nhaliday + institutions   409

State (polity) - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_formation
In the medieval period (500-1400) in Europe, there were a variety of authority forms throughout the region. These included feudal lords, empires, religious authorities, free cities, and other authorities.[42] Often dated to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, there began to be the development in Europe of modern states with large-scale capacity for taxation, coercive control of their populations, and advanced bureaucracies.[43] The state became prominent in Europe over the next few centuries before the particular form of the state spread to the rest of the world via the colonial and international pressures of the 19th century and 20th century.[44] Other modern states developed in Africa and Asia prior to colonialism, but were largely displaced by colonial rule.[45]

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Two related theories are based on military development and warfare, and the role that these forces played in state formation. Charles Tilly developed an argument that the state developed largely as a result of "state-makers" who sought to increase the taxes they could gain from the people under their control so they could continue fighting wars.[42] According to Tilly, the state makes war and war makes states.[49] In the constant warfare of the centuries in Europe, coupled with expanded costs of war with mass armies and gunpowder, warlords had to find ways to finance war and control territory more effectively. The modern state presented the opportunity for them to develop taxation structures, the coercive structure to implement that taxation, and finally the guarantee of protection from other states that could get much of the population to agree.[50] Taxes and revenue raising have been repeatedly pointed out as a key aspect of state formation and the development of state capacity. Economist Nicholas Kaldor emphasized on the importance of revenue raising and warned about the dangers of the dependence on foreign aid.[51] Tilly argues, state making is similar to organized crime because it is a "quintessential protection racket with the advantage of legitimacy."[52]

State of nature: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_nature
Thomas Hobbes
The pure state of nature or "the natural condition of mankind" was deduced by the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan and in his earlier work On the Citizen.[4] Hobbes argued that all humans are by nature equal in faculties of body and mind (i.e., no natural inequalities are so great as to give anyone a "claim" to an exclusive "benefit"). From this equality and other causes [example needed]in human nature, everyone is naturally willing to fight one another: so that "during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called warre; and such a warre as is of every man against every man". In this state every person has a natural right or liberty to do anything one thinks necessary for preserving one's own life; and life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Leviathan, Chapters XIII–XIV). Hobbes described this natural condition with the Latin phrase bellum omnium contra omnes (meaning war of all against all), in his work De Cive.

Within the state of nature there is neither personal property nor injustice since there is no law, except for certain natural precepts discovered by reason ("laws of nature"): the first of which is "that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it" (Leviathan, Ch. XIV); and the second is "that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself" (loc. cit.). From here Hobbes develops the way out of the state of nature into political society and government, by mutual contracts.

According to Hobbes the state of nature exists at all times among independent countries, over whom there is no law except for those same precepts or laws of nature (Leviathan, Chapters XIII, XXX end). His view of the state of nature helped to serve as a basis for theories of international law and relations.[5]

John Locke
John Locke considers the state of nature in his Second Treatise on Civil Government written around the time of the Exclusion Crisis in England during the 1680s. For Locke, in the state of nature all men are free "to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature." (2nd Tr., §4). "The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it", and that law is reason. Locke believes that reason teaches that "no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, and or property" (2nd Tr., §6) ; and that transgressions of this may be punished. Locke describes the state of nature and civil society to be opposites of each other, and the need for civil society comes in part from the perpetual existence of the state of nature.[6] This view of the state of nature is partly deduced from Christian belief (unlike Hobbes, whose philosophy is not dependent upon any prior theology).

Although it may be natural to assume that Locke was responding to Hobbes, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name, and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day, like Robert Filmer.[7] In fact, Locke's First Treatise is entirely a response to Filmer's Patriarcha, and takes a step by step method to refuting Filmer's theory set out in Patriarcha. The conservative party at the time had rallied behind Filmer's Patriarcha, whereas the Whigs, scared of another prosecution of Anglicans and Protestants, rallied behind the theory set out by Locke in his Two Treatises of Government as it gave a clear theory as to why the people would be justified in overthrowing a monarchy which abuses the trust they had placed in it.[citation needed]

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Hobbes' view was challenged in the eighteenth century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who claimed that Hobbes was taking socialized people and simply imagining them living outside of the society in which they were raised. He affirmed instead that people were neither good nor bad, but were born as a blank slate, and later society and the environment influence which way we lean. In Rousseau's state of nature, people did not know each other enough to come into serious conflict and they did have normal values. The modern society, and the ownership it entails, is blamed for the disruption of the state of nature which Rousseau sees as true freedom.[9]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereignty
Ulpian's statements were known in medieval Europe, but sovereignty was an important concept in medieval times.[1] Medieval monarchs were not sovereign, at least not strongly so, because they were constrained by, and shared power with, their feudal aristocracy.[1] Furthermore, both were strongly constrained by custom.[1]

Sovereignty existed during the Medieval period as the de jure rights of nobility and royalty, and in the de facto capability of individuals to make their own choices in life.[citation needed]

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Reformation

Sovereignty reemerged as a concept in the late 16th century, a time when civil wars had created a craving for stronger central authority, when monarchs had begun to gather power onto their own hands at the expense of the nobility, and the modern nation state was emerging. Jean Bodin, partly in reaction to the chaos of the French wars of religion, presented theories of sovereignty calling for strong central authority in the form of absolute monarchy. In his 1576 treatise Les Six Livres de la République ("Six Books of the Republic") Bodin argued that it is inherent in the nature of the state that sovereignty must be:[1]

- Absolute: On this point he said that the sovereign must be hedged in with obligations and conditions, must be able to legislate without his (or its) subjects' consent, must not be bound by the laws of his predecessors, and could not, because it is illogical, be bound by his own laws.
- Perpetual: Not temporarily delegated as to a strong leader in an emergency or to a state employee such as a magistrate. He held that sovereignty must be perpetual because anyone with the power to enforce a time limit on the governing power must be above the governing power, which would be impossible if the governing power is absolute.

Bodin rejected the notion of transference of sovereignty from people to the ruler (also known as the sovereign); natural law and divine law confer upon the sovereign the right to rule. And the sovereign is not above divine law or natural law. He is above (ie. not bound by) only positive law, that is, laws made by humans. He emphasized that a sovereign is bound to observe certain basic rules derived from the divine law, the law of nature or reason, and the law that is common to all nations (jus gentium), as well as the fundamental laws of the state that determine who is the sovereign, who succeeds to sovereignty, and what limits the sovereign power. Thus, Bodin’s sovereign was restricted by the constitutional law of the state and by the higher law that was considered as binding upon every human being.[1] The fact that the sovereign must obey divine and natural law imposes ethical constraints on him. Bodin also held that the lois royales, the fundamental laws of the French monarchy which regulated matters such as succession, are natural laws and are binding on the French sovereign.

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Age of Enlightenment
During the Age of Enlightenment, the idea of sovereignty gained both legal and moral force as the main Western description of the meaning and power of a State. In particular, the "Social contract" as a mechanism for establishing sovereignty was suggested and, by 1800, widely accepted, especially in the new United States and France, though also in Great Britain to a lesser extent.

Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan (1651) arrived a conception of sovereignty similar to Bodin's, which had just achieved legal… [more]
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august 2018 by nhaliday
Psychopathy by U.S. State by Ryan Murphy :: SSRN
Rentfrow et al. (2013) constructs a cross-section of the “Big Five” personality traits and demonstrates their relationship with outcomes variables for the continental United States and the District of Columbia. Hyatt et al. (Forthcoming) creates a means of describing psychopathy in terms of the Big Five personality traits. When these two findings are combined, a state-level estimate of psychopathy is produced. Among the typical predictions made regarding psychopathy, the variable with the closest univariate relationship with this new statistical aggregate is the percentage of the population in the state living in an urban area. There is not a clear univariate relationship with homicide rates.

Washington, D.C., harbors the greatest share of psychopaths in the US, "a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn a literal seat of power."
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Dividuals – The soul is not an indivisible unit and has no unified will
Towards A More Mature Atheism: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/towards-a-more-mature-atheism/
Human intelligence evolved as a social intelligence, for the purposes of social cooperation, social competition and social domination. It evolved to make us efficient at cooperating at removing obstacles, especially the kinds of obstacles that tend to fight back, i.e. at warfare. If you ever studied strategy or tactics, or just played really good board games, you have probably found your brain seems to be strangely well suited for specifically this kind of intellectual activity. It’s not necessarily easier than studying physics, and yet it somehow feels more natural. Physics is like swimming, strategy and tactics is like running. The reason for that is that our brains are truly evolved to be strategic, tactical, diplomatic computers, not physics computers. The question our brains are REALLY good at finding the answer for is “Just what does this guy really want?”

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Thus, a very basic failure mode of the human brain is to overdetect agency.

I think this is partially what SSC wrote about in Mysticism And Pattern-Matching too. But instead of mystical experiences, my focus is on our brains claiming to detect agency where there is none. Thus my view is closer to Richard Carrier’s definition of the supernatural: it is the idea that some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.

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Meaning actually means will and agency. It took me a while to figure that one out. When we look for the meaning of life, a meaning in life, or a meaningful life, we look for a will or agency generally outside our own.

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I am a double oddball – kind of autistic, but still far more interested in human social dynamics, such as history, than in natural sciences or technology. As a result, I do feel a calling to religion – the human world, as opposed to outer space, the human city, the human history, is such a perfect fit for a view like that of Catholicism! The reason for that is that Catholicism is the pinnacle of human intellectual efforts dealing with human agency. Ideas like Augustine’s three failure modes of the human brain: greed, lust and desire for power and status, are just about the closest to forming correct psychological theories far earlier than the scientific method was discovered. Just read your Chesterbelloc and Lewis. And of course because the agency radars of Catholics run at full burst, they overdetect it and thus believe in a god behind the universe. My brain, due to my deep interest in human agency and its consequences, also would like to be religious: wouldn’t it be great if the universe was made by something we could talk to, like, everything else that I am interested in, from field generals to municipal governments are entities I could talk to?

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I also dislike that atheists often refuse to propose a falsifiable theory because they claim the burden of proof is not on them. Strictly speaking it can be true, but it is still good form to provide one.

Since I am something like an “nontheistic Catholic” anyway (e.g. I believe in original sin from the practical, political angle, I just think it has natural, not supernatural causes: evolution, the move from hunting-gathering to agriculture etc.), all one would need to do to make me fully so is to plug a God concept in my mind.

If you can convince me that my brain is not actually overdetecting agency when I feel a calling to religion, if you can convince me that my brain and most human brains detect agency just about right, there will be no reason for me to not believe in God. Because if there would any sort of agency behind the universe, the smartest bet would be that this agency would be the God of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. That guy was plain simply a genius.

How to convince me my brain is not overdetecting agency? The simplest way is to convince me that magic, witchcraft, or superstition in general is real, and real in the supernatural sense (I do know Wiccans who cast spells and claim they are natural, not supernatural: divination spells make the brain more aware of hidden details, healing spells recruit the healing processes of the body etc.) You see, Catholics generally do believe in magic and witchcraft, as in: “These really do something, and they do something bad, so never practice them.”

The Strange Places the “God of the Gaps” Takes You: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/the-strange-places-the-god-of-the-gaps-takes-you/
I assume people are familiar with the God of the Gaps argument. Well, it is usually just an accusation, but Newton for instance really pulled one.

But natural science is inherently different from humanities, because in natural science you build a predictive model of which you are not part of. You are just a point-like neutral observer.

You cannot do that with other human minds because you just don’t have the computing power to simulate a roughly similarly intelligent mind and have enough left to actually work with your model. So you put yourself into the predictive model, you make yourself a part of the model itself. You use a certain empathic kind of understanding, a “what would I do in that guys shoes?” and generate your predictions that way.

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Which means that while natural science is relatively new, and strongly correlates with technological progress, this empathic, self-programming model of the humanities you could do millenia ago as well, you don’t need math or tools for this, and you probably cannot expect anything like straight-line progress. Maybe some wisdoms people figure out this way are really timeless and we just keep on rediscovering them.

So imagine, say, Catholicism as a large set of humanities. Sociology, social psychology, moral philosophy in the pragmatic, scientific sense (“What morality makes a society not collapse and actually prosper?”), life wisdom and all that. Basically just figuring out how people tick, how societies tick and how to make them tick well.

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What do? Well, the obvious move is to pull a Newton and inject a God of the Gaps into your humanities. We tick like that because God. We must do so and so to tick well because God.

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What I am saying is that we are at some point probably going to prove pretty much all of the this-worldy, pragmatic (moral, sociological, psychological etc.) aspect of Catholicism correct by something like evolutionary psychology.

And I am saying that while it will dramatically increase our respect for religion, this will also be probably a huge blow to theism. I don’t want that to happen, but I think it will. Because eliminating God from the gaps of natural science does not hurt faith much. But eliminating God from the gaps of the humanities and yes, religion itself?

My Kind of Atheist: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/08/my-kind-of-athiest.html
I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in public that I’m now an atheist, even though I grew up in a very Christian family, and I even joined a “cult” at a young age (against disapproving parents). The proximate cause of my atheism was learning physics in college. But I don’t think I’ve ever clarified in public what kind of an “atheist” or “agnostic” I am. So here goes.

The universe is vast and most of it is very far away in space and time, making our knowledge of those distant parts very thin. So it isn’t at all crazy to think that very powerful beings exist somewhere far away out there, or far before us or after us in time. In fact, many of us hope that we now can give rise to such powerful beings in the distant future. If those powerful beings count as “gods”, then I’m certainly open to the idea that such gods exist somewhere in space-time.

It also isn’t crazy to imagine powerful beings that are “closer” in space and time, but far away in causal connection. They could be in parallel “planes”, in other dimensions, or in “dark” matter that doesn’t interact much with our matter. Or they might perhaps have little interest in influencing or interacting with our sort of things. Or they might just “like to watch.”

But to most religious people, a key emotional appeal of religion is the idea that gods often “answer” prayer by intervening in their world. Sometimes intervening in their head to make them feel different, but also sometimes responding to prayers about their test tomorrow, their friend’s marriage, or their aunt’s hemorrhoids. It is these sort of prayer-answering “gods” in which I just can’t believe. Not that I’m absolutely sure they don’t exist, but I’m sure enough that the term “atheist” fits much better than the term “agnostic.”

