nhaliday + whiggish-hegelian   47

Mistakes happen for a reason | Bloody shovel
Which leads me to this article by Scott Alexander. He elaborates on an idea by one of his ingroup about their being two ways of looking at things, “mistake theory” and “conflict theory”. Mistake theory claims that political opposition comes from a different understanding of issues: if people had the same amount of knowledge and proper theories to explain it, they would necessarily agree. Conflict theory states that people disagree because their interests conflict, the conflict is zero-sum so there’s no reason to agree, the only question is how to resolve the conflict.

I was speechless. I am quite used to Mr. Alexander and his crowd missing the point on purpose, but this was just too much. Mistake theory and Conflict theory are not parallel things. “Mistake theory” is just the natural, tribalist way of thinking. It assumes an ingroup, it assumes the ingroup has a codified way of thinking about things, and it interprets all disagreement as a lack of understanding of the obviously objective and universal truths of the ingroup religion. There is a reason why liberals call “ignorant” all those who disagree with them. Christians used to be rather more charitable on this front and asked for “faith”, which they also assumed was difficult to achieve.

Conflict theory is one of the great achievements of the human intellect; it is an objective, useful and predictively powerful way of analyzing human disagreement. There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true. If you understand evolution it stands to reason that all social life is about conflict. The fight for genetical survival is ultimately zero-sum, and even in those short periods of abundance when it is not, the fight for mating supremacy is very much zero-sum, and we are all very much aware of that today. Marx focused on class struggle for political reasons, which is wrong, but his focus on conflict was a gust of fresh air for those who enjoy objective analysis.

Incidentally the early Chinese thinkers understood conflict theory very well, which is why Chinese civilization is still around, the oldest on earth. A proper understanding of conflict does not come without its drawbacks, though. Mistakes happen for a reason. Pat Buchanan actually does understand why USG open the doors to trade with China. Yes, Whig history was part of it, but that’s just the rhetoric used to justify the idea. The actual motivation to trade with China was making money short term. Lots of money. Many in the Western elite have made huge amounts of money with the China trade. Money that conveniently was funneled to whichever political channels it had to do in order to keep the China trade going. Even without Whig history, even without the clueless idea that China would never become a political great power, the short-term profits to be made were big enough to capture the political process in the West and push for it. Countries don’t have interests: people do.

That is true, and should be obvious, but there are dangers to the realization. There’s a reason why people dislike cynics. People don’t want to know the truth. It’s hard to coordinate around the truth, especially when the truth is that humans are selfish assholes constantly in conflict. Mistakes happen because people find it convenient to hide the truth; and “mistake theory” happens because policing the ingroup patterns of thought, limiting the capability of people of knowing too much, is politically useful. The early Chinese kingdoms developed a very sophisticated way of analyzing objective reality. The early kingdoms were also full of constant warfare, rebellions and elite betrayals; all of which went on until the introduction in the 13th century of a state ideology (neoconfucianism) based on complete humbug and a massively unrealistic theory on human nature. Roman literature is refreshingly objective and to the point. Romans were also murderous bastards who assassinated each other all the time. It took the massive pile of nonsense which we call the Christian canon to get Europeans to cooperate in a semi-stable basis.

But guess what? Conflict theory also exists for a reason. And the reason is to extricate oneself from the ingroup, to see things how they actually are, and to undermine the state religion from the outside. Marxists came up with conflict theory because they knew they had little to expect from fighting from within the system. Those low-status workers who still regarded their mainstream society as being the ingroup they very sharply called “alienated”, and by using conflict theory they showed what the ingroup ideology was actually made of. Pat Buchanan and his cuck friends should take the message and stop assuming that the elite is playing for the same team as they are. The global elite, of America and its vassals, is not mistaken. They are playing for themselves: to raise their status above yours, to drop their potential rivals into eternal misery and to rule forever over them. China, Syria, and everything else, is about that.

https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2018/03/09/mistakes-happen-for-a-reason/#comment-18834
Heh heh. It’s a lost art. The Greeks and Romans were realists about it (except Cicero, that idealistic bastard). They knew language, being the birthright of man, was just another way (and a damn powerful one) to gain status, make war, and steal each other’s women. Better be good at wielding it.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) | A Fine Theorem
I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

My post today draws heavily on Joel Mokyr’s lovely, if lengthy, summary of what we know about the period. You really should read the whole thing, but if you know nothing about the IR, there are really five facts of great importance which you should be aware of.

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
2) The average person did not become richer, nor was overall economic growth particularly spectacular, during the Industrial Revolution; indeed, wages may have fallen between 1760 and 1830.
3) Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history.
4) It is hard for us today to understand how revolutionary ideas like “experimentation” or “probability” were.
5) The best explanations for “why England? why in the late 1700s? why did growth continue?” do not involve colonialism, slavery, or famous inventions.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Catalonia Independence Drive: a Case-Study in Applied Cultural Evolution - Peter Turchin
The theoretically interesting question is what is the optimal size of a politically independent unit (“polity”) in today’s world. Clearly, optimal size changes with time and social environment. We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/914521100263890944
https://archive.is/WKfIA
Spain should have either forcibly assimilated Catalonia as France did with its foreign regions, or established a formal federation of states
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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
Which industries are the most liberal and most conservative?
How Democratic or Republican is your job? This tool tells you: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/06/03/how-democratic-or-republican-is-your-job-this-tool-tells-you/?utm_term=.e19707abd9f1

http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/index.html

What you do and how you vote: http://www.pleeps.org/2017/01/07/what-you-do-and-how-you-vote/

trending blue across white-collar professions:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/18/opinion/trump-fundraising-donors.html
https://twitter.com/adam_bonica/status/1174536380329803776
https://archive.is/r7YB6

https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/1174735746088996864
https://archive.is/Cwrih
This is partly because the meaning of left and right changed during that period. Left used to about protecting workers. Now it's mainly about increasing the power of the elite class over the working class - thus their increased support.
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yes, it is a different kind of left now

academia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_views_of_American_academics

The Legal Academy's Ideological Uniformity: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2953087

Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/s12129-018-9700-x
includes crosstab by discipline

https://www.conservativecriminology.com/uploads/5/6/1/7/56173731/lounsbery_9-25.pdf#page=28
Neil Gross, Solon Simmons
THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL VIEWS OF AMERICAN PROFESSORS

another crosstab
description of data sampling on page 21, meant to be representative of all undergraduate degree-granting institutions

Computer science 32.3 58.1 9.7

It’s finally out–The big review paper on the lack of political diversity in social psychology: https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/14/bbs-paper-on-lack-of-political-diversity/
https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/21/political-diversity-response-to-33-critiques/
http://righteousmind.com/viewpoint-diversity/
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/real-academic-diversity
http://quillette.com/2017/07/06/social-sciences-undergoing-purity-spiral/
What’s interesting about Haidt’s alternative interpretation of the liberal progress narrative is that he mentions two elements central to the narrative—private property and nations. And what has happened to a large extent is that as the failures of communism have become increasingly apparent many on the left—including social scientists—have shifted their activism away from opposing private property and towards other aspects, for example globalism.

But how do we know a similarly disastrous thing is not going to happen with globalism as happened with communism? What if some form of national and ethnic affiliation is a deep-seated part of human nature, and that trying to forcefully suppress it will eventually lead to a disastrous counter-reaction? What if nations don’t create conflict, but alleviate it? What if a decentralised structure is the best way for human society to function?
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Kenneth Minogue’s “Christophobia” and the West – Old School Contemporary
from the New Criterion

The failure of Communism was consecrated in the fall of the Soviet Union. The remarkable thing is that, as in most cases when prophecy fails, the faith never faltered. Indeed, an alternative version had long been maturing, though cast into the shadows for a time by enthusiasm for the quick fix of revolution. It had, however, been maturing for at least a century and already had a notable repertoire of institutions available. We may call it Olympianism, because it is the project of an intellectual elite that believes that it enjoys superior enlightenment and that its business is to spread this benefit to those living on the lower slopes of human achievement. And just as Communism had been a political project passing itself off as the ultimate in scientific understanding, so Olympianism burrowed like a parasite into the most powerful institution of the emerging knowledge economy—the universities.

We may define Olympianism as a vision of human betterment to be achieved on a global scale by forging the peoples of the world into a single community based on the universal enjoyment of appropriate human rights. Olympianism is the cast of mind dedicated to this end, which is believed to correspond to the triumph of reason and community over superstition and hatred. It is a politico-moral package in which the modern distinction between morals and politics disappears into the aspiration for a shared mode of life in which the communal transcends individual life. To be a moral agent is in these terms to affirm a faith in a multicultural humanity whose social and economic conditions will be free from the causes of current misery. Olympianism is thus a complex long-term vision, and contemporary Western Olympians partake of different fragments of it.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.

...

One of the central problems of Olympianism has always been with the nation state and its derivative, nationalism. A world of nation states is one of constant potential antipathy. It makes something of a mockery of the term “world community.” Hence it is a basic tenet of Olympianism that the day of the nation state has gone. It is an anachronism. And on this point, events have played into the hands of this project. The homogeneity of these nation states is a condition of democracy, but it also facilitates the wars in which they have engaged. If, however, homogeneity were to be lost as states became multicultural, then they would turn into empires, and their freedom of action would be seriously constrained. Empires can only be ruled, to the extent that they are ruled, from the top. They are ideal soil for oligarchy. Olympianism is very enthusiastic about this new development, which generates multiculturalism. Those who rule a rainbow society will have little trouble with an unruly national will, because no such thing remains possible. The Olympian lawyer and administrator will adjudicate the interests of a heterogeneous population according to some higher set of principles. Indeed, quite a lot of this work can be contracted out to independent agencies of the state, agencies whose judgments lead on to judicial tribunals in cases of conflict. This is part of a process in which the autonomy of civil institutions (of firms to employ whom they want, of schools to teach curricula they choose, and so on) is steadily eroded by centralized standards. Multiculturalism in the name of abstract moral standards has the effect of restricting freedom across the board.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Corrupting cooperation and how anti-corruption strategies may backfire | Nature Human Behaviour
https://images.nature.com/original/nature-assets/nathumbehav/2017/s41562-017-0138/extref/s41562-017-0138-s1.pdf
Exposure to Norms: https://images.nature.com/original/nature-assets/nathumbehav/2017/s41562-017-0138/extref/s41562-017-0138-s1.pdf#page=114
Here we test how exposure to corruption norms affect behavior in our game. We do so by using our exposure score (a mean of the corruption perceptions of the countries the participant has lived in) and the heritage corruption score (a mean of the corruption perceptions of the countries the participant has an ethnic heritage). Since there is no incentive to offer bribes or contribute, except when compelled to do so by punishment, we predict that exposure to norms should primarily affect Leader decisions. Nonetheless, internalized norms may also affect the behavior of players in contributing and bribing.

...

The correlation between the direct exposure and heritage measures of corruption is r = 0.67, p < .001.

...

Then we see that direct exposure to corruption norms results in increased corrupt behavior—i.e. in our Canadian sample, those who have lived in corrupt countries from which they do not derive their heritage behave in more corrupt ways.

hard to interpret

https://twitter.com/Evolving_Moloch/status/884477414100697092
http://psych.ubc.ca/when-less-is-best/

I don't think the solution is to just do nothing. Should look to history for ideas; process of "getting to Denmark" took centuries in NW Euro. Try to replicate and don't expect fast results.

Trust and Bribery: The Role of the Quid Pro Quo and the Link with Crime: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10510
I study data on bribes actually paid by individuals to public officials, viewing the results through a theoretical lens that considers the implications of trust networks. A bond of trust may permit an implicit quid pro quo to substitute for a bribe, which reduces corruption. Appropriate networks are more easily established in small towns, by long-term residents of areas with many other long-term residents, and by individuals in regions with many residents their own age. I confirm that the prevalence of bribery is lower under these circumstances, using the International Crime Victim Surveys. I also find that older people, who have had time to develop a network, bribe less. These results highlight the uphill nature of the battle against corruption faced by policy-makers in rapidly urbanizing countries with high fertility. I show that victims of (other) crimes bribe all types of public officials more than non-victims, and argue that both their victimization and bribery stem from a distrustful environment.

