nhaliday + mobility   64

Where Has Progress Got Us? - NYTimes.com
THE TRUE AND ONLY HEAVEN Progress and Its Critics. By Christopher Lasch. 591 pp. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. $25.

reviewed by William Julius Wilson

Lower-middle-class culture, Mr. Lasch argues, reflects an emphasis on the family, the church and the neighborhood. A community's continuity is valued more highly than individual advancement, social solidarity is favored over social mobility and the maintenance of existing ways takes precedent over mainstream ideals of success. Parents want their children to succeed in life, but they also want them to be considerate of their elders, to willingly bear their responsibilities and to show courage under adversity. "More concerned with honor than with worldly ambition, they have less interest in the future than do upper-middle-class parents, who try to equip their children with the qualities required for competitive advancement."

Mr. Lasch acknowledges the provincialism and narrowness of lower-middle-class culture, and he does not deny that "it has produced racism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, and all the other evils so often cited by liberal critics." But, he maintains, in their zeal to condemn such objectionable traits, liberals have failed to see the valuable features of petty-bourgeois culture -- what he calls moral realism, skepticism about progress, respect for limits and understanding that everything has its price.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
How civilizations fall | The New Criterion
On the role of radical feminism in the decline of civilization.

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

There are, of course, deeper currents. One of them is that men tended to react to radical feminism with a high-minded feeling that nothing but justice, a notoriously fluid idea, should determine public policy. _The balancing of … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Identify Anything, Anywhere, Instantly (Well, Almost) With the Newest iNaturalist Release - Bay Nature
A new version of the California Academy of Sciences’ iNaturalist app uses artificial intelligence to offer immediate identifications for photos of any kind of wildlife. You can observe anywhere and ask the computer anything. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it seems like it mostly works. It is completely astonishing.
tools  sleuthin  software  app  mobility  ios  nature  outdoors  database  reference  info-foraging  toys 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Vox and Teachers – spottedtoad
I think the best way to understand Vox is as “what is the Democratic Party telling itself these days?” The Center for American Progress (where Yglesias used to work) was explicitly designed to do this, but it wasn’t set up to be an effective media organization. Ezra Klein became the most powerful journalist in Washington at the ripe old age of 26 by relentlessly boosting and explaining the Affordable Care Act when no one else would, for which he was given unprecedented access to the upper levels of the Obama Administration, including POTUS himself. So when Vox pushes feminism hard in 2013 and 2014, and police killings hard in 2014 and 2015, and the pervasive toll of racism hard always, it is in part because the Democratic Party sees engaging female voters and African Americans as critical, and setting the terms of public debate as more critical still. This isn’t to say that Nancy Pelosi is calling Yglesias and Klein up every morning to tell them what to eat for breakfast; it is instead that organizations like Vox, the NYTimes, and a few other prestige organizations set the agenda that the rest of the party coheres around.

I'm not surprised that Vox's traffic was way down from 2016 to 2017, but it's more interesting that Vox's traffic was basically constant from its founding until Obama left office. (https://www.quantcast.com/measure/vox.com#trafficCard … )

Suggests way in which media consumption is itself a form of clientelism.

As Razib suggests, the fundamental story of the 21st century is quite possibly going to be a sort of neofeudalism, in which each of us identifies with different centers of power and personalized allegiance, perhaps even more than "identity" per se

Lol, 2/3 year-on-year collapse in total readership sure gets the ol noggin joggin
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july 2017 by nhaliday
On the effects of inequality on economic growth | Nintil
After the discussion above, what should one think about the relationship between inequality and growth?

For starters, that the consensus of the literature points to our lack of knowledge, and the need to be very careful when studying these phenomena. As of today there is no solid consensus on the effects of inequality on growth. Tentatively, on the grounds of Neves et al.’s meta-analysis, we can conclude that the impact of inequality on developed countries is economically insignificant. This means that one can claim that inequality is good, bad, or neutral for growth as long as the effects claimed are small and one talks about developed countries. For developing countries, the relationships are more negative.

I recently finished The Spirit Level, subtitled "Why More Equal Societies Almost Almost Do Better", although "Five Million Different Scatter Plot Graphs Plus Associated Commentary" would also have worked. It was a pretty thorough manifesto for the best kind of leftism: the type that foregoes ideology and a priori arguments in exchange for a truckload of statistics showing that their proposed social remedies really work.