These sort of gods supposedly intervene in our world millions of times daily to respond positively to particular prayers, and yet they do not noticeably intervene in world affairs. Not only can we find no physical trace of any machinery or system by which such gods exert their influence, even though we understand the physics of our local world very well, but the history of life and civilization shows no obvious traces of their influence. They know of terrible things that go wrong in our world, but instead of doing much about those things, these gods instead prioritize not leaving any clear evidence of their existence or influence. And yet for some reason they don’t mind people believing in them enough to pray to them, as they often reward such prayers with favorable interventions.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
[1804.04268] Incomplete Contracting and AI Alignment
We suggest that the analysis of incomplete contracting developed by law and economics researchers can provide a useful framework for understanding the AI alignment problem and help to generate a systematic approach to finding solutions. We first provide an overview of the incomplete contracting literature and explore parallels between this work and the problem of AI alignment. As we emphasize, misalignment between principal and agent is a core focus of economic analysis. We highlight some technical results from the economics literature on incomplete contracts that may provide insights for AI alignment researchers. Our core contribution, however, is to bring to bear an insight that economists have been urged to absorb from legal scholars and other behavioral scientists: the fact that human contracting is supported by substantial amounts of external structure, such as generally available institutions (culture, law) that can supply implied terms to fill the gaps in incomplete contracts. We propose a research agenda for AI alignment work that focuses on the problem of how to build AI that can replicate the human cognitive processes that connect individual incomplete contracts with this supporting external structure.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Surveil things, not people – The sideways view
Technology may reach a point where free use of one person’s share of humanity’s resources is enough to easily destroy the world. I think society needs to make significant changes to cope with that scenario.

Mass surveillance is a natural response, and sometimes people think of it as the only response. I find mass surveillance pretty unappealing, but I think we can capture almost all of the value by surveilling things rather than surveilling people. This approach avoids some of the worst problems of mass surveillance; while it still has unattractive features it’s my favorite option so far.

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The idea
We’ll choose a set of artifacts to surveil and restrict. I’ll call these heavy technology and everything else light technology. Our goal is to restrict as few things as possible, but we want to make sure that someone can’t cause unacceptable destruction with only light technology. By default something is light technology if it can be easily acquired by an individual or small group in 2017, and heavy technology otherwise (though we may need to make some exceptions, e.g. certain biological materials or equipment).

Heavy technology is subject to two rules:

1. You can’t use heavy technology in a way that is unacceptably destructive.
2. You can’t use heavy technology to undermine the machinery that enforces these two rules.

To enforce these rules, all heavy technology is under surveillance, and is situated such that it cannot be unilaterally used by any individual or small group. That is, individuals can own heavy technology, but they cannot have unmonitored physical access to that technology.

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This proposal does give states a de facto monopoly on heavy technology, and would eventually make armed resistance totally impossible. But it’s already the case that states have a massive advantage in armed conflict, and it seems almost inevitable that progress in AI will make this advantage larger (and enable states to do much more with it). Realistically I’m not convinced this proposal makes things much worse than the default.

This proposal definitely expands regulators’ nominal authority and seems prone to abuses. But amongst candidates for handling a future with cheap and destructive dual-use technology, I feel this is the best of many bad options with respect to the potential for abuse.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Imagine there’s no Congress - The Washington Post
- Adrian Vermeule

In the spirit of John Lennon, let’s imagine, all starry-eyed, that there’s no U.S. Congress. In this thought experiment, the presidency and the Supreme Court would be the only federal institutions, along with whatever subordinate agencies the president chose to create. The court would hold judicial power, while the president would make and execute laws. The president would be bound by elections and individual constitutional rights, but there would be no separation of legislative from executive power.

Would such a system be better or worse than our current system? How different would it be, anyway?
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april 2018 by nhaliday
More arguments against blockchain, most of all about trust - Marginal REVOLUTION
Auditing software is hard! The most-heavily scrutinized smart contract in history had a small bug that nobody noticed — that is, until someone did notice it, and used it to steal fifty million dollars. If cryptocurrency enthusiasts putting together a $150m investment fund can’t properly audit the software, how confident are you in your e-book audit? Perhaps you would rather write your own counteroffer software contract, in case this e-book author has hidden a recursion bug in their version to drain your ethereum wallet of all your life savings?

It’s a complicated way to buy a book! It’s not trustless, you’re trusting in the software (and your ability to defend yourself in a software-driven world), instead of trusting other people.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Diving into Chinese philosophy – Gene Expression
Back when I was in college one of my roommates was taking a Chinese philosophy class for a general education requirement. A double major in mathematics and economics (he went on to get an economics Ph.D.) he found the lack of formal rigor in the field rather maddening. I thought this was fair, but I suggested to him that the this-worldy and often non-metaphysical orientation of much of Chinese philosophy made it less amenable to formal and logical analysis.

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IMO the much more problematic thing about premodern Chinese political philosophy from the point of view of the West is its lack of interest in constitutionalism and the rule of law, stemming from a generally less rationalist approach than the Classical Westerns, than any sort of inherent anti-individualism or collectivism or whatever. For someone like Aristotle the constitutional rule of law was the highest moral good in itself and the definition of justice, very much not so for Confucius or for Zhu Xi. They still believed in Justice in the sense of people getting what they deserve, but they didn’t really consider the written rule of law an appropriate way to conceptualize it. OG Confucius leaned more towards the unwritten traditions and rituals passed down from the ancestors, and Neoconfucianism leaned more towards a sort of Universal Reason that could be accessed by the individual’s subjective understanding but which again need not be written down necessarily (although unlike Kant/the Enlightenment it basically implies that such subjective reasoning will naturally lead one to reaffirming the ancient traditions). In left-right political spectrum terms IMO this leads to a well-defined right and left and a big old hole in the center where classical republicanism would be in the West. This resonates pretty well with modern East Asian political history IMO
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”

...

Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.

...

For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
ratty  thinking  metabuch  reflection  metameta  big-yud  clever-rats  ai-control  ai  risk  scale  quality  ability-competence  network-structure  capitalism  randy-ayndy  civil-liberty  marketing  institutions  economics  political-econ  politics  polisci  advertising  rent-seeking  government  coordination  internet  attention  polarization  media  truth  unintended-consequences  alt-inst  efficiency  altruism  society  usa  decentralized  rhetoric  prediction  population  incentives  intervention  criminal-justice  property-rights  redistribution  taxes  externalities  science  monetary-fiscal  public-goodish  zero-positive-sum  markets  cost-benefit  regulation  regularizer  order-disorder  flux-stasis  shift  smoothness  phase-transition  power  definite-planning  optimism  pessimism  homo-hetero  interests  eden-heaven  telos-atelos  threat-modeling  alignment 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Wikipedia
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations.

The original context deals with the problem of ensuring marital fidelity, though it is now commonly used more generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by Plato in the Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which it appears was interpolated into his works.

...