Kinship, Fractionalization and Corruption: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2847222
The theory of kin selection provides a straightforward justification for norms of nepotism and favoritism among relatives; more subtly, it also implies that the returns to such norms may be influenced by mating practices. Specifically, in societies with high levels of sub-ethnic fractionalization, where endogamous (and consanguineous) mating within kin-group, clan and tribe increases the local relatedness of individuals, the relative returns to norms of nepotism and favoritism are high. In societies with exogamous marriage practices, the relative returns to norms of impartial cooperation with non-relatives and strangers are increased. Using cross-country and within-country regression analyses and a cross-country lab experiment, we provide evidence for this account.

Ethnic favouritism: Not just an African phenomenon: http://voxeu.org/article/ethnic-favouritism-not-just-african-phenomenon
Ethnic favouritism is a global phenomenon
We find robust evidence for ethnic favouritism – ethnographic regions that are the current political leader’s ethnic homeland enjoy 7%-10% more intense night-time light, corresponding to 2%-3% higher regional GDP. Furthermore, we show that ethnic favouritism extends to ethnic groups that are linguistically close to the political leader.

Most significantly, these effects are as strong outside of Africa as they are within, challenging the preconception that ethnic favouritism is mainly or even entirely a sub-Saharan African phenomenon. For example, Bolivian presidents tended to favour areas populated by European descendants and Criollos, largely at the expense of the indigenous population. After the election of Evo Morales, a member of the indigenous Ayamara ethnic group, luminosity in indigenous areas grew substantially. Notably, critics suggest Morales gave special attention to the interests and values of the Ayamara at the expense of other indigenous peoples (e.g. Albro 2010, Postero 2010).

Democratisation is not a panacea
Our results further suggest that, while democratic institutions have a weak tendency to reduce ethnic favouritism, their effect is limited. In particular, a change from autocratic regimes to weak democracies does not seem to reduce ethnic favouritism (and may even increase it).

This result could in part be explained by political leaders’ motivations for engaging in ethnic favouritism. We find that the practice intensifies around election years in which the political leader's office is contested, suggesting that leaders may target policies towards their ethnic homelands to improve their re-election prospects, and not solely out of co-ethnic altruism. To the extent that political leaders engage in ethnic favouritism for electoral purposes, democratisation is not likely to be effective in curbing the practice.

Facebook’s war on free will: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/19/facebooks-war-on-free-will
Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”

Facebook and the Destruction of Private Life: http://www.socialmatter.net/2014/12/30/facebook-and-the-destruction-of-private-life/
- HENRY DAMPIER

The key value of privacy, which tends to be lost amid all the technological babble about the concept, is that it makes social cooperation more feasible among people who disagree, share different tastes, or fundamental points of view.

...

This is especially an issue with democracy. The reason why the United States has anonymous voting laws is because without them, people are persecuted for their party affiliations by people with rival party loyalties. This being forgotten, the age of Facebook and similar technologies has opened up ordinary people to this sort of ordinary political persecution. Moderating influences like that of the respect for privacy put a brake on some of the more rapacious, violent aspects of party politics.

...

The impulse for this comes less from the availability of the technology, and more because of the preexisting social trends. When there is a family life, there is communication and closeness within the family.

With more people living without a family life, they go to the public square to get their needs for social validation met. This doesn’t work so well, because strangers have no skin in the life of the atomized individual that only exists as an image on their screens.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
history and progressive virtue: moral technology, moral fashion, and ancestor-memorial retro-trauma chic – ideologjammin'
https://twitter.com/avermeule/status/879695593261735936
https://archive.is/3LHAG
https://archive.is/to1Z2
A terrific point. The rapidity with which good liberals suddenly internalize and enforce novel norms is striking in itself, content apart.

The rapid shift in moral norms in our society should worry us. We are being conditioned to adapt rather than to hold to our principles.

https://twitter.com/avermeule/status/882649313762881537
https://archive.is/cpIKA
https://archive.is/B229W
A thread on the psychology of liberalism, which replaces historical memory by a stereotyped darkness of the past, to be eternally overcome

losing a battle to push something new forward is understandable. having something repealed? going BACK? this is quite incomprehensible to us

https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/897570742979633153
https://archive.is/9hJIv
i think it's instinctual, not conscious.

https://twitter.com/AsfMQ/status/857593530952413184
https://archive.is/hVKSp
Almost everybody today is a Whig: ie think in terms of 'moral progress', 'forwards' vs 'backwards' thinking, 'stuck in the past', and so on

https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/897880623536381952
https://archive.is/wPJ6t
the slope is "progress". we slide down every single one eventually. just read some history; recent history will do; it will become obvious.

https://www.unz.com/isteve/whats-happening-now/
https://ideologjammin.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/liberal-democracy-and-its-apparent-paradoxes/
The real problem is that America has already ceased to be a tolerant society. It has, instead, become a celebratory one.
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2015/07/bruce_jenner_brett_favre_and_the_cultural_totalitarians.html
In a truly surreal display, NFL great Brett Favre is being denounced by the left’s new cultural commissars for not clapping long and hard enough at ESPN’s ESPY awards, as Bruce/“Caitlyn” Jenner received a “Courage” award for his efforts to become a woman. Oddly, Favre did applaud – not doing so would have been a grave heresy to America’s new church of progressive inquisitors. His sin was not applauding enthusiastically enough.

...

In fact, it all smacks of the gulag – literally. On my shelf at my office is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic, The Gulag Archipelago. There, on page 69 of volume 1, is a chilling account of a Stalinist Soviet Union where men were actually penalized for not clapping ardently enough.

