievement of white males. The history of Western civilization is a succession of clever men developing the set of traditions or inventing the benefits which, intertwined, constitute the West. And from Thales and Euclid to Einstein and George Gershwin, nearly all of them were male. They constitute the set of “dead white males” whom the radical revolutionaries in the sub-academic culture have denigrated and vowed to remove from their pedestals. I once heard a feminist put it this way: “There’s no such thing as a great mind.” This doctrine is so powerful that the simple factual statement that it has been men who have created what is commonly meant by Western (and for that matter, any other) civilization seems like an insensitive affront to the equality of mankind. And the next step in my argument must be to deal with this as a problem.

...

_The key to modern Western civilization is its openness to talent wherever found._ The feminist demand for collective quotas has overturned this basic feature of our civilization. The crucial point is that the character of a civilization is revealed by its understanding of achievement. European civilization responded to achievement wherever it could be found. To replace achievement by quota entitlements is to destroy one civilization from within and to replace it with another. We are no longer what we were. The problem is to explain how the West collapsed.

...

This example not only illuminates the success of radical feminism, but also reveals something of the long-term significance of these massive shifts of power. For the real threat to universities came not from students but from government. Students were a minor irritant in academic life, but governments were now bent on destroying the autonomy of the institutions of civil society. Students merely functioned as their fifth column. They had the effect of forcing universities even more into a public domain. Students wanted the academic to become the political and that was the effect they had. _Before 1960 universities largely ran their own affairs. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, they had all succumbed to the state subsidies that destroyed their autonomy._

...

In a few significant areas, however, no such demands are made. These areas are either where women graduates have no wish to go (rough outdoor work) or where lack of ability could lead to instant disaster, such as brain surgery or piloting commercial aircraft. Women are to be found in both, but only on the basis of ability. Universities are obviously a soft touch because the consequences of educational betrayal take decades to emerge. The effect of university quotas for “gender diversity” for example has often been to fill humanities departments with women in order to equalize numbers “distorted” (one might say) by technology and the hard sciences where even passably able women are hard to come by. Many women in the humanities departments are indeed very able, but many are not, and they have often prospered by setting up fanciful ideological courses (especially in women’s studies), _which can hardly pretend to be academic at all_.

What however of areas where women are patently unsuited—such as the army, the police force, or fire fighting? They have in fact all been under attack because although women are unsuited to the rough work at the bottom, these areas have enviable managerial opportunities higher up. They are _one more irresistible gravy train_. The fire-fighting case was dramatized by the New York judicial decision that a test of fitness for the force that nearly all women failed must be discriminatory, and therefore illegal, an extension of the idea of “the rule of law” far beyond any serious meaning. This was the doctrine called “disparate impact.” Similar considerations have affected women in the armed forces. Standards of entry have been lowered in order that women may qualify. One argument for so doing is that the rejected tests looked for qualities only rarely needed in the field, and that may indeed be true. Yet, the idea that soldiers are heroic figures doing something that women generally cannot do has forever been part of the self-understanding of men, even those who have never heard a shot fired in anger. A small boy inclined to cry out at the sting of iodine or the prick of an injection might be told “be a soldier.” Today according to the feminist doctrine he is more likely to be told to express his feelings.

The assault of women on areas such as the church raises similar issues. In principle there is not the slightest reason why women should not take on a priestly role, and one might indeed suspect that feminists may be right in diagnosing resistance in part to an unhealthy attitude to women on the part of some of the clergy. In a pastoral role, women might well be better than men, as some women are in politics. The problem is that women priests raise very awkward questions of Christian theology. Jesus selected only male disciples. Was the son of God then merely a creature of his own culture? Here most conspicuously the entry of women changes entirely the conception of the activity and not for the better. Female clergy have done little to reverse the current decline of the church. Indeed while women as individuals have often enhanced what they have joined, _the entry of women in general has seldom done much for any area previously dominated by men—except, significantly, bureaucracy_.

...

Let us now return to the teasing question of _why the male custodians of our civilization sold the pass_. Some element of _cowardice_ must certainly be recognized, because the radicals were tribal warriors making ferocious faces and stamping their feet. The defenders were white, male, and middle class, and the radicals had long been engaged in a campaign to erode the morale of each of these abstract categories. They denoted racism, sexism, and elitism respectively. Caricatured in terms of these abstractions, men found it difficult not to be written off as oppressors of women. Again, _the defenders were not united_. Many had been longstanding advocates of liberal feminism and from confusion believed that radical feminism was _merely a rather hysterical version of classical liberalism_. Retreat is a notoriously difficult maneuver to control. Each concession could be used to demand further concessions in the name of consistency. Hence the appearance in all English-speaking countries of legislation mandating equal opportunities—and who could possibly be against that? Before long, the movement had taken over the universities, many public bodies, industrial firms and, above all, the media. _Quite rapidly, hiring for status-giving jobs requiring degrees had become closely circumscribed by a set of rules. The dogma was that 50 percent of all jobs belonged to women, though the reality of quotas was long denied._

There are, of course, deeper currents. One of them is that men tended to react to radical feminism with a high-minded feeling that nothing but justice, a notoriously fluid idea, should determine public policy. _The balancing of … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/hugo_mercier-the-argumentative-theory

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/02/open-thread-732017/
Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/23/open-thread-07232017/
Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/30/the-delusion-of-reasons-empire/
My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.

...

At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.

...

Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Conservation of Coercion - American Affairs Journal
The two faces of the Kapauku Papuans, and the way their anarchist-friendly political order rested on a deeply illiberal social order, neatly express how Technology and the End of Authority, by the Cato Institute scholar Jason Kuznicki, is both an interesting and a maddening book. Kuznicki states that he was inspired to write the book when he wondered why so many classical political philosophers, despite their disagreements over a vast number of topics, nevertheless all believed the nature and proper role of the state was the most important question concerning the proper organization of human affairs. Even libertarian and anarchist political theorists obsess about states, filling books with discussions of when and why we ought to reject them as illegitimate. The nature of their opposition implicitly concedes that the state, its value and purpose, is the central question for us to grapple with.

In contrast, Kuznicki invites us, if not to ignore the state, then at least to banish it from the forefront of our thinking. He asks us to consider states as just one tool among many that human societies have deployed to solve various sorts of problems. The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic—like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation. Statecraft, like sanitation engineering, is a dirty job that somebody has to do, but unlike sanitation engineering it should also be a mildly embarrassing one. The notion that political means are a locus of the good, or that the state is imbued with the highest purposes of society, is as ridiculous as the notion that a city exists for its sewers rather than vice versa. So, Kuznicki suggests, we should treat anybody attempting to derive the correct or legitimate purposes of the state with the same skepticism with which we would view somebody waxing philosophical about a trash compactor. The real center of society, the topics worth debating and pondering, are all the other institutions—like markets, churches, sports teams, scientific schools, and families—whose existence the correct operation of the state supports.

...

The second implication of Kuznicki’s statecraft-as-engineering is that any determination about the proper role and behavior of government must remain unsettled not only by historical and cultural context, but also by the ambient level of technology. Kuznicki explores this at some length. He does not mean to make the common argument that the particular set of technologies deployed within a society can be more or less conducive to particular forms of government—as mass democracy might be encouraged by technologies of communication and travel, or as centralized autocracy might tend to arise in societies relying on large-scale irrigation for intensive agriculture. Rather, if the state is a tool for solving an array of otherwise intractable social problems, Kuznicki surmises, a newly discovered technological solution to such a problem could remove it from the state’s set of concerns—perhaps permanently.