This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment of the philosophical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts.[3] There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, _the solution to which is to properly train their souls_. Several 19th century examples of the association with Plato can be found, often dropping "ipsos".[4][5] John Stuart Mill quotes it thus in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), though without reference to Plato. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.[6] In the Republic, a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence, that _the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the "noble lie" in English_.[7] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard."[8] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he says that _the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."_[9]
wiki  reference  aphorism  quotes  canon  literature  big-peeps  the-classics  philosophy  polisci  politics  government  institutions  leviathan  paradox  egalitarianism-hierarchy  n-factor  trust  organizing  power  questions  cynicism-idealism  gender  nascent-state  religion  theos  noble-lie  intel  privacy  managerial-state  explanans  the-great-west-whale  occident  sinosphere  orient  courage  vitality  vampire-squid  axelrod  cooperate-defect  coordination  ideas  democracy  foreign-lang  mediterranean  poetry  insight  virtu  decentralized  tradeoffs  analytical-holistic  ethical-algorithms  new-religion  the-watchers  interests  hypocrisy  madisonian  hari-seldon  wisdom  noblesse-oblige  illusion  comics  christianity  europe  china  asia  janus  guilt-shame  responsibility  volo-avolo  telos-atelos  parallax  alignment  whole-partial-many 
january 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.

...

So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.

...

To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!

...

Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Sacred text as cultural genome: an inheritance mechanism and method for studying cultural evolution: Religion, Brain & Behavior: Vol 7, No 3
Yasha M. Hartberg & David Sloan Wilson

Any process of evolution requires a mechanism of inheritance for the transmission of information across generations and the expression of phenotypes during each generation. Genetic inheritance mechanisms have been studied for over a century but mechanisms of inheritance for human cultural evolution are far less well understood. Sacred religious texts have the properties required for an inheritance system. They are replicated across generations with high fidelity and are transcribed into action every generation by the invocation and interpretation of selected passages. In this article we borrow concepts and methods from genetics and epigenetics to study the “expressed phenotypes” of six Christian churches that differ along a conservative–progressive axis. Their phenotypic differences, despite drawing upon the same sacred text, can be explained in part by differential expression of the sacred text. Since the invocation and interpretation of sacred texts are often well preserved, our methods allow the expressed phenotypes of religious groups to be studied at any time and place in history.
study  interdisciplinary  bio  sociology  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  religion  christianity  theos  protestant-catholic  politics  ideology  correlation  organizing  institutions  analogy  genetics  genomics  epigenetics  comparison  culture  pdf  piracy  density  flexibility  noble-lie  deep-materialism  new-religion  universalism-particularism  homo-hetero  hypocrisy  group-selection  models  coordination  info-dynamics  evolution  impact  left-wing  right-wing  time  tradition  spreading  sanctity-degradation  coalitions  trees  usa  social-capital  hari-seldon  wisdom  the-basilisk  frequency  sociality  ecology  analytical-holistic 
january 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
econotariat  marginal-rev  links  commentary  study  economics  growth-econ  broad-econ  cliometrics  innovation  stylized-facts  contrarianism  urban-rural  europe  the-great-west-whale  history  medieval  political-econ  institutions  microfoundations  roots  policy  nascent-state  creative  civil-liberty  randy-ayndy  polisci  regulation  capitalism  markets  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  reflection  track-record 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Comparative Litigation Rates
We suggest that the notoriety of the U.S. does not result from the way citizens and judges handle routine disputes, which (different as it may be in developing countries) is not very different from in other wealthy, democratic societies,. Instead, American notoriety results from the peculiarly dysfunctional way judges handle disputes in discrete legal areas such as class actions and punitive damages
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december 2017 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
When to Drop a Bombshell | The Review of Economic Studies | Oxford Academic
Sender, who is either good or bad, wishes to look good at an exogenous deadline. Sender privately observes if and when she can release a public flow of information about her private type. Releasing information earlier exposes to greater scrutiny, but signals credibility. In equilibrium bad Sender releases information later than good Sender. We find empirical support for the dynamic predictions of our model using data on the timing of US presidential scandals and US initial public offerings. In the context of elections, our results suggest that October Surprises are driven by the strategic behavior of bad Sender.
study  polisci  government  institutions  democracy  media  propaganda  info-dynamics  models  GT-101  elections  tactics 
december 2017 by nhaliday
Asabiyyah in Steve King’s Iowa – Gene Expression
What will happen if and when institutions collapse? I do not believe much of America has the social capital of Orange City, Iowa. We have become rational actors, utility optimizers. To some extent, bureaucratic corporate life demands us to behave in this manner. Individual attainment and achievement are lionized, while sacrifice in the public good is the lot of the exceptional saint.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Gelman View – spottedtoad
I have read Andrew Gelman’s blog for about five years, and gradually, I’ve decided that among his many blog posts and hundreds of academic articles, he is advancing a philosophy not just of statistics but of quantitative social science in general. Not a statistician myself, here is how I would articulate the Gelman View:

A. Purposes

1. The purpose of social statistics is to describe and understand variation in the world. The world is a complicated place, and we shouldn’t expect things to be simple.
2. The purpose of scientific publication is to allow for communication, dialogue, and critique, not to “certify” a specific finding as absolute truth.
3. The incentive structure of science needs to reward attempts to independently investigate, reproduce, and refute existing claims and observed patterns, not just to advance new hypotheses or support a particular research agenda.

B. Approach

1. Because the world is complicated, the most valuable statistical models for the world will generally be complicated. The result of statistical investigations will only rarely be to  give a stamp of truth on a specific effect or causal claim, but will generally show variation in effects and outcomes.
2. Whenever possible, the data, analytic approach, and methods should be made as transparent and replicable as possible, and should be fair game for anyone to examine, critique, or amend.
3. Social scientists should look to build upon a broad shared body of knowledge, not to “own” a particular intervention, theoretic framework, or technique. Such ownership creates incentive problems when the intervention, framework, or technique fail and the scientist is left trying to support a flawed structure.

Components

1. Measurement. How and what we measure is the first question, well before we decide on what the effects are or what is making that measurement change.
2. Sampling. Who we talk to or collect information from always matters, because we should always expect effects to depend on context.
3. Inference. While models should usually be complex, our inferential framework should be simple enough for anyone to follow along. And no p values.