Transgenderism Is Propaganda Designed To Humiliate And Compel Submission: https://www.socialmatter.net/2017/09/26/transgenderism-is-propaganda-designed-to-humiliate-and-compel-submission/
- ARTHUR GORDIAN
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review: Singer on Marx | Slate Star Codex
But in fact Marx was philosophically opposed, as a matter of principle, to any planning about the structure of communist governments or economies. He would come out and say “It is irresponsible to talk about how communist governments and economies will work.” He believed it was a scientific law, analogous to the laws of physics, that once capitalism was removed, a perfect communist government would form of its own accord. There might be some very light planning, a couple of discussions, but these would just be epiphenomena of the governing historical laws working themselves out. Just as, a dam having been removed, a river will eventually reach the sea somehow, so capitalism having been removed society will eventually reach a perfect state of freedom and cooperation.

...

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

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

Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Double world GDP | Open Borders: The Case
Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.25.3.83
https://openborders.info/innovation-case/
https://www.economist.com/news/world-if/21724907-yes-it-would-be-disruptive-potential-gains-are-so-vast-objectors-could-be-bribed
The Openness-Equality Trade-Off in Global Redistribution: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2509305
https://www.wsj.com/articles/opening-our-borders-would-overwhelm-america-1492366053
Immigration, Justice, and Prosperity: http://quillette.com/2017/07/29/immigration-justice-prosperity/

Some Countries Are Much Richer Than Others. Is That Unjust?: http://quillette.com/2017/07/23/countries-much-richer-others-unjust/
But we shouldn’t automatically assume that wealth disparities across the world are unjust and that the developed world owes aid as a matter of justice. This is because the best way to make sense of the Great Divergence is that certain economic and political institutions, namely those that facilitated economic growth, arose in some countries and not others. Thus perhaps the benevolent among us should also try to encourage – by example rather than force – the development of such institutions in places where they do not exist.

An Argument Against Open Borders and Liberal Hubris: http://quillette.com/2017/08/27/argument-open-borders-liberal-hubris/
We do not have open borders but we are experiencing unprecedented demographic change. What progressives should remember is that civilisation is not a science laboratory. The consequences of failed experiments endure. That is the main virtue of gradual change; we can test new waters and not leap into their depths.

A Radical Solution to Global Income Inequality: Make the U.S. More Like Qatar: https://newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies

Why nation-states are good: https://aeon.co/essays/capitalists-need-the-nation-state-more-than-it-needs-them
The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it
- Dani Rodrik
Given the non-uniqueness of practices and institutions enabling capitalism, it’s not surprising that nation-states also resolve key social trade-offs differently. The world does not agree on how to balance equality against opportunity, economic security against innovation, health and environmental risks against technological innovation, stability against dynamism, economic outcomes against social and cultural values, and many other consequences of institutional choice. Developing nations have different institutional requirements than rich nations. There are, in short, strong arguments against global institutional harmonisation.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
On Pinkglossianism | Wandering Near Sawtry
Steven Pinker is not wrong to say that some things have got better – or even that some things are getting better. We live longer. We have more food. We have more medicine. We have more free time. We have less chance of dying at another’s hands. My main objection to his arguments is not that some things have got worse as well (family life, for example, or social trust). It is not that he emphasises proportion when scale is more significant (such as with animal suffering). It is the fragility of these peaceful, prosperous conditions.

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

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

http://takimag.com/article/dusting_off_the_crystal_ball_john_derbyshire/print
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/11/the-new-york-times-on-violence-and-pinker/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Magical Thinking Doomed The Euro-Geist - Social Matter
As Alexander taught us, some knots can’t be disentangled, but instead must be cut through. Anti-thesis and thesis can indeed form a new synthesis, but sometimes a thorough hammering is required. Economic integration is necessary for any sort of supra-national Euro state to come into being, but it is far from sufficient.

Such a state can only be hammered into being by elites who possess not only economic but also military power and the willingness to use it. Without the plausible threat of force, there is simply no way to unify such a naturally fractious and divided polity.
gnon  org:popup  rhetoric  reflection  history  mostly-modern  europe  EU  institutions  local-global  homo-hetero  martial  cohesion  whiggish-hegelian  spengler  right-wing  peace-violence 
june 2017 by nhaliday
The eternal Axial Age – Gene Expression
Into situation stepped Sulla. Sulla is not a contingent man. Sulla is a type. A reaction, usually a vain and futile attempt to hold the past together, and push it into the future, by brutal means. Sulla arises when social elites lose faith in the present, and attempt to recreate institutions from an idealized past.

Sulla is efficient. Cruel, but certain in his rightness. Sulla is not a clown. He is not narcissistic, for Sulla does have ideals, even if you hold that those ideals are cruel or callous. Sulla is a piece of furniture, found in many places at many times. The United States of America has not seen Sulla yet. I believe it will.
gnxp  scitariat  essay  prediction  speculation  zeitgeist  the-bones  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  early-modern  usa  pinker  philosophy  religion  theos  ideology  democracy  civil-liberty  china  asia  russia  westminster  nl-and-so-can-you  nationalism-globalism  elite  authoritarianism  revolution  populism  trends  malaise  antidemos  sulla  flux-stasis  pre-ww2  conquest-empire  counter-revolution  thucydides  inequality  whiggish-hegelian  modernity  world  cycles  rot  clown-world  homo-hetero  identity-politics  cohesion  great-powers  degrees-of-freedom 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Reason is but a slave of passions as it always has been – Gene Expression
http://www.unz.com/gnxp/winning-isnt-everything-winning-your-team-is/
In my short jaunt through Theory writ large I have finally come that conclusion as well. I am a naive realist and a positivist. I work under the assumption that there is a world out there, that that world out there manifests itself in the order we see when we decompose it with analysis and empirical methods. As long as I kept my eyes on prize, the “score,” I felt at peace.