...

What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.” Some sources of social trust are mundane: for instance, it seems to make a big difference for a society to simply have a high enough median wealth that someone isn’t liable to be ruined if he or she takes a gamble on trusting a stranger and ends up getting cheated. Others are fuzzier: shared participation in churches, clubs, and social organizations can also significantly increase the degree of solidarity and trust in a community. Thinkers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet have pointed out the ways in which the ascendant state makes war upon and seeks to displace the “little platoons” of civil society. It is not well appreciated today that the reverse is also true: a “thick” culture rooted in shared norms and shared history can make the state less necessary by helping to raise the ambient level of social trust above whatever threshold makes it possible for citizens to organize and discipline themselves without state compulsion.

...

The story of the diamontaires ends with the whole system, private courts and all, falling apart following an influx of non-Hasidic actors into the New York diamond industry. But lack of trust and solidarity aren’t just problems if we want private courts. Yes, a very high degree of social trust can help to replace or displace state institutions, but any amount of trust tends to make governments more efficient and less corrupt. It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous. Conversely, history’s most successful multiethnic polities have tended to be empires or confederations with a very high degree of provincial or local autonomy. Government is not a problem that scales gracefully: certainly not with number of citizens, but perhaps also not with number of constituent cultures. Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

In the absence of trust, every private commercial or social interaction becomes just a little bit more expensive, a little bit less efficient, and a little bit less likely to happen at all. Individuals are more cautious in their dealings with strangers, businesses are less likely to extend credit, everybody is a little more uncertain about the future, and people adjust their investment decisions accordingly. Individuals and businesses spend more money on bike locks, security systems, and real estate they perceive to be “safe,” rather than on the consumption or investment they would otherwise prefer. Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
trees are harlequins, words are harlequins — bayes: a kinda-sorta masterpost
lol, gwern: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6ghsxf/biweekly_rational_feed/diqr0rq/
> What sort of person thinks “oh yeah, my beliefs about these coefficients correspond to a Gaussian with variance 2.5″? And what if I do cross-validation, like I always do, and find that variance 200 works better for the problem? Was the other person wrong? But how could they have known?
> ...Even ignoring the mode vs. mean issue, I have never met anyone who could tell whether their beliefs were normally distributed vs. Laplace distributed. Have you?
I must have spent too much time in Bayesland because both those strike me as very easy and I often think them! My beliefs usually are Laplace distributed when it comes to things like genetics (it makes me very sad to see GWASes with flat priors), and my Gaussian coefficients are actually a variance of 0.70 (assuming standardized variables w.l.o.g.) as is consistent with field-wide meta-analyses indicating that d>1 is pretty rare.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Scanners Live in Vain | West Hunter
Of course, finding that the pattern already exists at the age of one month seriously weakens any idea that being poor shrinks the brain: most of the environmental effects you would consider haven’t even come into play in the first four weeks, when babies drink milk, sleep, and poop. Genetics affecting both parents and their children would make more sense, if the pattern shows up so early (and I’ll bet money that, if real,  it shows up well before one month);  but Martha Farah, and the reporter from Nature, Sara Reardon, ARE TOO FUCKING DUMB to realize this.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/scanners-live-in-vain/#comment-93791
Correlation between brain volume and IQ is about 0.4 . Shows up clearly in studies with sufficient power.

“poverty affects prenatal environment a lot.” No it does not. “poverty” in this country means having plenty to eat.

The Great IQ Depression: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/the-great-iq-depression/
We hear that poverty can sap brainpower, reduce frontal lobe function, induce the fantods, etc. But exactly what do we mean by ‘poverty’? If we’re talking about an absolute, rather than relative, standard of living, most of the world today must be in poverty, as well as almost everyone who lived much before the present. Most Chinese are poorer than the official US poverty level, right? The US had fairly rapid economic growth until the last generation or so, so if you go very far back in time, almost everyone was poor, by modern standards. Even those who were considered rich at the time suffered from zero prenatal care, largely useless medicine, tabletless high schools, and slow Internet connections. They had to ride horses that had lousy acceleration and pooped all over the place.

In particular, if all this poverty-gives-you-emerods stuff is true, scholastic achievement should have collapsed in the Great Depression – and with the miracle of epigenetics, most of us should still be suffering those bad effects.

But somehow none of this seems to have gone through the formality of actually happening.
west-hunter  scitariat  commentary  study  org:nat  summary  rant  critique  neuro  neuro-nitgrit  brain-scan  iq  class  correlation  compensation  pop-diff  biodet  behavioral-gen  westminster  experiment  attaq  measure  multi  discussion  ideas  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  usa  gedanken  analogy  comparison  time  china  asia  world  developing-world  economics  growth-econ  medicine  healthcare  epigenetics  troll  aphorism  cycles  obesity  poast  nutrition  hypochondria  explanans 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Born that way | West Hunter
In the Atlantic Monthly , which no longer has any reason for existence, since there’s really no point in placing a computer screen on the bottom of a birdcage, Jason Silverstein  – a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Harvard –  has a piece explaining that genes don’t cause racial health disparities – society does! Moreover,  it’s immoral to even look for such genetic explanations.

I guess he should have gotten this published earlier, since we’ve already found some of those naughty genes – pretty important ones. So it’s too late.

...

Which means that Silverstein is a jackass. Nothing stopped him from digging into biomedical research to see if his thesis was substantially true: he didn’t bother. But why is he a jackass? Born that way, probably.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  rant  critique  race  medicine  pop-diff  health  genetics  embodied  attaq  prudence  straussian 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Book review: "Working Effectively with Legacy Code" by Michael C. Feathers - Eli Bendersky's website
The basic premise of the book is simple, and can be summarized as follows:

To improve some piece of code, we must be able to refactor it.
To be able to refactor code, we must have tests that prove our refactoring didn't break anything.
To have reasonable tests, the code has to be testable; that is, it should be in a form amenable to test harnessing. This most often means breaking implicit dependencies.
... and the author spends about 400 pages on how to achieve that. This book is dense, and it took me a long time to plow through it. I started reading linerarly, but very soon discovered this approach doesn't work. So I began hopping forward and backward between the main text and the "dependency-breaking techniques" chapter which holds isolated recipes for dealing with specific kinds of dependencies. There's quite a bit of repetition in the book, which makes it even more tedious to read.

The techniques described by the author are as terrible as the code they're up against. Horrible abuses of the preprocessor in C/C++, abuses of inheritance in C++ and Java, and so on. Particularly the latter is quite sobering. If you love OOP beware - this book may leave you disenchanted, if not full of hate.

To reiterate the conclusion I already presented earlier - get this book if you have to work with old balls of mud; it will be effort well spent. Otherwise, if you're working on one of those new-age continuously integrated codebases with a 2/1 test to code ratio, feel free to skip it.
techtariat  books  review  summary  critique  engineering  programming  intricacy  code-dive  best-practices  checklists  checking 
july 2017 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: Everything is Worse in China
My time here has thus given me a rare vantage point to judge many of the claims made over the course of these campaigns. In few places is this sort of outside perspective more useful than when judging the claims of an American jeremiad. Jeremiading is a fine art. Its practitioners hail from lands both left and right, but my sympathies lie with the cultural traditionalists. You know the type. In America they find little but a shallow husk. For some it is the husk of a nation once great; for others it is the decaying remains of Western civilization itself. Few of these gloom-filled minds deny that wonders have marked their days on this earth. It is not that advances do not happen. It is just that each celebrated advance masks hundreds of more quiet destructions. These laments for worlds gone by are poignant; the best are truly beautiful. The best of the best, however, do not just lament. Every one of their portraits of the past is a depiction of a future—or more properly, a way of living worth devoting a future to.

