The End of This Blog

Over the past year I’ve lacked the free time to put much effort into this blog, for largely good reasons, I also feel I’ve said most of what I wanted to say. Thus, this will be my last blog post, though the blog will still exist and I might resurrect it in the future if I have the time.

To emphasize one message, one theme for my last blog post, it is the importance of human capital to any political movement: this is the biggest problem we “populists” face today. Many who understand the importance of human capital in explaining the economic performance of countries or the crime rates of neighborhoods seem entirely unconcerned that their movement is disproportionately supported by the duller White people in America or Europe. Though Romney voters had higher IQs than Obama voters, the statistic was reversed for Whites, and I would think this would be even more true if you looked at the 2016 election. Make no mistake: some of that was good, many of those affluent Republican-leaners who switched to Hillary or even Gary Johnson were basically liberals who didn’t like paying taxes. Their removal facilitated the advance of populism within the party. But in the long term populists cannot afford to surrender the class of smart Whites to the cult of leapfrogging loyalties.

There are many actions which help advance that goal and there are many actions that hinder it. Endorsing ridiculous conspiracy theories hinders it. Being careless with the facts hinders it. Un-ironically using “they’re nerds” as a reason to disagree with someone hinders it. Supporting Roy Moore for Senate hinders it. And by God, if you support Roy Moore on the basis that he’s not a Democrat, don’t turn around and say Al Franken is beyond the pale.

What can help it? This is harder, and here we run into the issue of anonymity on the internet. It is costless to log on, hide behind a username, and purity-signal about how uncompromising and “based” you are. It’s harder to try to be “active” in real life, announcing yourself as a Trump supporter, even for mainstream Republican reasons, can be hazardous. But it is also how minds are changed, much more than through the net. People believe what they do fundamentally because of other people. The more hazardous it is to announce your views publicly, the more payout it can have, because it is exactly in those deep-blue environments where people are most affected by group-think and where one dissenter can have an impact.

But if you are unwilling to do that, a simple way to help is to donate money to help keep the populist right’s media in the black. Leaving the funding entirely to advertising rewards deference to the demands of advertisers and unintelligent clickbait, two trends we should want the populist right to avoid. Consider starting here.

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Don’t Believe This Fake News About America’s Government Owned Oil And Gas Resources

Zoltan Istvan, a Libertarian candidate for governor of California, claimed in a podcast on The Stark Truth that the federal government owns lands worth “around 150 trillion dollars.” Listening to it I almost instantly knew it was BS. With America’s total GDP being around 18 trillion dollars, that would be lands worth an equivalent of all the goods and services produced in the United States for around 8 years. It was clear that Istvan wasn’t talking about schools, courthouses, roads, or prisons, rather, this was “unused” land containing natural resources he proposed to sell or lease and use to pay for a basic income.

I traced the apparent source for the claim to an article Istvan wrote claiming the federal government owns at least 130 trillion dollars of natural resources, it’s source for this is a Time Magazine article, claiming the U.S. has oil and gas resources worth 128 trillion dollars. Presumably the rest of the 150 trillion comes from state owned land or other resources, but I’ll just address here the 128 trillion number since it’s where the lion’s share of the claim comes from. The Time Article links to a report by the Institute for Energy Research, which claims to have estimated the figure itself. The Institute for Energy Research has often been described as an oil industry front group. The claim was then repeated by, among others, Business Insider, Breitbart, and Market Watch.

A rough calculation suffices to prove the number wrong. Cherry pick Wikipedia’s highest cited estimate of America’s total oil reserves, 55 billion barrels of oil. At the generous price of 100$ a barrel, that’s 5.5 trillion dollars. Doing the same for natural gas resources, you have 2,335 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas multiplied by .004 dollars per cubic foot of gas and you get 9.42 trillion dollars. And that’s all the resources, whereas the report appears to refer only to lands owned by the federal government. The exact phrase used is simply “the government” but the article is entitled “Federal Assets Above and Below Ground.”

In the report and the Time article, it’s unclear if the figure is referring to the value of the oil when sold or the market value of extraction rights to the land itself, which would be much less as the oil isn’t going to extract and transport itself. The report makes a direct comparison of the figure to the national debt, but that’s the kind of “hey it’s not technically a lie” deception that I’d expect from a political advocacy organization rather than a direct invention of a figure as appeared to have occurred here. But once Istvan is talking about it, it’s clear that he believes the market value of extraction rights must be that high. It’s like a rumor which becomes more ridiculous with each person who repeats it.

Just remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it’s not true.

Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

Alt-Right Cliches

Race is the foundation of identity

This was in the alt-right “meta-political manifesto” and reflects a classic blind-spot among White nationalists. In American Renaissance a statement which may seem similar is claimed in the “about us” page:

Race is an important aspect of individual and group identity. Of all the fault lines that divide society—language, religion, class, ideology—it is the most prominent and divisive. Race and racial conflict are at the heart of some of the most serious challenges the Western World faces in the 21st century.

