nhaliday + regression-to-mean   32

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
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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.

...

Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76878
In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
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Bad for you 99% of the time.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76947
Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76973
Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebers_Papyrus

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76971
Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?

...

It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100741
That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
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I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.
Horseshit.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100744
What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
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Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
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Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100839
If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
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were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
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My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
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Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016
We find that official survey-based measures vastly under-estimate the rise of inequality since 1990. According to our benchmark estimates, top income shares are now similar to (or higher than) the levels observed in the United States. We also find that inequality has increased substantially more in Russia than in China and other ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe. We relate this finding to the specific transition strategy followed in Russia. According to our benchmark estimates, the wealth held offshore by rich Russians is about three times larger than official net foreign reserves, and is comparable in magnitude to total household financial assets held in Russia.

Figure 1a, 8abc, 9b

The Role of Oligarchs in Russian Capitalism: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0895330053147994
2005

Using a unique dataset, we describe the degree of ownership concentration in Russian economy and its role in shaping economic and political institutions in Russia. In particular, we find that Russian "oligarchs" do control a substantial part of the economy. While the relative weight of their firms in Russian economy is huge, they do not seem to be excessively large by the standards of the global economy where most of them are operating. The oligarchs seem to run their firms more efficiently than other Russian owners controlling for industry, region and size.

Russia's Billionaires: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.p20161068
2016

Using data collected by Forbes since the 1990s, I examine the emergence and survival of the super-wealthy in Russia over the past two decades and compare Russia's record to those of other countries. The major surge in the number of Russian billionaires came in the mid-2000s, mirroring the dynamic worldwide. While early billionaires were predominantly found in the oil, gas, metals, and banking sectors, the distribution has become more diverse, now including some in trade, real estate, chemicals, and information technology. Only a minority of today's Russian billionaires acquired significant assets in the privatization of the 1990s.

Popular Attitudes towards Markets and Democracy: Russia and United States Compared 25 Years Later: http://www.nber.org/papers/w22027

While we find some differences in attitudes towards markets across countries and through time, we do not find most of the differences large or significant. Our evidence does not support a common view that the Russian personality is fundamentally illiberal or non-democratic.

The Political Economy of Transition: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0895330027102
- Gérard Roland, 2002

The overriding importance of political constraints in the transition process has led to developments of the theory of the political economy of reform. What are the main insights from that theory? How does it reflect the transition reality? What have we learned, and what do we still need to learn? The present article will attempt to answer those questions.

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/centrifugal-forces-why-russian-oligarchs-remain-loyal-to-the-putin-government-op-ed-59760
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august 2017 by nhaliday
There can only be one! | West Hunter
Dynasties decay.   The founder generally has a lot on the ball – tough, a natural leader, and canny campaigner – but his son is unlikely to be so exceptional.  Partly this is a manifestation of regression to the mean, and partly because his mother was probably chosen for something other than her talents as a warlord. By the fourth or fifth generation, it can be hard to believe that the useless poet on the throne is truly a member of the Golden Family.

This decay is a fundamental historical fact – an inevitable consequence of  biology and primogeniture.  It’s one of the important weaknesses of dynastic rule. The Ottomans, however, found a way around it for some centuries – the law of fratricide.  Upon the death of the Sultan, all of his sons were theoretically eligible for the succession (not just the oldest).  Since the Sultan had a harem, there were a lot of them. Whoever first seized power then had all his brothers and half-brothers executed by ritual strangulation. Incompetents didn’t win out in this struggle.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/there-can-only-be-one/#comment-16128
Dynastic decline through regression seems meaning you go from a guy like Stalin to an imperfect copy of Stalin that’s more like the average person (less competent but lacking in other traits that make Stalin, Stalin). Might not always totally all be “bad” for most people’s status, depending on the Great Man’s balance of competence to traits in a ruler that you don’t really want, but which helped them to seize power anyway.

Speculation, but might inbreeding be a way to hang on to more of the founder’s right stuff?