I have read a few of these books in 2017. The best of these (both for its lyricism and for the demands it places on the intellect) is Anthony Esolen's newest book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. This blog is not the place for a full review. I plan to write a proper review for it and a few of the other recently published books of this type for a less personal publication than the Scholar's Stage. Here I will just share one of my strongest reactions to the book—a thought that occurred again and again as I drifted through its pages. Esolen presents a swarm of maladies sickening American society, ranging from a generation of children suffocated by helicopter parenting to a massive state bureaucracy openly hostile to virtuous living. My reaction to each of his carefully drawn portraits was the same: this problem is even worse in China.

Are you worried about political correctness gone awry, weaponized by mediocrities to defame the worthy, suffocating truth, holding honest inquiry hostage through fear and terror? That problem is worse in China.

Do you lament the loss of beauty in public life? Its loss as a cherished ideal of not just art and oratory but in the building of homes, chapels, bridges, and buildings? Its disappearance in the comings-and-goings of everyday life? That problem is worse in China.

Do you detest a rich, secluded, and self-satisfied cultural elite that despises, distrusts, and derides the uneducated and unwashed masses not lucky enough to live in one of their chosen urban hubs? That problem is worse in China.

Are you sickened by crass materialism? Wealth chased, gained, and wasted for nothing more than vain display? Are you oppressed by the sight of children denied the joys of childhood, guided from one carefully structured resume-builder to the next by parents eternally hovering over their shoulders? Do you dread a hulking, bureaucratized leviathan, unaccountable to the people it serves, and so captured by special interests that even political leaders cannot control it? Are you worried by a despotic national government that plays king-maker in the economic sphere and crushes all opposition to its social programs into the dust? Do you fear a culture actively hostile to the free exercise of religion? Hostility that not only permeates through every layer of society, but is backed by the awesome power of the state?

These too are all worse in China.

Only on one item from Esolen's catalogue of decline can American society plausibly be described as more self-destructive than China's. China has not hopped headlong down the rabbit's hole of gender-bending. The Chinese have thus far proved impervious to this nonsense. But it would not be meet to conclude from this that Chinese society's treatment of sex is healthier than the West's.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/25/on-the-precipice-of-the-kali-yuga/
interesting comments:
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/25/on-the-precipice-of-the-kali-yuga/comment-page-1/#comment-3091
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/25/on-the-precipice-of-the-kali-yuga/comment-page-1/#comment-3093
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/25/on-the-precipice-of-the-kali-yuga/comment-page-1/#comment-3109
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/25/on-the-precipice-of-the-kali-yuga/comment-page-1/#comment-3130
Re: authoritarianism and all that. I sometimes describe modern China as “slouching towards totalitarianism.” Bill Bishop descried it recently as a “leninist panopticon.”

(e.g. here http://cmp.hku.hk/2017/07/20/big-data-big-concerns/ here https://amp.ft.com/content/5ec7093c-6e06-11e7-b9c7-15af748b60d0 and here https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d676a4e3267444e/share_p.html# ).

But I think we need to dispense with some illusions. The elites of the CPC are unrelentingly hostile towards the West. They are King Goujian. They won’t be satisfied until China has displaced the United States as the world’s super power and they have the power to control the entire Chinese diaspora. (For those not familiar with the last bit see here http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2017/chinas-operation-australia/soft-power.html and http://insidestory.org.au/beijings-guoqing-versus-australias-way-of-life ). On the long term will not tolerate an India or Japan that is not subservient, and they are not afraid to interfere with protected liberties in Western countries as long as Chinese-speakers are involved. For the most part they get away with it, as the censorship and intimidation they exercise in Western China-towns is all done in the Chinese language.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/01/06/tencent_s_wechat_worldwide_internet_users_are_voluntarily_submitting_to.html
In the last few years, usage of the mobile messaging app WeChat (Weixin), developed by Chinese corporation Tencent, has skyrocketed not only inside China but also around the world. For 500 million mobile users in mainland China, WeChat is one of the only options for mobile messaging available, due to frequent or permanent blockage of apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Twitter, and Facebook. For more than 100 million mobile users in the rest of the world, a highly polished user experience, celebrity marketing, and the promise of “free calls and texts” has proven to be nearly irresistible for far-flung members of the Chinese diaspora. This global user base also includes the Tibetan exile diaspora, who through WeChat have become connected on both sides of the Himalayas in near real time like never before.

Beijing Hinders Free Speech in America: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/opinion/beijing-free-speech-america.html
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july 2017 by nhaliday
It’s finally out–The big review paper on the lack of political diversity in social psychology | HeterodoxAcademy.org
https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/21/political-diversity-response-to-33-critiques/
http://righteousmind.com/viewpoint-diversity/
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/real-academic-diversity
http://quillette.com/2017/07/06/social-sciences-undergoing-purity-spiral/
What’s interesting about Haidt’s alternative interpretation of the liberal progress narrative is that he mentions two elements central to the narrative—private property and nations. And what has happened to a large extent is that as the failures of communism have become increasingly apparent many on the left—including social scientists—have shifted their activism away from opposing private property and towards other aspects, for example globalism.

But how do we know a similarly disastrous thing is not going to happen with globalism as happened with communism? What if some form of national and ethnic affiliation is a deep-seated part of human nature, and that trying to forcefully suppress it will eventually lead to a disastrous counter-reaction? What if nations don’t create conflict, but alleviate it? What if a decentralised structure is the best way for human society to function?
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july 2017 by nhaliday
A Review of Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade
Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Cambridge University Press, 2006) is a major work in the ongoing project of many economists and economic historians to show that institutions are the fundamental driver of all economic history, and of all contemporary differences in economic performance. This review outlines the contribution of this book to the project and the general status of this long standing ambition.
pdf  spearhead  gregory-clark  essay  article  books  review  economics  growth-econ  broad-econ  institutions  history  early-modern  europe  the-great-west-whale  divergence  🎩  industrial-revolution  medieval  critique  roots  world  measurement  empirical  realness  cultural-dynamics  north-weingast-like  modernity  microfoundations  aphorism  track-record 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Economics empiricism - Wikipedia
Economics empiricism[1] (sometimes economic imperialism) in contemporary economics refers to economic analysis of seemingly non-economic aspects of life,[2] such as crime,[3] law,[4] the family,[5] prejudice,[6] tastes,[7] irrational behavior,[8] politics,[9] sociology,[10] culture,[11] religion,[12] war,[13] science,[14] and research.[14] Related usage of the term predates recent decades.[15]

The emergence of such analysis has been attributed to a method that, like that of the physical sciences, permits refutable implications[16] testable by standard statistical techniques.[17] Central to that approach are "[t]he combined postulates of maximizing behavior, stable preferences and market equilibrium, applied relentlessly and unflinchingly."[18] It has been asserted that these and a focus on economic efficiency have been ignored in other social sciences and "allowed economics to invade intellectual territory that was previously deemed to be outside the discipline’s realm."[17][19]

The Fluidity of Race: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/the-fluidity-of-race/
So: what can we conclude about this paper? It’s a classic case of economic imperialism, informed by what ‘intellectuals’ [ those that have never been introduced to Punnet squares, Old Blue Light, the Dirac equation, or Melungeons] would like to hear.