If you had someone from mars looking down at America, he would see this statement as true. As much as the Blue Whites and the Red Whites may hate each other, they have more in common with each other, as far as culture, desired lifestyle, economic status, and even where they physically live, than the Blue Whites do with their precious Oppressed Blacks. But to say that identity falls along these fault lines is preposterous. In some parts of the Deep South where Whites vote almost as a racial bloc, you could argue that it does. In South Africa, it does so quite clearly, overriding other distinctions like language or religion. But in most of America outside the South it would be preposterous to claim race as the foundation of identity. Religious and political views, self-perceived social class, and even what clique one was part of in high school,* matter much more than race for determining identity for most White people. And for the alt-right then, they become another identity group, heretics against the mainstream political religion of most Whites, who see them as much more alien then they see non-Whites. Some on the alt-right, Jared Taylor for example, understand this. Others do not, LARPing as if they are foot soldiers in an ethnic conflict rather than a (small) political faction regarded as immoral by most of the people whose interests they are supposedly looking out for.

No Enemies to The Right

A variation is “no enemies on the right.” But what constitutes the right? Are pedophiles a part, if they claim to be as such? The Left would surely opine that they are, of course, and thus on the right we should hold our noses and tolerate them, because they are on “our side” aren’t they? To some this argument is just a mask, they want to include the Daily Stormf*g because they support it’s ideology, others just fall mindlessly for this stupid cliche as eagerly as Leftists embrace cliches like “America is a nation of immigrants” without asking why? Where did such a quote come from?

It appears to have originated in a similar phrase used by the Left. The earliest use of the phrase I could find is in an implication that it was used in Tsarist Russia in a book “The Liberation Movement in Russia, 1900-1905:”

…willingness to participate in the elections served to inform all those concerned that the policy of ‘no enemies to the left’ was no longer in force

How’d that work out for the non-Communist Left in Russia?

But then we come to what seems to be the major argument for the policy: the Left does it. And they largely do, but it’s only possible because of two factors: the Left’s control of most of the media and the refusal of the remaining Right-wing media and politicians to attack the Left’s associations with the far-Left. Left-wing radicalism will be mostly ignored by the media. When the Communist Party endorses Hillary Clinton, it goes unreported. Obama’s initial refusal to disavow Reverend Wright worked because McCain refused to attack him on it. But then the alt-right looks and this situation and say:

It’s not faaaaiiiiiiiiir that we are associated with right-wing radicals and the Left isn’t.

Yes, it’s not fair. It’s also not fair when one side has a knife and the other a machine-gun: the smart response is not for the weaker party to wholly emulate the tactics of the stronger party.

*I think much of the Trump Derangement Syndrome, especially among libertarians and “rationalists,” is due less to his policies or his political incorrectness, but due to the fact that he is a classic Chad, he reminds them viscerally of the guy in high school who shoved them into a locker and made out with their crush.

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Changing My Mind About Race and IQ

Changing one’s mind is something everyone likes in theory, though much fewer actually do, when on the internet a pundit tells you about how he changed his mind about something, it will likely be a tale of a long ago conversion to his (currently held) idea. Back when he held the wrong-headed idea he had the foresight not to write about it. In religions both literal and ideological, the conversion narrative is often central, Evangelical Christians have their born-again experiences, racial realists often discuss their “racial awakening.” These narratives are welcoming to the man who changes his mind only in one direction. They are problematic because they turn ideas into an identity, be one of the awakened ones, White man! Don’t be one of the sheep! The virtue-signallers, of course, are kings at this, their whole identity is de-rooted from any race, ethnicity, culture, or religion, an identity based on holding the virtuous views. For the Evangelical Christian, the confluence of ideals and identity is made plain, for the ideologue, it must usually be denied.

But if you want to have the opinions which are most likely to be objectively true, it is best to try to separate out your identity from your opinions. In the words of CGPGrey, opinions “are in a box you carry with you and should be easily replaceable if they turn out to be no good.”

For the last few years I’ve believed in, and written under my pseudonym about, hard racial differences in intelligence. I was quite sure that most or all of the gap between the measured IQ of Black and White Americans was genetic in origin, everything I observed seemed consistent with that, and I assumed it would eventually be proven scientifically.

Yet, after reading, and re-reading, the entire race-IQ series by Chanda Chisala, I am now agnostic as to the real cause of the intelligence gap. I am not saying I agree with everything in the series: for instance, he makes much of the fact that African and Caribbean immigrants outperform African Americans. Chisala cites the fact that they have taken many of the Ivy League seats supposedly set aside for the descendants of American slaves, they shouldn’t, Chisala says, because African Americans’ 20% White admixture should give them an advantage. But the White admixture in African Americans should only give them an advantage of a few IQ points. Immigrant selection, perhaps on the slave ships where the stupider were captured, perhaps on modern planes where the smarter made it out of Africa, can easily do away with such a small gap. In addition, it should be noted that motivation matters a lot in terms of getting into the Ivy League, it’s not simply a matter of innate ability. Harold Ekah, cited by Chisala as an example of African immigrant achievement, co-authored an e-book about how he got accepted into all 8 Ivy Leagues. He says about it:

The biggest tip: Start early. Literally. Both men would begin their days by 5 a.m. during their senior year in order to get more work done.”

Who wants to do that?

But what convinced me were two things, African performance in the UK and African performance in scrabble.

African Performance in the UK

Chisala cites this study of CAT scores at age 11 for British pupils of different backgrounds. It has a respectable sample size(Black African N=2,197) and shows Black African scores of 92, 94.1, and and 94.1 for its verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and non-quantitative reasoning, respectively, on its IQ like scale. You can massage the data downward a bit, to 90.5, 93.5, and  92.9 if you set the White British score at 100 and the standard deviation of the White British score at 15. When I first saw the data years ago, when someone other than Chisala cited it, I thought it was entirely believable from a hereditarian perspective given the immigrant selection of African migrants to Britain, who are demonstrably much more educated than their peers who remained in Africa. The difference in scores between where it “should be” and where it is is no larger than that which is regularly seen when highly-educated Whites segregate themselves into rich college towns.