He might disagree with all of this, or how it reflects his understanding of his own work. But I think it is a valuable guide to empirical work.
ratty  unaffiliated  summary  gelman  scitariat  philosophy  lens  stats  hypothesis-testing  science  meta:science  social-science  institutions  truth  is-ought  best-practices  data-science  info-dynamics  alt-inst  academia  empirical  evidence-based  checklists  strategy  epistemic 
november 2017 by nhaliday
ON THE ORIGIN OF STATES: STATIONARY BANDITS AND TAXATION IN EASTERN CONGO
As a foundation for this study, I organized the collection of village-level panel data on violent actors, managing teams of surveyors, village elders, and households in 380 war-torn areas of DRC. I introduce optimal taxation theory to the decision of violent actors to establish local monopolies of violence. The value of such decision hinges on their ability to tax the local population. A sharp rise in the global demand for coltan, a bulky commodity used in the electronics industry, leads violent actors to impose monopolies of violence and taxation in coltan sites, which persist even years after demand collapses. A similar rise in the demand for gold, easier to conceal and more difficult to tax, does not. However, the groups who nevertheless control gold sites are more likely to respond by undertaking investments in fiscal capacity, consistent with the difficulty to observe gold, and with well-documented trajectories of state formation in Europe (Ardant, 1975). The findings support the view that the expected revenue from taxation, determined in particular by tax base elasticity and costly investments in fiscal capacity, can explain the stages of state formation preceding the states as we recognize them today.
pdf  study  economics  growth-econ  broad-econ  political-econ  polisci  leviathan  north-weingast-like  unintended-consequences  institutions  microfoundations  econometrics  empirical  government  taxes  rent-seeking  supply-demand  incentives  property-rights  africa  developing-world  peace-violence  interests  longitudinal  natural-experiment  endogenous-exogenous  archaeology  trade  world  feudal  roots  ideas  cost-benefit  econ-productivity  traces 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Why ancient Rome kept choosing bizarre and perverted emperors - Vox
Why so many bizarre emperors were able to run a vast empire
Many of these emperors had extremely small circles of advisers who often did the grunt work of running the vast empire. "The number of people who had direct access to the emperor ... was actually rather small," says Ando. The emperors ruled through networks of officials, and those officials were often more competent. They propped up the insanity at the top.

What's more, most people scattered across the vast Roman Empire didn't pay much attention. "It didn't matter how nutty Caligula was," Ando says, "unless he did something crazy with tax policy." While those living in military provinces could have been affected by an emperor's decree, those in far-flung civilian provinces might have barely noticed the change from one emperor to another.

All that underlines the real truth about imperial power in Rome: yes, there were some crazy emperors, and some of the rumors were probably true. But the most bizarre thing about the Roman Empire wasn't the emperors — it was the political structure that made them so powerful in the first place.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Religious persecution in the Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_persecution_in_the_Roman_Empire
The religion of the Christians and Jews was monotheistic in contrast to the polytheism of the Romans.[16] The Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire. This being so, they were generally tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.[17] This general tolerance was not extended to religions that were hostile to the state nor any that claimed exclusive rights to religious beliefs and practice.[17]

By its very nature the exclusive faith of the Jews and Christians set them apart from other people, but whereas the former group was in the main contained within a single national, ethnic grouping, in the Holy Land and Jewish diaspora—the non-Jewish adherents of the sect such as Proselytes and God-fearers being considered negligible—the latter was active and successful in seeking converts for the new religion and made universal claims not limited to a single geographical area.[17] Whereas the Masoretic Text, of which the earliest surviving copy dates from the 9th century AD, teaches that "the Gods of the gentiles are nothing", the corresponding passage in the Greek Septuagint, used by the early Christian Church, asserted that "all the gods of the heathens are devils."[18] The same gods whom the Romans believed had protected and blessed their city and its wider empire during the many centuries they had been worshipped were now demonized[19] by the early Christian Church.[20][21]

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire
"The exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar's claims to his own exclusive sovereignty."[4]:87 The Roman empire practiced religious syncretism and did not demand loyalty to one god, but they did demand preeminent loyalty to the state, and this was expected to be demonstrated through the practices of the state religion with numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.[6]:84-90[7] The nature of Christian monotheism prevented Christians from participating in anything involving 'other gods'.[8]:60 Christians did not participate in feast days or processionals or offer sacrifices or light incense to the gods; this produced hostility.[9] They refused to offer incense to the Roman emperor, and in the minds of the people, the "emperor, when viewed as a god, was ... the embodiment of the Roman empire"[10], so Christians were seen as disloyal to both.[4]:87[11]:23 In Rome, "religion could be tolerated only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state" which would "brook no rival for the allegiance of its subjects. The state was the highest good in a union of state and religion."[4]:87 In Christian monotheism the state was not the highest good.[4]:87[8]:60

...

According to the Christian apologist Tertullian, some governors in Africa helped accused Christians secure acquittals or refused to bring them to trial.[15]:117 Overall, Roman governors were more interested in making apostates than martyrs: one proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, when confronted with a group of voluntary martyrs during one of his assize tours, sent a few to be executed and snapped at the rest, "If you want to die, you wretches, you can use ropes or precipices."[15]:137

...

Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Roman religion revolved around public ceremonies and sacrifices; personal belief was not as central an element as it is in many modern faiths. Thus while the private beliefs of Christians may have been largely immaterial to many Roman elites, this public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political well-being of both the local community and the empire as a whole. Honoring tradition in the right way — pietas — was key to stability and success.[25]
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Friedrich von Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945)
“The price system is just one of those formations which man has learned to use ... Through it not only a division of labor but also a coördinated utilization of resources based on an equally divided knowledge has become possible.”

“there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made”
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World by Josiah Ober, Barry Weingast :: SSRN
- Joshiah Ober, Barry Weingast

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

'Rulers Ruled by Women': An Economic Analysis of the Rise and Fall of Women's Rights in Ancient Sparta by Robert K. Fleck, F. Andrew Hanssen: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=788106
Throughout most of history, women as a class have possessed relatively few formal rights. The women of ancient Sparta were a striking exception. Although they could not vote, Spartan women reportedly owned 40 percent of Sparta's agricultural land and enjoyed other rights that were equally extraordinary. We offer a simple economic explanation for the Spartan anomaly. The defining moment for Sparta was its conquest of a neighboring land and people, which fundamentally changed the marginal products of Spartan men's and Spartan women's labor. To exploit the potential gains from a reallocation of labor - specifically, to provide the appropriate incentives and the proper human capital formation - men granted women property (and other) rights. Consistent with our explanation for the rise of women's rights, when Sparta lost the conquered land several centuries later, the rights for women disappeared. Two conclusions emerge that may help explain why women's rights have been so rare for most of history. First, in contrast to the rest of the world, the optimal (from the men's perspective) division of labor among Spartans involved women in work that was not easily monitored by men. Second, the rights held by Spartan women may have been part of an unstable equilibrium, which contained the seeds of its own destruction.
study  broad-econ  economics  polisci  political-econ  institutions  government  north-weingast-like  democracy  walls  correlation  polis  history  mediterranean  iron-age  the-classics  microfoundations  modernity  comparison  architecture  military  public-goodish  elite  civic  taxes  redistribution  canon  literature  big-peeps  conquest-empire  rent-seeking  defense  models  GT-101  incentives  urban  urban-rural  speculation  interdisciplinary  cliometrics  multi  civil-liberty  gender  gender-diff  equilibrium  cycles  branches  labor  interests  property-rights  unintended-consequences  explanation  explanans  analysis  econ-productivity  context  arrows  micro  natural-experiment 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Climate Risk, Cooperation, and the Co-Evolution of Culture and Institutions∗
We test this hypothesis for Europe combining high-resolution climate data for the period 1500-2000 with survey data at the sub-national level. We find that regions with higher inter-annual variability in precipitation and temperature display higher levels of trust. This effect is driven by variability in the growing season months, and by historical rather than recent variability. Regarding possible mechanisms, we show that regions with more variable climate were more closely connected to the Medieval trade network, indicating a higher propensity to engage in inter-community exchange. We also find that these regions were more likely to adopt participatory political institutions earlier on, and are characterized by a higher quality of local governments still today. Our results suggest that, by favoring the emergence of mutually-reinforcing norms and institutions, exposure to environmental risk had a long-lasting impact on human cooperation.
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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
The political economy of fertility | SpringerLink
This paper studies the political economy of fertility. Specifically, I argue that fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict. I first present a simple conflict model where high fertility is optimal for each ethnic group if and only if the economy’s ethnic diversity is high, institutions are weak, or both. I then test the model in a cross-national dataset. Consistent with the theory, I find that economies where the product of ethnic diversity and a measure of institutional weakness is high have increased fertility rates. I conclude that fertility may depend on political factors.
study  sociology  speculation  stylized-facts  demographics  population  fertility  polisci  political-econ  institutions  nationalism-globalism  tribalism  us-them  self-interest  intervention  wonkish  pdf  piracy  microfoundations  phalanges  diversity  putnam-like  competition  israel  MENA  the-bones 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Places, not Programs – spottedtoad
1. There has to be a place for people to go.
2. It has to be safe.
3. There preferably needs to be bathrooms and water available there.
Schools fulfill this list, which is one reason they are still among our few remaining sources of shared meaning and in-person community. As Christ Arnade has often remarked, McDonalds fast-food restaurants fulfill this list, and are therefore undervalued sources of community in low-income communities. (The young black guys in my Philadelphia Americorps program would not-entirely-jokingly allude to McDonalds as the central hub of the weekend social/dating scene, where only one’s most immaculate clothing- a brand-new shirt, purchased just for the occasion- would suffice.) Howard Schultz, for all his occasional bouts of madness, understood from the beginning that Starbucks would succeed by becoming a “third space” between work and home, which the coffee chain for all its faults has indubitably become for many people. Ivan Illich argued that the streets themselves in poor countries once, but no longer, acted as the same kind of collective commons.
ratty  unaffiliated  institutions  community  alt-inst  metabuch  rhetoric  contrarianism  policy  wonkish  realness  intervention  education  embodied  order-disorder  checklists  cost-disease 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Fish on Friday | West Hunter
There are parts of Europe, Switzerland and Bavaria for example, that are seriously iodine deficient. This used to be a problem. I wonder if fish on Friday ameliorated it: A three-ounce serving size of cod provides your body with 99 micrograms of iodine, or 66% of the recommended amount per day.