It is wrong, not close to right.

Breadth-first search: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/breadth-first-search/
When I complain about some egregious piece of research, particularly those that are in some sense cross-disciplinary, I often feel that that just knowing more would solve the problem. If Roland Fryer or Oded Galor understood genetics, they wouldn’t make these silly mistakes. If Qian and Nix understood genetics or American post-Civil War history, they would never have written that awful paper about massive passing. Or if paleoanthropologists and population geneticists had learned about mammalian hybrids, they would have been open to the idea of Neanderthal introgression.

But that really amounts to a demand that people learn about five times as much in college and grad school as they actually do. It’s not going to happen. Or, perhaps, find a systematic and effective way of collaborating with people outside their discipline without having their heads shaved. That doesn’t sound too likely either.

Hot enough for you?: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/hot-enough-for-you/
There’s a new study out in Nature, claiming that economic productivity peaks at 13 degrees Centigrade and that global warming will therefore drastically decrease world GDP.

Singapore. Phoenix. Queensland. Air-conditioners!

Now that I’ve made my point, just how stupid are these people? Do they actually believe this shit? I keep seeing papers by economists – in prominent places – that rely heavily on not knowing jack shit about anything on Earth, papers that could only have been written by someone that didn’t know a damn thing about the subject they were addressing, from the influence of genetic diversity on civilization achievement (zilch) to the massive race-switching that happened after the Civil War (not). Let me tell you, there’s a difference between ‘economic imperialism’ and old-fashioned real imperialism: people like Clive of India or Raffles bothered to learn something about the territory they were conquering. They knew enough to run divide et impera in their sleep: while economists never say peccavi, no matter how badly they screw up.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The more things change | Code and Culture
I just listened to a podcast conversation [transcript / audio] between Tyler Cowen and Ben Sasse and very much enjoyed it but was bothered by one of the senator’s laugh lines, “Turned out sex was really similar in most centuries.”* Now in a sense this is obviously true since any culture in which sex lost a certain aspect would only last one generation, and indeed this has happened. But there is still a lot of variation within the scope condition that in pretty much all times and places, sex is procreative at least some of the time. What kinds of sex one has varies enormously over time, as does with what kinds of and how many people. We can see this over big periods of history and within living memory in our own culture. My discussion will be necessarily detailed, but not prurient.
econotariat  sociology  commentary  critique  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  gender  sex  sexuality  early-modern  europe  gallic  mostly-modern  nyc  usa  flux-stasis  society  anthropology 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Django Unchained, or, The Help: How “Cultural Politics” Is Worse Than No Politics at All, and Why | nonsite.org
By Adolph Reed, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania)

This is a perspective that can provide some badly needed clarity on debates in contemporary politics regarding the relation of race, racism and inequality. For example, Ron and Rand Paul, libertarians of the highest order, do not oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Law because they hate, or even don’t like, black people. (And, for the record, whenever one finds oneself agreeing at all with Kanye West about anything, it’s time to take a step back, breathe deeply and reassess.) They oppose it, as they’ve made clear, because it infringes on property rights. They dislike black people because they understand, correctly, that black people are very likely to be prominent among those committed to pursuing greater equality. They oppose black people’s demands and all others intended to mitigate inequality because any efforts to do so would necessarily impinge on the absolute sanctity of property rights. I don’t mean to suggest that the Pauls aren’t racist; I’m pretty confident they are, no matter how much they might protest the assessment. My point is that determining whether they’re racist, then exposing and denouncing them for it, doesn’t reach to what is most consequentially wrong and dangerous about them or for that matter what makes their racism something more significant than that of the random bigot who lives around the corner on disability.
journos-pundits  film  review  critique  culture  art  aesthetics  analysis  essay  race  politics  culture-war  ideology  values  civil-liberty  randy-ayndy  discrimination  property-rights  ethnocentrism  left-wing  egalitarianism-hierarchy  coalitions  identity-politics  class-warfare  inequality  envy 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Who Closed the American Mind? | The American Conservative
Bloom relates that “I found myself responding to the professor of psychology that I personally tried to teach my students prejudices, since nowadays—with the general success of his method—they had learned to doubt beliefs even before they believed in anything … One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation.” Bloom’s preferred original title—before being overruled by Simon and Schuster—was Souls Without Longing. He was above all concerned that students, in being deprived of the experience of living in their own version of Plato’s cave, would never know or experience the opportunity of philosophic ascent.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/discussion-of-defection/

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.

...

It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.

...

The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.

...

You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.

...

The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!

...

And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.

...

And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 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.

http://squid314.livejournal.com/320672.html
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.

https://twitter.com/NAChristakis/status/952315243572719617
https://archive.is/DpyAx
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
Sorry, Chuck Todd, But Reporters Aren't The Referees Of Politics
This is what really rankles so many conservatives about their alleged media betters. It’s not the bias, at least not by itself. It’s the dishonesty. The smug sanctimony. It’s the refusal of so many of them to openly admit their biases and to admit their motivations: to put a thumb on the scale in favor of one of the competing parties. I want conservatism and limited government to win out in the end. Chuck Todd and many of his friends in media want the opposite. I’m honest about it, but too many of Todd’s colleagues are not.

Chuck Todd isn’t a referee. He’s a hack with a point of view, just like the rest of the us. The only difference is that he won’t admit it.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
In Defense of Individualist Culture | Otium
The salient feature of an individualist environment is that nobody directly tries to make you do anything.

...

I see a lot of writers these days raising problems with modern individualist culture, and it may be an especially timely topic. The Internet is a novel superstimulus, and it changes more rapidly, and affords people more options, than ever before. We need to think about the actual consequences of a world where many people are in practice being left alone to do what they want, and clearly not all the consequences are positive.

But I do want to suggest some considerations in favor of individualist culture — that often-derided “atomized modern world” that most of us live in.

We Aren’t Clay

interesting: https://slatestarscratchpad.tumblr.com/post/162329749236/httpssrconstantinwordpresscom20170627in-de

bleck:
Patriarchy is the Problem: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/patriarchy-is-the-problem/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology – Russ Roberts – Medium
https://notesonliberty.com/2017/06/26/james-buchanan-on-racism/
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/06/nancy_macleans.html
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448958/nancy-maclean-vs-tyler-cowen
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/28/some-dubious-claims-in-nancy-macleans-democracy-in-chains/
http://www.independent.org/issues/article.asp?id=9115
http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/wither-academic-ethics/
lol: https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/879717516184080384
hmm: https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/891134709924868096
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/08/04/james-buchanan-was-committed-to-basic-democratic-values/
http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2017/08/book-symposium-democracy-in-chains/
http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/henry-farrell-steven-m-teles-when-politics-drives-scholarship
http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/marshall-steinbaum-book-explains-charlottesville
https://twitter.com/Econ_Marshall/status/903289946357858306
https://archive.is/LalIc
So any political regime premised on defending property rights is race-biased. If you want to call that racist, I think it's justified.

lmao wut
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/09/01/georg-vanberg-democracy-in-chains-and-james-m-buchanan-on-school-integration/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/historical-fiction-at-duke-1508449507

The Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Nominated for a National Book Award: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453408/nancy-macleans-democracy-chains-will-conspiracy-theory-win-national-book-award

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/master-class-on-the-make-hartman
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Econometric Modeling as Junk Science
The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design Is Taking the Con out of Econometrics: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.24.2.3

On data, experiments, incentives and highly unconvincing research – papers and hot beverages: https://papersandhotbeverages.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/on-data-experiments-incentives-and-highly-unconvincing-research/
In my view, it has just to do with the fact that academia is a peer monitored organization. In the case of (bad) data collection papers, issues related to measurement are typically boring. They are relegated to appendices, no one really has an incentive to monitor it seriously. The problem is similar in formal theory: no one really goes through the algebra in detail, but it is in principle feasible to do it, and, actually, sometimes these errors are detected. If discussing the algebra of a proof is almost unthinkable in a seminar, going into the details of data collection, measurement and aggregation is not only hard to imagine, but probably intrinsically infeasible.