Next, Chisala cites the performance of various ethnic groups on the GCSE tests. These showed Black African pupils nearly equaling Whites. This was not at all what I would have predicted, given my hereditarian priors, but still possible under a hereditarian theory, given motivational factors. Those can be seen in the gender gaps which are quite large. There is no logical reason to dismiss a difference in IQ(Black-White) because groups do the same while accepting an equality in IQ(between boys and girls) when one group scores higher. The Africans would not be the only group which managed to “punch above their weight” in terms of IQ and education, the East Asians in America have long done so. Asians’ IQs of 5 points above Whites are not enough to explain such an extreme over-representation in the Ivy League, tiger mothering provides the rest of the puzzle. That case, however, is not so counter-intuitive, you expect Asians to perform better than Whites and they do.


But, when reading Chisala’s series, I initially overlooked a much more powerful point he made in his favor: what happens when the African group is broken down into subgroups? This shows that many African groups perform much better than White Britons, indeed, some even out-perform the Chinese. Accepting that Tiger-mothering could be so much more effective among these groups as to be able to out-perform a group that is notorious for also practicing it and beats them in IQ by ~13 points(if Black African immigrants to the UK are assumed to be selected to a point where their children have IQs of about 92, while the Chinese are assumed to be 105) is much harder. I’m uncomfortable with “super-selection” theories which have the IQs of the children of African immigrants being higher than 95.(They have to regress to a mean, remember?) African immigrants are undoubtedly well-educated, but it is also undoubtable that Africa is not a meritocratic continent. Some were merely lucky to be the right person’s cousin, or the pretty girl the dictator decided to take into exile after the coup.

A lot of people get confused about regression to the mean, some believe it’s a multi-generational curse that should pull the descendants of smart blacks all the way TO the mean,(rather than merely in its direction, for one generation only) others than it should not apply if the migrating individuals are part of some vaguely defined meritocratic class. The meritocratic class theory could be theoretically possible. Suppose there’s a policy of only allowing White South Africans to immigrate and taking a representative sample among them. It would be wrong to say “these South African immigrants have IQs of 100, they should regress toward the mean of their country of 75.”(75 is made up, not sure of the actual mean.) But if, rather than taking White South Africans, you took any Black South African with an IQ over 85, you’d expect some regression to the mean. Why?

What causes regression to the mean? Suppose you have two identical twins, one with an IQ of 131, the other 121. If you make a cut off point and take a group of people with only IQs above 130, you’d take only the smart twin. His offspring should be expected to regress to below the cut-off point, as his genetic potential is not any higher than his brother’s, he just got lucky, either in random developments in his brain or in his luck on the day of the test.

The White South Africans in the first example were not selected by IQ. They were not on average any smarter than their siblings. But if you took any Black South African with an IQ over 85, you’d have many people smarter than their siblings, who just got lucky, and who’d be expected to regress to the mean in the second generation.

Here it is important to note that of selection of a class of people, essentially, men and their siblings, and selection by IQ, men who leave their duller siblings behind, both would negatively impact the IQ of the second generation. The more brothers and nephews of smart people you have coming, the more you aren’t selecting for IQ, whereas the more you select for IQ, the more you expect regression to the mean to lower the next generation’s IQ. If you had a group like White South Africans, a group of Africans where the group average is 15 points higher, who haven’t intermarried with duller Africans for generations, well, does that sound like a likely situation in any African country? You’d notice it.

In the study of IQ-like CAT scores, Africans have a standard deviation that is lower than Whites on all the subtests, which raises a question about the existence of high-scoring subgroups, and lends credence to the notion that motivation or tiger-mothering is the reason for the gap. However, it could also indicate that IQ-like tests may have a real bias, perhaps linguistic, which the Africans are able to make up in between the time they took the CAT(at age 11) and then took their GCSEs. Note that in the CAT tests Africans did worse in verbal than mathematical reasoning, a reversal of the pattern seen among Blacks in America. Either way, the tests alone should not lead one to conclude outright that the high-scoring sub-groups of Africans are truly less intelligent than Whites in Britain: real world accomplishment should always be a better measure of intelligence than IQ when they conflict. If one group has greater genotypic potential for height but was held down to equality with another due to insufficient nutrition, it would be silly to say they were “really” taller. Of course, if it turns out that Africans flounder after they leave school, or if the cause is tiger-mothering and the Africans stop and their achievements decline, it will be another matter. Note that the African over-performance on the GCSE’s is a recent phenomenon, so the outcomes of the current class of parents, many of them poor immigrants, should not reflect on their children’s ability.

Africans in Scrabble

Chisala has made a persuasive case about African over-performance in the game of Scrabble. The basic point is simple, competing in world scrabble competitions requires a high degree of ability and with IQs averaging 70, there simply should not be enough Africans able to do it.

Differences in ability are famously most salient at the highest level. It is not hard to wander around and find an athletic girl to outrun a fat, out of shape boy, but at the very high level, 125 men have broken the 10-second barrier, no women are in this exclusive club. 1/6th of Black Americans are smarter than the average White, but of the American winners of Nobel Prizes for Chemistry, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine, none have been Black.(No non-American Blacks have won either.) In science, IQ test results predict that the third world countries should make barely any contribution to world science, which is exactly what is observed.