Inequality: some people know what they want to find: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/inequality-some-people-know-what-they-want-to-find

Inequality doesn’t matter: a primer: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/inequality-doesnt-matter-a-primer

Inequality and visibility of wealth in experimental social networks: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392
- Akihiro Nishi, Hirokazu Shirado, David G. Rand & Nicholas A. Christakis

We show that wealth visibility facilitates the downstream consequences of initial inequality—in initially more unequal situations, wealth visibility leads to greater inequality than when wealth is invisible. This result reflects a heterogeneous response to visibility in richer versus poorer subjects. We also find that making wealth visible has adverse welfare consequences, yielding lower levels of overall cooperation, inter-connectedness, and wealth. High initial levels of economic inequality alone, however, have relatively few deleterious welfare effects.

Our own work has shown that the *visibility* of inequality, more then the inequality per se, may be especially corrosive to the social fabric. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392 … I wonder if @WalterScheidel historical data sheds light on this idea? end 5/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality | Boston Review
this is ominous
Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/democratic-party-rich-thomas-edsall.html
Saving the American Dream: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/saving-american-dream/
It’s not just about the people at the top
- Amy Wax

ow can we arrange things so that more people with different levels of affluence can prosper and live meaningful lives? How can we make the advantages that the rich now “hoard” more widely available, thus reducing their incentive to separate themselves? Although these goals are elusive and difficult for any society to attain, ours can probably do better. But the changes required would be far bolder than the tepid ones Reeves proposes, which do little to disrupt current “structures of privilege.” And more dramatic reforms might also advance the causes he holds dear, including enhancing mobility and reducing inequality.
So here goes my laundry list.

Let’s start with Reeves’s proposal to ban legacy admissions. Not only would this increase fairness, but it would discourage private contributions. This would, in turn, promote the worthy goal of defunding the Ivies and other selective universities, which have become counterproductive sites of snobbery, dogma, and progressive indoctrination. Save for the kind of scientific research that benefits everyone, they don’t need any more money and could do with much less.

But we shouldn’t stop there. As suggested by the late Justice Antonin Scalia during oral argument in the Grutter affirmative-action case, selective admissions should simply be abolished and students admitted by lottery, except for math and hard sciences, for which a simple test can determine entrance. The steep pyramid of colleges, in which the affluent crowd monopolizes prestigious institutions, will be immediately flattened, and the need for affirmative action would disappear. In this respect, our system would simply mimic those in northern European countries like Holland and Germany, where enrolling in the university nearest to home is the usual practice and there is no clear elite pecking order. And since fewer than a fifth of colleges take less than half their applicants, with only a tiny group much more competitive, this change would have no effect on most institutions of higher learning.

While we’re at it, we should give up on the fetish of college for all by significantly reducing the number of students attending four-year academic programs to no more than 10 to 15 percent of high-school graduates. The government should dial back on student loans and grants to universities, except for scientific research.

That step, which would reduce the burden of educational debt, is not as drastic as it appears, since many students who start college end up dropping out and only 25 percent of high-school graduates manage to obtain a four-year degree. At the same time, we should step up the effort to recruit highly qualified low-income students to the most selective colleges across the country—something that Caroline Hoxby’s research tells us is not currently taking place. Finally, we should copy some of Western Europe’s most successful economies by tracking more students into job-related nonacademic programs, and by redirecting the private and public money that now goes to universities to creating and maintaining such programs.

More broadly, the amounts freed up by defunding elite colleges and private schools should be used to help average Americans. The Gates Foundation and other rich private philanthropies should stop chasing after educational schemes of dubious value and devote their billions to improving community colleges, supporting the people who attend them, and dramatically expanding vocational programs.

Although Reeves does mention vocational education, he does so only in passing. That option should receive renewed emphasis. And private donors should provide grants to thousands of students of modest means, including stipends for rent and living expenses, to enable them to do the summer internships that Reeves claims are now so important to getting ahead.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Caste system in India - Wikipedia
A recent series of research papers, by Reich et al. (2009), Metspalu et al. (2011), and Moorjani et al. (2013), make clear that India was peopled by two distinct groups who split genetically ca. 50,000 years ago,[81][82] which they called "Ancestral North Indians" (ANI) and "Ancestral South Indians" (ASI) respectively.[note 1] They found that the ANI genes are close to those of Middle Easterners, Central Asians and Europeans whereas the ASI genes are dissimilar to all other known populations outside India.[note 2][note 3] These two distinct groups, which had split ca. 50,000 years ago, formed the basis for the present population of India.[83]

