nhaliday + turchin   39

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?

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)
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Over the long term civilization matters – Gene Expression
This sort of dynamic has been used to argue that Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is not a useful framework. But on the contrary what Turchin and colleagues have shown is that over the long run civilizational fissures tend to result in the most vicious and dehumanizing wars.
gnxp  scitariat  discussion  turchin  broad-econ  cultural-dynamics  religion  theos  anthropology  civilization  tribalism  long-short-run  huntington  things  big-picture  history  early-modern  europe  gallic  the-great-west-whale  christianity  islam  mediterranean  cohesion  coalitions  protestant-catholic  war  meta:war  great-powers  occident  orient  walls  the-bones  hari-seldon 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Books I suggest you read so you won’t be misled as often – Gene Expression
People often ask me for history books on a very specific topics often, assuming I’ve read something on an issue because I exhibit some fluency discussing something that might seem abstruse or arcane. The thing is that I haven’t always read a monograph on a singular topic even if I know a fair amount on it. It’s just that I’ve read a larger number of history books, so the union of my knowledge set is quite wide and expansive.


In any case, what books should you read? It’s useful to read big general surveys because they allow you to frame and interpret narrower monographs.


What is my goal with providing you this list? I want you to be able to iterate through historical assertions people in the media and politics make against your internal data set. See if they are full of shit. They often are.

There are two classes of bullshit. The first class are the nakedly mendacious. This is more common in the political class, where lying is a form of art. The second class are just ignorant and don’t know any better. This is more common in the pundit class.

One trick that the pundit class pulls sincerely because they are often ignorant is that they cite a historian to buttress an assertion, even getting a quote from that historian. But quite often the historian is clearly misleading the audience…the historian may not utter a lie, but in their presentation they allow the reader to have a takeaway that aligns with the normative bias of the pundit, and the historian that has prostituted themselves to some cause. Obviously you will never master a specific area of history like an academic with a command of another language, but if you know enough you can easily smell bullshit when it’s being injected into the information stream.


other: http://gapersblock.com/airbags/archives/22_books_to_get_you_up_to_speed_on_the_entire_world_part_6_the_whole_world/
military history: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/12/books-i-suggest-you-read-so-you-wont-be-misled-as-often/#comment-2518
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Cultural group selection plays an essential role in explaining human cooperation: A sketch of the evidence
Pursuing Darwin’s curious parallel: Prospects for a science of cultural evolution: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/07/18/1620741114.full

Axelrod model: http://ncase.me/trust/

Peer punishment promotes enforcement of bad social norms: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00731-0
Social norms are an important element in explaining how humans achieve very high levels of cooperative activity. It is widely observed that, when norms can be enforced by peer punishment, groups are able to resolve social dilemmas in prosocial, cooperative ways. Here we show that punishment can also encourage participation in destructive behaviours that are harmful to group welfare, and that this phenomenon is mediated by a social norm. In a variation of a public goods game, in which the return to investment is negative for both group and individual, we find that the opportunity to punish led to higher levels of contribution, thereby harming collective payoffs. A second experiment confirmed that, independently of whether punishment is available, a majority of subjects regard the efficient behaviour of non-contribution as socially inappropriate. The results show that simply providing a punishment opportunity does not guarantee that punishment will be used for socially beneficial ends, because the social norms that influence punishment behaviour may themselves be destructive.

Peer punishment can stabilize anything, both good and bad norms. This is why you need group selection to select good social norms.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Long-Term Population Cycles in Human Societies
This survey of a variety of historical and archeological data indicates that slow oscillations in population numbers, with periods of roughly two to three centuries, are observed in a number of world regions and historical periods. Next, a potential explanation for this pattern, the demographic-structural theory, is discussed. Finally, the implications of these results for global population forecasts is discussed.
pdf  study  turchin  sapiens  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  deep-materialism  population  demographics  cycles  oscillation  world  malthus  🌞  broad-econ  cliometrics  big-picture  sociology  conquest-empire  chart  data  time  🎩  stylized-facts  microfoundations  hari-seldon 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review: Peter Turchin – War and Peace and War
I think Turchin’s book is a good introductory text to the new science of cliodynamics, one he himself did much to found (along with Nefedov and Korotayev). However, though readable – mostly, I suspect, because I am interested in the subject – it is not well-written. The text was too thick, there were too many awkward grammatical constructions, and the quotes are far, far too long.