Thinking further, it wasn’t just Fridays: there were ~130 days a years when the Catholic Church banned flesh.

Gwern on modern iodine-deficiency: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/fish-on-friday/#comment-97137
population surveys indicate lots of people are iodine-insufficient even in the US or UK where the problem should’ve been permanently solved a century ago
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  sapiens  europe  the-great-west-whale  history  medieval  germanic  religion  christianity  protestant-catholic  institutions  food  diet  nutrition  metabolic  iq  neuro  unintended-consequences  multi  gwern  poast  hmm  planning  parenting  developmental  public-health  gotchas  biodet  deep-materialism  health  embodied-street-fighting  ritual  roots  explanans 
october 2017 by nhaliday
The Constitutional Economics of Autocratic Succession on JSTOR
Abstract. The paper extends and empirically tests Gordon Tullock’s public choice theory of the nature of autocracy. A simple model of the relationship between constitutional rules governing succession in autocratic regimes and the occurrence of coups against autocrats is sketched. The model is applied to a case study of coups against monarchs in Denmark in the period ca. 935–1849. A clear connection is found between the specific constitutional rules governing succession and the frequency of coups. Specifically, the introduction of automatic hereditary succession in an autocracy provides stability and limits the number of coups conducted by contenders.

Table 2. General constitutional rules of succession, Denmark ca. 935–1849

To see this the data may be divided into three categories of constitutional rules of succession: One of open succession (for the periods 935–1165 and 1326–40), one of appointed succession combined with election (for the periods 1165–1326 and 1340–1536), and one of more or less formalized hereditary succession (1536–1849). On the basis of this categorization the data have been summarized in Table 3.

validity of empirics is a little sketchy

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/922103073257824257
https://archive.is/NXbdQ
The graphic novel it is based on is insightful, illustrates Tullock's game-theoretic, asymmetric information views on autocracy.

Conclusions from Gorton Tullock's book Autocracy, p. 211-215.: https://astro.temple.edu/~bstavis/courses/tulluck.htm
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Political Typology: Beyond Red vs. Blue | Pew Research Center
The new typology has eight groups: Three are strongly ideological, highly politically engaged and overwhelmingly partisan – two on the right and one on the left. Steadfast Conservatives are staunch critics of government and the social safety net and are very socially conservative. Business Conservatives share Steadfast Conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform. And Business Conservatives are far more moderate on social issues than are Steadfast Conservatives.

At the other end of the spectrum, Solid Liberals express liberal attitudes across almost every realm – government, the economy and business and foreign policy, as well as on race, homosexuality and abortion – and are reliable and loyal Democratic voters.

Taken together, these three groups form the electoral base of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and their influence on American politics is strong. While Solid Liberals, Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives collectively make up only 36% of the American public, they represent 43% of registered voters and fully 57% of the more politically engaged segment of the American public: those who regularly vote and routinely follow government and public affairs.

The other typology groups are less partisan, less predictable and have little in common with each other or the groups at either end of the political spectrum. The one thing they do share is that they are less engaged politically than the groups on the right or left.

Young Outsiders lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party; in fact they tend to dislike both political parties. On many issues, from their support for environmental regulation to their liberal views on social issues, they diverge from traditional GOP orthodoxy. Yet in their support for limited government, Young Outsiders are firmly in the Republicans’ camp.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics have been battered by the struggling economy, and their difficult financial circumstances have left them resentful of both government and business. Despite their criticism of government performance, they back more generous government support for the poor and needy. Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics say they voted for Obama in 2012, though fewer than half approve of his job performance today.

The Next Generation Left are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But they have reservations about the cost of social programs. And while most of the Next Generation Left support affirmative action, they decisively reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason why many blacks are unable to get ahead.

The Faith and Family Left lean Democratic, based on their confidence in government and support for federal programs to address the nation’s problems. But this very religious, racially and ethnically diverse group is uncomfortable with the pace of societal change, including the acceptance of homosexuality and non-traditional family structures.

And finally, an eighth group, the Bystanders, representing 10% of the public, are on the sidelines of the political process. They are not registered to vote and pay very little attention to politics.

...

The Faith and Family Left is by far the most racially and ethnically diverse group in the typology: In fact, just 41% are white non-Hispanic; 30% are black, 19% are Hispanic and 8% are other or mixed race. The Faith and Family Left also is less affluent and less educated than the other Democratically-oriented groups, and is older as well.

They also have strong religious convictions, which distinguishes them from Solid Liberals and the Next Generation Left. Fully 91% say “it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.” No more than about one-in-ten in the other Democratically-oriented groups agree. And the Faith and Family Left have much more conservative positions on social issues. Just 37% favor same-sex marriage, less than half the share of the other two groups on the left.

The Faith and Family Left support activist government and a strong social safety net, though by less overwhelming margins than Solid Liberals. And while the Faith and Family Left support affirmative action programs, just 31% believe that “racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead these days.” Among the much less racially diverse Solid Liberals, 80% think racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress.