Cartogram sized by scientific papers published

Yet in scrabble Africans manage to play, and win, in both English language and Francaphone Scrabble competitions. The only way for this to be possible while preserving African’s IQ level at 70, reflecting actual intelligence, is for a huge proportion of the population who are at that level to chose to engage in scrabble. This in a continent full of poverty and violence. I conclude based on this that the estimate of a 70 IQ reflecting Africans true abilities, the position of Richard Lynn and J Philippe Rushton, which I thought was reasonable given the state of the place, is now untenable. Rather, I believe it is an environmental deficiency which reduces their scores, possibly due to a lack of familiarity with testing, but not their underlying intelligence, which is at a higher level, maybe as much as 85. This is not a position entirely alien to hereditarianism, as most hereditarians regard the Flynn Effect to have be partially or wholly non-biological.

And even then, settling on a score of 85 might explain it, but would it explain it best? Or would a true genotypic IQ of 100 better explain a country which is very poor producing world champions at a game which requires a very high IQ level? What would your estimate be for, say, the very poor Armenia? Its PISA scores are low. Its economy is so bad Armenians illegally immigrate to Turkey. Yet it produces chess champions. This certainly doesn’t prove Africa’s true IQ is higher than 85, mind you, but it does point in that direction.


Sibling pairs of who are the children of one or two parents of mixed heritage differ in a small amount by their proportion of ancestry. Some mixed race African Americans, in the same family, with the same environment, who believe themselves to be equally Black or White, are slightly more African and some are slightly more European. This will provide a method of essentially proving or disproving the hereditarian hypothesis by measuring the IQs and genetic ancestries of thousands of these sibling pairs, and I expect it is reasonable that someone will do this in the next fifteen years.

If someone did do this, put the papers in my hand, told me they proved the gap was either almost all genetic or almost all environmental, and asked me to bet on it, even odds, I’d still say it’s mostly genetic. But I would not go much higher than 1:2 odds. There is still a lot of evidence in support of the hereditarian position, and in the comments sections of Chisala’s articles some have simply dumped this evidence there, ignoring the points Chisala has made. But I think this is wrong-headed. If 95% of evidence supports a position and 5% opposes it, should we conclude it’s probably true? Not necessarily. Restate it and see why: 95% of the evidence is consistent with the position, 5% contradicts it. There are many things that could cause X, but if your explanation for X relies on Y never being there and it’s there, then your theory is in trouble. Similarly, if it could be proven that the IQs of the children of African immigrants in Britain are 100, and this could be proven not to be caused by selection, the hereditarian hypothesis would be falsified. That African IQs are no higher than 85 in America, Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, and Africa itself does not matter: if the theory is that they are genetically bound below 85 and there is a place where they smash the ceiling to bits, the theory is wrong. This hasn’t been proven yet, but evidence is enough to cause me to question my priors on this issue. What would constitute proof? Chisala believes his evidence decisively disproves the hereditarian hypothesis, and has accused his critics of “moving the goalposts” on this, and so I’ll state what I would consider definitive proof. If, on IQ tests, it could be definitively proven that Black African IQs are at or close to European levels, and this could be shown for a sample of Africans which could be proven to be non-selected, by analyzing education levels or the method of immigrant selection in some other way, I would take it to be a falsification of the hereditarian hypothesis. A good potential test is provided by one of America’s stupidest immigration programs: the diversity visa lottery. Each year about 10% of the Liberian population enrolls, which greatly limits the extent to which they could be selected. A study on these immigrants, if is found that their children have mean IQs close to the White mean, would falsify the hereditarian hypothesis in my mind.

Posted in Genetics/HBD, Race | 10 Comments

The Latest Nonsense from of Washington D.C.

From the Washington Post:

When James-Dean earned the scholarship, she enrolled at Central Texas College, which has a satellite campus in the District. 

On school days, she wakes up at 4:15 a.m. to take the Metro from Rockville to her work, on the edge of the District’s Washington Highlands neighborhood, so she can use the computer to do homework before the children arrive. 

She spends the next eight hours reading stories, changing diapers and playing chase and “ring around the table we go” with toddlers. 

By 4 p.m., she’s headed for the Metro again to a child-care center on the other side of the city, where classes go to 9:15 p.m.  

Is she going to school so she can get a better job than changing diapers? No, she’s going to school so she can work a job….changing diapers. D.C. created a mandate that daycare workers must have associate’s degrees. Associate’s rather than bachelor’s, because they aren’t completely insane(quote marks added):

In sum, the report says, “teachers” of infants and toddlers require the same level of sophisticated knowledge and skills expected of elementary educators and they should likewise be expected to have bachelor’s degrees.

At the same time, the report urges policymakers to use caution when increasing minimum credentials, to avoid unintended consequences, including workforce shortages, reduced diversity in the profession and pressure on out-of-pocket costs for families. 

The District set the minimum credential for lead “teachers” as an associate degree, rather than a bachelor’s,(….)

There is a government-funded scholarship to help current “teachers” pay for their education, but it doesn’t compensate them for the time investment. James-Dean is happy about the “self-improvement” that college provides, but this was not a universal reaction, one of her co-workers has already left due to the requirement. And James-Dean’s story has not reached the happy ending yet, as “counseling and tutoring helped her get through two tough English classes, and she is bracing herself for the math classes she needs to take.” Due presumably to the time requirement, some have chosen online programs they have to pay for themselves. These programs make cheating easier, but also ease the process of bill collecting, one woman found that she was locked out of her courses until she finished paying her bill.