More importantly, 1) the theory is not internally well-integrated and 2) there isn’t enough emphasis on the fundamental differences separating agrarian from industrial societies. For instance, Turchin makes a lot of the idea that the Italians’ low level of asabiya (“amoral familism”) was responsible for it’s only becoming politically unified in the late 19th century. But why then was it the same for Germany, the bloody frontline for the religious wars of the 17th century? And why was France able to build a huge empire under Napoleon, when it had lost all its “meta-ethnic frontiers” / marches by 1000 AD? For answers to these questions about the genesis of the modern nation-state, one would be much better off by looking at more conventional explanations by the likes of Benedict Anderson, Charles Tilly, or Gabriel Ardant.

Nowadays, modern political technologies – the history textbook, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the radio and Internet – have long displaced the meta-ethnic frontier as the main drivers behind the formation of asabiya. Which is certainly not to say that meta-ethnic frontiers are unimportant – they are, especially in the case of Dar al-Islam, which feels itself to be under siege on multiple fronts (the “bloody borders” of clash-of-civilizations-speak), which according to Turchin’s theory should promote a stronger Islamic identity. But their intrinsic importance has been diluted by the influence of modern media.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
What would count as an explanation of the size of China? - Marginal REVOLUTION
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Backwardness | West Hunter
Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others. This was before they decided that all cultures are equal, except that some are more equal than others.


I’ve been trying to estimate the gap between Eurasian and Amerindian civilization. The Conquistadors were, in a sense, invaders from the future: but just how far in the future? What point in the history of the Middle East is most similar to the state of the Amerindian civilizations of 1500 AD ?

I would argue that the Amerindian civilizations were less advanced than the Akkadian Empire, circa 2300 BC. The Mayans had writing, but were latecomers in metallurgy. The Inca had tin and arsenical bronze, but didn’t have written records. The Akkadians had both – as well as draft animals and the wheel. You can maybe push the time as far back as 2600 BC, since Sumerian cuneiform was in pretty full swing by then. So the Amerindians were around four thousand years behind.

Excepting the use of iron, sub-Saharan Africa, excepting Ethiopia, was well behind the most advanced Amerindian civilizations circa 1492. I am right now resisting the temptation to get into a hammer-and-tongs discussion of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Blood River, etc. – and we would all be better off if I continued to do so.

The Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) is the name given for the battle fought between _470 Voortrekkers_ ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and _an estimated 80,000 Zulu attackers_ on the bank of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Casualties amounted to over 3,000 of king Dingane's soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes competing with Prince Mpande for the Zulu throne. _Three Pioneers commando members were lightly wounded_, including Pretorius himself.


In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the Reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. JOHNSON. 'This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea, which were just come out) WHO will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.' JOHNSON. 'Don't cant in defence of Savages.' BOSWELL. 'They have the art of navigation.' JOHNSON. 'A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL. 'They carve very ingeniously.' JOHNSON. 'A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.' I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.

Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/deja-vu-all-over-again-america-and-europe/
In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture. Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand, the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep, hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage. Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians: sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing: neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry. The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/20/1708800115.full
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.

Fig. 2.