...

First, Steadfast Conservatives take very conservative views on key social issues like homosexuality and immigration, while Business Conservatives are less conservative – if not actually progressive – on these issues. Nearly three-quarters of Steadfast Conservatives (74%) believe that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Among Business Conservatives, just 31% think homosexuality should be discouraged; 58% believe it should be accepted.

Business Conservatives have generally positive attitudes toward immigrants and 72% favor a “path to citizenship” for those in the U.S. illegally, if they meet certain conditions. Steadfast Conservatives are more critical of immigrants; 50% support a path to citizenship, the lowest share of any typology group.

Second, just as Steadfast Conservatives are opposed to big government, they also are skeptical of big business. They believe that large corporations have too much power, and nearly half (48%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests. By contrast, as their name suggests, Business Conservatives are far more positive about the free market, and overwhelmingly regard business – and Wall Street – positively.

group profiles (including demographics): http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/appendix-1-typology-group-profiles/

2017 redux:
Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left: http://www.people-press.org/2017/10/24/political-typology-reveals-deep-fissures-on-the-right-and-left/
Nearly a year after Donald Trump was elected president, the Republican coalition is deeply divided on such major issues as immigration, America’s role in the world and the fundamental fairness of the U.S. economic system.

The Democratic coalition is largely united in staunch opposition to President Trump. Yet, while Trump’s election has triggered a wave of political activism within the party’s sizable liberal bloc, the liberals’ sky-high political energy is not nearly as evident among other segments in the Democratic base. And Democrats also are internally divided over U.S. global involvement, as well as some religious and social issues.

...

Divisions on the right

The political typology finds two distinctly different groups on the right – Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives, who both overwhelmingly approve of Trump, but disagree on much else – including immigration and whether it benefits the U.S. to be active internationally.

Core Conservatives, who are in many ways the most traditional group of Republicans, have an outsized influence on the GOP coalition; while they make up just 13% of the public – and about a third (31%) of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – they constitute a much larger share (43%) of politically engaged Republicans.

This financially comfortable, male-dominated group overwhelmingly supports smaller government, lower corporate tax rates and believes in the fairness of the nation’s economic system. And a large majority of Core Conservatives (68%) express a positive view of U.S. involvement in the global economy “because it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth.”

Country First Conservatives, a much smaller segment of the GOP base, are older and less educated than other Republican-leaning typology groups. Unlike Core Conservatives, Country First Conservatives are unhappy with the nation’s course, highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement.

Nearly two-thirds of Country First Conservatives (64%) – the highest share of any typology group, right or left – say that “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

A third Republican group, Market Skeptic Republicans, sharply diverges from the GOP’s traditional support for business and lower taxes. Only about a third of Market Skeptic Republicans (34%) say banks and other financial institutions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, lowest among Republican-leaning typology groups.

Alone among the groups in the GOP coalition, a majority of Market Skeptic Republicans support raising tax rates on corporations and large businesses. An overwhelming share (94%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, which places the view of Market Skeptic Republicans on this issue much closer to Solid Liberals (99% mostly unfair) than Core Conservatives (21%).

In contrast to Market Skeptic Republicans, New Era Enterprisers are fundamentally optimistic about the state of the nation and its future. They are more likely than any other typology group to say the next generation of Americans will have it better than people today. Younger and somewhat less overwhelmingly white than the other GOP-leaning groups, New Era Enterprisers are strongly pro-business and generally think that immigrants strengthen, rather than burden, the country.

Divisions on the left

...

While there have long been racial, ethnic and income differences within the Democratic coalition, these gaps are especially striking today. Reflecting the changing demographic composition of the Democratic base, for the first time there are two majority-minority Democratic-leaning typology groups, along with two more affluent, mostly white groups.

Solid Liberals are the largest group in the Democratic coalition, and they make up close to half (48%) of politically engaged Democrats and Democratic-leaning … [more]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Farm (revenue leasing) - Wikipedia
Tax farming was originally a Roman practice whereby the burden of tax collection was reassigned by the Roman State to private individuals or groups. In essence, these individuals or groups paid the taxes for a certain area and for a certain period of time and then attempted to cover their outlay by collecting money or saleable goods from the people within that area.[5] The system was set up by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC primarily to increase the efficiency of tax collection within Rome itself but the system quickly spread to the Provinces.[6] Within the Roman Empire, these private individuals and groups which collected taxes in lieu of the bid (i.e. rent) they had paid to the state were known as publicani, of whom the best known is the disciple Matthew, a publicanus in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee. The system was widely abused, and reforms were enacted by Augustus and Diocletian.[7] Tax farming practices are believed to have contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in Western Europe.[8]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.

...

At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
--
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
--
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
--
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Catalonia Independence Drive: a Case-Study in Applied Cultural Evolution - Peter Turchin
The theoretically interesting question is what is the optimal size of a politically independent unit (“polity”) in today’s world. Clearly, optimal size changes with time and social environment. We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens. Economics is not the only aspect of well-being, but let’s focus on it here because it is clearly the main driver behind Catalonian independence (since culturally and linguistically Catalonia has been given a free rein within Spain).

...

This is applied cultural evolution. We can have lots of theories and models about the optimal polity size, but they are worthless without data.

And it’s much more than a scientific issue. The only way for our societies to become better in all kinds of ways (wealthier, more just, more efficient) is to allow cultural evolution a free rein. More specifically, we need cultural group selection at the level of polities. A major problem for the humanity is finding ways to have such cultural group selection to take place without violence. Which is why I find the current moves by Madrid to suppress the Catalonian independence vote by force criminally reckless. It seems that Madrid still wants to go back to the world as it was in the nineteenth century (or more accurately, Europe between 1500 and 1900).

A World of 1,000 Nations: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/a-world-of-1000-nations/

Brief note on Catalonia: https://nintil.com/brief-note-on-catalonia/
This could be just another footnote in a history book, or an opening passage in the chapter that explains how you got an explosion in the number of states that began around 2017.

Nationalism, Liberalism and the European Paradox: http://quillette.com/2017/10/08/nationalism-liberalism-european-paradox/
Imagine for a moment that an ethnic group declared a referendum of independence in an Asian country and the nation state in question promptly sought to take the act of rebellion down. Imagine that in the ensuing chaos over 800 people were injured in a brutal police crackdown. Imagine the international disgust if this had happened in Asia, or the Middle East, or Latin America, or even in parts of Eastern and Central Europe. There would be calls for interventions, the topic would be urgently raised at the Security Council —and there might even be talks of sanctions or the arming of moderate rebels.

Of course, nothing of that sort happened as the Spanish state declared the Catalonian independence referendum a farce.

...

Remarkably, EU officials have largely remained mute. France’s new great hope, Monsieur Macron has sheepishly supported Spain’s “constitutional unity,” which is weasel-speak for national sovereignty—a concept which is so often dismissed by the very same European nations if it happens immediately outside the geographical region of EU. And this attitude towards nationalism—that it is archaic and obsolete on the one hand, but vitally important on the other—is the core paradox, and, some would say, hypocrisy, that has been laid bare by this sudden outbreak of tension.