Thereby why constitutional monarchy and similar arrangements might tend to emerge in more outbreeding populations, because the successors to the big Mafia that runs the state and all the little Mafias that run everything else down from there tend to retain less ancestral competence and less ancestral desire for domination and status, so alternative arrangements are found.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/there-can-only-be-one/#comment-16144
list of evaluations for presidents+
"Competence, of course, is not the same thing as acting in the best interests of the common people. But it is absolutely essential for the continuation of a royal lineage or dynasty."

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/there-can-only-be-one/#comment-16130
If everyone in a country was absolutely obsessed with the idea that the human pinkie finger was a symbol of a leader’s connection to god and was required for him to be a good ruler, this whole problem would be solved. The oldest brother could simply have his younger siblings’ pinkie fingers cut off, and let them live.

This would mean that ruling families would be much more free to have big families and expand their power even more.
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The Byzantines did something similar with deposed emperors: the disfigured were ineligible for the role of God’s regent, or whatever the emperors were theologically. So, off with the nose! Justinian II ruined this humane custom by by wearing a silver nose after his restoration, à la the Lee Marvin character in Cat Ballou.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/there-can-only-be-one/#comment-16203
Here is my take on a solid alternative to democracy in the West: adoptive monarchy. We are acquainted with the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Before an Emperor died, he would adopt his most capable, wise and just subordinate as his son, who would become Emperor after his adoptive father died. The Roman Empire was perhaps at its most stable and prosperous point duribg this time period, and Edward Gibbon esteemed it as the high point of human history up through the time he was writing his tomes about Roman history, at least for the common Roman citizen.

If the American electorate continues to decline, ever falling into idiocy, factionalism and dementia, then I think it might be prudent to put adoptive monarchy into play, and have our monarchs rule the country in the spirit of the Constitution while temporarily holding it in suspension. The monarchs would have 40 to 80 years to pursue enlightened demographic policies, which would ensure that the American people would be ready for democratic rule again. There of course would be a Congress and courts. Both of these branches of government would at first be impotent, but would gradually regain their former power and prestige. At some point, the monarchy would be abolished, with an elected president regaining command of the executive branch, having about as much power as, say, Eisenhower did.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas Piketty, reviewed | New Republic
by Robert Solow (positive)

The data then exhibit a clear pattern. In France and Great Britain, national capital stood fairly steadily at about seven times national income from 1700 to 1910, then fell sharply from 1910 to 1950, presumably as a result of wars and depression, reaching a low of 2.5 in Britain and a bit less than 3 in France. The capital-income ratio then began to climb in both countries, and reached slightly more than 5 in Britain and slightly less than 6 in France by 2010. The trajectory in the United States was slightly different: it started at just above 3 in 1770, climbed to 5 in 1910, fell slightly in 1920, recovered to a high between 5 and 5.5 in 1930, fell to below 4 in 1950, and was back to 4.5 in 2010.

The wealth-income ratio in the United States has always been lower than in Europe. The main reason in the early years was that land values bulked less in the wide open spaces of North America. There was of course much more land, but it was very cheap. Into the twentieth century and onward, however, the lower capital-income ratio in the United States probably reflects the higher level of productivity: a given amount of capital could support a larger production of output than in Europe. It is no surprise that the two world wars caused much less destruction and dissipation of capital in the United States than in Britain and France. The important observation for Piketty’s argument is that, in all three countries, and elsewhere as well, the wealth-income ratio has been increasing since 1950, and is almost back to nineteenth-century levels. He projects this increase to continue into the current century, with weighty consequences that will be discussed as we go on.

...

Now if you multiply the rate of return on capital by the capital-income ratio, you get the share of capital in the national income. For example, if the rate of return is 5 percent a year and the stock of capital is six years worth of national income, income from capital will be 30 percent of national income, and so income from work will be the remaining 70 percent. At last, after all this preparation, we are beginning to talk about inequality, and in two distinct senses. First, we have arrived at the functional distribution of income—the split between income from work and income from wealth. Second, it is always the case that wealth is more highly concentrated among the rich than income from labor (although recent American history looks rather odd in this respect); and this being so, the larger the share of income from wealth, the more unequal the distribution of income among persons is likely to be. It is this inequality across persons that matters most for good or ill in a society.

...