The article also notes that:

(…)the scholarship reduces turnover, a serious challenge for the field. For every year that an employer supports an employee’s education, the employee must commit to another year of work. 

I’m sure the employees just love that. Because turnover is bad, don’t you know? How can we see it from any perspective other than the employer’s?

The end result of all this is more jobs which don’t create any value for society, paid for by taxpayer monies and making daycare more expensive. But there’s a good chance this mandate may not ever be enforced. It doesn’t take effect until 2020, and the New Republic claims that “their[sic] will be a waiver for longtime employees who can make the case that getting a degree isn’t feasible for them.” If by the time 2020 rolls around half the workers haven’t completed their degrees yet, they may decide to extend that waiver to everyone. They won’t repeal it, though, these aren’t people who ever admit to making mistakes.

In the meantime, damage has already been done, with at least one worker quitting her job due to the requirement. There will be many more.

Posted in Education | 3 Comments

*Locked In*

Locked In is a book by John F. Pfaff, a Professor of Law at Fordham, subtitled “the True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform.” In Locked In, Pfaff critiques the current “criminal justice reform” movement, pointing out that, no, the “war on drugs” is not the cause of “mass incarceration,” most prisoners are there for violent and/or property crimes. But are those criminals being given crazily harsh sentences? No, the average sentence actually served, once early release is accounted for, is short, and hasn’t gone up by much since “mass incarceration” begun. This may seem to you like a good argument that America’s current amount of incarceration is about right, but to Pfaff this just means alternative strategies must be used to reduce the incarceration rate. This is his goal, and he doesn’t spend much ink in Locked In to argue for it’s desirability, assuming that the reader agrees with it. Despite this goal, I found Locked In to be a valuable as a serious treatment of incarceration, the book provided a convincing answer to the question of why, starting around 1990, incarceration increased as crime declined. On the criminal justice system, Pfaff is a realist, critical of the falsehoods spread by the “reform” movement. Pfaff would do well to apply that critical thinking to other areas, fifty years after the Coleman Report, Pfaff writes in several places about the “under-performing” schools Blacks must go to. I would recommend the book as a type of “gateway drug”(pun intended) for the more open minded of liberals and libertarians. This blog post is both a review of Locked In and an elaboration of my own thoughts about the criminal justice system. If in this blog post you read a statement by me that I do not attribute to Pfaff, it’s probably my idea/opinion, not Pfaff’s.

Introduction: Common Pitfalls

Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Drugs, Race | 3 Comments

*The Complacent Class*

I had high hopes for The Complacent Class,(Hereafter, TCC) the recently released book by Tyler Cowen. The book might be seen as the third in a series of books by Cowen beginning with The Great Stagnation, which is about the technological slowdown, and Average is Over, which is about labor markets in an age of “smart machines,” both of which were very good books. The thesis of TCC is hard to summarize, but my attempt, in one long sentence, is this: Cowen makes a distinction between dynamism, moving, making changes, getting out of your comfort zone, and stasis, staying in one location and one profession and one job, staying within your comfort zone, meeting and marrying people like yourself, and claims Americans are less dynamic, or more “complacent,” today. Ultimately, I give TCC three stars out of five. While there are some gems, in other chapters, I thought Cowen missed the point, perhaps intentionally. TCC lacks a common theme. The chapters are about different things, and the connection between them is quite superficial, an observation of “less change” which fails to identity a common cause, or many common effects, of these various trends.

TCC  is written in a cryptic style that will be familiar to readers of his blog and his previous books. You have to read between the lines, and Cowen, I’ll note, endorses this approach. In a blog post, Cowen notes that reviewer Dan Wang is “of course is an excellent reader” and then cites the following:

By introducing little oddities in the text, Cowen makes room for claims that are too difficult to baldly state; in other cases, watch for occasions in which he’s offering commentary on something other than what he’s directly writing about.[1]

The book is divided into 9 chapters, the first is an introduction, the next seven are summaries of various developments in America’s “complacency,” and the last is a prediction that this complacency will not hold.

Chapters 2 and 4

These chapters are the best in the book, about the decline of geographic mobility, job switching, and entrepreneurship and the lower rate of turnover among firms. They focus mostly on economic rather than cultural factors. For the decline in geographic mobility, Cowen cites the fact that regions of America are less different, with the decline of manufacturing based only in certain areas, such as automobile manufacturing in Detroit, and the rises in services where employment is scattered throughout the country. Another cause of the decline is the fact that NIMBYism keeps rents high, preventing people from moving into economically booming communities. Job switching, has, in part, declined because “the hiring rate has declined faster than the firing rate.”[2]

Cowen attributes the decline in entrepreneurship, partially, to the increasing dominance of chain stores:

Some of the largest declines in dynamism, as identified by the rate of business turnover have come in the construction, mining, retail, wholesale, and services sectors. In other words, the shops in the town square don’t turn over as rapidly as they used to; some of this slowdown stems from the ongoing supplanting of mom-and-pop stores by major chains, which keep dominant market positions for longer periods of time. The dynamism declines are much smaller in transportation, communications, utilities, and manufacturing, which were more static to begin with. Overall dynamism rates seem to be converging, as the previously more-dynamic sectors in the American economy are failing to change rates of less-dynamic sectors. Just as people have traditionally expected their electricity company to be around for a long time, now a lot of retail chains seem to have taken on the same sacrosanct status.[3]