The General Social Complexity Factor Is A Thing: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/12/21/the-general-social-complexity-factor-is-a-thing/
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may 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.
ratty  hanson  turchin  history  big-picture  commentary  books  summary  review  civilization  anthropology  europe  china  asia  polisci  malthus  inequality  randy-ayndy  war  evolution  analogy  selection  regression-to-mean  cycles  oscillation  competition  sociology  meta:war  martial  order-disorder  cohesion  chart  broad-econ  cultural-dynamics  the-bones  great-powers  peace-violence  farmers-and-foragers  data  stylized-facts  metabuch  time  critique  envy  microfoundations  hari-seldon 
february 2017 by nhaliday
More frivolously assembled lists of books | pseudoerasmus
some of the forthcoming ones look really good, in particular, stuff still not out:
Allen, The Industrial Revolution: A Very Short Introduction
Ang, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap
Colarelli & Arvey, ed., The Biological Foundations of Organizational Behavior
O’Rourke & Williamson, ed. The Spread of Modern Industry to the Periphery since 1871
Fuller, Paper Tigers, Hidden Dragons: Firms and the Political Economy of China’s Technological Development
econotariat  pseudoE  gnxp  books  list  recommendations  top-n  confluence  economics  culture  anthropology  biodet  cliometrics  history  growth-econ  🎩  🌞  garett-jones  hive-mind  turchin  west-hunter  scitariat  broad-econ  wealth-of-nations  todo  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  2017 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Cultural Evolution of Pants - Peter Turchin
Why did the Italians switch from tunics to pants? The answer is the horse. Not only are the horses responsible for why we live in complex, large-scale societies (or, at least, how such large-scale societies first evolved), they are also the reason why males have to swelter in pants in summer, instead of wearing the cool kilt. As I will discuss in my next blog, there is an exceedingly close historical correlation between the adoption of cavalry and switching to wearing pants.

How Pants Went From Banned to Required in the Roman Empire: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/trousers-pants-roman-history-banned-trajan
When Marcus Tullius Cicero, an eloquent orator and lawyer, was defending the former Gaul governor Fonteius from accusations of extortion, he cited the wearing of pants as a sign of the “innate aggressiveness” of the Gauls—and an extenuating circumstance for his client:

Are you then hesitating, O judges, when all these nations have an innate hatred to and wage incessant war with the name of the Roman people? Do you think that, with their military cloaks and their breeches, they come to us in a lowly and submissive spirit, as these do (…)? Nothing is further from the truth.

Think of it as the “Trouser Defense.”
econotariat  turchin  lol  anthropology  culture  clothing  trivia  sociology  cultural-dynamics  broad-econ  technology  nature  multi  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  europe  germanic  civilization  law  values  symbols  news  org:mag  org:popup 
january 2017 by nhaliday
The most stimulating economic history books since 2000 | pseudoerasmus
Inspired by Vincent Geloso, here is a list of the 20-25 books in economic history published since 2000 which I have found most stimulating or provocative. Not necessarily comprehensive, or the best, or the most ‘correct’, but things which influenced, stimulated, or provoked my own personal thinking.

some highlights I wasn't already aware of:
- Lee & Feng, One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities, 1700-2000
- Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850
- Mitterauer, Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of its Special Path
- Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy
- Temin, The Roman Market Economy

econotariat  pseudoE  books  recommendations  top-n  reflection  economics  history  cliometrics  🎩  multi  europe  divergence  britain  industrial-revolution  mediterranean  demographics  fertility  china  asia  confluence  iron-age  early-modern  gregory-clark  turchin  malthus  roots  sinosphere  galor-like  broad-econ  wealth-of-nations  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  2017 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Elite Collusion or Competition? - Peter Turchin
more comments https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/04/13/anonimo/#comment-42887
interesting discussion of gilens-page: https://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/how-inequality-corrodes-cooperation-new-experimental-evidence/
This is not accurate. It is true Gilens shows that when the policy preferences of the rich diverge from the rest, the rich do get their way. But as I tried to point out on Twitter, most of the divergence is in matters unrelated to economic or redistributive policies. In fact, the policy preferences of the rich are positively correlated with the policy preferences of the middle and the poor on economics, taxes, and social welfare. The divergence is substantially driven (in Gilens’s analysis) by gun control and environment (see Table 5.5). The rich are more ‘progressive’ on those things.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The dead weight of culture - The Unz Review
I’ve long observed that the wealthiest regions of Europe are disproportionately those which were long under Habsburg rule. This fact transcends ethnicity and religion. Catholic northern Italy, Catholic southern Germany, as well as Protestant Netherlands, are all notably economically productive, and were long under Habsburg rule or hegemony.

