Celebrity Butchers

This is the slightly edited version of a comment I wrote in response to this National Review article by cuckservative Kevin Williamson.

Williamson writes:

It may be the case that nothing in this world is truly unlimited, but one thing that certainly appears to be close to unlimited is the capacity and variety of human desire. What do we want? More. More and better material things, bigger and broader experiences, more extravagant and rarefied leisure, more more. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on our finding some use for all that energy that’s supposed to be sitting around doing nothing, and for all that labor, too.

I wouldn’t. There’s an unlimited desire for more and better things, but there’s not an unlimited desire specifically for human labor. People have a desire to trade up for a fancier car, but the fancier car does not necessarily require more labor to make. People have one TV, and they might decide to buy another TV for the bedroom, but if the TV is mostly produced by machines, the effects on increased employment will be minimal.

There’s no special quality about human labor that will make it always in demand. A robot burger flipper could flip burgers faster than you could, and unlike you it can’t spit in the burger. On the supply side, too, employers have a strong incentive to supply people with the product they demand without hiring any workers. Business owners don’t like paying wages, nor do they like the regulations and possibility of lawsuits that come with having a human workforce. And it’s not like only burger flippers should be worried, much of white collar work is also automatable. Only a small number of us have jobs for which our humanness is vital.

Williamson writes:

What will those jobs look like? Nobody knows, any more than the Reverend Malthus could know what a modern farm would look like. In the 1950s, my father was employed as a butcher. If you could go back in time and explain to him that in 2016 there would be such a thing as a “celebrity butcher,” or that the smart and chic young things in Brooklyn and Los Angeles would spend their generous allowances on a chance to spend an evening with one, he’d have thought you insane. He probably still thinks that’s insane. But in the 21st century, we have a major industry based on the odd fact that men in white-collar jobs like to go home at night and watch men do blue-collar jobs, in automotive shops and pawn brokerages.

How many people are employed as “celebrity butchers?” One? Two? Ten? I don’t know, I hadn’t heard of the concept until now. How many people are employed as butchers? 139,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The “jobs we can’t imagine” argument doesn’t apply to our own age. Only a small number of people work jobs that people in 1900 couldn’t have imagined.(Computer programmers are one example.) Most people work jobs that existed in 1900, now they are just aided by new or different machinery.(The stagecoach driver and the taxi driver do the same thing, just with different machinery.)

You can never have an economy based on celebrities, celebrities are by definition rare. And many of us have nothing to offer, really. I’d bet those “celebrity butchers” are significantly smarter and more personable than the average butcher. I suppose you could have an economy where the government pays everyone to produce paintings, the group of which, as in kindergarten, will all be beautiful. But that is not going to arise organically.

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“Approached Expectations”

Most states separate the students who fail to meet the expectations into two categories, Washington DC separates them into three. Via Amren:

16

I wonder if the kids who “approached expectations,” scoring higher than at least 85% of the school, received a pat on the back, a kind of “grade deflation.”

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*How Asia Works*

How Asia Works is a book by Joe Studwell which contrasts the successful development of capitalist Northeast Asia(Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) with the “paper tigers” of capitalist Southeast Asia(Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines). He doesn’t analyze India, the middle East, or the authoritarian disasters such as North Korea and Burma. Studwell mentions three key policies that Northeast Asia got right and Southeast Asia got wrong: land reform, industrial policy, and finance.

The main weakness of the book is that it does not consider HBD as an explanation for the differences between Northeast and Southeast Asia.

 

national_iq_per_country_-_estimates_by_lynn_and_vanhanen_2006

Richard Lynn’s data on global IQ. Each individual data point should be taken with a grain of salt, but the overall pattern is undeniable

Land Reform

Studwell’s argument is that land reform is essential to increase crop yields, providing the surplus that funds industrialization. Agriculture by farmers who own small plots they work intensively(“smallholders”), is more efficient than tenant agriculture. Why?