According to Moorjani et al. these two groups mixed between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago (2200 BCE-100 CE), whereafter a shift to endogamy took place.[84] David Reich stated, "Prior to 4,200 years ago, there were unmixed groups in India. Sometime between 1,900 to 4,200 years ago, profound, pervasive convulsive mixture occurred, affecting every Indo-European and Dravidian group in India without exception.".[85] Following this mixture,

Strong endogamy must have applied since then (average gene flow less than 1 in 30 per generation) to prevent the genetic signatures of founder events from being erased by gene flow. Some historians have argued that "caste" in modern India is an "invention" of colonialism in the sense that it became more rigid under colonial rule. However, our results suggest that many current distinctions among groups are ancient and that strong endogamy must have shaped marriage patterns in India for thousands of years.[81]

Moorjani et al. discerned two waves of admixture in this period, with northern India showing later dates of admixture.[86] GaneshPrasad et al. (2013) studied "12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India." According to this study, southern India was already socially stratified 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, which is best explained by "the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia." The study concludes that "The social stratification (in Tamil Nadu) was established 4,000 to 6,000 years ago and there was little admixture during the last 3,000 years, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area."[87]


A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

Caste Is Stunting All of India’s Children: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/15/caste-is-stunting-all-of-indias-children/
Fears of impurity continue to steer Indians away from toilets — and towards deadly fecal germs.

These Indian govt funded ads to encourage the wealthy but declining Parsi population to reproduce are quite extraordinary

India’s government has expanded a scheme offering payment incentives to Hindus who marry members of the country’s poorest and most oppressed caste, the Dalits.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Geography of Family Differences and Intergenerational Mobility - Marginal REVOLUTION
I am wondering to what extent this is a criticism of Chetty et.al., or simply a disaggregation.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what exactly are the differences between place-level characteristics and family- or person-level characteristics.  I don’t take Chetty’s original story about places to concern _what kind of molecules are in the dirt_, or what is the climate, but rather how people in a particular place interact with each other.  In that sense the result always was about family- or person-level characteristics.  Does the ability of family-level characteristics to pick up these interaction effects mean that place-level effects are not operating?

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june 2017 by nhaliday
Assortive mating and income inequality | West Hunter
More than in the past, we have doctors marrying other doctors, rather than nurses, basically because of an increase in assortative mating for education. Ceteris paribus, this would tend to cause greater income equality among families. Is it the main driver of increasing income inequality?

Not at all. Most of the increase over the last 30 years has been among business executives and people working in finance. Since 1979, 58% of the expansion of income of the top 1% of households has this origin. For the top 0.1% of households, it’s been 67%.


Now I’m about to say something a little dangerous – so get your nitroglycerin pills ready.

Maybe those finance guys and CEOs are delivering enormously more value than they did in the 1950s!

For those remaining readers that haven’t died laughing, increased assortative mating probably has contributed to income inequality. Just not very much. Changes in the tax code, outsourcing, automation, smothering the board of directors in cream, and inattentive stockholders all matter more.

capital gains: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/assortive-mating-and-income-inequality/#comment-24318
Educational Homogamy and Assortative Mating Have Not Increased: http://sci-hub.cc/http://www.nber.org/papers/w22927.pdf
1960-2010, so all post WW2
Highly educated women partner more often “downwards” and medium educated women partner less often “upwards”
The new assortative mating (phenotypical, perhaps no change in genotypical assortative mating) due to women outnumbering men at university
If this means less genotypic assortative mating, then BAD NEWS: the smart fraction will shrink, and #decline will accelerate
Counterrevolutionary and reactionary elements warned it was a mistake to debauch higher education by over-expansion. Maybe they were right?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Rise and Fall in the Third Reich: Social Mobility and Nazi Membership
However, we find that this observed difference in upward mobility is driven by individuals with different characteristics self-selecting into these organisations, rather than from a direct reward to membership.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Income Inequality | Inequality.org
Worsening American Income: Inequality: Is world trade to blame?: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/worsening-american-income-inequality-is-world-trade-to-blame/
America: A dromedary, not a Bactrian camel: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/05/america_a_drome.html

Department of Awful Statistics: Income Inequality Edition: https://thedailybeast.com/department-of-awful-statistics-income-inequality-edition
A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality: https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality
Income inequality in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States
The Geography of U.S. Inequality: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/06/upshot/up-geo-inequality.html