The data are complicated and not easily comparable across time and space, but here is the flavor of Piketty’s summary picture. Capital is indeed very unequally distributed. Currently in the United States, the top 10 percent own about 70 percent of all the capital, half of that belonging to the top 1 percent; the next 40 percent—who compose the “middle class”—own about a quarter of the total (much of that in the form of housing), and the remaining half of the population owns next to nothing, about 5 percent of total wealth. Even that amount of middle-class property ownership is a new phenomenon in history. The typical European country is a little more egalitarian: the top 1 percent own 25 percent of the total capital, and the middle class 35 percent. (A century ago the European middle class owned essentially no wealth at all.) If the ownership of wealth in fact becomes even more concentrated during the rest of the twenty-first century, the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy.

Income from wealth is probably even more concentrated than wealth itself because, as Piketty notes, large blocks of wealth tend to earn a higher return than small ones. Some of this advantage comes from economies of scale, but more may come from the fact that very big investors have access to a wider range of investment opportunities than smaller investors. Income from work is naturally less concentrated than income from wealth. In Piketty’s stylized picture of the United States today, the top 1 percent earns about 12 percent of all labor income, the next 9 percent earn 23 percent, the middle class gets about 40 percent, and the bottom half about a quarter of income from work. Europe is not very different: the top 10 percent collect somewhat less and the other two groups a little more.

You get the picture: modern capitalism is an unequal society, and the rich-get-richer dynamic strongly suggest that it will get more so. But there is one more loose end to tie up, already hinted at, and it has to do with the advent of very high wage incomes. First, here are some facts about the composition of top incomes. About 60 percent of the income of the top 1 percent in the United States today is labor income. Only when you get to the top tenth of 1 percent does income from capital start to predominate. The income of the top hundredth of 1 percent is 70 percent from capital. The story for France is not very different, though the proportion of labor income is a bit higher at every level. Evidently there are some very high wage incomes, as if you didn’t know.

This is a fairly recent development. In the 1960s, the top 1 percent of wage earners collected a little more than 5 percent of all wage incomes. This fraction has risen pretty steadily until nowadays, when the top 1 percent of wage earners receive 10–12 percent of all wages. This time the story is rather different in France. There the share of total wages going to the top percentile was steady at 6 percent until very recently, when it climbed to 7 percent. The recent surge of extreme inequality at the top of the wage distribution may be primarily an American development. Piketty, who with Emmanuel Saez has made a careful study of high-income tax returns in the United States, attributes this to the rise of what he calls “supermanagers.” The very highest income class consists to a substantial extent of top executives of large corporations, with very rich compensation packages. (A disproportionate number of these, but by no means all of them, come from the financial services industry.) With or without stock options, these large pay packages get converted to wealth and future income from wealth. But the fact remains that much of the increased income (and wealth) inequality in the United States is driven by the rise of these supermanagers.

and Deirdre McCloskey (p critical): https://ejpe.org/journal/article/view/170
nice discussion of empirical economics, economic history, market failures and statism, etc., with several bon mots

Piketty’s great splash will undoubtedly bring many young economically interested scholars to devote their lives to the study of the past. That is good, because economic history is one of the few scientifically quantitative branches of economics. In economic history, as in experimental economics and a few other fields, the economists confront the evidence (as they do not for example in most macroeconomics or industrial organization or international trade theory nowadays).

...

Piketty gives a fine example of how to do it. He does not get entangled as so many economists do in the sole empirical tool they are taught, namely, regression analysis on someone else’s “data” (one of the problems is the word data, meaning “things given”: scientists should deal in capta, “things seized”). Therefore he does not commit one of the two sins of modern economics, the use of meaningless “tests” of statistical significance (he occasionally refers to “statistically insignificant” relations between, say, tax rates and growth rates, but I am hoping he does not suppose that a large coefficient is “insignificant” because R. A. Fisher in 1925 said it was). Piketty constructs or uses statistics of aggregate capital and of inequality and then plots them out for inspection, which is what physicists, for example, also do in dealing with their experiments and observations. Nor does he commit the other sin, which is to waste scientific time on existence theorems. Physicists, again, don’t. If we economists are going to persist in physics envy let us at least learn what physicists actually do. Piketty stays close to the facts, and does not, for example, wander into the pointless worlds of non-cooperative game theory, long demolished by experimental economics. He also does not have recourse to non-computable general equilibrium, which never was of use for quantitative economic science, being a branch of philosophy, and a futile one at that. On both points, bravissimo.