According to Studwell, it’s because farmers have an incentive to farm intensively and maximize yields. If they have to pay rent to a landowner, and especially if they have to pay a percentage of their crops to a landowner, they do not have as much of an incentive to produce. It’s the same process that dissuades someone from working if they have to pay a 50% tax rate.(In East Asia, paying fifty percent of one’s crops as rent was not rare.) High rents starve them of capital, preventing them from being able to make investments to improve their yields. With access to capital only at usurious rates of interest, farmers know that the return on any investment they make will go to paying the interest. Wage labor on plantations is also inefficient as the workers have no incentive to work hard.

In Northeast Asia, the data seems to support this, land reform in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea is associated with greatly increased yields. In Japan, yields increased under land reform in the early Meiji period, ceased increasing as land reform was slowly reversed, and then increased during the post war period when it was definitively accomplished. In communist China, yields increased during the early communist period when land was redistributed, then declined once collectivization was imposed.

But would this same process work in Southeast Asia? Studwell claims that the crops in question do not matter, pointing out that sugarcane, a tropical crop, is grown more efficiently in Taiwan than in Southeast Asia despite less favorable climactic conditions. But maybe the people differ, and would respond differently? Maybe, if freed from the burden of paying a high rate of rent to landlords, farmers would produce less? This is where HBD, or, less likely, ‘culture,’ come in.

In the Philippines, a small percentage of land has been redistributed to the tenants, and according to Studwell, the farmers who received redistributed land are no more productive than the farmers who farm rented land.[1] Studwell attributes this to a lack of the kind of governmental support for smallholders which existed in Northeast Asia. Denied capital, they can only turn to their former landlords, who will charge usurious rates of interest. About one place in the Philippines Studwell writes:

“It is hardly surprising that an emblematic image one sees in Negros is the ‘reform’ family that immediately leased its land back to the landowners and now sits around a karaoke TV set bought with the proceeds of the advance. In the absence of any real chance of household farming success, people put their capital into a KTV machine and sing in a shack.”[2]

Although Studwell points to the gradual reversal of land reform in pre-world war II Japan, showing it is not exclusive to Southeast Asia, it is hard not to imagine that there may be an IQ/time orientation explanation for the reform family’s behavior.

There’s also HBD’s effect on whether land reform will happen in the first place. In the Philippines, land reform was supposed to occur, but bribery of officials and violence against farmers often prevented it, while in other cases former landowners negotiated agreements with their former tenants which left the situation de-facto as it was before. While being a high-IQ country is no guarantee that land reform will happen, it will assure that once the government declares it as a goal, it will probably happen.

Studwell points to the higher yields of a certain group of Philippine land reform families which were supported by an NGO, but also says they are “more politicized, better educated, and more articulate than the 250 other families which do not have NGO support.”[2] The direction of causality here is unclear. He points out that across Southeast Asia farmers keep small gardens where they grow food for personal consumption, he claims these are the most productive spaces in the region, but small gardens may not scale up to big farms. The strongest evidence he has is the fact that, in British colonial times, smallholder rubber farming was more efficient than big business rubber plantations. However, many of the rubber workers were ethnic Chinese, who by 1947 were 38% of the Malaysian population, Studwell does not mention the ethnicity of the smallholders.

Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Genetics/HBD | 2 Comments

Automation: Why It Will Be Different

In the early 1800s, most people were employed in agriculture. Gradually, agriculture went from employing most people to employing ~2% of the population. No mass unemployment resulted. Similarly, advanced nations have seen employment in industry decline as production increases, again with no mass unemployment. Many conclude that even if the large majority of jobs are automated, we’ll find new jobs.