40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/02/349863761/40-years-of-income-inequality-in-america-in-graphs
good charts of trends in income percentiles, wage stagnation, etc.
Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts: http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/
Middle-class wages are stagnant—Middle-wage workers’ hourly wage is up 6% since 1979, low-wage workers’ wages are down 5%, while those with very high wages saw a 41% increase
Cumulative change in real hourly wages of all workers, by wage percentile,* 1979–2013

A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/business/economy/a-relentless-rise-in-unequal-wealth.html
Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html
American Inequality in Six Charts: http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/american-inequality-in-six-charts

US income inequality: caused by financiers and tech entrepreneurs: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2006/09/us-income-inequality-caused-by.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas Piketty, reviewed | New Republic
by Robert Solow (positive)

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

The word ‘meritocracy’ was coined by my father, a left-wing sociologist called Michael Young, to describe a dystopian society of the future. In his 1958 book The Rise of the Meritocracy, he imagines a 21st Century Britain in which status is determined by a combination of IQ and effort. He acknowledged that this was fairer than an aristocratic society in which status is simply passed on from parents to their children, but it was precisely because meritocracy gave a patina of legitimacy to the inequalities thrown up by free market capitalism that he disapproved of it.

2. Is a meritocratic society fairer?

The political philosopher John Rawls pointed out that a meritocratic society isn’t necessarily fairer than an aristocratic one. After all, the qualities that meritocracy rewards – exceptional intelligence and drive – are, for the most part, natural gifts that people are born with. Since successful people have done nothing to deserve those talents, they don’t deserve the rewards they bring any more than they deserve to inherit a fortune.

3. Complete equality of opportunity

For a society to be 100% meritocratic, you need complete equality of opportunity. But the only way to guarantee that is to remove children from their parents at birth and raise them in identical circumstances. If you don’t do that, the socio-economic status of a child’s parents will inevitably affect that child’s life chances.

4. Is it in the genetics?

According to the political scientist Charles Murray, meritocracy inevitably leads to a genetically-based caste system. Why? Because the traits selected for by the meritocratic sorting principle are genetically-based and, as such, likely to be passed on from parents to their children. Genetic variation means some highly able children will be born to people of average and below average intelligence, but the children of the meritocratic elite will, in aggregate, always have a competitive advantage and over several generations that leads to social ossification.

5. Noblesse oblige

One of the things my father disliked about meritocracy was that it engendered a sense of entitlement amongst the most successful. Because they regard their elevated status as thoroughly deserved, they’re not burdened by a sense of noblesse oblige. At least in an aristocratic society, members of the lucky sperm club are afflicted by guilt and self-doubt and, as such, tend to be a bit nicer to those below them.

6. Is America the most meritocratic country?

Americans like to tell themselves that they live in the most meritocratic country in the world but, in fact, it may be one of the least. In most international league tables of inter-generational social mobility, which measure the chances a child born into one class has of moving into another over the course of their lifetime, America is at the bottom.

Toby Yong on meritocracy earlier: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2015/09/meritocracy-and-dna.html

meritocracy and credentialism:
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=




The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/




Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?


It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.


Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Surnames: a New Source for the History of Social Mobility
This paper explains how surname distributions can be used as a way to
measure rates of social mobility in contemporary and historical societies.
This allows for estimates of social mobility rates for any population for which the distribution of surnames overall is known as well as the distribution of surnames among some elite or underclass. Such information exists, for example, for England back to 1300, and for Sweden back to 1700. However surname distributions reveal a different, more fundamental type of mobility than that conventionally estimated. Thus surname estimates also allow for measuring a different aspect of social mobility, but the aspect that matters for mobility of social groups, and for families in the long run.

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

Genetic Consequences of Social Stratification in Great Britain: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/10/30/457515
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The More Parents Pass on Earning Power to Offspring, the Weaker the Argument for..., Garett Jones | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
...the welfare state as social insurance.

After all, if you know how your kids are going to turn out, what's there to insure against? Sure, you'd like to grab resources from other people--the raiding party has a long history--but it's only when you're not sure how your kids will turn out that you start fretting over whether insurance markets face major market failures and whether government-mandated redistribution can fix those market failures.


The Great Gatsby Curve has made the rounds recently, showing that in countries with higher income inequality, your parent's income does a better job predicting your income. One version from Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats (source: WonkBlog).