...

Since those founding geniuses of classical economics, a market-tested betterment (a locution to be preferred to “capitalism”, with its erroneous implication that capital accumulation, not innovation, is what made us better off) has enormously enriched large parts of a humanity now seven times larger in population than in 1800, and bids fair in the next fifty years or so to enrich everyone on the planet. [Not SSA or MENA...]

...

Then economists, many on the left but some on the right, in quick succession from 1880 to the present—at the same time that market-tested betterment was driving real wages up and up and up—commenced worrying about, to name a few of the pessimisms concerning “capitalism” they discerned: greed, alienation, racial impurity, workers’ lack of bargaining strength, workers’ bad taste in consumption, immigration of lesser breeds, monopoly, unemployment, business cycles, increasing returns, externalities, under-consumption, monopolistic competition, separation of ownership from control, lack of planning, post-War stagnation, investment spillovers, unbalanced growth, dual labor markets, capital insufficiency (William Easterly calls it “capital fundamentalism”), peasant irrationality, capital-market imperfections, public … [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Interview Greg Cochran by Future Strategist
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/interview/

- IQ enhancement (somewhat apprehensive, wonder why?)
- ~20 years to CRISPR enhancement (very ballpark)
- cloning as an alternative strategy
- environmental effects on IQ, what matters (iodine, getting hit in the head), what doesn't (schools, etc.), and toss-ups (childhood/embryonic near-starvation, disease besides direct CNS-affecting ones [!])
- malnutrition did cause more schizophrenia in Netherlands (WW2) and China (Great Leap Forward) though
- story about New Mexico schools and his children (mostly grad students in physics now)
- clever sillies, weird geniuses, and clueless elites
- life-extension and accidents, half-life ~ a few hundred years for a typical American
- Pinker on Harvard faculty adoptions (always Chinese girls)
- parabiosis, organ harvesting
- Chicago economics talk
- Catholic Church, cousin marriage, and the rise of the West
- Gregory Clark and Farewell to Alms
- retinoblastoma cancer, mutational load, and how to deal w/ it ("something will turn up")
- Tularemia and Stalingrad (ex-Soviet scientist literally mentioned his father doing it)
- germ warfare, nuclear weapons, and testing each
- poison gas, Haber, nerve gas, terrorists, Japan, Syria, and Turkey
- nukes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incirlik_Air_Base
- IQ of ancient Greeks
- history of China and the Mongols, cloning Genghis Khan
- Alexander the Great vs. Napoleon, Russian army being late for meetup w/ Austrians
- the reason why to go into Iraq: to find and clone Genghis Khan!
- efficacy of torture
- monogamy, polygamy, and infidelity, the Aboriginal system (reverse aging wives)
- education and twin studies
- errors: passing white, female infanticide, interdisciplinary social science/economic imperialism, the slavery and salt story
- Jewish optimism about environmental interventions, Rabbi didn't want people to know, Israelis don't want people to know about group differences between Ashkenazim and other groups in Israel
- NASA spewing crap on extraterrestrial life (eg, thermodynamic gradient too weak for life in oceans of ice moons)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Surnames: a New Source for the History of Social Mobility
This paper explains how surname distributions can be used as a way to
measure rates of social mobility in contemporary and historical societies.
This allows for estimates of social mobility rates for any population for which the distribution of surnames overall is known as well as the distribution of surnames among some elite or underclass. Such information exists, for example, for England back to 1300, and for Sweden back to 1700. However surname distributions reveal a different, more fundamental type of mobility than that conventionally estimated. Thus surname estimates also allow for measuring a different aspect of social mobility, but the aspect that matters for mobility of social groups, and for families in the long run.

The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1800-2017: http://migrationcluster.ucdavis.edu/events/seminars_2015-2016/sem_assets/clark/paper_clark_northern-disadvantage.pdf
The north of England in recent years has been poorer, less healthy, less educated and slower growing than the south. Using two sources - surnames that had a different regional distribution in England in the 1840s, and a detailed genealogy of 78,000 people in England giving birth and death locations - we show that the decline of the north is mainly explained by selective outmigration of the educated and talented.