Something different happens for the experimentalist people. As I was saying, I feel we have come to a point in which many papers are evaluated based on the cleverness and originality of the research design (“Using the World Cup qualifiers as an instrument for patriotism!? Woaw! how cool/crazy is that! I wish I had had that idea”). The sexiness of the identification strategy has too often become a goal in itself. When your peers monitor you paying more attention to the originality of the identification strategy than to the research question, you probably have an incentive to mine reality for ever crazier discontinuities. It is true methodologists have been criticized in the past for analogous reasons, such as being guided by the desire to increase mathematical complexity without a clear benefit. But, if you work with pure formal theory or statistical theory, your work is not meant to immediately answer question about the real world, but instead to serve other researchers in their quest. This is something that can, in general, not be said of applied CI work.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/662007951415238656
This post should have been entitled “Zombies who only think of their next cool IV fix”
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/662692917069422592
massive lust for quasi-natural experiments, regression discontinuities
barely matters if the effects are not all that big
I suppose even the best of things must reach their decadent phase; methodological innov. to manias……

https://twitter.com/cblatts/status/920988530788130816
Following this "collapse of small-N social psych results" business, where do I predict econ will collapse? I see two main contenders.
One is lab studies. I dallied with these a few years ago in a Kenya lab. We ran several pilots of N=200 to figure out the best way to treat
and to measure the outcome. Every pilot gave us a different stat sig result. I could have written six papers concluding different things.
I gave up more skeptical of these lab studies than ever before. The second contender is the long run impacts literature in economic history
We should be very suspicious since we never see a paper showing that a historical event had no effect on modern day institutions or dvpt.
On the one hand I find these studies fun, fascinating, and probably true in a broad sense. They usually reinforce a widely believed history
argument with interesting data and a cute empirical strategy. But I don't think anyone believes the standard errors. There's probably a HUGE
problem of nonsignificant results staying in the file drawer. Also, there are probably data problems that don't get revealed, as we see with
the recent Piketty paper (http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/10/pikettys-data-reliable.html). So I take that literature with a vat of salt, even if I enjoy and admire the works
I used to think field experiments would show little consistency in results across place. That external validity concerns would be fatal.
In fact the results across different samples and places have proven surprisingly similar across places, and added a lot to general theory
Last, I've come to believe there is no such thing as a useful instrumental variable. The ones that actually meet the exclusion restriction
are so weird & particular that the local treatment effect is likely far different from the average treatment effect in non-transparent ways.
Most of the other IVs don't plausibly meet the e clue ion restriction. I mean, we should be concerned when the IV estimate is always 10x
larger than the OLS coefficient. This I find myself much more persuaded by simple natural experiments that use OLS, diff in diff, or
discontinuities, alongside randomized trials.

What do others think are the cliffs in economics?
PS All of these apply to political science too. Though I have a special extra target in poli sci: survey experiments! A few are good. I like
Dan Corstange's work. But it feels like 60% of dissertations these days are experiments buried in a survey instrument that measure small
changes in response. These at least have large N. But these are just uncontrolled labs, with negligible external validity in my mind.
The good ones are good. This method has its uses. But it's being way over-applied. More people have to make big and risky investments in big
natural and field experiments. Time to raise expectations and ambitions. This expectation bar, not technical ability, is the big advantage
economists have over political scientists when they compete in the same space.
(Ok. So are there any friends and colleagues I haven't insulted this morning? Let me know and I'll try my best to fix it with a screed)

HOW MUCH SHOULD WE TRUST DIFFERENCES-IN-DIFFERENCES ESTIMATES?∗: https://economics.mit.edu/files/750
Most papers that employ Differences-in-Differences estimation (DD) use many years of data and focus on serially correlated outcomes but ignore that the resulting standard errors are inconsistent. To illustrate the severity of this issue, we randomly generate placebo laws in state-level data on female wages from the Current Population Survey. For each law, we use OLS to compute the DD estimate of its “effect” as well as the standard error of this estimate. These conventional DD standard errors severely understate the standard deviation of the estimators: we find an “effect” significant at the 5 percent level for up to 45 percent of the placebo interventions. We use Monte Carlo simulations to investigate how well existing methods help solve this problem. Econometric corrections that place a specific parametric form on the time-series process do not perform well. Bootstrap (taking into account the auto-correlation of the data) works well when the number of states is large enough. Two corrections based on asymptotic approximation of the variance-covariance matrix work well for moderate numbers of states and one correction that collapses the time series information into a “pre” and “post” period and explicitly takes into account the effective sample size works well even for small numbers of states.

‘METRICS MONDAY: 2SLS–CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD: http://marcfbellemare.com/wordpress/12733
As it turns out, Young finds that
1. Conventional tests tend to overreject the null hypothesis that the 2SLS coefficient is equal to zero.
2. 2SLS estimates are falsely declared significant one third to one half of the time, depending on the method used for bootstrapping.
3. The 99-percent confidence intervals (CIs) of those 2SLS estimates include the OLS point estimate over 90 of the time. They include the full OLS 99-percent CI over 75 percent of the time.
4. 2SLS estimates are extremely sensitive to outliers. Removing simply one outlying cluster or observation, almost half of 2SLS results become insignificant. Things get worse when removing two outlying clusters or observations, as over 60 percent of 2SLS results then become insignificant.
5. Using a Durbin-Wu-Hausman test, less than 15 percent of regressions can reject the null that OLS estimates are unbiased at the 1-percent level.
6. 2SLS has considerably higher mean squared error than OLS.
7. In one third to one half of published results, the null that the IVs are totally irrelevant cannot be rejected, and so the correlation between the endogenous variable(s) and the IVs is due to finite sample correlation between them.
8. Finally, fewer than 10 percent of 2SLS estimates reject instrument irrelevance and the absence of OLS bias at the 1-percent level using a Durbin-Wu-Hausman test. It gets much worse–fewer than 5 percent–if you add in the requirement that the 2SLS CI that excludes the OLS estimate.

Methods Matter: P-Hacking and Causal Inference in Economics*: http://ftp.iza.org/dp11796.pdf
Applying multiple methods to 13,440 hypothesis tests reported in 25 top economics journals in 2015, we show that selective publication and p-hacking is a substantial problem in research employing DID and (in particular) IV. RCT and RDD are much less problematic. Almost 25% of claims of marginally significant results in IV papers are misleading.

https://twitter.com/NoamJStein/status/1040887307568664577
Ever since I learned social science is completely fake, I've had a lot more time to do stuff that matters, like deadlifting and reading about Mediterranean haplogroups
--
Wait, so, from fakest to realest IV>DD>RCT>RDD? That totally matches my impression.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Revealing the Economic Consequences of Group Cohesion
A comprehensive program of new experiments reveals the considerable economic impact of cohesion: higher cohesion groups are significantly more likely to achieve Pareto-superior outcomes in classic weak-link coordination games. We show that effects of cohesion are economically large, robust, and portable. We identify social preferences as a primary mechanism explaining the effects of cohesion.