The Fading Shadow of the Habsburgs: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2011/07/20/the-fading-shadow-of-the-habsburgs/
- Peter Berger
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The Roman Dominate from the Perspective of Demographic-Structural Theory [eScholarship]
This article uses the theory of secular cycles to examine the Eastern and Western Roman Empires in roughly 285–700 CE. The analysis suggests that the Eastern Empire conforms to an almost ‘standard’ cycle during that time. The Western Roman Empire, on the other hand, appears to expand until 350 CE and then decline again, long before the Germanic invasions of the fifth century. This decline may have been due to elite dynamics and the extremely top-heavy social pyramid in the fourth century West. Elite overproduction and infighting may have cut short the West’s expansion phase and led to a premature decline. If correct, it is possible that demographic-structural theory explains the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

The Fall of Rome: What was it? Why did it happen?: http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/fall-rome-happen/
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Institutions usually beat genius - The Unz Review
It was simply improbable that Carthage could win a military conflict with Rome over the long run because the Roman system conferred upon the Roman state material and ideological advantages which could not be overcome by military victories, even by a general as creative and competent as Hannibal. The Hellenistic king Pyrrhus learned this, and gave us the term “pyrrhic victory”. In ideological terms Goldsworthy argues that the Roman mindset was one where conflicts were viewed as wars of attrition, where only the victors were left standing. In contrast Carthage, like the Hellenistic states, operated in a more classical Westphalian framework where victory and defeat were never final, but simply instances of a continuous game between elites of distinct polities.


The particular story in The Fall of Carthage dovetails perfectly with the general model in Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires. The Romans of the republic had asabiyah, social cohesion. Against their enemies they exhibited a stance where they accepted that the only alternatives were collective victory or collective extinction. One can speculate why this was so, but clearly that is the key variable in the rise of Rome in the world after the death of Alexander. And it explains the fall of Carthage, which in many ways was a Hellenistic polity, rather than an heir to the ancient traditions of the Levant. In the sense of microeconomics the Carthaginians were homo economicus in comparison to the Romans. The years before the Third Punic War were ones of incredible prosperity for the city of Carthage, as documented in the Roman literary sources as well as archaeology. Rome fought Carthage not because it was weak and poor, but because it was strong and rich. And Rome won because its citizens loved their city more than could be accounted for by any rational calculation. Rome rose as an idea, and it fell as an idea.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Hidden Games | West Hunter
Since we are arguably a lot smarter than ants or bees, you might think that most adaptive personality variation in humans would be learned (a response to exterior cues) rather than heritable. Maybe some is, but much variation looks heritable. People don’t seem to learn to be aggressive or meek – they just are, and in those tendencies resemble their biological parents. I wish I (or anyone else) understood better why this is so, but there are some notions floating around that may explain it. One is that jacks of all trades are masters of none: if you play the same role all the time, you’ll be better at it than someone who keep switching personalities. It could be the case that such switching is physiologically difficult and/or expensive. And in at least some cases, being predictable has social value. Someone who is known to be implacably aggressive will win at ‘chicken’. Being known as the sort of guy who would rush into a burning building to save ugly strangers may pay off, even though actually running into that blaze does not.


This kind of game-theoretic genetic variation, driving distinct behavioral strategies, can have some really odd properties. For one thing, there can be more than one possible stable mix of behavioral types even in identical ecological situations. It’s a bit like dropping a marble onto a hilly landscape with many unconnected valleys – it will roll to the bottom of some valley, but initial conditions determine which valley. Small perturbations will not knock the marble out of the valley it lands in. In the same way, two human populations could fall into different states, different stable mixes of behavioral traits, for no reason at all other than chance and then stay there indefinitely. Populations are even more likely to fall into qualitatively different stable states when the ecological situations are significantly different.