Continue reading

Posted in Economics | 4 Comments

Felons and Labor Force Participation

How hard is it for a felon(or “ex-felon,” they retain the title after their release, indeed, many were never incarcerated in the first place) to get a job? There’s no clear answer, but the effect seems to be considerable, going by the proportion of employers who won’t hire felons. Felons have a low labor force participation rate, and while much of this is due to unwillingness to work, no doubt some of it is due to them simply not being able to find jobs. This has contributed to lower male labor force participation rates and is an effect that will remain invisible to most of the upper-middle class, who can point to the fact that their 16 year old got a McJob easily and thus there’s “no problem.” This decline in labor force participation has masked the effect of automation, which allowed it to occur with no obvious “labor shortage.”(Ignore the corporate propaganda, any real shortage of something will lead to an increasing price.)

What to do about it? At MR commenter “Lieutenant Leftout” suggests:

(…)So let me end by suggesting extremely provocatively that the wisest thing to do with and for this overflowing population of convicted felons, incarcerated or on welfare, undeniably a drain and source of present or future unrest and dysfunction, is to give them a compulsory work building a wall on the border with Mexico. This would be cheap labour, below the minimum wage (por supuesto hombre!), but the remuneration would be better than welfare, with the possibility of bonuses for the strongest or most productive and diligent workers. Incarcerated fellows would have something they currently lack, a method of creating savings and work ethics in the long term, possibly also work skills, preparing for the moment of their eventual release. I certainly don’t claim any originality for this idea. It’s as old as the hills .. and the ills.

The problem with this plan is that, if you’re an unemployed guy with no criminal record, you want a job building that border wall. If you are employed in a low-skilled position, you want the option to quit your job and go work on that border wall. Increased demand for your labor increases your wage. One of the main reasons forced prison labor was scaled back(it still exists) was because the labor unions saw it, correctly, as competition. It was phrased, of course, in more humanitarian terms.

And that’s why any proposal to put them, or other groups such as the homeless, to work in cases of sub-market pay will be massively unpopular. From the perspective of American workers, there is a shortage of paid work. This “shortage” will still be percieved even if unemployment rate, on paper, is low, and will continue until working class Americans start seeing some real wage growth

So, any proposal for creating more jobs would have to create them at market(or above market) rates and hope that the benefits “trickle down” to the felons. It may not at all, if the increased demand attracts non-felons back into the workforce, or leads existing workers to work more hours, and thus cutting ahead of the felons in competition for jobs. To be sure of success, it would have to increase demand(or reduce supply) considerably. Reducing immigration to zero would do it. Creating a few tens of thousands of jobs on infrastructure projects would not.

Most likely, nothing will be done. The status quo will continue, and many felons are fine with it. “Sure, mom, I’d love to work but no one will hire me because of my record.” The people who suffer most are not the felons but their families who they are “forced” to leach off of.

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Trump Should Keep Talking About Israel

The American swing voter, overwhelming, sympathizes with Israel rather than with the Palestinians. Yet, he also doesn’t like to hear about Israel. Why? He knows why American politicians talk about Israel. Hearing about it reminds him of his impotence in the face of the Jewish lobby he knows about but whose existence he can’t even acknowledge. This is true whether his is a white nationalist, an American nationalist, or simply a voter who asks “which candidate cares about me?

Trump, however, is immune to the above response. When people hear him talk about Israel, they don’t hear him pandering to billionaires, they hear him speaking his mind, saying the same kinds of things they would. It also helps neutralize the “racist” attack line. Thus, while I would advise any other Republican to ignore Obama’s Israel provocation, Trump should continue to attack him about it, emphasizing how it shows he is a sore loser.

Overall, I am quite happy with Trump’s performance so far. Trump has played it masterfully. The swing voter doesn’t know the difference between Taiwan and Thailand, but seeing the media attack Trump for calling the leader of (what they see as an) independent country, out of “respect” for a communist dictatorship, certainly makes them sympathize with Trump and his condemnation of the elite’s “weakness.” About the media’s Russia-baiting, I think this has stuck in swing-voters’ minds as a negative, but by the time of the next election, they won’t see it that way anymore. Instead, they’ll see Trump as having improved relations with Russia and the media as trying to sabotage it. There’s little inherent negative feeling toward Russia by the American people apart from residual association with communism, and Trump is immune to that association.





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*The Remnants of War*

This book by John Mueller, published in 2004, posits that war:

“is merely an idea, an institution, like dueling or slavery, that has been grafted onto human existence. It is not a trick of fate, a thunderbolt from hell, a natural calamity, or a desperate plot contrivance dreamed up by some sadistic puppeteer on high. And it seems to me that the institution is in pronounced decline, abandoned as attitudes toward it have changed, roughly following the pattern by which the ancient and formidable institution of slavery became discredited and then mostly obsolete.”