Coda: I'm trying to get in the habit of often using "productivity" instead of "income" or "earnings." I use the term neutrally, referring to private productivity not overall productivity, so a successful raiding party is just as productive as a McDonald's.

Subcoda: I saw Freeland speak about her book earlier this year, and she places substantial weight on productivity-side explanations for the rise of the new plutocracy.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Israel's Immigration Story: Globalization Lessons
effect of Russian Jewish immigration: econ growth up, inequality up, welfare down, politics to the right

The exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s was a unique event. The extraordinary experience of Israel, which has received migrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) at the rate of 17 percent of its population, within a short time, is also relevant for the current debate about migration and globalization. The immigration wave was distinctive for its large high skilled cohort, and its quick integration into the domestic labor market. Among various ethnic groups the FSU immigrants ranked at the top of intergenerational upward mobility. Immigration also changed the entire economic landscape: it raised productivity, underpinning technological prowess, and had significant impact on income inequality and the level of redistribution in Israel’s welfare state.

some interesting data on ethnicity (Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, Arabs, etc.) and mobility in Israel

Why members of the 'Putin aliyah' are abandoning Israel: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.783417
1990s Post-Soviet aliyah: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s_Post-Soviet_aliyah
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march 2017 by nhaliday
It Came Apart: What's Next for a Fractured Culture? - YouTube
Join AEI’s Charles Murray and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol for a special event as we analyze the rise of Trump and ask what’s next for an American culture and political system that appear to be fractured beyond recognition.

some points by Murray:
- mostly pessimistic, can't think of a good solutions for many trends
- automation going to reward one subset of labor force (computers/IQ)
- going to hit white collar jobs too, eg, lots of law work is pretty routine
- advocates a UBI
- going to be worse for men then women: healthcare, service jobs, social capital, conscientiousness (I think he folded in agreeableness too)
- coming apart, decline in marriage, etc.
- predicts an increase in religiosity ("20th century was anomaly")
- decline in religiosity has been higher in working class then upper-middle [ed.: absolute level still higher, right?]

- if social capital's so bad just replace them? [ed.: inverse weathervanes...]
- ~90% of Trump voters voted for Romney
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Recent evolution in humans
"There is a good theoretical argument for why evolution may speed up due to population growth. Given a particular probability distribution for producing beneficial mutations, a large population implies a faster rate of incidence of such mutations. Because reproductive dynamics leads to exponential solutions (i.e., a slight increase in expected number of offspring compounds rapidly), the time required for an advantageous allele to sweep through a population only grows logarithmically with the population, while the rate of incidence grows linearly."

To elaborate on the last point, consider the set of mutations that are sufficiently advantageous that they would sweep through a population of N humans (i.e. reach fixation) in some specified period of time, such as 5000 years. If the probability of such a mutation is p, the rate of occurrence in the population is proportional to pN. Now imagine the population of the group increases to 100N. The rate of mutations is then much higher -- 100pN -- but the time necessary for fixation has only increased by the logarithm of 100 since selective advantage works exponentially: the population fraction with the mutant gene grows as exp( r t ), where r is the reproductive advantage and t is time. This rather obvious point -- that linear beats log -- suggests that the rate of evolution will speed up as population size increases. (A possible loophole is if the probability of mutations as a function of relative advantage is itself an exponential function, and falls off rapidly with increasing advantage.) If the Hawks et al. results are any guide, as many as 7% of all genes have been under intense selection in the last 10-50,000 years. (See here for another summary of the research with a nice illustration of how linkage disequilibrium arises due to favorable mutations.) Importantly, the variants that reached fixation over this period are different in different geographical regions.

Thus civilization, with its consequently larger populations supported by agriculture, enhanced rather than suppressed the rate of human evolution.

A related question is whether selection pressure remained strong after the development of civilization. Perhaps reproductive success became largely decoupled from genetic influences once humans became civilized? Not only is this implausible, but it seems to be directly contradicted by evidence. The graph below, based on English inheritance records, shows that the rich gradually out-reproduced the poor: the wealthy had more than twice as many surviving children as the poor. (Note the range of inheritances in the graph covers the middle class to moderately wealthy; the poor and very rich are not shown.) Thus, in this period of history wealth was a good proxy for reproductive success. Genes which were beneficial for the accrual of wealth (e.g., for intelligence, self-discipline, delayal of gratification, etc.) would have become more prevalent over time. In a simple population model, any lineage that remained consistently poor over a few hundred year period would contribute almost zero to today's population of Britons.