This was dangerously naive. Whereas before I had worked under the hypothesis that my interlocutors were falling prey to cognitive biases when they engaged in ad hominem or logical fallacy, I am now coming to suspect that one some level they are aware that they are engaging in the dialectics of ultimate victory. Every battle they lose is simply another opportunity to shore up their forces in future battles. Just like Rome against Hannibal, their contention that the structure of human society, rather than the world “out there,” is determinative, may very well be true in relation to all that matters.

hmm, women?: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f155b33f986c

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/03/26/open-thread-03262017/
Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West. Most people are cowards and liars when push comes to shove. I don’t want to speak of this at length, as it’s a bit like a God-is-dead moment for me, but I thought I’d come clean and be frank. The Critical Theorists are right, power trumps truth. I’m not sure they’ll enjoy what’s to come in the future when objectivity is dethroned, but I think I will probably laugh as the liars scramble to lie different lies, because that is almost certain to happen.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/12/open-thread-06112017/
Ultimately I think our society is going the way of Dutch Pillarisation (though I think the Dutch have abandoned this). Basically our professional and personal lives are going to be mediated by our socio-political tribes (and it won’t just be Left vs. Right). Too many people are getting fired or pressured over their politics or viewpoints. At some point large corporations and institutions need to just give up on the idea that they serve the whole public, and intellectuals need to concede that public reason is probably not possible.

...

I see referrals to this website now and people make comments about me elsewhere (on reddit, in the comments of Unz, on blogs). Some are wondering about my recent pessimism and darkness of spirit. Because people are stupid or socially unintelligent or something they think they can infer something about my personal or professional circumstances from what I put on this website, no matter how many times I caution them not to do that. I’m pretty clear about separating aspects of my life (I’m not a lifestyle blogger…hot sauce blogging excepted).

What I will say is that I’m very happy at my job and have plenty of friends. My third child and second son is a delight.

The darkness you perceive in my soul is that I suspect that the liberal order, which encompasses politics as well as the intellectual world we’ve cherished since the 19th century, is collapsing around us. Just as the Chinese in 1790 or the Romans in 460 were not aware that their world was coming to an end, we continue to carry on as if all is as it was. I’m sort of at the phase between the death of Optimus Prime in the 1980s cartoon and the emergence of Rodimus. I’m not going to turn into a bald-faced liar or ignoramus like so many of the people in the media around us just yet though (you know who I’m talking about I’m sure). Old ways are hard to give up! God has died but his shadow haunts me.
gnxp  scitariat  rhetoric  essay  truth  values  ideology  meta:rhetoric  anthropology  rationality  epistemic  genetics  gene-flow  europe  germanic  pop-structure  race  social-norms  cultural-dynamics  tribalism  science  within-group  zeitgeist  info-dynamics  cynicism-idealism  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  identity-politics  is-ought  whiggish-hegelian  modernity  multi  universalism-particularism  cohesion  open-things  gender  civil-liberty  exit-voice  pessimism  orwellian  feudal  the-self  reason  dennett  within-without  illusion 
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
Modernity is not magic with Muslims – Gene Expression
There are many reasons I have become very skeptical of the media over the years. Though I do not subscribe to the conspiracy theory paradigms, it is obvious that the mainstream media often combines fidelity to precise narratives with a lack of detailed knowledge about the topics they are covering. In other words, they’re stenographers with an agenda. When you don’t know the topic they are expositing upon they can seem quite persuasive. But when you do know the topic they are addressing the emperor can be revealed to be naked. Naturally this warrants concern in most people who observe this, as if they are catching errors in the matrix.*

One area that this problem crops often for me is in regards to media coverage of Islam and and the Middle East. Most reporters don’t seem to really know much about their beat in a deep sense, so they are superficially taking in facts and putting them through coarse interpretative filters.
gnxp  scitariat  rhetoric  critique  media  institutions  bounded-cognition  realness  error  westminster  religion  islam  MENA  india  protestant-catholic  revolution  theos  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  whiggish-hegelian  modernity 
april 2017 by nhaliday
The End of the Past | Notes On Liberty
The phenomenon coined by Fernand Braudel, the “Betrayal of the Bourgeois,” was particularly powerful in ancient Rome. Great merchants flourished, but “in order to be truly valued, they eventually had to become rentiers, as Cicero affirmed without hesitation: ‘Nay, it even seems to deserve the highest respect, if those who are engaged in it [trade], satiated, or rather , I should say, satisfied with the fortunes they have made, make their way from port to a country estate, as they have often made it from the sea into port. But of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman’” (Schiavone, 2000, 103).

Such a cultural argument fits perfectly with Deirdre McCloskey’s claim in her recent trilogy that it was the adoption of bourgeois cultural norms and specifically bourgeois rhetoric that distinguished and caused the rise of north-western Europe after 1650 (here, here, and here).

Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/could-rome-have-had-an-industrial-revolution-4126717370a2
This question is prompted by Kingdom of the Wicked, a new book by Helen Dale. Dale forces us to consider Jesus as a religious extremist in a Roman world not unlike our own. The novel throws new light on our own attitudes to terrorism, globalization, torture, and the clash of cultures. It is highly recommended.
Indirectly, however, Dale also addresses the possibility of sustained economic growth in the ancient world. The novel is set in a 1st century Roman empire during the governorship of Pontus Pilate and the reign of Tiberius. But in this alternative history, the Mediterranean world has experienced a series of technical innovations following the survival of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse, which have led to rapid economic growth. As Dale explains in the book’s excellent afterword (published separately here), if Rome had experienced an industrial revolution, it would likely have differed from the actual one; and she briefly plots a path to Roman industrialization. All of this is highly stimulating and has prompted me to speculate further about whether Rome could have experienced modern economic growth and if Dale’s proposed path towards a Roman Industrial Revolution is plausible.

...

This assessment is bold but consistent with the recent findings of archaeologists who continue to uncover evidence of dense trading networks and widespread ownership of industrially produced consumption goods across the empire.

...

From this wealth of evidence, we know that the classical world experienced what Jack Goldstone has called a “growth efflorescence”.
But at even the Roman empire at its peak in the reign of Marcus Aurelius does not appear to have been on the verge of modern economic growth. Rome lacked some of the crucial characteristics of Britain on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. There was no culture of invention and discovery, no large population of skilled tinkerers or machine builders, and no evidence of labor scarcity that might have driven the invention of labor-saving inventions.