While this may look at first glance like cultural anthropology nonsense, Mueller emphasizes the distinction between war as an institution, fought between state sponsored professional armies, and various forms of violence in general. The tribal violence that ruled human society before agriculture thus is not “war.” There is certainly some truth to this theory, as the past fifty years have seen great peace between the great powers, none of which have fought one another. Mueller cites the example of the Yugoslav wars to show this “decline of war.” The Yugoslav wars were quite unlike Europe’s wars earlier in the century. The politicians were willing to wage war, but young men were reluctant to show up. They eventually were forced to turn the war over to groups of thugs, mercenaries and even criminals released from prison in exchange for service. “The remnants of war” refers to these type of wars, wars fought by “criminalized” regimes and armies of mercenaries and thugs. Mueller emphasizes that these wars are entirely capable of creating great human misery, but they cannot hope for victory against professional armies, those in “criminalized” forces are rarely willing to die for any “cause” and they are usually poorly-trained. The book’s cover photo was taken during the Yugoslav wars:


Mueller’s theory focuses on differences in culture and attitudes toward war, rather than economic and military factors, to explain this decline in war. It is here that I believe his thesis fails.

In 1914 the rulers of France, Germany, and Russia honestly believed that the war would be a short one, and there was no specter of destruction of cities. Many really did believe the war would be over by Christmas. Suppose the rulers of the Soviet Union and China, circa 1970, had believed that their disputes with the West, or with each other, could be solved in a half-year long war with no damage to the homeland’s cities. Would they have gone to war? It’s quite possible. If our rulers are much more inherently averse to the use of war than those of the past, it is, I believe, a development that has occurred much more recently.

Mueller calls the process whereby nations drop out of “the war system,” where they avoid maintaining large armies and rely on their neighbors’ respect for their neutrality for protection, “Hollandization.” In pre-modern times, such behavior was suicidal,(unless you pay tribute to some other state for protection) but it became possible gradually in Europe from the 18th century on, with first the rightful claims of monarchs, than the sovereignty of “states,” assuring the independence of smaller territories amid giants such as France and Germany. European nations were much less likely to respect the sovereignty of non-European states, thus you saw wars of aggression and colonization. Nevertheless, one can observe a process of Hollandization there as well. There’s a spectrum between, on the one hand, the tributary state, a common situation in antiquity, and the modern Hollandized state which is fully independent but hosts American military bases. Many nominally independent states which we see as having been “colonized” fell along this spectrum. Examples include Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Iran, and various Indian “Princely states.” Typically, colonizing states did not demand tribute payments but did demand access to the “colonial” market, and sometimes meddled in colonial affairs in order to assure repayment of loans or protection of foreign missionaries or domestic minorities. These states became “Hollandized,” they did not maintain militaries beyond what was considered necessary for internal policing, and, when their “colonial protector” went to war, they remained officially neutral, in some cases, even if they were being invaded. While the great powers were sinking huge budgets into warships, bombers, ect, these states often maintained armies that were smaller than they had in previous generations, even as these countries were relatively wealthier.

The center of this Hollandization was in the Middle East. During World War II, as Italy, Germany and Britain were fighting in the Egyptian desert, the Egyptian state remained neutral, no Egyptian troops took part in the fighting. The French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia had a similar experience. In Iran, the Iranians refused British-Soviet demands to intern the German population, but once the Anglo-Soviet retaliatory invasion started, there does not appear to have been any resistance to the invasion. Only in Iraq was there widespread fighting, they lost the war against Britain within a month.

Another area where a type of Hollandization started to occur was Latin America. Though it featured often brutal civil wars, there were few interstate wars after 1900.

The fact that Hollandization occurred in areas outside Europe, areas which were not very culturally modern and whose people never read the anti-war European intellectuals, tells me that it was the absolute military dominance of the Great Powers, not cultural change, which lead to Hollandization.

The Perils of Hollandization

Hollandization is good, in some respects. War is hell, as a famous general said. But whether a nation will have a pleasant experience with it will depend on what kind of neighbors it has. Hitler planned to annex the Netherlands into his “Greater Germanic Reich” which would mean the end of the Dutch state and the eventual drafting of Dutch males to fight in Germany’s future wars. Luckily, Britain and France had no such designs. But what if all your neighbors are predatory, or if the non-predatory ones won’t defend you? The Greeks and the Arabs are two nations which partially Hollandized and saw long-term defeat as a result.

It was largely because of this “withdrawal from the war system,” that the Arabs would lose modern-day Israel. At the time of the 1949 Israel-Arab war, the Jews had not more than 750,000 people in Palestine. Egypt had 19 million, Syria had 3.2 million, and the Palestinians themselves had 1.2 million. Israel drafted everyone they could. By the end of the war, they had ~110,000 men[[Edit: women too]] in arms. The Arab side, at their maximum, could field just 60,000 men. A revealing anecdote about this failure to harness their potential was recorded by the British ambassador to Jordan, Alec Kirkbride. After thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, the refugees fled to Jordan. Some confronted the Jordanian King:

“A couple of thousand Palestinian men swept up the hill toward the main [palace] entrance … screaming abuse and demanding that the lost towns should be reconquered at once … The King appeared at the top of the main steps of the building; he was a short, dignified figure wearing white robes and headdress. He paused for a moment, surveying the seething mob before, [then walked] down the steps to push his way through the line of guardsmen into the thick of the demonstrators. He went up to a prominent individual, who was shouting at the top of his voice, and dealt him a violent blow to the side of the head with the flat of his hand. The recipient of the blow stopped yelling … the King could be heard roaring: so, you want to fight the Jews, do you? Very well, there is a recruiting office for the army at the back of my house … go there and enlist. The rest of you, get the hell down the hillside!” Most of the crowd got the hell down the hillside.