...

Our workhorse to study group outcomes is a weak-link coordination game chosen because it captures economically interesting problems endemic to organizations and teams (e.g., Camerer and Weber (2013)). In our version of the weak-link game, inspired by Brandts and Cooper (2006), group members simultaneously choose an effort level. Payoffs to each group member then depend on their own effort and the lowest effort chosen by anyone (the “weakest link”) in the group. The game has multiple strict Pareto-ranked Nash equilibria in material payoffs. This feature makes it particularly interesting for our purposes because it combines two dimensions of group success: features of coordination (choosing the same effort level as other group members) and cooperation (groups achieving Pareto-superior Nash equilibria). We expected our weak-link game to be a “harsh” environment in the sense that most groups who play this game under anonymity and in the absence of pre-existing social relationships will collapse to the Pareto-worst equilibrium and never escape from it (Brandts and Cooper (2006), and own replication).

As we show in Section V, group cohesion is a key determinant of behavior in our experiments: low cohesion groups usually descend rapidly to minimum effort; high cohesion groups fare much better and high cohesion appears necessary (though not sufficient) for achieving Pareto-superior outcomes. Surprisingly, our measure of group cohesion is the only variable that successfully predicts cooperation success; none of more than twenty control variables (demographics and group characteristics) explain minimum effort. Further experiments show that our results are robust to the timing of oneness measurement (before or after play of the weak-link game). By benchmarking our results against the effect of monetary incentives, we also show (Section VI) that the effortenhancing effects of group cohesion are sizeable: large financial incentives are needed to achieve the levels of minimum effort expected for high cohesion groups.

In Section VII we turn to an explanation of our results. A rational choice perspective suggests three natural channels through which group cohesion could operate: it might affect some combination of group members’ social preferences, their beliefs or the form of their strategic reasoning. Considering social preferences, it is plausible to assume that members of highly cohesive groups care about one another and so place weight on each other’s earnings.1 In our weak-link game, if players do draw utility from each other’s earnings, this is tantamount to (some) sharing of earnings, which reduces strategic risk and fosters coordination on Pareto-superior equilibria.2 In relation to beliefs, highly cohesive groups may be more confident in simulating other group members’ thought processes and likely actions, perhaps because of a history of interactions in different (related) situations, which allows for implicit learning (e.g., Holyoak and Spellman (1993), Rick and Weber (2010)). Finally, group cohesion might influence the nature of strategic reasoning in more substantive ways. For instance, according to one model of strategic thinking, “team reasoning” (e.g., Sugden (2003), Bacharach (2006)), people think in terms of what would be best for the team (e.g., picking the Pareto-best equilibrium) and are inclined to do their part in implementing the group-optimal outcome. An interesting possibility is that team reasoning may be more likely the more cohesive the team is. These three channels might operate jointly and potentially reinforce each other in high cohesion groups. By contrast, low cohesion groups may have low levels of social preferences, little implicit learning to draw on from shared situations, and no team perception to facilitate team reasoning.

We probe these possibilities in two steps. We first show that subjects who report high oneness with their fellow group members are indeed more likely to expose themselves to the strategic risk of choosing high initial effort in our weak-link games; they are also less “harsh” in their responses when others’ effort levels are below their own. In highly cohesive groups, these tendencies apply across group members promoting coordination on equilibria above the Pareto-worst.

Our second step is to identify the social preferences channel as a promising route for explaining observed effects of group cohesion. We demonstrate this via additional experiments in which unrelated and anonymous group members play weak-link games but with all earnings shared equally. We interpret this manipulation as inducing a limiting form of social preferences (where all put equal weight on everyone’s material payoffs). The results show patterns of effort (opening levels and dynamics) very comparable to the top third most cohesive groups from our main experiment. Thus, social preferences provide a parsimonious candidate explanation of how group cohesion promotes Pareto-superior equilibria.

Smart groups of smart people: Evidence for IQ as the origin of collective intelligence in the performance of human groups: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616303282
Group-IQ almost exclusively reflects individual cognition. (80% variance explained)
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Halsey’s Typhoon | West Hunter
Halsey fucked up, repeatedly. It’s obvious even to fictional characters, like Marko Ramius in The Hunt For Red October. If not for pressure from the top, Halsey would have been relieved. But Nimitz had reasons for sparing him. Not ones I agree with, but reasons. Halsey was an important symbol of the Navy to the general public, and it was thought that letting it all hang out would hurt the Navy in the expected budgetary fights after the war. And to be fair, Halsey wasn’t a traitor or anything: he was just dumb. Or, as a kinder person than I once said, by 1944, the war had become too complicated for Halsey.

Christ, they gave Halsey five stars, more than Spruance.

Problem is, this seems to be standard policy. Once you soar above a certain level, you never get punished for fucking up. Mangle a major company (like HP) and they whip you with hundred dollar bills – your failure is the stepping stone to a Presidential campaign. Invade the wrong country, turn another into an anarchic sand pile, misread the Soviet Union as the coming thing – you have foreign policy ‘experience’. Reminds me of an 11 year old’s definition of experience – what you have after you’ve forgotten her name..
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The New Narrative: Less Immigration Is Bad – LaborEcon
There is no upper bound to the hypocrisy of experts. It might be a lot of fun to keep track of this over the next few years, watching the dominos fall and all those “immigration-does-not-affect-wages” experts fall all over themselves as they switch to proving the economic awfulness of Trump’s actions because fewer immigrants mean higher labor costs, higher prices, more inflation.

But don’t hold your breath for any admission that they were wrong in the past. They will instantly switch to the former party line the minute the Trump immigration restrictions fade into history.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Everything Under the Heavens and China's Conceptualization of Power
These guys are not very quantitative, so let me clarify a part of their discussion that was left rather ambiguous. It is true that demographic trends are working against China, which has a rapidly aging population. French and Schell talk about a 10-15 year window during which China has to grow rich before it grows old (a well-traveled meme). From the standpoint of geopolitics this is probably not the correct or relevant analysis. China's population is ~4x that of the US. If, say, demographic trends limit this to only an effective 3x or 3.5x advantage in working age individuals, China still only has to reach ~1/3 of US per capita income in order to have a larger overall economy. It seems unlikely that there is any hard cutoff preventing China from reaching, say, 1/2 the US per capita GDP in a few decades. (Obviously a lot of this growth is still "catch-up" growth.) At that point its economy would be the largest in the world by far, and its scientific-technological workforce and infrastructure would be far larger than that of any other country.

- interesting point: China went from servile toward Japan to callous as soon as it surpassed Japan economically (I would bet this will apply to the US)
- conventional Chinese narrative for WW2: China won the Pacific Theater not the US
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/06/world/asia/chinas-textbooks-twist-and-omit-history.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/a-story-about-world-war-ii-that-china-would-like-you-to-hear/259084/
- serious Chinese superiority complex overall
- "patriotic education", the fucking opposite of our god-awful ideology
- in Chinese history: each dynasty judges the last, unimpeachable
- ceding control of South China Sea would damage relations with neighboring countries (not enforcing their legitimate claims) and damage international norms (rule of law, etc.)
- next 10-15 years dangerous (Thucydides); of course Hsu criticizes
- suggestions: cultivate local alliances, prevent arms races, welcome Chinese international initiatives
I'm highly skeptical of all but the alliances
- ethnic melting in Chinese history, population structure (not actually as much as he thinks AFAIK), "age of nationalism", Tibet, etc.