Genetic Consequences of Social Stratification in Great Britain: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/10/30/457515
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Placebo interventions for all clinical conditions. - PubMed - NCBI
We did not find that placebo interventions have important clinical effects in general. However, in certain settings placebo interventions can influence patient-reported outcomes, especially pain and nausea, though it is difficult to distinguish patient-reported effects of placebo from biased reporting. The effect on pain varied, even among trials with low risk of bias, from negligible to clinically important. Variations in the effect of placebo were partly explained by variations in how trials were conducted and how patients were informed.

How much of the placebo 'effect' is really statistical regression?: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6369471
Statistical regression to the mean predicts that patients selected for abnormalcy will, on the average, tend to improve. We argue that most improvements attributed to the placebo effect are actually instances of statistical regression. First, whereas older clinical trials susceptible to regression resulted in a marked improvement in placebo-treated patients, in a modern series of clinical trials whose design tended to protect against regression, we found no significant improvement (median change 0.3 per cent, p greater than 0.05) in placebo-treated patients.

Placebo effects are weak: regression to the mean is the main reason ineffective treatments appear to work: http://www.dcscience.net/2015/12/11/placebo-effects-are-weak-regression-to-the-mean-is-the-main-reason-ineffective-treatments-appear-to-work/

A radical new hypothesis in medicine: give patients drugs they know don’t work: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/6/1/15711814/open-label-placebo-kaptchuk
People on no treatment got about 30 percent better. And people who were given an open-label placebo got 60 percent improvement in the adequate relief of their irritable bowel syndrome.

Surgery Is One Hell Of A Placebo: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/surgery-is-one-hell-of-a-placebo/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Cycles of War & Empire
In biology, over multiple generations organisms slowly accumulate genetic mutations, which reduce their fitness. But this degradation is countered by the fact that nature and mates select for better organisms, which have fewer mutations. Similarly, it seems to me that the most straightforward account of the secular cycle is to say since empire founders are selected out of a strong competition for high cohesion, we should expect cohesion to “regress to the mean” as an empire evolves.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Assortative mating, regression and all that: offspring IQ vs parental midpoint
Assuming parental midpoint of n SD above the population average, the kids' IQ will be normally distributed about a mean which is around +.6n with residual SD of about 12 points. (The .6 could actually be anywhere in the range (.5, .7), but the SD doesn't vary much from choice of empirical inputs.)

possible to calculate the residual variance from first principles?

Some data on regression: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2010/10/some-data-on-regression.html
hsu  parenting  iq  regression-to-mean  street-fighting  explanation  methodology  assortative-mating  scitariat  variance-components  biodet  nibble  behavioral-gen  multi  data  stories  education  acm 
november 2016 by nhaliday
The genetic basis of social mobility | EVOLVING ECONOMICS
In 2007’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Gregory Clark argued that the higher fertility of the rich in pre-industrial England sowed the seeds for the Industrial Revolution. As children resemble their parents, the increased number of prudent, productive people made possible the modern economic era.

Part of the controversy underlying Clark’s argument – made stark by Clark in articles and speeches following A Farewell to Alm’s publication – was that he considered there may be a genetic basis to the transmitted traits. The higher fertility of the rich and changing character of the population was natural selection at work.

Clark’s new book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility, also makes a new and unique argument. And like A Farewell to Alms, there is a genetic underlay.

Clark’s primary argument is that across a range of societies and eras – from pre-Industrial to modern England, from pre- to post-revolution China, and across the centuries in the United States, Sweden and India – social mobility is low. The correlation in social status between one generation and the next is around 0.7 to 0.8, meaning we can find the echoes of high status 10 or more generations later. Status does “regress to the mean”, but it does so slowly.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
The Son Also Rises | West Hunter
It turns out that you can predict a kid’s social status better if you take into account the grandparents as well as the parents – and the nieces/nephews, cousins, etc. Which means that you’re estimating the breeding value for moxie – which means that Clark needs to read Falconer right now. I’d guess that taking into account grandparents that the kids never even met, ones that died before their birth, will improve prediction. Let the sociologists chew on that.

...