Could the Ancients Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: http://adlows.com/2017/11/12/ancient-industrial-revolution/
I would suggest that what specifically was missing in the case of Rome was a ratchet. By that, I mean some way to lock in the gains of new inventions. Where both the Dutch and British had many social and commercial mechanisms to spread knowledge of new innovations, Roman technology stayed in use only so long as the state continued to fund it. There was no widely-diffused base of knowledge that was constantly passed on and modified, resilient enough to survive political upheavals.

To put this in perspective, consider how stunningly little of Rome’s engineering knowledge endured the collapse of the empire. Imperial authorities erected aqueducts and amphitheaters, and laced the land with a complex network of roads and bridges. Yet none of these feats of engineering ratcheted; all such knowledge was lost with the fall of Rome.

...

So for all the astonishing engineering feats of the Romans, they were unlikely to incubate an industrial revolution. Is there anyone in antiquity who could have? Perhaps: those notoriously metaphysical Greeks.

https://twitter.com/gcochran99/status/1155320128977813505
https://archive.is/9uPI6
https://archive.is/NJqia
https://archive.is/zzm0r
https://archive.is/nuDJ6
https://archive.is/CPPP9

Classical antiquity was a low point of human intelligence: https://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2019/08/classical-antiquity-was-low-point-of.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Destined for War: Can China and the United States Escape Thucydides’s Trap? - The Atlantic
The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/06/no-thucydides-trap.html
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march 2017 by nhaliday
THE DEMISE OF U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH: RESTATEMENT, REBUTTAL, AND REFLECTIONS
The United States achieved a 2.0 percent average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita between 1891 and 2007. This paper predicts that growth in the 25 to 40 years after 2007 will be much slower, particularly for the great majority of the population. Future growth will be 1.3 percent per annum for labor productivity in the total economy, 0.9 percent for output per capita, 0.4 percent for real income per capita of the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution, and 0.2 percent for the real disposable income of that group.

The primary cause of this growth slowdown is a set of four headwinds, all of them widely recognized and uncontroversial. Demographic shifts will reduce hours worked per capita, due not just to the retirement of the baby boom generation but also as a result of an exit from the labor force both of youth and prime-age adults. Educational attainment, a central driver of growth over the past century, stagnates at a plateau as the U.S. sinks lower in the world league tables of high school and college completion rates. Inequality continues to increase, resulting in real income growth for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution that is fully half a point per year below the average growth of all incomes. A projected long-term increase in the ratio of debt to GDP at all levels of government will inevitably lead to more rapid growth in tax revenues and/or slower growth in transfer payments at some point within the next several decades.

There is no need to forecast any slowdown in the pace of future innovation for this gloomy forecast to come true, because that slowdown already occurred four decades ago. In the eight decades before 1972 labor productivity grew at an average rate 0.8 percent per year faster than in the four decades since 1972. While no forecast of a future slowdown of innovation is needed, skepticism is offered here, particularly about the techno-optimists who currently believe that we are at a point of inflection leading to faster technological change. The paper offers several historical examples showing that the future of technology can be forecast 50 or even 100 years in advance and assesses widely discussed innovations anticipated to occur over the next few decades, including medical research, small robots, 3-D printing, big data, driverless vehicles, and oil-gas fracking.

keep in mind, "the world is just atoms" and I think I know some things that Robert J Gordon doesn't
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Discovering Limits to Growth | Do the Math
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Limits_to_Growth
http://www.unz.com/akarlin/review-limits-to-growth-meadows/
https://foundational-research.org/the-future-of-growth-near-zero-growth-rates/
One may of course be skeptical that this general trend will also apply to the growth of our technology and economy at large, as innovation seems to continually postpone our clash with the ceiling, yet it seems inescapable that it must. For in light of what we know about physics, we can conclude that exponential growth of the kinds we see today, in technology in particular and in our economy more generally, must come to an end, and do so relatively soon.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Futuristic Physicists? | Do the Math
interesting comment: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/outliers/#comment-23087
referring to timelines? or maybe also the jetpack+flying car (doesn't seem physically impossible; at most impossible for useful trip lengths)?

Topic Mean % pessim. median disposition
1. Autopilot Cars 1.4 (125 yr) 4 likely within 50 years
15. Real Robots 2.2 (800 yr) 10 likely within 500 years
13. Fusion Power 2.4 (1300 yr) 8 likely within 500 years
10. Lunar Colony 3.2 18 likely within 5000 years
16. Cloaking Devices 3.5 32 likely within 5000 years
20. 200 Year Lifetime 3.3 16 maybe within 5000 years
11. Martian Colony 3.4 22 probably eventually (>5000 yr)
12. Terraforming 4.1 40 probably eventually (> 5000 yr)
18. Alien Dialog 4.2 42 probably eventually (> 5000 yr)
19. Alien Visit 4.3 50 on the fence
2. Jetpack 4.1 64 unlikely ever
14. Synthesized Food 4.2 52 unlikely ever
8. Roving Astrophysics 4.6 64 unlikely ever
3. Flying “Cars” 3.9 60 unlikely ever
7. Visit Black Hole 5.1 74 forget about it
9. Artificial Gravity 5.3 84 forget about it
4. Teleportation 5.3 85 forget about it
5. Warp Drive 5.5 92 forget about it
6. Wormhole Travel 5.5 96 forget about it
17. Time Travel 5.7 92 forget about it
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Can Asians Think? - Kishore Mahbubani - Google Books
Huntington fails to ask one obvious question: If other civilisations have been around for centuries, Why are they posing a challenge only now? A sincere attempt to answer this question reveals a fatal flaw that has recently developed in the Western mind: _an inability to conceive that the West may have developed structural weaknesses in its core value systems and institutions_. This flaw explains, in part, the recent rush to embrace the assumption that history has ended with the triumph of the Western ideal: individual freedom and democracy would always guarantee that Western civilization would stay ahead of the pack.