But in what? It’s hard to imagine, but didn’t they face the same problem in 1900? We do have jobs that someone in 1900 could not have imagined such the computer programmer, but most of the jobs people shifted to fall into two categories:

  1. Jobs that existed in 1900 such as restaurant cooks, insurance sailsmen, hotel workers, ect.
  2. Jobs which did not exist in 1900, such as airline pilots, but which serve as a substitute for something which did, as the airplane substitutes for the ship and the train.

Someone in 1900 could have imagined how many new jobs would be required if the working classes were to live like the top 5% in that era. A lot more construction workers would be required to make the houses larger. More cooks would be needed in the new restaurants. More hotels as tourism boomed. Paved roads covering a larger portion of the country. More universities and theaters. More financial institutions to put the newfound wealth.

And that is basically what happened in the 20th century. In some of those things, we got substitutes, TV substituted for theater, airplanes for passenger-transporting trains. There were some totally new products, video games and types of junk food, but the vast majority are working to supply a product or service, such as transportation from point A to point B, which existed in 1900.

Now imagine that same thought experiment today, the working class suddenly starts living like the top 5%. You would see new demand for jobs: larger houses once more, more travel, more universities, ect, but the magnitude of this demand would not be nearly so great. Many of the goods consumed by the top 5% are simply positional goods, no bigger, nor requiring any more labor to produce, than their cheaper alternatives.

So what will the future look like?

In the short term, economies may still see a healthy amount of jobs produced as consumption increases. More people will travel, people will buy larger houses, and more people will go learn useless stuff they will end up forgetting at universities, both creating jobs at universities and taking students out of the labor pool for 3 or 4 years. Government will employ ever more people in jobs of dubious value, enforcing regulations and providing various forms of “help” to the growing underclass. But eventually you will reach the limit of post-scarcity, increased consumption is insufficient to cancel out the effect of automation. At that point, the government will face the choice of employing an unprecedented number of workers at even more useless tasks, restricting automation, restricting work hours, or providing some kind of basic income.

During the transitional period, wages for unskilled people will continue to stagnate. The most marginal among them, teenagers, old people nearing retirement age, and the lazy/criminal/drug addicted will drop out of the workforce. This is already being seen in America with lower labor force participation rates, especially among young men. You will also see regional variation in automation’s effects. Those regions of the country which benefit from increased consumption and/or rent seeking, such as college towns, tourist destinations, centers of government employment, will do well. Those regions which see a high degree of automation, such as those reliant on manufacturing, will become “economically depressed” even as production increases. U.S. manufacturing output is up but employment is down:

manufacturing-for-web-png26

Eventually, the whole economy outside of government employment will start to look like that graph.

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The Problem in Turkey Isn’t “Islamism”

The problem with Turkey isn’t really “Islamism” or any ideology that is outright anti-democratic. The ruling AKP is more similar to the Christian Right in America than it is to the Wahhabi fanatics we normally associate with the word “Islamist.” In terms of their political vision for society, the difference between the coup leaders and the AKP isn’t much more than the difference between the Democrats and the old “mainstream” Republicans. The problem is that the people in government can’t restrict themselves to democratic methods in their power struggles. They can’t resist the urge to steal elections and launch coups. Thailand and Ukraine are similar in this respect.

 

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Who Could Have Predicted This?

The Jewish Daily Forward details how the Bnei Menashe, a group of people from India’s easternmost states who are converting to Judaism and who claim, against genetic evidence, to be descended from the “lost tribes,” have adapted to life in Israel:

According to Malachi Levinger, the head of the local council of Kiryat Arba, a city in the West Bank where 700 Bnei Menashe have settled, including many placed there by Shavei Israel, at least 73% of the group’s youth are considered at risk.

With their parents mostly absent because of their need to work long hours at low-end jobs, teenagers from the community are prone to alcohol abuse, petty crimes and encounters with the police, said Yoni Nachum, coordinator of Bnei Menashe programs for the local council. According to Nachum, the Bnei Menashe, like earlier communities from Ethiopia or Morocco, have seen their traditional family structure and support network upended by their move to Israel.