Gideon Rachman writes for the FT, so it's not surprising that his instincts seem a bit stronger when it comes to economics. He makes a number of incisive observations during this interview.

---

At 16min, he mentions that
I was in Beijing about I guess a month before the vote [US election], in fact when the first debates were going on, and the Chinese, I thought that official Chinese [i.e. Government Officials] in our meeting and the sort of semi-official academics were clearly pulling for Trump.

---

I wonder if the standard of comparison shouldn't be with the West as a whole, not just the United States?

It depends on what happens to the EU, whether western powers other than the US want to play the role of global hegemon, etc.

The situation today is that the US is focused on preserving its primacy, wants to deny Russia and China any local sphere of influence, etc., whereas Europe has little appetite for any of it. They can barely allocate enough resources for their own defense.

Europe and the US have their own demographic problems to deal with in the coming decades. An aging population may turn out to be less challenging than the consequences of mass immigration (note population trends in Africa, so close to Europe).

If China behaved as an aggressive hegemon like the US or former USSR, it would probably elicit a collective back reaction from the West. But I think its first step is simply to consolidate influence over Asia.

---

interesting somewhat contrarian take on China's girth here: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/03/manufacturing-chinese-history-cheaply/

China Does Not Want Your Rules Based Order: http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2016/06/china-does-not-want-your-rules-based.html
There is much that is good in this narrative. McCain proclaims that "no nation has done as much to contribute to what China calls its “peaceful rise” as the United States of America." He is right to do so. No nation has done more to enable China's rise than America has. No country's citizens have done more for the general prosperity of the Chinese people than the Americans have. This is true in ways that are not widely known or immediately obvious. For example, the role American financiers and investment banks played in creating the architecture of modern Chinese financial markets and corporate structures is little realized, despite the size and importance of their interventions. Behind every great titan of Chinese industry--China Mobile, the world's largest mobile phone operator, China State Construction Engineering, whose IPO was valued at $7.3 billion, PetroChina, the most profitable company in Asia (well, before last year), to name a few of hundreds--lies an American investment banker. I do not exaggerate when I say Goldman Sachs created modern China. [2] China has much to thank America for.

...

In simpler terms, the Chinese equate “rising within a rules based order” with “halting China’s rise to power.” To live by Washington’s rules is to live under its power, and the Chinese have been telling themselves for three decades now that—after two centuries of hardship—they will not live by the dictates of outsiders ever again.

The Chinese will never choose our rules based order. That does not necessarily mean they want to dethrone America and throw down all that she has built. The Chinese do not have global ambitions. What they want is a seat at the table—and they want this seat to be recognized, not earned. That’s the gist of it. Beijing is not willing to accept an order it did not have a hand in creating. Thus all that G-2 talk we heard a few years back. The Chinese would love to found a new order balancing their honor and their interests with the Americans. It is a flattering idea. What they do not want is for the Americans to give them a list of hoops to jump through to gain entry into some pre-determined good-boys club. They feel like their power, wealth, and heritage should be more than enough to qualify for automatic entrance to any club.

https://twitter.com/Aelkus/status/928754578794958848
https://archive.is/NpLpR
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Comprehensive Military Power: World’s Top 10 Militaries of 2015 - The Unz Review
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Column on international affairs
apocryphal, but still:
Otto von Bismarck is said to have proposed the following solution to the Irish Question: Move all the Irish to Holland and all the Dutch to Ireland. With their industriousness, sobriety, and civic virtue the Dutch would soon have Ireland thriving. The Irish meanwhile would be so busy drinking and fighting, they would neglect the dikes. The sea would rush in and they would all drown.

http://www.politics.ie/forum/history/22143-anti-irish-quotes-throughout-history.html
http://www.samueljohnson.com/scotland.html
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth in Ancient Greece | pseudoerasmus
Maybe land-and-dung expansion does not really require a fancy institutional explanation. Territory expanded, land yields rose, and people have always traded their surpluses. Why invoke “inclusive institutions”, as Ober effectively does, for something so mundane ? Perhaps the seminal cultural accomplishments of classical Greece bias some of us to look for “special” causes of the expansion.

Note, this is not an argument that political economy or “institutions” play no role in the rise and decline of economies. But in this particular case, so little seems established about the descriptive statistics, let alone the “growth accounting”, of Greek economic expansion in 800-300 BCE that it’s premature to be speculating about its institutional causes.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review: Singer on Marx | Slate Star Codex
But in fact Marx was philosophically opposed, as a matter of principle, to any planning about the structure of communist governments or economies. He would come out and say “It is irresponsible to talk about how communist governments and economies will work.” He believed it was a scientific law, analogous to the laws of physics, that once capitalism was removed, a perfect communist government would form of its own accord. There might be some very light planning, a couple of discussions, but these would just be epiphenomena of the governing historical laws working themselves out. Just as, a dam having been removed, a river will eventually reach the sea somehow, so capitalism having been removed society will eventually reach a perfect state of freedom and cooperation.

...

Conservatives always complain that liberals “deny human nature”, and I had always thought that complaint was unfair. Like sure, liberals say that you can make people less racist, and one could counterargue that a tendency toward racism is inborn, but it sure seems like you can make that tendency more or less strongly expressed and that this is important. This is part of the view I argue in Nature Is Not A Slate, It’s A Series Of Levers.

But here I have to give conservatives their due. As far as I can tell, Marx literally, so strongly as to be unstrawmannable, believed there was no such thing as human nature and everything was completely malleable.

Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
On Pinkglossianism | Wandering Near Sawtry
Steven Pinker is not wrong to say that some things have got better – or even that some things are getting better. We live longer. We have more food. We have more medicine. We have more free time. We have less chance of dying at another’s hands. My main objection to his arguments is not that some things have got worse as well (family life, for example, or social trust). It is not that he emphasises proportion when scale is more significant (such as with animal suffering). It is the fragility of these peaceful, prosperous conditions.

Antibiotics have made us healthier but antibiotic resistance threatens to plunge us into epidemics. Globalisation has made us richer but is also a powder-keg of cultural unease. Industrialisation has brought material wealth but it is also damaging the environment. Nuclear weapons have averted international conflict but it would only take one error for them to wreak havoc.

At his best, Pinker reminds us of how much we have to treasure, then. At his worst, he is like a co-passenger in a car – pointing out the sunny weather and the beautiful surroundings as it hurtles towards the edge of a cliff.

http://takimag.com/article/dusting_off_the_crystal_ball_john_derbyshire/print
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/11/the-new-york-times-on-violence-and-pinker/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How important was colonial trade for the rise of Europe? | Economic Growth in History
The latter view became the orthodoxy among economists and economic historians after Patrick O’Brien’s 1982 paper, which in one of many of Patrick’s celebrated phrases, claims that “”the periphery vs peripheral” for Europe. He concludes the paper by writing:

“[G]rowth, stagnation, and decay everywhere in Western Europe can be explained mainly by reference to endogenous forces. … for the economic growth of the core, the periphery was peripheral.”

This is the view that remarkable scholars such as N. Crafts, Deirdre McCloskey, or Joel Mokyr repeat today (though Crafts would argue cotton imports would have mattered in a late stage, and my reading of Mokyr is that he has softened his earlier view from the 1980s a little, specifically in the book The Enlightened Economy.) Even recently, Brad deLong has classifyied O’Brien’s 1982 position as “air tight”.