Only hubris can explain why so many Western societies are trying to defy the economic laws of gravity. Budgetary discipline is disappearing. Expensive social programmes and pork-barrel projects multiply with little heed to costs. The West’s low savings and investment rates lead to declining competitiveness vis-a-vis East Asia. The work ethic is eroding, while politicians delude workers into believing that they can retain high wages despite becoming internationally uncompetitive. Leadership is lacking. Any politician who states hard truths is immediately voted out. Americans freely admit that many of their economic problems arise from the inherent gridlock of American democracy. While the rest of the world is puzzled by these fiscal follies, American politicians and journalists travel around the world preaching the virtues of democracy. It makes for a curious sight.

The same hero-worship is given to the idea of individual freedom. Much good has come from this idea. Slavery ended. Universal franchise followed. But freedom does not only solve problems; it can also cause them. The United States has undertaken a massive social experiment, tearing down social institution after social institution that restrained the individual. The results have been disastrous. Since 1960 the US population has increased 41 per cent while violent crime has risen by 560 per cent, single-mother births by 419 per cent, divorce rates by 300 per cent, and the percentage of children living in single-parent homes by 300 per cent. This is massive social decay. Many a society shudders at the prospect of this happening on its shores. But instead of travelling overseas with humility, Americans confidently preach the virtues of unfettered individual freedom, blithely ignoring the visible social consequences.

The West is still the repository of the greatest assets and achievements of human civilisation. Many Western values explain the spectacular advance of mankind: the belief in scientific inquiry, the search for rational solutions, and the willingness to challenge assumptions. But a belief that a society is practising these values can lead to a unique blindness: the inability to realise that some of the values that come with this package may be harmful. Western values do not form a seamless Web. Some are good. Some are bad. But one has to stand outside the West to see this clearly and to see how the West is bringing about its relative decline by its own hand. Huntington, too, is blind to this.

http://ashbrook.org/publications/onprin-v1n1-bennett/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Performance Trends in AI | Otium
Deep learning has revolutionized the world of artificial intelligence. But how much does it improve performance? How have computers gotten better at different tasks over time, since the rise of deep learning?

In games, what the data seems to show is that exponential growth in data and computation power yields exponential improvements in raw performance. In other words, you get out what you put in. Deep learning matters, but only because it provides a way to turn Moore’s Law into corresponding performance improvements, for a wide class of problems. It’s not even clear it’s a discontinuous advance in performance over non-deep-learning systems.

In image recognition, deep learning clearly is a discontinuous advance over other algorithms. But the returns to scale and the improvements over time seem to be flattening out as we approach or surpass human accuracy.

In speech recognition, deep learning is again a discontinuous advance. We are still far away from human accuracy, and in this regime, accuracy seems to be improving linearly over time.

In machine translation, neural nets seem to have made progress over conventional techniques, but it’s not yet clear if that’s a real phenomenon, or what the trends are.

In natural language processing, trends are positive, but deep learning doesn’t generally seem to do better than trendline.

...

The learned agent performs much better than the hard-coded agent, but moves more jerkily and “randomly” and doesn’t know the law of reflection. Similarly, the reports of AlphaGo producing “unusual” Go moves are consistent with an agent that can do pattern-recognition over a broader space than humans can, but which doesn’t find the “laws” or “regularities” that humans do.

Perhaps, contrary to the stereotype that contrasts “mechanical” with “outside-the-box” thinking, reinforcement learners can “think outside the box” but can’t find the box?

http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/02/where-the-falling-einstein-meets-the-rising-mouse/
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Joseph Henrich on cultural evolution, WEIRD societies, and life among two strange tribes – Conversations with Tyler – Medium
COWEN: That connection between size and speed of cultural evolution, that’s true at most margins? Say, India evolves culturally more rapidly than Denmark because it’s larger?

HENRICH: There’s lots of pieces to this puzzle. The key is to create interconnectedness. To explain the difference between Denmark and India: of course, Denmark is interconnected with many other populations, but the flow of information is much less constricted.

What happened in the scaling up of human societies in many places is societies get built on complex kinship structures in which you don’t have very much relations between different families and between different tribes. That constrains the flow of social information among these groups.

The trick the West pulled off is to manage to make individuals so that information could freely flow among individuals.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Genetically Capitalist? The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the Formation of Modern Preferences.
The highly capitalistic nature of English society by 1800 – individualism, low time preference rates, long work hours, high levels of human capital – may thus stem from the nature of the Darwinian struggle in a very stable agrarian society in the long run up to the Industrial Revolution. The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.

...

key figure:
Figure 8 Surviving Children by Testator’s Assets in £

...

on foragers and farmers:
When we consider forager societies the evidence on rates of return becomes much more indirect, because there is no explicit capital market, or lending may be subject to substantial default risks given the lack of fixed assets with which to secure loans. Anthropologists, however, have devised other ways to measure people’s rate of time preference rates. They can, for example, look at the relative rewards of activities whose benefits occur at different times in the future: digging up wild tubers or fishing with an immediate reward, as opposed to trapping with a reward delayed by days, as opposed to clearing and planting with a reward months in the future, as opposed to animal rearing with a reward years in the future.

A recent study of Mikea forager-farmers in Madagascar found, for example, that the typical Mikea household planted less than half as much land as was needed to feed themselves. Yet the returns from shifting cultivation of maize were enormous. A typical yielded was a minimum of 74,000 kcal. per hour of work. Foraging for tubers, in comparison, yielded an average return of 1,800 kcal. per hour. Despite this the Mikea rely on foraging for a large share of their food, consequently spending most time foraging. This implies extraordinarily high time preference rates.39 James Woodburn claimed that Hadza of Tanzania showed a similar disinterest in distant benefits, “In harvesting berries, entire branches are often cut from the trees to ease the present problems of picking without regard to future loss of yield.”40 Even the near future mattered little. The Pirahã of Brazil are even more indifferent to future benefits. A brief overview of their culture included the summary,
"Most important in understanding Pirahã material culture is their lack of concern with the non-immediate or the abstraction of present action for future benefit, e. g. ‘saving for a rainy day.’" (Everett, 2005, Appendix 5).

...

The real rate of return, r, can be thought of as composed of three elements: a rate of pure time preference, ρ, a default risk premium, d, and a premium that reflects the growth of overall expected incomes year to year, θgy. Thus
r ≈ ρ + d + θgy.