See also my review of Clark's A Farewell to Alms, and this video of a talk by Clark. When Clark wrote the book he wasn't sure whether it was genetic change or cultural change that led to the industrial revolution in England. In the video lecture he comments that he has since become convinced it was largely genetic. That doesn't jibe with the back of the envelope calculation I give below -- even in the optimistic case (largest effect) it would seem to take a thousand years to have a big shift in overall population characteristics.

Here's a very crude back of the envelope calculation: if, in a brutal Malthusian setting, the top 10% in wealth were to out-reproduce the average by 20% per generation, then after only 10 generations or so (say 2-300 years), essentially everyone in the population would trace their heritage in some way to this group. In our population the average IQ of the high income group is about +.5 SD relative to the average. If the heritability of IQ is .5, then in an ideal case we could see a selection-driven increase of +.25 SD every 2-300 years, or +1 SD per millenium. This is highly speculative, of course, and oversimplified, but it shows that there is (plausibly) no shortage of selection pressure to drive noticeable, even dramatic, change. If the estimate is too high by an order of magnitude (the rich group doesn't directly replace the others; there is inevitably a lot of intermarriage between descendants of the rich and non-rich), a change of +1 SD per 10,000 years would still be possible. There's clearly no shortage in genetic variation affecting intelligence: we see 1 SD variations not just within populations but commonly in individual families!
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Making the One Percent: The Role of Elite Universities and Elite Peers
Admission to elite programs raises the number of firm leadership positions students hold by 50% and the share with incomes in the top 0.1% of the distribution by 45%. Effects are larger for students from high-tuition private high school backgrounds and near zero for students from other backgrounds.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The Uniqueness of Italian Internal Divergence | Notes On Liberty
Measuring Productivity Dispersion: Lessons From Counting One-Hundred Million Ballots: http://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12273
We measure output per worker in nearly 8,000 municipalities in the Italian electoral process using ballot counting times in the 2013 general election and two referenda in 2016. We document large productivity dispersion across provinces in this very uniform and low-skill task that involves nearly no technology and requires limited physical capital. Using a development accounting framework, this measure explains up to half of the firm-level productivity dispersion across Italian provinces and more than half the north-south productivity gap in Italy. We explore potential drivers of our measure of labor efficiency and find that its association with measures of work ethic and trust is particularly robust.

Interregional Migration, Human Capital Externalities and Unemployment Dynamics: Evidence from Italian Provinces: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/168560/1/Econstor.pdf
Using longitudinal data over the years 2002-2011 for 103 NUTS-3 Italian regions, we document that net outflows of human capital from the South to the North have increased the unemployment rate in the South, while it did not affect the unemployment rate in the North. Our analysis contributes to the literature on interregional human capital mobility suggesting that reducing human capital flight from Southern regions should be a priority

EXPLAINING ITALY’S NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE: Experimental evidence of large differences in social norms of cooperation: http://www.res.org.uk/details/mediabrief/9633311/EXPLAINING-ITALYS-NORTH-SOUTH-DIVIDE-Experimental-evidence-of-large-differences-.html
Amoral Familism, Social Capital, or Trust? The Behavioural Foundations of the Italian North-South Divide: http://conference.iza.org/conference_files/CognitiveSkills_2014/casari_m8572.pdf

At the root of the North‐South cooperation gap in Italy Preferences or beliefs?: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ecoj.12608
Southerners share the same pro‐social preferences, but differ both in their belief about cooperativeness and in the aversion to social risk ‐ respectively more pessimistic and stronger among Southerners.

Past dominations, current institutions and the Italian regional economic performance: http://www.siecon.org/online/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DiLiberto-Sideri.pdf
We study the connection between economic performance and the quality of government institutions for the sample of 103 Italian NUTS3 regions, including new measures of institutional quality calculated using data on the provision of four areas of public service: health, educational infrastructures, environment and energy. In order to address likely endogeneity problems, we use the histories of the different foreign dominations that ruled Italian regions between the 16th and 17th century and over seven hundred years before the creation of the unified Italian State. Our results suggest a significant role of past historical institutions on the current public administration efficiency and show that the latter makes a difference to the economic performance of regions. Overall, our analysis confirms that informal institutions matter for development, and that history can be used to find suitable instruments

Figure 1 – Institutional quality: territorial distribution

Figure 5: Italy during the period 1560-1659 (part A) and corresponding current provinces (part B)

Figure 6 –Former Spanish provinces

Italy’s North-South divide (1861-2011): the state of art: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/62209/1/MPRA_paper_62209.pdf
My main argument is summed up in the conclusions: there was a socio-institutional divide between the North and the South of the peninsula, that pre-exists Unification, in some respects grows stronger with it and is never bridged throughout the history of post-unification Italy. Admittedly, some socio-institutional convergence took place in the last decades, but this went in a direction opposite to the desirable one − that is, the North and Italy as a whole have begun to look similar to the South, rather than vice versa.