It is a hypocrisy because one could argue that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a consistent and very real attempt to undermine sovereignty in many different parts of the world. To be fair, this has been done with mostly good intentions in the name of institutionalism and global governance, the “responsibility to protect” and universal human rights. With history in the Hegelian sense seemingly over after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, nationalism and great power politics were thought to be a thing of the past—a quaint absurdity—an irrelevance and a barrier to true Enlightenment. But unfortunately history does tend to have a sardonic sense of humour.

The entire European project was built on two fundamentally different ideas. One that promotes economic welfare based on borderless free trade, the free market and social individualism. And the other, promoting a centralized hierarchy, an elite in loco parentis which makes decisions about how many calories one should consume, what plastic one should import, and what gross picture of shredded lungs one should see on the front of a cigarette packet. It endorses sovereignty when it means rule by democracy and the protection of human rights, but not when countries decide to control their borders or their individual monetary and economic policies. Over time, defending these contradictions has become increasingly difficult, with cynical onlookers accusing technocrats of defending an unjustifiable and arbitrary set of principles.

All of this has resulted in three things. Regional ethnic groups in Europe have seen the examples of ethnic groups abroad undermining their own national governments, and they have picked up on these lessons. They also possess the same revolutionary technology—Twitter and the iPhone. Secondly, as Westphalian nation-states have been undermined repeatedly by borderless technocrats, identity movements based on ethnicity have begun to rise up. Humans, tribal at their very core, will always give in to the urge of having a cohesive social group to join, and a flag to wave high. And finally, there really is no logical counterargument to Catalans or Scots wanting to break apart from one union while staying in another. If ultimately, everything is going to be dictated by a handful of liege-lords in Brussels—why even obey the middle-man in Madrid or London?

https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/914521100263890944
https://archive.is/WKfIA
Spain should have either forcibly assimilated Catalonia as France did with its foreign regions, or established a formal federation of states
--
ah those are the premodern and modern methods. The postmodern method is to bring in lots of immigrants (who will vote against separation)
turchin  broad-econ  commentary  current-events  europe  mediterranean  exit-voice  politics  polisci  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  scale  homo-hetero  density  composition-decomposition  increase-decrease  shift  geography  cohesion  multi  ratty  unaffiliated  leviathan  civil-liberty  universalism-particularism  institutions  government  group-selection  natural-experiment  conquest-empire  decentralized  EU  the-great-west-whale  hypocrisy  nationalism-globalism  news  org:mag  org:popup  whiggish-hegelian  elite  vampire-squid  managerial-state  anarcho-tyranny  tribalism  us-them  self-interest  ethnocentrism  prudence  rhetoric  ideology  zeitgeist  competition  latin-america  race  demographics  pop-structure  gnon  data  visualization  maps  history  early-modern  mostly-modern  time-series  twitter  social  discussion  backup  scitariat  rant  migration  modernity 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.

...

If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.

...

Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.

...

Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.

...

First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.

...

Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
techtariat  venture  commentary  reflection  innovation  definite-planning  thiel  barons  economics  growth-econ  optimism  creative  malaise  stagnation  higher-ed  status  error  the-world-is-just-atoms  heavy-industry  sv  zero-positive-sum  japan  flexibility  china  outcome-risk  uncertainty  long-short-run  debt  trump  entrepreneurialism  human-capital  flux-stasis  cjones-like  scifi-fantasy  labor  dirty-hands  engineering  usa  frontier  speedometer  rent-seeking  econ-productivity  government  healthcare  essay  rhetoric  contrarianism  nascent-state  unintended-consequences  volo-avolo  vitality  technology  tech  cs  cycles  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  trends  zeitgeist  rot  alt-inst  proposal  multi  news  org:mag  org:popup  philosophy  big-peeps  speculation  concept  religion  christianity  theos  buddhism  politics  polarization  identity-politics  egalitarianism-hierarchy  inequality  duplication  society  anthropology  culture-war  westminster  info-dynamics  tribalism  institutions  envy  age-generation  letters  noble-lie 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Constraining the Samurai: Rebellion and Taxation in Early Modern Japan | International Studies Quarterly | Oxford Academic
We study the extent to which peasant-led rebellions and collective desertion (“flight”) lowered the subsequent tax rate imposed by samurai rulers. Using newly compiled data on different types of peasant-led political mobilization—from petitions to insurrections—we find an association between, on the one hand, large-scale rebellions and flight and, on the other, lower tax rates.
study  economics  growth-econ  broad-econ  history  early-modern  japan  asia  sinosphere  institutions  government  political-econ  redistribution  taxes  incentives  cliometrics  peace-violence  natural-experiment  migration  revolution  correlation  elite  exit-voice 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Individualistic values, institutional trust, and interventionist attitudes | Journal of Institutional Economics | Cambridge Core
A popular explanation for economic development is that ‘individualistic values’ provide a mind-set that is favorable to the creation of growth-promoting institutions. The present paper investigates the relationship between individualistic values and personal attitudes toward government intervention. We consider two key components of an individualistic culture to be particularly relevant for attitude formation: self-direction (‘social’ individualism) and self-determination (‘economic’ individualism). Results indicate that both are negatively associated with interventionist attitudes. Effects of self-direction are much weaker though, than self-determination. Moreover, the effects of self-direction are mitigated through higher trust in the state and lower confidence in companies, while that is not the case for self-determination values. We conclude that especially economic individualism supports attitudes conducive to the formation of formal market-friendly institutions.
study  polisci  sociology  political-econ  microfoundations  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  culture  individualism-collectivism  n-factor  values  things  phalanges  pdf  piracy  correlation  capitalism  markets  egalitarianism-hierarchy  civil-liberty  anglosphere  optimate  trust  institutions  government  business  expression-survival  farmers-and-foragers  branches  frontier 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Duverger's law - Wikipedia
plurality-rule elections (such as first past the post) structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system and that "the double ballot majority system and proportional representation tend to favor multipartism"
politics  polisci  sociology  institutions  stylized-facts  social-choice  wiki  reference  concept  government  correlation  coordination 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Does Communist Party Membership Pay? Estimating the Economic Returns to Party Membership in the Labor Market in China
This study estimates the economic returns to Chinese Communist Party membership using complementary approaches to address the endogeneity of party membership status: propensity score matching and instrumental variable. Although the magnitudes of these estimates vary across estimators, all the estimates show positive economic returns to party membership.
pdf  study  economics  broad-econ  labor  microfoundations  political-econ  polisci  sociology  compensation  correlation  endo-exo  econometrics  government  institutions  corruption  china  asia  sinosphere  communism  authoritarianism  antidemos  social-capital  human-capital  intervention  supply-demand  micro  endogenous-exogenous  leviathan 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Peer review is younger than you think - Marginal REVOLUTION
I’d like to see a detailed look at actual journal practices, but my personal sense is that editorial review was the norm until fairly recently, not review by a team of outside referees.  In 1956, for instance, the American Historical Review asked for only one submission copy, and it seems the same was true as late as 1970.  I doubt they made the photocopies themselves. Schmidt seems to suggest that the practices of government funders nudged the academic professions into more formal peer review with multiple referee reports.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
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