People as economic agents display a basic set of preferences – between consumption now and future consumption, between consumption of leisure or goods – that modern economics has taken as primitives. Time preference is simply the idea that, everything else being equal, people prefer to consume now rather than later. The rate of time preference measures how strong that preference is.

The existence of time preference in consumption cannot be derived from consideration of rational action. Indeed it has been considered by some economists to represent a systematic deviation of human psychology from rational action, where there should be no absolute time preference. Economists have thought of time preference rates as being hard-wired into peoples’ psyches, and as having stemmed from some very early evolutionary process.41

...

on china:
Figure 17 Male total fertility rate for the Qing Imperial
Lineage

In China and Japan also, while richer groups had more
reproductive success in the pre-industrial era, that advantage was
more muted than in England. Figure 17, for example, shows the
total fertility rate for the Qing imperial lineage in China in 1644-1840. This is the number of births per man living to age 45. The royal lineage, which had access to imperial subsidies and allowances that made them wealthy, was more successful reproductively than the average Chinese man. But in most decades the advantage was modest – not anything like as dramatic as in preindustrial England.

But these advantages cumulated in China over millennia perhaps explain why it is no real surprise that China, despite nearly a generation of extreme forms of Communism between 1949 and 1978, emerged unchanged as a society individualist and capitalist to its core. The effects of the thousands of years of operation of a society under the selective pressures of the Malthusian regime could not be uprooted by utopian dreamers.

Review by Allen: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/Farewell%20to%20Alms/Allen_JEL_Review.pdf
The empirical support for these claims is examined, and all are questionable.

Review by Bowles: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1126/science.1149498

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin: http://gredos.usal.es/jspui/bitstream/10366/72715/1/The_Domestication_of_Man_The_Social_Impl.pdf

hmm: https://growthecon.com/blog/Constraints/
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november 2016 by nhaliday
American Unexceptionalism Comes to the GOP - The American Interest
great Huntington quote:
But American unexceptionalism is not just an anti-ideology that might have a special appeal to secular or pessimistic voters. It is also a coherent ideology of its own, with particular values and assumptions. If America is a “normal country,” then perhaps it shouldn’t build immigration policy around the idea that it is the “first universal nation”—perhaps increasing ethnic diversity will lead to tribalism and distrust. If America is a “normal country,” then perhaps it has no special responsibility to keep order on the world stage—perhaps 19th-century style great power competition and spheres of influence are an adequate alternative. And if America is a “normal country,” then perhaps there is nothing special about its vision for democratic government and human rights. As the political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote, “the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by the superiority in applying organized violence.”
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Democracy does not cause growth | Brookings Institution
64-page paper
Democracy & Growth: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4909
The favorable effects on growth include maintenance of the rule of law, free markets, small government consumption, and high human capital. Once these kinds of variables and the initial level of real per-capita GDP are held constant, the overall effect of democracy on growth is weakly negative. There is a suggestion of a nonlinear relationship in which democracy enhances growth at low levels of political freedom but depresses growth when a moderate level of freedom has already been attained.

The growth effect of democracy: Is it heterogenous and how can it be estimated∗: http://perseus.iies.su.se/~tpers/papers/cifar_paper_may16_07.pdf
In particular, we find an average negative effect on growth of leaving democracy on the order of −2 percentage points implying effects on income per capita as large as 45 percent over the 1960-2000 panel. Heterogenous characteristics of reforming and non-reforming countries appear to play an important role in driving these results.

Does democracy cause innovation? An empirical test of the popper hypothesis: http://www.sciencedirect.com.sci-hub.cc/science/article/pii/S0048733317300975
The results from the difference-in-differences method show that democracy itself has no direct positive effect on innovation measured with patent counts, patent citations and patent originality.

Benevolent Autocrats: https://williameasterly.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/benevolent-autocrats-easterly-draft.pdf
A large literature attributes this to the higher variance of growth rates under autocracy than under democracy. The literature offers alternative explanations for this stylized fact: (1) leaders don’t matter under democracy, but good and bad leaders under autocracy cause high and low growth, (2) leaders don’t matter under autocracy either, but good and bad autocratic systems cause greater extremes of high and low growth, or (3) democracy does better than autocracy at reducing variance from shocks from outside the political system. This paper details further the stylized facts to test these distinctions. Inconsistent with (1), the variance of growth within the terms of leaders swamps the variance across leaders, and more so under autocracy than under democracy. Country effects under autocracy are also overwhelmed by within-country variance, inconsistent with (2). Explanation (3) fits the stylized facts the best of the three alternatives.

Political Institutions, Size of Government and Redistribution: An empirical investigation: http://www.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/pdf/WP/WP89.pdf
Results show that the stronger democratic institutions are, the lower is government size and the higher the redistributional capacity of the state. Political competition exercises the strongest and most robust effect on the two variables.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/899466295170801664
https://archive.is/sPFII
Fits the high-variance theory of autocracies:
More miracles, more disasters. And there's a lot of demand for miracles.

Measuring the ups and downs of governance: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2017/09/22/measuring-the-ups-and-downs-of-governance/
Figure 2: Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness, 2016
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/917444456386666497
https://archive.is/EBQlD
Georgia, Japan, Rwanda, and Serbia ↑ Gov Effectiveness; Indonesia, Tunisia, Liberia, Serbia, and Nigeria ↑ Voice and Accountability.

The logic of hereditary rule: theory and evidence: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/69615/
Hereditary leadership has been an important feature of the political landscape throughout history. This paper argues that hereditary leadership is like a relational contract which improves policy incentives. We assemble a unique dataset on leaders between 1874 and 2004 in which we classify them as hereditary leaders based on their family history. The core empirical finding is that economic growth is higher in polities with hereditary leaders but only if executive constraints are weak. Moreover, this holds across of a range of specifications. The finding is also mirrored in policy outcomes which affect growth. In addition, we find that hereditary leadership is more likely to come to an end when the growth performance under the incumbent leader is poor.

I noted this when the paper was a working paper, but non-hereditary polities with strong contraints have higher growth rates.
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september 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : dismalitypatternssoftvague

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