La cartina dell’ISTAT che mostra dove si leggono più libri in Italia: http://www.ilpost.it/flashes/istat-lettori-regioni-italiane/
ISTAT map showing where more books are read in Italy
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The genetic basis of social mobility | EVOLVING ECONOMICS
In 2007’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Gregory Clark argued that the higher fertility of the rich in pre-industrial England sowed the seeds for the Industrial Revolution. As children resemble their parents, the increased number of prudent, productive people made possible the modern economic era.

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

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

Clark’s primary argument is that across a range of societies and eras – from pre-Industrial to modern England, from pre- to post-revolution China, and across the centuries in the United States, Sweden and India – social mobility is low. The correlation in social status between one generation and the next is around 0.7 to 0.8, meaning we can find the echoes of high status 10 or more generations later. Status does “regress to the mean”, but it does so slowly.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
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

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
The Son Also Rises | West Hunter
It turns out that you can predict a kid’s social status better if you take into account the grandparents as well as the parents – and the nieces/nephews, cousins, etc. Which means that you’re estimating the breeding value for moxie – which means that Clark needs to read Falconer right now. I’d guess that taking into account grandparents that the kids never even met, ones that died before their birth, will improve prediction. Let the sociologists chew on that.


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

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


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

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

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november 2016 by nhaliday
The Castle and the Forest Sauvage – spottedtoad
So meritocracy might rule when it comes to who ends up nearer or further from the castle (or then it might again not), but it will never determine who is allowed to come over the drawbridge, in through the gate, and allowed to see the Castle’s inside.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
What You Can't Say
E Pur Si Muove:

Sam Altman and the fear of political correctness: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/sam-altman-fear-political-correctness.html
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
And so it runs with shadow prices for speech, including rights to say things and to ask questions. Whatever you are free to say in America, you have said many times already, and the marginal value of exercising that freedom yet again doesn’t seem so high. But you show up in China, and wow, your pent-up urges are not forbidden topics any more. Just do be careful with your mentions of Uncle Xi, Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur terrorists, and disappearing generals. That said, in downtown Berkeley you can speculate rather freely on whether China will someday end up as a Christian nation, and hardly anybody will be offended.

For this reason, where we live typically seems especially unfree when it comes to speech. And when I am in China, I usually have so, so many new dishes I want to sample, including chestnuts and pumpkin.

replies: http://www.businessinsider.com/sam-altman-ignites-debate-on-whether-silicon-valley-culture-makes-it-tough-to-innovate-2017-12


Baidu's Robin Li is Helping China Win the 21st Century: http://time.com/5107485/baidus-robin-li-helping-china-win-21st-century/
Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of China’s efforts to forge the future: the country has the world’s most severe restrictions on Internet freedom, according to advocacy group Freedom House. China employs a highly sophisticated censorship apparatus, dubbed the Great Firewall, to snuff out any content deemed critical or inappropriate. Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as news portals like the New York Times, Bloomberg and TIME, are banned. Manned by an army of 2 million online censors, the Great Firewall gives outsiders the impression of deathly silence within.

But in fact, business thrives inside the firewall’s confines–on its guardians’ terms, of course–and the restrictions have not appeared to stymie progress. “It turns out you don’t need to know the truth of what happened in Tiananmen Square to develop a great smartphone app,” says Kaiser Kuo, formerly Baidu’s head of international communications and a co-host of Sinica, an authoritative podcast on China. “There is a deep hubris in the West about this.” The central government in Beijing has a fearsome capacity to get things done and is willing to back its policy priorities with hard cash. The benefits for companies willing or able to go along with its whims are clear. The question for Baidu–and for Li–is how far it is willing to go.

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead: https://www.ft.com/content/42daca9e-facc-11e7-9bfc-052cbba03425
The work ethic in Chinese tech companies far outpaces their US rivals

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief.