One can’t help but think of the current “refugee” crisis, able bodied Syrian men fleeing to Europe, proclaiming that there is nothing they can personally do to fix their country. Had the Arabs drafted much larger proportions of their population, say, 750,000 troops, they would have stood a very good chance at winning. The Jews in Israel(they weren’t “Israelis” yet) did not have an advantage in technology or weapons. Not all Israeli troops were veterans, and, as they say, quality has a quantity of its own. It’s doubtful that the “international community” wouldn’t have done anything about it.

Hollandization failed the Arabs, and, in the 1967 war, they learned from it, deploying a total of 240,000 troops, giving them an advantage in men on the battlefield over the Israelis. They would have deployed more, had they had time to do so.  In the 1973 war, they deployed even more. Egypt, which had sent just 20,000 men to Palestine in 1948, was able to get 200,000 men across the Canal in their ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retake the Sinai Peninsula. But they had waited too long, and now faced an organized state. In this relatively even battlefield, the Israelis were just a lot better at fighting. Today, much of the region has gone back to the pre-1948 “Hollandized” pattern of army whose goal it is to keep internal order, with no ability or inclination to fight outside its own borders.

The Greeks and Turks had seen a history of wars which ended in 1922 after the Turkish victory, with the expulsion of almost the entire Greek population of Turkey and a smaller number of Turks from Greece. This had followed earlier expulsions, mainly of Turks, from the new Christian states in the Balkans. The one area where this process of “population exchange” did not take place was Cyprus, it was ruled in 1922 by Britain. Greeks had roughly 80% of the population, they wanted the island to unify with Greece, Turks wanted the island to be partitioned. A partition would be difficult as the Turkish majority areas were scattered throughout the island. An independent “inclusive” state was created which satisfied neither side.


Greeks in yellow, Turks in purple, British military bases in red

After World War II, Greece became “Hollandized,” despite the fact that it was richer than Turkey, the latter, with a larger population, spent more on its military and by 1974 possessed obvious superiority.  That year, following a coup by nationalist Cypriot Greeks, the Turks simply invaded the island, expelled Greeks and created their Turkish state on the northern 34% of the island.


Cyprus divided

Had they invested more in their military in the preceding decades, they could have fought and had a chance, but they didn’t, and ultimately made no resistance to the Turkish invasion. The Greeks today have succeeded in isolating North Cyprus internationally, but this has not gotten the Greek Cypriots their land back.

Kuwait was an example of a state where Hollandization almost failed. There were many in America, like Patrick Buchanan, who opposed the Gulf War. Had America not intervened, the state, with it’s large oil reserves, would have been annexed to Iraq. Though I count myself as a non-interventionalist, I feel that that kind of unprovoked interstate aggression should not be tolerated.

The example of the Greeks and the Arabs are exceptional, in general, Hollandization has worked well for most countries which have tried it. Still, laying back and relying on appeals to “international opinion” won’t always get you the best deal possible if you are faced with an enemy like Turkey, a medium sized state with a strong enough military to beat you and avoid being pushed around by the great powers.

The current situation in Ukraine reflects these themes. On the one hand, the War in Donbass is a quintessential “remnant of war.” One way you can measure this objectively is look at the population of soldiers fighting and compare it to the total population, then compare this ratio to that of the powers who fought in WWI or WWII. In modern times, it should be possible to draft an even larger percentage of the population into the army. Yet look at the Ukrainian army fighting in Donbass. Ukraine has about 46 million people and, in Donbass, an estimated 64,000 are fighting. In WWI, Italy had around 36 million people and had around 5,600,000 soldiers. These comparisons are never airtight, with the distinction between drafted and deployed, and between those fighting at one time and those who fought over the entire period of war, nevertheless, the disproportion is so large, 2 orders of magnitude, that it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The Russian/Donbass side is similarly small compared to its potential. Among the fighters of both sides, mercenaries and wackjobs are well documented. And yet, in Crimea, it is the professional Russian army that is occupying the place. They took it with no resistance and there seems to be little hope of its return to Ukraine. The Ukrainian army can’t hope to fight back. It is partially Hollandized, having given up its nuclear weapons in a decision they now surely regret. The US and UK were supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity. How is that working out for them?

Russia hasn’t completely gotten away with it, the sanctions have stinged. And Crimea isn’t a great benefit to Putin or the Russian people. It has no oil and was poorer than Russia, imposing a burden on the Russian economy to bring it up to the Russian level. I am skeptical of the claim that Putin wants to restore some type of “Eurasian” neo-Soviet Union. Maybe he thinks in a perfect world that would happen, but look at Belarus. Many Belorussians want to join Russia, they already largely speak Russian, yet it appears to me that Putin has not done anything serious to facilitate this. Belarus, like Crimea, is poorer than Russia, containing no oil. Why, then, did Putin annex Crimea? His hand was forced by the need to save face after the Ukrainian coup revolution.

The lesson that Ukraine, Cyprus, and Palestine teach us is that if you have a competent enemy, you shouldn’t Hollandize and them provoke them into attacking you. “International law” won’t save you. But for most of the world, Hollandization works fine and will continue to do so. The first half of the 21st century is likely to continue the late 20th century pattern of mostly “remnant” wars. There’s not much to fight over and men seem reluctant to fight. Peace will reign outside Africa and the Middle East. I don’t forsee the Ukraine crisis getting any bloodier.


Posted in Israel, War | 1 Comment