Among economists and economic historians more on the economics side, I would say that O’Brien’s paper was only one of two strong hits against the “Worlds-System” and related schools of thoughts of the 1970s, the other hit being Solow’s earlier conclusion that TFP growth (usually interpreted as technology, though there’s more to it than that) has accounted for economic growth a great deal more than capital accumulation, which is what Hobsbawm and Wallerstein, in their neo-Marxist framework, emphasize.

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/890034395456974848
A friend tonight, on the third world and the first world, and our relationships to the past: "They don't forget, and we don't remember."
https://twitter.com/edwest/status/872337163458932736
imo the European Intifada is being fueled by anti-Europeanism & widely taught ideas like this one discussed - Europe stole its riches

https://www.thinkpragati.com/opinion/1863/dont-blame-empire/
The British Empire was cruel, rapacious and racist. But contrary to what Shashi Tharoor writes in An Era Of Darkness, the fault for India’s miseries lies upon itself.

Indeed, the anti-Tharoor argument is arguably closer to the truth, because the British tended to use the landlord system in places where landlords were already in place, and at times when the British were relatively weak and couldn’t afford to upset tradition. Only after they became confident in their power did the British start to bypass the landlord class and tax the cultivators directly. King’s College London historian Jon Wilson (2016) writes in India Conquered, “Wherever it was implemented, raiyatwar began as a form of military rule.” Thus the system that Tharoor implicitly promotes, and which is associated with higher agricultural productivity today, arose from the very same colonialism that he blames for so many of India’s current woes. History does not always tell the parables that we wish to hear.

...

India’s share of the world economy was large in the eighteenth century for one simple reason: when the entire world was poor, India had a large share of the world’s population. India’s share fell because with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Europe and North America saw increases of income per capita to levels never before seen in all of human history. This unprecedented growth cannot be explained by Britain’s depredations against India. Britain was not importing steam engines from India.

The big story of the Great Divergence is not that India got poorer, but that other countries got much richer. Even at the peak of Mughal wealth in 1600, the best estimates of economic historians suggest that GDP per capita was 61% higher in Great Britain. By 1750–before the battle of Plassey and the British takeover–GDP per capita in Great Britain was more than twice what it was in India (Broadberry, Custodis, and Gupta 2015). The Great Divergence has long roots.

Tharoor seems blinded by the glittering jewels of the Maharajas and the Mughals. He writes with evident satisfaction that when in 1615 the first British ambassador presented himself to the court of Emperor Jehangir in Agra, “the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch.” True; but the Emperor’s opulence was produced on the backs of millions of poor subjects. Writing at the same time and place, the Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert (1626) contrasted the “great superfluity and absolute power” of the rich with “the utter subjection and poverty of the common people–poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted…only as the home of stark want and the dwelling-place of bitter woe.” Indian rulers were rich because the empire was large and inequality was extreme.

In pre-colonial India the rulers, both Mughal and Maratha, extracted _anywhere from one-third to one half of all gross agricultural output_ and most of what was extracted was spent on opulence and the armed forces, not on improving agricultural productivity (Raychaudhuri 1982).

...

The British were awful rulers but the history of India is a long story of awful rulers (just as it is for most countries). Indeed, by Maddison’s (2007) calculations _the British extracted less from the Indian economy than did the Mughal Dynasty_. The Mughals built their palaces in India while the British built most of their palaces in Britain, but that was little comfort to the Indian peasant who paid for both. The Kohinoor diamond that graces the cover of Inglorious Empire is a telling symbol. Yes, it was stolen by the British (who stole it from the Sikhs who stole it from the Afghanis who stole it from the Mughals who stole it from one of the kings of South India). But how many Indians would have been better off if this bauble had stayed in India? Perhaps one reason why more Indians didn’t take up arms against the British was that for most of them, British rule was a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

more for effect on colonies: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:4b0128372fe9

INDIA AND THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: AN ANGLO-INDIAN COMPARISON OF GDP PER CAPITA, 1600-1871: http://eh.net/eha/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Guptaetal.pdf
This paper provides estimates of Indian GDP constructed from the output side for the pre-1871 period, and combines them with population estimates to track changes in living standards. Indian per capita GDP declined steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before stabilising during the nineteenth century. As British living standards increased from the mid-seventeenth century, India fell increasingly behind. Whereas in 1600, Indian per capita GDP was over 60 per cent of the British level, by 1871 it had fallen to less than 15 per cent. As well as placing the origins of the Great Divergence firmly in the early modern period, the estimates suggest a relatively prosperous India at the height of the Mughal Empire, with living standards well above bare bones subsistence.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/832288984009207810
but some of the Asian wage data (especialy India) have laughably small samples (see Broadberry & Gupta)

How profitable was colonialism for various European powers?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/p1q1q/how_profitable_was_colonialism_for_various/

How did Britain benefit from colonising India? What did colonial powers gain except for a sense of power?: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Britain-benefit-from-colonising-India-What-did-colonial-powers-gain-except-for-a-sense-of-power
The EIC period was mostly profitable, though it had recurring problems with its finances. The initial voyages from Surat in 1600s were hugely successful and brought profits as high as 200%. However, the competition from the Dutch East India Company started to drive down prices, at least for spices. Investing in EIC wasn’t always a sure shot way to gains - British investors who contributed to the second East India joint stock of 1.6 million pounds between 1617 and 1632 ended up losing money.

...

An alternate view is that the revenues of EIC were very small compared to the GDP of Britain, and hardly made an impact to the overall economy. For instance, the EIC Revenue in 1800 was 7.8m pounds while the British GDP in the same period was 343m pounds, and hence EIC revenue was only 2% of the overall GDP. (I got these figures from an individual blog and haven’t verified them).

...

The British Crown period - The territory of British India Provinces had expanded greatly and therefore the tax revenues had grown in proportion. The efficient taxation system paid its own administrative expenses as well as the cost of the large British Indian Army. British salaries were lucrative - the Viceroy received £25,000 a year, and Governors £10,000 for instance besides the lavish amenities in the form of subsidized housing, utilities, rest houses, etc.

...

Indian eminent intellectual, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote how the British systematically ensured the draining of Indian economy of its wealth and his theory is famously known as ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory. In his book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned.

At the same time, a fair bit of money did go back into India itself to support further colonial infrastructure. Note the explosion of infrastructure (Railway lines, 100+ Cantonment towns, 60+ Hill stations, Courthouses, Universities, Colleges, Irrigation Canals, Imperial capital of New Delhi) from 1857 onward till 1930s. Of course, these infrastructure projects were not due to any altruistic motive of the British. They were intended to make their India empire more secure, comfortable, efficient, and to display their grandeur. Huge sums of money were spent in the 3 Delhi Durbars conducted in this period.

So how profitable was the British Crown period? Probably not much. Instead bureaucracy, prestige, grandeur, comfort reigned supreme for the 70,000 odd British people in India.

...

There was a realization in Britain that colonies were not particularly economically beneficial to the home economy. … [more]
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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
https://nephist.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/the-data-we-have-vs-the-data-we-need-a-comment-on-the-state-of-the-divergence-debate-part-ii/
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/832260704690434048
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/876088100774174720
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
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/628527390453538816
@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
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/847054219790159879
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
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/534328741754048512
@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/
http://voxeu.org/article/european-and-asian-incomes-1914-new-take-great-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.

http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2013/11/another-look-at-rise-of-west-but-with.html
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june 2017 by nhaliday
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