The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west.

In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.


While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

What I learned from 5 weeks in Beijing + Shanghai:

- startup creation + velocity dwarfs anything in SF
- no one in China I met is remotely worried about U.S. or possibly even cares
- access to capital is crazy
- scale feels about 20x of SF
- endless energy
- not SV jaded


Western values are freeriding on Western innovation.
Comparatively unimpeded pursuit of curiosity into innovation is a Western value that pays the carriage fare.
True. A lot of values are worthwhile in certain contexts but should never have been scaled.

Diversity, "social mobility", iconoclasm
but due to military and technological victory over its competitors
There's something to be said for Western social trust as well, though that's an institution more than an idea
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Compound Interest Is The Least Powerful Force In The Universe | Slate Star Codex
some summary of Gregory Clark's arguments

SLAVERY AND THE INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION OF HUMAN CAPITAL: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/refs/Mozilla_Scrapbook/w9227.pdf
Using a variety of different comparisons, (e.g. within versus across regions) I find that it took roughly two generations for the descendants of slaves to "catch up" to the descendants of free black men and women.

The lasting effect of intergenerational wealth transfers: Human capital, family formation, and wealth: http://sci-hub.tw/http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X17302788
Jargon aside, their results show that bequests tend not to benefit people much unless they have high human capital

The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War: https://www.nber.org/papers/w25700
The nullification of slave-based wealth after the US Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compression in history. We document that white southern households with more slave assets lost substantially more wealth by 1870 relative to households with otherwise similar pre-War wealth levels. Yet, the sons of these slaveholders recovered in income and wealth proxies by 1880, in part by shifting into white collar positions and marrying into higher status families. Their pattern of recovery is most consistent with the importance of social networks in facilitating employment opportunities and access to credit.

Shocking Behavior : Random Wealth in Antebellum Georgia and Human Capital Across Generations: https://www.nber.org/papers/w19348
We track descendants of those eligible to win in Georgia's Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, which had nearly universal participation among adult white males. Winners received close to the median level of wealth - a large financial windfall orthogonal to parents' underlying characteristics that might have also affected their children's human capital. Although winners had slightly more children than non-winners, they did not send them to school more. Sons of winners have no better adult outcomes (wealth, income, literacy) than the sons of non-winners, and winners' grandchildren do not have higher literacy or school attendance than non-winners' grandchildren. This suggests only a limited role for family financial resources in the transmission of human capital across generations and a potentially more important role for other factors that persist through family lines.

Lottery Winners Don't Get Healthier: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/politically-incorrect-paper-of-the-day-3.html
N.B. the result is not that most lottery winners go bankrupt or that winning money doesn’t help people–the result, as Robin Hanson might say, is that bankruptcy isn’t about money.

Low leverage of wealth on your children’s traits is something that exists in a particular society, with a particular kind of technology. Back in medieval times, a windfall could have kept your kids alive in a famine, and that certainly had a long-term positive effect on their cognitive skills. Dead men take no tests. The most effective medical interventions today are cheap – everyone in Sweden and the US already has them – but there are places where those interventions are not universally available. Some families in Mozambique can afford artemisin, some can’t – this must make a difference.


It is not just wealth that has a small effect on your kid’s potential: playing Mozart doesn’t help either. Other than locking away the ball-peen hammers, it’s hard to think of any known approach that does have much effect – although we don’t know everything, and maybe there are undiscovered effective approaches (other than genetic engineering). For example, iodine supplements have a good effect in areas that are iodine-deficient. We now know (since 2014) that bromine is an essential trace element – maybe people in some parts of the world would benefit from bromine supplementation.

What about the social interventions that people are advocating, like Pre-K ? Since shared family effects (family environment surely matters more than some external social program) are small by adulthood, I think they’re unlikely to have any lasting effect. We might also note that the track record isn’t exactly encouraging. If there was a known and feasible way of boosting academic performance, you’d think that those teachers in Atlanta would have tried it. Sure beats prison.

Maybe there’s an effective approach using fmri and biofeedback – wouldn’t hurt to take a look. But even if it did work, it might simply boost everyone equally, and obviously nobody gives a shit about that.

They can read simple things. Useful things. If you want to talk about higher levels of literacy, or the lack thereof (functional illiteracy), you need to define your terms. And you should act fast, before I define functional illiteracy – which would include anyone who wasn’t reading Anna Karenina in middle school.
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june 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : econ

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