(…)

Once a year, Beit Miriam celebrates Bnei Menashe heritage during a “Roots Night,” but Goita said that his identity now springs from his new hometown in the Judean Hills — an exclusively Jewish settlement near the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron that has been a flashpoint during the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Goita said that his childhood in the West Bank has motivated him to enlist in a military combat unit that he will enter upon graduating from yeshiva.

As the Bnei Menashe celebrate their return to “Zion,” they count teenagers like Goita among their rare success stories.

But for most, while parents often work hard in cleaning or security jobs, “children are hanging out in the streets, smoking, stealing, drinking,” said Hedva Hadida, director of the Beit Miriam afterschool program.

The Israeli Right, people who ought to know better, seem to support this, because at least they aren’t Arabs:

In pushing for the immigration of groups with uncertain Jewish connections to Israel, Freund has cited ideological reasons grounded in demography.

The “others like them” refers to several groups of ‘Jews’ in Africa, Igbos, Ugandans,  and Zimbabweans, who might end up making the Bnei Menashe look tame in comparison. Willingness to practice Judaism will not be enough to “select out” the traits of the wider population.

There really is no reason to have to resort to such measures to increase the Israeli Jewish population. Israeli Arabs don’t have much higher fertility rates that Israeli Jews, which can be seen in the religious demographics of new mothers in 2015, who are 74% Jewish. The Israeli population as a whole is 75% Jewish.* Israel would only be in trouble if it decided to annex the West Bank, something which it would be very stupid to do.

*These two numbers may count part-Jews differently.

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The War on Drugs isn’t Going to Stop

Opposition to the war on drugs is a fashionable opinion among the intelligentsia at present. To some, this means its end is inevitable. But the intelligentsia also went through a long period of opposition to capitalism. But, thankfully, reality and elite self interest preserved capitalism.

“Opposition to the war on drugs” is how its usually phrased. It’s rarer to hear people describe themselves as being for legalization of all drugs and rarer still for people to name specific drugs, heroin, cocaine, ect. People aren’t calling for legalizing drugs, they’re calling for drug dealers to not be punished. Can you “end the war on drugs” without legalizing them? In theory, you can. You could treat it like prostitution, where the government prevents it from taking place in the open but generally looks the other way. The prisons are not overflowing with prostitutes and pimps, and pimps don’t wage massive gang wars against one another.

Monopolizing the market through a massive gang infrastructure, as with drugs, is not profitable in the case of prostitution. It may be a matter of simple economics, the monopoly price for prostitution is low and the monopsony wage for the prostitute is so high that it just isn’t very lucrative to attempt to monopolize the market. It may be that it’s easier to monopolize drugs than prostitutes, a pile of drugs is unlikely to get up and walk out the door because the boss isn’t paying enough. Drugs can’t sell themselves.

If you decided tomorrow that drug dealers wouldn’t be punished, the strong incentive to create a monopoly through gang wars would only go stronger, as you no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of your ’employees’ being sent to prison just because they got caught with drugs. With the gang violence worse than ever, public pressure would be strong to punish the drug dealers, and even if they weren’t punished for drug dealing, they’d be punished for shooting each other. Whether or not they actually pull the trigger, drug dealers can be held accountable as conspirators. You’d have less drug dealers in prison, murder is harder to prove than drug dealing, but the people who have to live in gang infested neighborhoods would end up suffering more. The only places this would work would be in the relatively affluent areas where gang wars do not happen. Thus, “ending the drug war” could end up benefiting most the White hippie drug dealer in Boulder, Colorado.

One hope for “ending the drug war” without legalization is silk road. If under drug legalization silk road like places were not shut down, it could grow to the point where its prices are dramatically lower than those of the gangs and the gangs become unprofitable. But something tells me that Ross William Ulbricht is exactly the type of person law enforcement would like to go after in an environment where drugs are illegal but the laws are rarely enforced.

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