If culture was the driver, a group could just adopt a different culture (it happens) and decide to be the new upper class by doing all that shit Amy Chua pushes, or possibly by playing cricket. I don’t believe that this ever actually occurs. Although with genetic engineering on the horizon, it may be possible. Of course that would be cheating.

It is hard to change these patterns very much. Universal public education, fluoridation, democracy, haven’t made much difference. I do think that shooting enough people would. Or a massive application of droit de seigneur, or its opposite.

...

If moxie is genetic, most economists must be wrong about human capital formation. Having fewer kids and spending more money on their education has only a modest effect: this must be the case, given slow long-run social mobility. It seems that social status is transmitted within families largely independently of the resources available to parents. Which is why Ashkenazi Jews could show up at Ellis Island flat broke, with no English, and have so many kids in the Ivy League by the 1920s that they imposed quotas. I’ve never understood why economists ever believed in this.

Moxie is not the same thing as IQ, although IQ must be a component. It is also worth remembering that this trait helps you acquire status – it is probably not quite the same thing as being saintly, honest, or incredibly competent at doing your damn job.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/simple-mobility-models/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/simple-mobility-models-ii/
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Links 10/15: Bride of Linkenstein | Slate Star Codex
Study predicts that US average IQ will rise 2-3 points in the next fifty years, driven by finding that minorities are catching up very quickly. Haven’t investigated their numbers yet, but excellent if true. [EDIT: more discussion here]

Omnilibrium is a social site that tries to improve online filtering. Instead of a big pot of Reddit-style karma that shows everyone the most upvoted posts, it tries to show everyone posts upvoted by people whose opinions have previously been correlated with theirs, with various customizable options to decide how much you want to be exposed to differing opinions. It needs more users for a good trial run, so check out their FAQ and then join in.

Female education decreases teenage fertility, but does not have a more general lifetime effect on fertility.

Michigan leads the nation in routing around democracy. The pessimistic view is that democracy shouldn’t be routed around. The optimistic view is that democracy should rarely be routed around, the catastrophes in Detroit and Flint are among those rare times, and this proves that people are good at limiting this extreme remedy to the times when it’s needed.

Chanda Chisala at Unz Report is on a roll. He’s been talking a lot about how the success of African immigrants to the US confounds a lot of simplistic explanations of the black-white achievement gap. Everybody figured this was just a result of those immigrants being heavily selected, but now he’s back with two posts arguing that it’s not selection effects. First, he points out that the immigrants’ children don’t seem to be regressing to the mean in a very specific Jensenian way that we would expect if they had been selected – this is more complex than I originally thought and not answered simply by “the offspring of two equally extreme parents will not regress”. Second, he points out that even the children of Somali refugees – an unselected population if ever there was one – seem to be doing better than native-born African-Americans. Some attempts at counterargument from James Thompson and Human Varieties. It’s good to see these issues being debated by such civil and mathematically sophisticated people, and also a sign of change how many people on both sides are black. Also by Chisala: book about Barack Obama debating Ayn Rand

Very large randomized controlled preschool study finds abysmal results of pre-K education; recipients of pre-K do better in kindergarten, but by third grade the trend reverses and they have worse behavioral and academic outcomes (hey, remember that study from last month how entering school too early may exacerbate ADHD)? This echoes results from the last few large randomized well-conducted preschool studies, so even the educational establishment is vaguely starting to notice a trend. James Heckman leads the pro-pre-K response, saying that past studies have found the same lack of advantage in later school performance but then later found better adult employment and prosociality outcomes; his explanation is that preschool doesn’t necessarily increase IQ but does increase “social and emotional skills that are greater determinants of late-life success”. But then how come the pre-K children had worse behavior in school in the new study? Possible explanation: the old studies Heckman cites were preschool plus a bunch of early life care and parenting help; maybe the latter helped and the former was at best neutral? Vox has a really excellent summary.
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july 2016 by nhaliday
52 Concepts You Missed in School for your Cognitive Toolkit | Peter McIntyres
idk about the actual quality of these but the idea of cataloguing useful mental models/biases is nice

his description of Aumann's agreement theorem seems to be incorrect/miss the point
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january 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : abstractpatterns

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