What this means, think, is that it is entirely possible that human societies fall into fundamentally different patterns because of genetic influences on behavior that are best understood via evolutionary game theory. Sometimes one population might have a psychological type that doesn’t exist at all in another society, or the distribution could be substantially different. Sometimes these different social patterns will be predictable results of different ecological situations, sometimes the purest kind of chance. Sometimes the internal dynamics of these genetic systems will produce oscillatory (or chaotic!) changes in gene frequencies over time, which means changes in behavior and personality over time. In some cases, these internal genetic dynamics may be the fundamental reason for the rise and fall of empires. Societies in one stable distribution, in a particular psychological/behavioral/life history ESS, may simply be unable to replicate some of the institutions found in peoples in a different ESS.

Evolutionary forces themselves vary according to what ESS you’re in. Which ESS you’re in may be the most fundamental ethnic fact, and explain the most profound ethnic behavioral differences

Look, everyone is always looking for the secret principles that underlie human society and history, some algebra that takes mounds of historical and archaeological data – the stuff that happens – and explains it in some compact way, lets us understand it, just as continental drift made a comprehensible story out of geology. On second thought, ‘everyone’ mean that smallish fraction of researchers that are slaves of curiosity…

This approach isn’t going to explain everything – nothing will. But it might explain a lot, which would make it a hell of a lot more valuable than modern sociology or cultural anthropology. I would hope that an analysis of this sort might help explain fundamental long-term flavor difference between different human societies, differences in life-history strategies especially (dads versus cads, etc). If we get particularly lucky, maybe we’ll have some notions of why the Mayans got bored with civilization, why Chinese kids are passive at birth while European and African kids are feisty. We’ll see.

Of course we could be wrong. It’s going to have be tested and checked: it’s not magic. It is based on the realization that the sort of morphs and game-theoretic balances we see in some nonhuman species are if anything more likely to occur in humans, because our societies are so complex, because the effectiveness of a course of action so often depends on the psychologies of other individuals – that and the obvious fact that people are not the same everywhere.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
The Collapse of Complex Societies | Entitled to an Opinion
The Ruin is an elegy in Old English, written by an unknown author probably in the 8th or 9th century, and published in the 10th century in the Exeter Book, a large collection of poems and riddles.[1] The poem evokes the former glory of a ruined city by juxtaposing the grand, lively past state with the decaying present.


Splendid this rampart is, though fate destroyed it,
The city buildings fell apart, the works
Of giants crumble. Tumbled are the towers,
Ruined the roofs, and broken the barred gate,
Frost in the plaster, all the ceilings gape,
Tom and collapsed and eaten up by age.
And grit holds in its grip, the hard embrace
Of earth, the dead departed master-builders,
Until a hundred generations now
Of people have passed by. Often this wall
Stained red and grey with lichen has stood by
Surviving storms while kingdoms rose and fell.
And now the high curved wall itself has fallen.


The heart inspired, incited to swift action.
Resolute masons, skilled in rounded building
Wondrously linked the framework with iron bonds.
The public halls were bright, with lofty gables,
Bath-houses many; great the cheerful noise,
And many mead-halls filled with human pleasures.
Till mighty fate brought change upon it all.
Slaughter was widespread, pestilence was rife,
And death took all those valiant men away.
The martial halls became deserted places,
The city crumbled, its repairers fell,
Its armies to the earth. And so these halls
Are empty, and this red curved roof now sheds
Its tiles, decay has brought it to the ground,
Smashed it to piles of rubble, where long since
A host of heroes, glorious, gold-adorned,
Gleaming in splendour, proud and Hushed with wine,
Shone in their armour, gazed on gems and treasure,
On silver, riches, wealth and jewellery,
On this bright city with its wide domains.
Stone buildings stood, and the hot stream cast forth
Wide sprays of water, which a wall enclosed
ln its bright compass, where convenient
Stood hot baths ready for them at the centre.
Hot streams poured forth over the clear grey stone,
To the round pool and down into the baths.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
What the hell is going on? - Marginal REVOLUTION
The Straussian reading of this post is that naive single young women are the real problem.

I think this is key: perhaps men more adapted for tech w/out globalization than globalization w/out tech progress.

It’s important to note that female happiness has been stagnant for a long while now, so I’m doubtful that the “improvements” of the past 2 – 3 decades have much accrued to women either. But they’re less likely to rock the boat, so to speak.

Here’s a modest proposal. Highly subsidized, huge volume, semi-professional athletics. Try to channel a sizable proportion of males between 18 and 35 into some sort of sporting team. Imagine 30 million part-time minor league ball players. Have the government pay them a modicum of compensation for their time and effort, with increasingly larger prizes the higher teams and players rise. Strongly encourage the media to extensively cover their hyper-local teams. (The small-p promise of large rewards gives the stories a human interest side).

straight-to-the-point comment by Chip:
Doesn’t Trump do well with white women?

But I don’t think gender is really the point. Despite the media smokescreen it has been a poor decade for America. The economy is sluggish, full time job creation low, debt is soaring, the government increasingly weak abroad and coercive at home, and people really are not happy with the record rate of immigration from low-skilled countries into an expanding welfare state.

The GOP were given a chance to fix things with the mid term landslide. But they didn’t. Now people are turning to something else.


lol: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/06/can-happen-authoritarianism-america.html
That is a forthcoming volume edited by Cass Sunstein. The contributors include Cass, myself, Timur Kuran, Duncan Watts, Martha Minow, Bruce Ackerman, Jack Goldsmith, Geoffrey Stone, and Noah Feldman, among others. Self-recommending, if anything ever was…

My essay, by the way, says no, it cannot happen here. Counterintuitively, American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism. I encourage you to pre-order.

longer excerpt:
My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of. No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.” The net result is they simply can’t control enough of the modern state to steer it in a fascist direction.

…Surely it ought to give us pause that the major instances of Western fascism came right after a time when government was relatively small, and not too long after the heyday of classical liberalism in Europe, namely the late 19th century. No, I am not blaming classical liberalism for Nazism, but it is simply a fact that it is easier to take over a smaller and simpler state than it is to commandeer one of today’s sprawling bureaucracies.

…the greater focus of the night watchman state, for all its virtues, is part of the reason why it is easy to take over. There is a clearly defined center of power and a clearly defined set of lines of authority; furthermore, the main activity of the state is to enforce property rights through violence or the threat of violence. That means such a state will predominantly comprise policemen, soldiers, possibly border authorities, Coast Guard employees and others in related support services. The culture and ethos of such a state is likely to be relatively masculine and also relatively martial and tolerant of a certain amount of risk, and indeed violence. The state will be full of people who are used to the idea of applying force to achieve social ends, even if, under night watchman assumptions, those deployments of force are for the most part justified.

Returning to the question of whether a tyrant can arise in the United States in the near future, my analysis suggests, most emphatically, “no.” A tyrant-wannabe lacks most elements on which to base his or her power. We haven’t experienced a long civil war (at least, not yet), or a catastrophic defeat in an external war. The established elites, while fragmenting, are still very strong. Here I agree with much of what Tyler says in the paragraph I quoted above. An aspiring tyrant has to deal with the deeply entrenched bureaucracy, the powerful judicial system, and the mighty coercive apparatus of the American state (the FBI, the CIA, the military). Also important is that the frustrated elite aspirants are not organized in any coherent social movements. Tyrants never rule alone, they need an organization stuffed by dedicated cadres (a desirable feature of which is the animosity towards the old-order elites).

In my opinion, the greatest danger for us today (and into the 2020s) is not the rise of a Hitler, but rather a Second American Civil War.

A simple theory of baseline mood: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/10/simple-theory-baseline-mood.html
We are not used to feeling as much stress as we do today. Yet even in the optimistic scenarios in my predictions, the level of stress today is relatively low compared to what we can rationally expect for the next few decades.

snowflakes picture
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may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : coordpeepssoft

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